Romscraj Portabee Go
The Romscraj Portabee Go is one of the most interesting 3D printers we have ever seen. The Singapore based company has opened the first 3D printer manufacturing plant ever in that country with the mission to produce affordable and portable printers that still maintain a high quality standard. Having made a solid yet affordable DIY kit recently, Romscraj has stepped up their efforts with the low profile, stylish, machined steel Portabee Go, combining a sleek, clean look with functionality for only $595, making this one of the most affordable 3D printers on the market today.
When we were researching candidates for this list, we were very impressed by how much exposure this printer has gotten so far, despite an extremely basic website that doesn’t contain much information about the company. They have a Facebook page and some videos on YouTube demonstrating their products and some of the things that they can build. There is also a very brief list of specifications for their printers that leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
Despite this limited info about both the company and the product, we found this printer to be fascinating and that it works very well, brilliantly designed to fold and unfold when needed, producing wonderful yet small objects with ease, all within the same small, self-contained unit.
The printer ships in a small yet extremely durable box that contains the printer, a generous 500 grams of test filament, a power cord and adaptor, USB cable and a roll of tape that is designed to act as the build plate surface. Although the product is very easy to unbox, with some unwrapping of plastic and tape removal involved, unfolding the unit to prepare it for printing can be very delicate and difficult the first few times until you get used to the setup process. If you are not careful and try to force it, you can snap the rail, crack the extruder head or break a drive belt, quickly putting you put of commission. For this reason, most people would consider setup alone to be difficult and delicate enough to diminish the user experience, especially when most people prefer to have it work more easily out of the box, even those who are more technically inclined.
When you remove the unit from the box, it resembles a giant Zippo lighter with its smooth, shiny, polished steel surface. To unfold or open the unit, you have to do a couple little things simultaneously to ensure that the moving parts clear the slot in which they rest without getting bent or broken. After a few tries and getting the feel for the works, it becomes easier to swing the unit up into printing position and tightening a small nut keeps the assembly sturdy and in place so that you can finish the setup for first print.
The printer comes with a couple pieces of tape already in place to aid in your first print, so all you have to do at this point is connect the printer to your computer via the USB cable connection and install their software. Once you load the filament into the head and the machine is calibrated, you are ready to print your 3D model.
The Portabee Go has a very small footprint at under 9 square inches, allowing it to be placed just about anywhere without taking up a lot of space. This also means a small build volume, however, which somewhat limits the possible applications. Since only PLA filament is supported, due to a non-heated build plate area, applications are further limited. Print speeds are relatively slow at 30mm/s, slower than most super high quality industrial printers, while quality is relatively good for its class.
Once your item is done printing though, all you have to do is remove it from the plate gently and you are done. Use of this printer is very easy despite having to overcome some obstacles during setup. Overall, there are more things that could be included in the design of this printer to help the user experience be a little easier, especially for beginners. Although there were some demonstrations being done for children recently at a few expositions in Asia, we believe this particular printer would be a little bit more advanced than what most children could handle.
Nevertheless, this is a very cool product with a lot of potential. It is definitely innovative, due to its collapsible and portable design, and we believe that when they complete the next generation of this printer, with some design improvements to help setup be easier, as well as a bigger build volume and higher print speeds, it will be a major competitor in its class, especially for the reasonable price and low cost of materials. It is for these reasons that we rate the Romscraj Portabee Go as the 4th best 3D printer for under $1,000.
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