3D Printing is something that I have become enthralled with over the last 2-3 years. I purchased a MakerBot Replicator 2 a little over a year and half ago, and since then I have printed everything from Christmas ornaments, to necklaces and even toys for my little boy. I must say that I have become quite comfortable with my Replicator 2, even though I did have some initial struggles getting used to the entire process of setting it up, loading the filament, leveling the build plate, and making sure everything remains in working condition. When I was approached about doing a review of a relatively new 3D printer, I must admit that I was quite hesitant.

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The nice folks at Flashforge USA, provided me with a FlashForge Dreamer dual extruder 3D printer for me to setup, use and work with for a few weeks.

First Thoughts

The easy to use touchscreen

The easy to use touchscreen

When I first opened the box, and pulled out the Dreamer, I asked myself, “Did they send me a microwave by mistake?” The 3D printer resembles a small microwave oven, to a point where, even guests at my home have asked me why I have a microwave in my office. The weight of the printer is about the same as the Replicator 2. It has a nice look to it, and isn’t something that I would be afraid to have on display in my home. I’ve seen many 3D printers that are just plain ugly to look at. Because of the fully enclosed build chamber that the Dreamer features, along with nice external aesthetics, this would not fall into that category. It looks good, and seems to be pretty durable. The only minor complaint that I have is that the exterior is almost entirely plastic, which can make it seem a bit on the “cheap” side. However, after using the printer for a few weeks, the results would say otherwise.  The interior of the printer is setup in a way which allows you to see the majority of the components that make this machine work, which I personally love.

Setting It Up

I received the Flashforge Dreamer to review and because it was a review unit, it did not ship with an instruction manual. I was told that I would be emailed one the following week. With this said, I am not one for patience. I wanted to see this thing print, and I had thought that my experience with the Replicator 2 would be all that I would have needed. Unfortunately this was not the case. The 3D printers are similar, but as I soon found out, they are not exactly alike.

5-printThe set up itself was a breeze. I pulled it out of the box, attached the extruder, via 2 screws, turned it on, and proceeded to load the filament into the printer. The version that I was provided with was a dual nozzle printer, and along with it came a spool of red PLA and white ABS filament. Loading the filament into the printer was a piece of cake. There is a button located on the touchscreen for loading and unloading filament. I pressed this button, waited for the extruder to heat up, and then fed it through the hole on top. Within 30 seconds, my 3D printer was ready to go.

For those of you who would like to review the instruction manual, you may download it here.

My Stupidity

Still without an instruction manual, I decided to download a few files off of Thingiverse, and try my hand at printing them out. Big mistake on my part. My lack of patience got the better of me, as I forgot to level the build plate prior to printing. To make a long story short, I ended up clogging the extruder, and without a manual to count on, I had no idea how to unclog it. This is when I discovered that Flashforge really has one heck of a support team. I sent an email to the company, and within an hour had a detailed guide in my inbox on exactly how to disassemble the extruder to clear the clog. The process took me a good 20-25 minutes, but I’m one of those people who needs help changing a light bulb. I thanked the support team and informed them that I should have waited for the manual. Long and behold, the next day the manual arrived in my inbox.

This Thing is Awesome

Once I got the manual, I was like a kid in a candy shop. I set up the printer, and began printing out a little tree frog. I figured I would start with something small, just to make sure that I had set up the printer correctly. I printed it with PLA using 0.20mm layers. The results were truly great. The frog came out virtually flawless, printed without support and the build plate heated to 50c. My next project was a race car, with movable wheels, which would print in one single piece. I had attempted this before on my other 3D printer but my results were less than satisfactory.

My 3D printed race car that came out almost perfectly.

My 3D printed race car that came out almost perfectly.

I figured I’d give the Dreamer a shot at the same print, fully expecting the same results. However, to my surprise, the little race car, which was printed in ABS, came out almost perfect. The only defect was a small burn mark on one of the sides, where a bit of filament was stuck on the nozzle prior to printing. It had burnt and got lodged on the passenger side door. To my amazement though, the wheels actually worked. I could place the car on the ground and push it around just like the toy cars my son has.

Resolution & Print Quality

I was quite amazed at the resolution and print quality that the Dreamer was capable of.  To be honest, I was expecting a printer similar to that of what the DaVinci Line of 3D printers are capable of.  While they are decent printers, especially for the price, when you look at a printed object from a DaVinci, the first thing you notice are the layers.  That’s not what a 3D printer should be about, at least not one that you pay top dollar for.  I was pleasantly surprised by the print quality of the Dreamer.

Printed on the Flashforge Dreamer

Printed on the Flashforge Dreamer

The resolution was on par with my MakerBot Replicator 2, and my prints all looked as good and in some cases even better than what I had been used to seeing from my MakerBot machine.

Dual Extruders

The dual extruders are a feature that I never had access to previously. They make such a huge difference in allowing the printer to create support material that differs from the material used for the rest of the printed object. They also allow for the printing of multiple colored objects, which is really something that can bring more life to a 3D printing project. Colors add character to any object, whether it be a toy car, a decorative box, or a piece of jewelry.  I certainly won’t go back to using a single extruder based printer.

3-case-printing

The Software

One of the more challenging and time consuming things about 3D printing can be the slicing of objects, as well as the process of generating gcode that needs to be sent to the 3D printer in order to provide it with commands. Flashforge’s Flash Print software is incredibly easy to use. I simply installed it, loaded an object from Thingiverse, and clicked on print. I was provided with slicing options as well as extruder/build plate temperature options. Most of the settings, by default were exactly what I had wanted. I clicked “OK”, and within 2 minutes the printer had started printing. This was by far the quickest and easiest print process I had ever been involved with.  One thing I really liked about Flash Print was that it provided me with multiple setting options, but already pretty much knew what I wanted to do.  This makes it a great option for beginners as well as advanced users.

If I Have To

Flashforge Dreamer in action

Flashforge Dreamer in action

If I had to come up with something negative to say about this 3D printer because, after all, it is a review, I do wish that the build volume was just a little bit larger. Coming in at 9.1” x 5.9” x 5.5” gives you enough room to print most smaller objects, but I had become used to the slightly larger 11.2″ X 6.0″ X 6.1″ dimensions on my Replicator 2. I didn’t actually come across an object that I wanted to print, and couldn’t because of the build area, but I just felt as though I might one day need those extra couple inches. A slightly sturdier powder coated steel exterior would also go a long way in making me feel as thought the printer was of a higher quality, however, the interior of the printer is made of high precision, high quality parts, and that is what matters when wanting to print objects that come off the build plate the way you envision them.

The Specifications

  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, USB, SD card
  • Positioning Precision: 0.1mm – 0.2mm
  • Layer thickness (resolution): 100 – 500 microns
  • Build Volume: 9.1” x 5.9” x 5.5”
  • Nozzle diameter: 0.4mm
  • Print speed: up to 200mm/s
  • Heated Build Platform: 120°c maximum
  • Input voltage: AC100 – 240V, 50/60hz
  • Power: 300W
  • Overall dimension: 19 x 16 x 13in / 485 x 400 x 335mm
  • Shipping size: 25 x 23 x 19in / 565 x 535 x 430mm
  • Shipping weight: 32lbs
  • Actual weight: 27lbs

Software

  • Input file type: STL / X3G
  • Compatibility: Windows, OS X, Linux
  • Software: FlashPrint

Filament

  • Materials: ABS, PLA, PVA, HIPS, nylon, and more
  • Available colors: white, black, yellow, red, blue, green, transparent
  • Filament diameter: 1.75mm – 1.80mm

The Features

  • 3.5” IPS LCD touch screen display with multi-language support
  • Dual extruder with built-in fan provides instantaneous cooling to printed object
  • Latest ARM Cortex M4 CPU provides fast and stable processing performance
  • Stay connected to the printer using Wi-Fi, USB, or SD card
  • Built-in 4 GB internal storage
  • Works seamlessly with FlashPrint software (included)
  • Aircraft grade alloy platform provides maximum resistance against deformation
  • Full enclosure body with removable lid and ventilated side panels make printing ABS and PLA a breeze
  • Supports ABS, PLA, HIPS, PVA, nylon and more
  • 12-LED illuminates the build chamber in various colors

Conclusion

The Flashforge Dreamer is a 3D printer that I would highly recommend to someone looking for a midsize FDM 3D printer, capable of printing in multiple materials with high resolution. I’ve found that the Dreamer is very consistent, and that leaving the printer running for hours when I was not home, was not something I was afraid of doing. I’ve spoken to plenty of people in this industry, many of whom will not leave their 3D printers running when they are asleep or when they are away from home, due to the fact that they have had too many failed prints. I would have no problem letting the Dreamer print while I was gone.

There are a ton of 3D printers out there today. They come in all different price ranges, and sizes. Priced at $1299, I would not hesitate to recommend this printer to anyone who wants to get their hands on a relatively affordable 3D printer, that is of just as high quality as many of the higher priced models on the market today.  Be sure to check out the Unofficial Flashforge forum on 3DPB.com, to talk with other Flashforge owners.  Check out some more photos of the Dreamer below:

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The Rear View

The Rear View

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dreamer-i-2-web

Filament Holder

Filament Holder

Filament Holder

Filament Holder

 

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