Hands-On With the $200 OneUp 3D Printer

Reading Time: 8 minutes

OneUp

I first spotted the OneUp 3D Printer at the 2014 Bay Area Maker Faire (San Mateo, CA) this last May. What caught my eye was not just the simplicity of the printer but also the colors… a variety of colors of laser-cut acrylic made the little 3DP really stand out. Both kids and adults were gawking and squeezing in for a closer look. I made a note to myself to keep an eye on this company…

Turns out, the OneUp had its start with a very successful Kickstarter campaign in late 2013 that raised $413,530. Part of that success could have been that the company had decided to make the little printer Open Source, but I think the real reason was the price… $199.00 for any backer that chose the single Extruder option. (The TwoUp almost doubles the print area for $279.00.)

Since that time, the company (QU-BD – short for Quintessential Universal Building Device) has continued to make improvements on the OneUp as well as add additional 3D printer models. 

I reached out to the team at QU-BD and requested a OneUp for testing, and not only did they deliver a working OneUp to my doorstep, but they responded quickly to phone calls and emails when I had some questions. It turns out that many of my questions could have been answered if I’d checked out their well-done forums, but I still appreciate the fast responses — I can place a check in the “Good Customer Service” check box!

Part of keeping the price low on the OneUp is that the kit ships unassembled. Yes, this is a DIY kit… you will need to put it together yourself. I’ve looked at the assembly instructions and they are amazingly detailed and in full-color. I say I looked at them because the box that arrived (along with some test filament) on my door contained a fully-assembled OneUp. The team had put it together for me. For this reason, I cannot verify the actual time needed to assemble but the estimate is between two and eight hours depending on your comfort level and who you ask. Still, the first 3DP I put together took me dozens of hours due to trial-and-error and just not having actual instructions — I was actually WRITING the instructions for assembling the thing with its creator.)

After unboxing and plugging everything in, I was ready to start testing. With the OneUp, the motor controller board and power supply are mounted on an external board — all the wires from the Extruder, the fan, the motors, and the HotEnd terminate on the board, and the board communicates with your computer via an included USB cable. I was already quite familiar with the recommended Repetier Host software — I run it on my Mac, but it also works on Windows. (It’s also free for hobbyist users, although if you’re like me and find it very useful, you might want to consider making a donation to keep the updates and development going.)

Controller Power Supply

Set up for the OneUp is pretty straight forward, involving a few setting tweaks in Repetier. You can find a detailed set of instructions here that include screenshots. The only real trial-and-error I had to perform with the OneUp was dialing in the proper temperature for the PLA filament I was feeding it. My other 3DP also uses PLA, and I have the temperature set to 203 degrees F for just the right melting point and solidification upon exiting the HotEnd. With the OneUp, I found that a setting of 193 degrees F worked the best. This took me about 5-10 minutes of tinkering, and once I had it dialed in I began tweaking a few other items such as movement speeds and Fill settings.

Hot End

One of the first things I noticed with the OneUp is that it runs a little bit slower than the other 3D printers I’ve tested and used in the past. Not a LOT slower, but slower. Maybe 60% of the standard speed I’m used to seeing. This is fine… I’ve long accepted the fact that printing ANYTHING with a 3D printer that you wish to actually use will take some time. If you’re looking for a speed-demon 3DP, this is not going to be the machine you want. But I’m going to add this in there (and quite often) — at $200, you’re going to be quite satisfied with the quality of print you can obtain if your patient.

The specs on the OneUp are quite good — the motors are NEMA 17 and are quite typical. The filament used is 1.75mm and the 0.4mm nozzle on the Extruder began to give me pretty much identical results with some additional tweaking and testing. Print area is going to be on the smaller size — 4″ x 4″ x 5″ (inches) but again… you’re dealing with a $200.00 3D printer versus a $500+ printer for a slightly larger print area.

Print Table

During printing, the OneUp is surprisingly quiet. It’s not noise-free by any means, but I’ve seen more expensive 3DPs produce much louder movements. The OneUP uses notched belts for movement for X and Y axis moves and a lead screw for the Z axis — movement in all directions was smooth and not jerky. I’ve seen some 3DPs that shake quite a bit with all the motor movement, so I was quite surprised and happy to see that the OneUp wasn’t going to walk itself off my desk. (I still set it on a small grippy pad, but it was probably not necessary.)

It took me about five or six prints to get my standard Maker token to come out at the print quality level I expect. This is not typical — you will likely spend MORE test prints dialing in your own 3D printer and getting it just the way you like. I have prior experience on my side which allowed me to reduce the time spent on tweaks and such… that said, I have no doubt there are still some tweaks I could make for even further improvements in the quality of my prints. (If you’ve never owned a 3DP, you should know that the tweaking of settings is a never ending thing, and users are ALWAYS looking for a small value change here or a decimal tweak there to eek out a subtle improvement.)

Notch Assembly

I said earlier that I didn’t build this machine, but I did examine its assembly to see what’s involved. The laser cut parts are going to fit together nicely… and tight! I tried to pull one side of the base off (because it’s designed to come off) and I was glad to see that while it didn’t come off easily, it also didn’t require ultra-strength to pull it off and a risk to damaging or breaking a part. I’m including a photo closeup below so you can see the notched assembly method that many of the melamine body parts use to “snap” together.

So, the first question is this — is this a good 3DP for the price? Absolutely. Just examining the hardware by itself, it’s a great deal — the NEMA motors are reliable, the Anubis hot-end (with user-replaceable nozzle) is reliable and produces quality layers and final results. The belt-driven movement of the print bed is smooth due to high quality bearings and chrome-plated steel rods.

Board

Another question — is it suitable for beginners? This one’s a little trickier to answer. First, it’s a DIY kit, so the print results you get are going to be partially based on how well you put the thing together. My test machine was assembled by the QU-BD crew, so you could argue they’ve probably built enough in their day to know every little in-and-out of assembly and provided me with the most accurately built machine possible. This is where I would point a novice to the company’s forums and tell them to use it whenever in doubt about a step. The assembly instructions are good, but nothing beats reaching out to experts when you have a question. (The other half of the question relates to configuring the Repetier software — and again, there’s PLENTY of advice and instruction on the forums to help a novice figure out what all the settings mean and how best to test for the right values and settings for an individual’s OneUp.)

And another question — is it suitable for kids? At the $200 price point, I can certainly understand why parents would be interested in this printer. But you can’t just drop this kit on a younger user and expect perfect results. This is a great kit for a parent-child project — your patience will probably be tested on more than one occasion (and this happens with ANY DIY 3DP kit), and you want to make certain that your expectations are reasonable. You’re not going to be printing out glass smooth prints 30 minutes after assembling this printer. The assembly process is a learning experience and so is the software configuration. If you’ve got a child who wants to be up and printing as fast as possible… this may not be the path you want to take. I’m a big proponent of DIY — when you build something, you will typically also know how to fix it. If your child has a certain comfort level with tinkering, they may very well love this kit. At age 10 or 11, I would have gone ga-ga over this thing.

1st and 8thFinal thoughts? I mean, it’s a $200 3D printer (and for only $80 more, you can have a printer that prints in two colors)! Five years ago, something that couldn’t even provide this quality of final print would have cost about $1000 or more. If you’re expecting to match the speed and quality of a (current) $3000 3DP, you’re going to be disappointed. This is an entry-level 3DP, but it’s certainly capable of producing some outstanding results. But those results will come from time spent with your machine. The melamine pieces are certainly sturdy enough, but you can’t go dropping this thing on the floor from any height. And the electronics are exposed — if this bothers you, you’ll need to create your own enclosure. But again… $200.00 for an honest-to-goodness PLA-printing machine that uses the standard 1.75mm filament with a 0.4mm nozzle. Not. Too. Shabby.

I’d like to thank Nathan and Adam with QU-BD for all their help in arranging for a test machine and for answering my technical questions. I think they must have some really happy customers because they continue to sell out of the kit — I had to wait a bit to get mine, and it was worth the wait to see just how compact and quiet and light this little machine really is… such a great little deal for a very reasonable price.

 

 

 

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