Why I Chose the XYZprinting da Vinci Jr. 1.0 Pro for My Classroom:
I have been using 3D printers in my classroom for several years. I began with a grant to get a MakerBot printer about 6 or 7 years ago for the high school where I was teaching. I have since moved (2,000 miles away) to a new school with almost no technology, and this year I was blessed with starting a new technology course. I am going to focus my attention on STEM / STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) and immediately knew we needed a 3D printer. Having dealt with various problems over the years, I wanted to some specific features that are more classroom/education driven.
Why the XYZprinting da Vinci Jr. 1.0 Pro met my needs:
- First of all, to get it into the classroom it needs to be affordable. The most I received for a classroom budget in the last 5 years is $200 — and that includes buying paper for the copier, pencils, notebook paper, chalk, whiteboard markers, print ink, etc. So when a grant comes through and you get $400 for the year… you go looking! The da Vinci Jr. 1.0 Pro is less than $300.00 from a variety of places, including places like Walmart where [at the time of writing this review] lists the printer for $299 with free shipping or at Amazon Prime for $299 with free shipping or at Office Depot / Office Max for $299 with free delivery.
- In a classroom setting, equipment needs to be sturdy and hold up to lots of curious students. Even if it’s a “hands-off” / “teacher only” printer, you have to prepare for the inevitable. The da Vinci Jr. 1.0 Pro is cased in hard plastic, but it seems very sturdy and easily wipeable if something was wiped or written on the printer itself.
- I needed a printer that could handle 3rd Party filaments because proprietary filaments are not cost effective in a school setting. The XYZprinting family of printers has a good track record of working with a variety of 1.75 PLA filament providers. They do this by having adjustable temperature settings for the extruder nozzle
- We wanted a printer that could fit comfortably in a classroom setting — on a small table or desk. The da Vinci Jr. 1.0 Pro is slightly larger than one of the classic Dell laser printers (16.54″ x 16.93″ x 14.96″), but it fits nicely on my desktop. That factor allows me to keep an eye on it during class.
- It should have an enclosed build area so little [or big] fingers don’t touch the build plate, hot parts, gears, wires, etc. This also keeps them from the dreaded, “is this hot?” touch that dislodges your build from the build plate.
- I am a tinkerer so I don’t mind calibrating my printer, setting up leveling, fine-tuning tension, etc. — but the da Vinci Jr. boasts auto-calibration which could be very handy if students are using the printer. [I currently teach in a high school so this scenario is possible.] They state that this printer, “uses an intuitive nine-point calibration detection system that accurately determines the distance between the extruder and the print bed.”
- An added advantage to this printer is that it will run with 3rd party slicers because it can handle 3rd party g-codes. I have my own love-hate relationship with various slicers, but being able to choose one or the other (depending on my build) seemed like a win-win to me. I have already experienced one printer discontinuing their slicer, so this way I can choose a strong slicer with a large user base and lots of support.
- I also wanted a printer that I could move and set up in a different location easily if the need should arise. In the past I have been bumped from my room for testing, asked to stop printing because of “fumes”, and during long breaks [Thanksgiving or Christmas] I would like to bring the printer home. The da Vinci Jr. came out of the box practically ready to print. After I removed the cardboard/packing materials, installed the feeder tube, plugged it all in, and added the supplied filament, we were ready to go. I have since moved it from one desk to another, and then another for video purposes for some tutorials I am working on. It was definitely an easy setup, but a fairly hefty 33lbs. As I mentioned, however, it feels sturdy so I am happy with that weight.
- I wanted something that I could tweak or upgrade without being a major undertaking. I found that improvements such as upgrading the .4mm nozzle to a .3mm nozzle which allows printing at a 50 micron resolution were doable without having to be some sort of super tech hacker and without blowing next year’s classroom budget.
About the XYZprinting da Vinci 1.0 Pro:
The printer is almost retro styled black and red box case; it reminds me of a 1970’s CPM style workstation… but in a good way.
With a build area of 5.9” x 5.9” x 5.9” (15 cm x 15 cm x 15 cm), models will be decent sized. A few years ago, this would have been a very large build area but now it’s on the smaller side — but this is the Jr. model. Honestly, my other printers have a smaller build volume, but I haven’t really needed to print objects larger than this. To give you some perspective, a standard Rubix Cube measures 2 ¼ inches on each side, so you could stack 4 of them on top of another 4 and have about an inch clearance on the sides and top.
The print speeds listed for the printer include:
- Fast 0.1mm (100 microns)
- Standard 0.2mm (200 microns)
- Speed 0.3mm (300 microns)
- Ultra Fast 0.4 mm (400 microns)
The printer features:
- 2.6” display panel
- USB 2.0
- SD Card Reader (systems are compatible with SDHC cards up to 32GB in size)
- Printing Temperature Range: Printed Extruder; 190 degrees C-230 degrees C (374 degrees F-446 degrees F)
- Software: XYZware Pro
- File Types: .stl, XYZ Format (.3w, .nkg), Windows (.3mf), gcode
- OS Support: Windows 7 and above (for PC); Mac OSX 10.9 and above (for Mac); note: standard VGA driver on operating system or a graphics card doesn’t support OpenGL 2.1, may cause unknown error in XYZware
- Hardware Requirements (for PC/Mac): X86 32/64-bit compatible PCs with 4GB+ DRAM (for PC); X86 64-bit compatible Macs with 4GB+ DRAM (for Mac)
Unboxing and Setting Up:
Upon opening the box, I was happy to find solid packaging holding the printer neatly in place, heavy-duty straps holding things together, and well-positioned cardboard and spacers to keep everything in place. A few straps snipped off, some cushioned packing material removed, and some very simple assembly and the printer was [physically, at least] ready to print. It may not be a big deal to some, but the cardboard box it was packed in was superb quality, double-corrugated, and very heavy duty; it had to weigh two pounds on its own and I saved it to pack collectibles in.
It came with a pack of accessories/parts on labeled cardboard so you would know if anything was missing. The pack included a really nice scraper/spatula, a feeding path cleaner pin, a cleaning wire, a feeder tube, a spool of filament, and some samples that were apparently printed with this printer. The few parts that needed to be put together were simple and the instructions were clear. Honestly, short of removing the packing pieces & tape, putting the feeder tube in (which was slightly tricky), running the filament through the feeder tube, and plugging the printer in, there was really no other physical setup.
One note (since I am doing this from a teacher/classroom perspective) is that the power supply/cords/switch are on the right side of the printer [as you are looking at the front]. While that’s not much of a concern, you’ll want to take that into consideration while setting it up in your classroom. Because the power cord is a little short, you’ll also want to be right by an outlet. Most classrooms are painfully short on outlets and we’re not allowed to use extension cords, so plan accordingly.
I have mine set up right next to my monitor because I love pressing the OK button to turn on the inside light so I can see my print progress. I’m honestly enjoying this way more than I should after all these years. I feel like I just got my first printer again. I’m printing a cat for my daughter’s Christmas present — but I digress. 🙂
The software [XYZware Pro] was not included with the kit but is available at the manufacturer’s website. XYZware Pro is fairly easy to use but seems a little sensitive to items imported from various sources, slicers, gcodes, etc. The printer prints beautifully from the SD card models I have tried, so I probably need to dial in whatever settings I messed up when I installed the software. Some files [a soldier model I created in Sculptris and saved as an OBJ, for example] would not import. I opened it in Cura, set cura for my printer size, and saved as a new gcode file — and that seems to have done the trick on making it import to XYZware Pro. When I attempt to print it, it fails during the model transfer process, but that may be because I way overcomplicated the model and it’s just taking up too much memory. I’ll troubleshoot that one later.
It was disappointing to not have any of the edit tools (rotate, scale, etc.) — but that’s likely because I had to import it as a gcode where the settings were part of the gcode. When I imported an old [5-year-old] model from Thingiverse, XYZware Pro told me there was a problem with the model and it asked if I wanted to repair the model automatically. I did that and it seems to have worked. I’ll run a test print to find out. The great thing is that the tools (scaling, etc.) were present with that model.
These are some of the specs of the system, resin, environment, etc.
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Home
- System: x64-based PC
- Processor: Intel(R) Core(™) i5-7500 CPU @ 3.5GHz, 3401 Mhz, 4 Cores, 4 Logical
- Installed Physical Memory: 8.00 GB
- Printer: XYZ daVinci Jr. 1.0 Pro
- Software: XYZware Pro
- Filament: Stock black 1.75” PLA that shipped with the printer
- USB 2.0 Port / Printer Cable
- 8 GB ADATA SD Card (included with printer)
- No external fans or enclosure.
- Room ambient temperature: 68°F (20°C)
The Printing Process:
I was actually very impressed with the “print right out of the box” setup. I literally unpacked it, plugged it in, turned it on, and printed a pendant from the inserted SD card. I wish there were more sample models to impress students with, but those are easily accessible online.
The other thing that was nice about the XYZ printer is that I plugged it into the computer via a standard USB printer cable and when I downloaded the XYZWare Pro software, it recognized that the printer was attached, automatically updated the software, and then updated the firmware on the printer. I have struggled with getting my computer to recognize other printers, so it was a nice surprise.
One slight disappointment was the speed at which the object you want to print from your computer gets transmitted to the printer. I tried simple models and very complex models, and they seem to always take about 10 minutes in the transfer process. It seems to be pretty reliable, prints at a decent speed, and is less temperamental than other entry-level printers I have used. [Update: I imported a cat model from Thingiverse and it took barely 2 minutes for the transfer, so I may have been to blame for earlier attempts.]
As for the printing speed itself, I have no complaints. If a student needs something printed, it’s going to take a few hours, but this printer is worth every single dollar. To get a printer of this quality, with the compatibility (slicers, models, filaments, etc.) and something this aesthetically pleasing — ESPECIALLY at this price point… I just don’t see anything close. Is it going to give you the silky-smooth finishes of some of the high-end printers? I don’t think so, but again… a classroom is not likely to afford a high-end printer.
My Final Thoughts:
If you’re shopping for a classroom printer, an entry-level printer, a printer for a tech-savvy teen, a printer for an office desktop, or a quick rapid-prototyping machine, I’m giving this one my recommendation. It has been my easiest “get up and running” printer so far, and I like that it looks like it fits inside a living space. The extra safety, odor-free printing [so far] and relative quiet from being enclosed add to my confidence in this printer, and I am honestly thinking about getting my 5-year-old daughter using it if I can explain the hot-end issue, how to keep an eye on it, watching for the “hairy pasta” mess, and how to cancel the print if it DOES go crazy — and maybe we’ll do a tutorial video about that as well.
Quite honestly, after spending a couple days with this printer, this is my new favorite [of printers I own]. It’s the one that will sit next to my computer for jumping on and printing models. The filament jam was easily fixable by clicking the “unload filament” option and reloading. When the jam happened, the printer recognized it and stopped — saving me precious filament. When I got a clog and buildup on the nozzle, I was able to push the quick-release button to pull off the print head and inspect it. The self-leveling build plate saves me that hassle, so it’s just a “jump on the computer and print” process. I’m actually thinking about buying another for my house — or maybe even stepping up and buying the next level up.
You can purchase the XYZ da Vinci Jr. 1.0 Pro at places like Walmart for $299 with free shipping or at Amazon Prime for $299 with free shipping or at Office Depot / Office Max for $299 with free delivery. It’s surprisingly accessible for a standard relatively low price, and for folks who haven’t had to deal with purchase orders for classroom purchases, having options makes the process much easier.
I did a video to showcase this printer as well:
(Note: If the printer video is not there, I am attempting to correct some technical issues.)
For the sake of openness and transparency, this printer was provided free of charge from XYZ Printing for review purposes. As I am sure you can see, I review things honestly — praising quality or critiquing where I see potential improvements. I am grateful for the opportunity to review this printer, and I am looking forward to continuing my series on using the da Vinci Jr. 1.0 Pro, adapting 3D printing methods for education, and helping new 3D printing enthusiasts find affordable options for getting into this world. I am also open to discussion, clarification, or correction on anything you have read or watched by me.