One month with Snapmaker2 A150: the good, the bad, and the ugly

I received my Snapmaker2 A150 and its enclosure at the end of June (and then got the notice that it had shipped a couple of days after it showed up on my doorstep). Since then, I’ve been experimenting with its 3D printing capability. This is my first 3D printer, so I may be off-base about some things, but here are some notes on my experiences, things that worked well and things that didn’t:

The Snapmaker2 Itself

For the most part, it works very well! After a bit of experimentation, I’m reliably getting getting prints which are Good Enough.

I did have one case in which the filament broke off in such a way that it got stuck inside the head without triggering the runout sensor. Eventually, I figured out what was going on and pulled it out, so no harm done (the print was a goner even before that filament break).

Even on the rather small A150, the bed does not appear to be smooth and level, or the software does not probe enough points by default when auto-levelling. I have prints that have elephant toe in some areas that barely adhered in others (visibly stringy underside). That said, I haven’t lost a print that was made with a brim or with glue stick on the bed, so it’s merely a nuisance and not a show-stopper.

By contrast, brims and skirts often stick a little too well and can be difficult to remove from the buildplate, which was why I started using the glue sticks.

I also always end up with a little blobby plastic bead clinging to the forward-left corner of the build plate after a print, possibly due to the leveling issues. It isn’t a problem as such—just looks odd.

Another minor annoyance is that the controller’s software is prone to amnesia. It really should be able to remember what state the enclosure was in (lights and fan on or off) and what device on the network was connected to it, even if I power the Snapmaker down. It has some sort of built-in memory for storing STL files, so it should be possible to set aside a few bytes to store this information too.

I also find that the touchscreen is sometimes not as responsive as I would like (especially when it’s placed vertically in the holder built into the enclosure—it’s a bit better if I detach it and hold it horizontally). I can poke at it multiple times without it acknowledging that it’s been touched. Then again, I hate touchscreens in general, so this is not an unbiased assessment.

(And everyone already knows about the Loud Power-Supply Fan Issue, so I won’t do more than state that it really should be controlled by a temperature sensor.)

The Enclosure

The enclosure does serve the purpose for which I bought it, which is keeping inquisitive cats out of the equipment when it’s in motion. However, in addition to not being acceptable as eye protection from the laser (due to edge gaps and lack of certification), it makes tool changes difficult because it prevents good access to the bolts on the back of the toolhead. The fact that my A150 is wedged into a space that’s only some 20cm wider than the enclosure admittedly doesn’t help much, but it would make my life easier if the top panel were also hinged.

Luban and Documentation

(Apologies in advance for ranting a bit here. This section touches on some of my pet peeves.)

I am one of those people who hates instructional videos. I need something I can work through at my own pace, which usually means text and static images. The quickstart guide was okay in this regard, but please, please provide adequate non-video documentation for troubleshooting problems. I had to partially disassemble the print head to clear my first filament break because it was not clear that the button on the front was a slider, or what it controlled. I only figured it out after I had removed all the screws and opened the print head. And even that was more acceptable to me than trying to extract information from a video.

Luban I am . . . not impressed by, to put it politely. First, a UI issue that irritates me more than it likely would most other people: Why is it discarding my desktop colour and widget settings? I know it’s reading them, because it complains about deprecated settings in my GTK3 theme when it starts up, but then it puts up an eye-burning mostly-white screen anyway. There isn’t even a dark theme (most of which are still too light for me, but at least it would be better). I realize it’s in vogue right now to torture users with software that doesn’t adjust itself to the platform it’s running on (and that you forked Cura, which does exactly the same stupid thing), but as a programmer myself, I call it lazy. If the program is loading GTK3 settings (or Windows UI settings, etc) let it use them. If it only loads settings for some platforms and that’s why you’re not using them, switch to wxWidgets or some other more comprehensive toolkit. This isn’t just a comfort issue—it can be a handicapped-accessibility issue for people with vision problems that require specific accomodations.

The other problem with Luban is that it doesn’t do enough. What’s the point of having a 3D printer with WiFi capability if you can’t print without physically going over to the printer and manipulating the touchscreen? In order to print something, I have to turn the A150 on, wait for quite a while for the touchscreen to sort itself out, cross the room to my desktop to initiate a connection from Luban, cross the room back to the printer to okay the connection (because it can’t remember that I already okayed connections from this same static IP before the last powerdown), cross the room again to transfer the model, then cross back again to initiate printing. Moving the A150 is not an option as I don’t have the space to put it anywhere but where it is now. I’d be better off using a USB thumbdrive, since I only have to cross the room once that way (but then I have to interact more extensively with the problematic touchscreen).

The status display is large enough that I can see it over my shoulder from across the room, but it would be nice if Luban echoed that too (or the controller provided a webpage, etc).

The Pack-ins and Samples

I’ve been unable to find any combination of settings at which the black Snapmaker PLA filament isn’t slightly stringy, but otherwise it’s been well-behaved since I last tweaked the settings.

The safety glasses (both the laser ones and the plain ones for CNC) might as well not have been included, though. Since they have no certifications whatsoever, I can’t count on them to stop a paper cut, much less anything that might do eye damage. Replacing the plain glasses isn’t a big deal (less than twenty Canadian dollars for an ANSI/CSA certified pair on Amazon). Replacing the laser glasses with ANSI Z136.1 or EN207/208 certified ones is going to be ~$100 and looks like it’s going to require international ordering, but it isn’t an optional step if I want to use the laser head.

Overall, I’m very pleased with my A150 so far. It’s just that it has a few rough edges that could use some polish. No doubt the Snapmaker team will get around to fixing at least some of them after all the Kickstarter rewards have shipped.

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