Saturday, June 11, 2016

Lemon 3D Printer: A "Life" Lesson

It should say: "WARNING! LEMON!"

Review: Orion Delta 3D Printer from SeeMeCNC

Our Bukito 3D printer reached its end-of-life after a yeoman performance that ran somewhere around 3500 printing hours, over the course of a year and a half. It included lots of transport and "waving" the printer during operation, since the Bukito is designed for portability. 

We knew the Orion Delta, purchased with a MatterControl Touch controller through Amazon, would not match the portability of the Bukito, but we certainly expected a longer life than 75-100 printing hours.

Yes, that's the total. Out of the box, it worked well, and we began to climb the learning curve of the new controller with its dedicated slicing and rendering software. We had just over a month of using the new Delta printer at around half the printing hours per week as the Bukito. Then we began to have heating problems with the unit. 

First to appear were odd blobs of plastic studded on otherwise-smooth objects. Then extrusion began halting mid-output, with models "printing air." The extruder nozzle was still moving above the half-finished object, but no plastic was coming out. Observing conditions when this happened, we noticed the temperature was reading low. Something was wrong with the equipment: either the sensor was misreading, or the extruder was not heating sufficiently. 

We researched the problem online, and discovered many complaints about failure of the heating resistors for this model. One user told of his experience in following the recommended repair of his self-assembled printer: after the resistors were replaced, he had a fire that torched the printer and his workbench.

We don't have to worry, I assured my partner. We bought the unit fully assembled. But no, this is the response we got from SeeMeCNC support on the matter:
It sounds like the issue that you have is with the heating resistors. They have simply come to the end of their life and will need to be replaced. I have attached a PDF that shows where the heating resistors are located on the hot end. [emphasis mine]

The support email concluded with instructions about how to test this diagnosis with a multi-meter and where to obtain parts and a guide to replacing them in the printer.

We told them we were uncomfortable trying this repair at home, and asked for a different option, perhaps a modular replacement that could be plugged in. We got a support ticket number and a promise of followup "within a few days". That was May 30th.

On June 6th, my partner sent a reminder ("Seven days is a few, right?") 


Yesterday, still having heard nothing after 12 days of waiting, we sent an urgent request for an immediate response: "On May 30th, you told us that we would have a reply in a few days. Seven days later, having heard nothing more from you, I sent a reminder, to which we have still had no reply... I don't want to call 'lemon' on this equipment, but saying that we need to essentially rebuild the equipment we purchased from you via Amazon after such a short use is not a reasonable support response."

Still no response. It's a pity, and a waste of the $1200+ we spent to acquire it fully assembled with the dedicated controller. The controller works well, and we can put it to use with our next 3D printer, when we scrape together enough extra funds to purchase one.

But the printer itself is a lemon.