Stanley Black & Decker has partnered with South Korean printer company Sindoh to create the STANLEY Model 1 3D Printer, an easy-to-use printer for beginners and experts alike. Everything about the Model 1 appears to have been developed with the idea of making 3D printing as simple as possible, allowing anyone to go from unboxing to printing in a matter of minutes. Some of the features of the Model 1 include:
- Auto-loading Filament
- Magnetic Extruder Head
- Touch Screen Control Panel
- Assisted Bed Leveling
- Web Monitoring
- Wi-fi Connectivity
- Heated Bed
Testing the Model 1 began with the question, “How much effort does it take to get up and running?” Having a giant box show up on your doorstep is exciting, and the urge to immediately start playing with a new device without reading an enormous user manual is often overwhelming. Stanley apparently anticipated this, and just plugging it in and turning it on started the initial setup process, beginning with:
Wait. First, let’s talk about the machine itself. Standing at approximately 16″ wide by 17″ tall and deep, the Model 1 is a wonderfully compact unit. The fully enclosed design allows it to be used virtually anywhere without worry of stuff falling onto the heated bed or little fingers fiddling with hot or moving parts, yet the front and top both open up completely to allow you to see the printing in action. Although compact, the space is intelligently used, giving the Model 1 a build volume that is over twice that of a popular comparably priced competitor and yet only 30% larger overall. The small cube design is also aesthetically pleasing. While that may seem insignificant to us gadget geeks, not everyone wants a Rube Goldberg-looking machine in their living room.
OK, back to the initial setup process, beginning with:
Leveling the Bed
Leveling the Model 1’s heated print bed ensures that your part adheres firmly to the surface and prevents filament build-up on the print head or gaps between layers. On many printers the process of leveling the bed involves manually moving the print head to the center of the bed, lowering it onto a piece of paper until there is resistance, then moving the head to each corner, adjusting the bed until the print head encounters the same resistance to the paper on all four corners. This can take two or three passes to get exactly right.
On the Model 1, you simply go to the control panel, choose the “Auto Level” feature, and let it do its thing. After a minute or two, the control panel will display exactly how much to adjust each dial on the bed, both in degrees as well as the number of turns. If you aced high school geometry or have a protractor lying around, this will not be a problem for you. However, I found that my guesses on what constitutes 0.2 turns was not always exact. Once you make the adjustment, though, the system will run through another leveling until you get it right. One recommendation I would make to the folks at Stanley would be to put ten ridges on the gear-shaped dial instead of eight. Just this simple change would make life a lot easier. Need to adjust it 0.3 turns? Just note where one ridge is in relation to the bed, go back three ridges, and turn it to that point on the bed. While I can do the math in my head to come up with 0.3 turns being equal to 2.4 ridges, turning the dial precisely that much is a little more difficult.
Loading the Filament
The bed is now leveled, and it’s time to print, right? Not quite. You still need to load the filament into the printer. Again, Stanley saw to it that this was as painless as possible. Even some of the automated filament loading mechanisms in other printers require you to manually guide the filament into a tube, run it through the extruder until it starts coming out, then clean up the extruded material. Plus, if you’re not careful, the filament can unwind from the spool, potentially causing jams later.
Compare this process to the Model 1 auto-loading filament cartridge. To load the Model 1, hit the “Load” button, insert the cartridge, and hit “OK.” That’s all there is to it. The system will feed the filament into the tube and to the extruder. Rather than dumping the filament onto the print bed, the Model 1 uses an easy-to-empty disposal container for the extra filament extruded during loading.
Now, to be fair, the first time you load a spool of filament into a cartridge there is a bit more work involved, but it is still a very simple process that should only take a few seconds. Just place the spool into the cartridge, cut the end off at an angle, and feed it into the rollers. One thing to pay attention to is the smart chip that goes along with each spool of filament from Stanley. This chip tells the system what type of filament it is and how much is left on the spool. If you load the spool into the cartridge without the chip or leave the old chip from an empty spool, the Model 1 will not allow you to print.
Note: Open Source rant follows. Feel free to jump down to “Printing” if you’re not interested in the DRM built into the Model 1.
I struggled a lot with this, philosophically. If you know me, you probably know I’m a fan of open design. I prefer to support designers and creators who use CC licenses. I believe once you buy something, that something belongs to you, and you should be able to do whatever you want with it, up to and including taking it apart and making it do something completely different from what it was designed to do. I read Cory Doctorow, for goodness sake. So, when I learned that I can’t use just any filament with this printer, my inner Cecil B. DeVil was awakened. Was this Keurig coffee and HP printers all over again?
There are two major difference I see between the Model 1 and these devices. First, Stanley is right up front about it. Unlike HP, who turned on the feature after people had purchased their printers (and promptly turned it off again after public outcry), anyone who buys a Model 1 knows going in that they can only buy filament from Stanley. While it’s not optimal, it’s at least honest. Second, unlike a Keurig machine, which basically is just a device for heating and spitting out water, a 3D printer is a highly complicated device with very exact tolerances. Running hot water through someone else’s coffee pod is never going to cause a problem to the Keurig machine. However, poorly manufactured filament can easily ruin a print and possibly the machine itself. When I asked the representative from Stanley why they don’t allow third-party filament, his response confirmed my suspicion.
“The filament for the Model 1 has been developed in a specialized manner with the highest quality materials due to the fact that the extruder has such a finely developed exit point. This allows for extremely high definition prints. Any filament that is not within the specific tolerances of the Model 1 filament formulation can clog the printer. In fact, clogging of the filament is the most widely occurring problem in all 3D printers. We are confident you will find that with consistent ongoing use of this particular printer, you are highly unlikely to experience any clogging issues due to filament quality.”
So while I would personally prefer to use any type of filament I want in a device I purchased, even if it’s just for experimentation with no expectation of it working flawlessly, I can appreciate the decision by Stanley to want to ensure the highest level of customer satisfaction, particularly in a device that is obviously designed with novices in mind. I’m also confident that if years down the road, Stanley decides to stop selling filament and chips, the global community of people who like to tinker and modify devices will, just like they did with printers and coffee machines, find a way to keep the Model 1 working, one way or another. My personal preference would be for companies to offer a one-time, tamper evident switch that would immediately void the warranty but would turn off consumables’ DRM requirement. If anyone at Sindoh is reading this, you could earn a lot of points with the maker community with something like this.
Anyway, back to getting the Model 1 ready to print. Oh, yeah–that’s it. At this point, if you had a G-code file, you could put it on a USB drive, plug it into the front of the printer, and start printing. In reality, of course, you’re more likely to start with an STL file from Thingiverse or from your own design, and for that, you’re going to need the STANLEY 3D software, conveniently loaded on the included USB drive. Plug it into your computer, run the executable, and you’re ready to go.
For my first test, I wanted something simple, so I drew up a blocky robot in Sketchup Make and exported it as an STL. Then, I dragged the STL file into the STANLEY 3D software and clicked “Print,” at which time the program immediately notified me that I was an idiot, it didn’t work by magic, and I had to actually connect my printer. Seeing as my office resembles the aftermath of an explosion at an obscure store that specializes in board games, photography, and electrical components, the nearest space I could find for the printer was nowhere near my PC. No worries, though, as the Model 1 has wi-fi capability. From the control panel on the printer, I turned on the wi-fi, selected my network, put in my password, and voila, I could now add the printer. I did so, hit “Print” (again), and was greeted with a lovely view of the inside of the printer.
Yes, there is a camera–and a lamp–installed inside the Model 1, which you can use to not only make sure the bed is empty before you send a print but also use to monitor the status of your print from any device on your network. Combined with the wi-fi printing, this feature allows you to literally put the Model 1 anywhere in your house. Don’t have an office? Put it on the kitchen counter. Don’t have a spouse who would tolerate a 3D printer on the kitchen counter? Stick it in the basement. Or the garage. Or the kid’s closet. Wherever you can find an electrical outlet, really.
On second thought, maybe the kid’s closet isn’t the best place for a high-temperature electrical device, but you get my point.
After I verified the print bed was empty and hit “OK,” the printer did its thing. Thirteen minutes later, I had my little robot and my first lesson in overhang.
Overhang is when parts of your model hang over the parts below it. Since 3D printers print from the bottom up, it stands to reason that it needs something to print on top of. If your part has too much overhang, you can get drooping lines like the ones above.
To fix this, I went back to my model, to the Settings, and chose Support -> Touching Buildplate. I also changed the view from model viewer to layer viewer so I could see the supports the program added.
The software added two columns under the robot’s arms so that they would print correctly. These supports are easily detachable from the model once it’s printed. It’s worth noting that, as you would expect, adding supports increases both time of print and material used.
And, for better or worse depending on your desired level of customization, that only scratches the surface of the number of options available in the advanced mode of the software, including speed, material, temperature, wall thickness, support structure type, bed adhesion, and more. Three screens worth of settings and variables to exactly tweak your print, and which you will likely never touch. I printed more than two dozen models, and only once ran across anything that couldn’t be handled by switching between “Normal” and “Slow.” I wanted to really test the precision of the system, so I went to advanced and turned up every possible setting I could to its highest quality. Unfortunately, at the time of publishing, that job is still printing. It’s estimated to take a total of 26 hours, so I did it in batches. Here is one of the components:
I’ll share the finished product on social media in a few days, but I can tell just from the arm that it’s going to be a beauty. And, since the Model 1 supports both PLA and ABS, I printed this one in ABS so I could both sand it and polish it up with acetone. I may even paint it later, but after seeing some of the amazing painting done by others here at GeekDad, I’m a bit intimidated. Still, I love that I can print out display-quality models like this from my own office.
Now, is the Model 1 all sunshine, rainbows, and unicorn farts? I’d love to tell you that it’s so, but that would be miraculous for any first edition hardware. I will say that it has far exceeded my expectations, and someone should buy the quality control department over at Sindoh a beer or twenty. However, there were a few very minor issues that I ran across.
First, the webcam would stop working intermittently and I had to unplug the printer to get it to come back. Thankfully, this was an issue Stanley was already aware of and had patched. They walked me through updating the firmware (like everything else on this printer, accomplished by a few simple taps on the control panel), and the problem was resolved. After installing the STANLEY 3D software on your computer, I recommend checking both it and the printer for software/firmware updates.
Second, and I don’t think this is a problem with this printer, in particular, there is a certain combination of settings that, when used together, basically fuses your part to the aluminum print bed. I was printing out some caps for a fidget spinner using ABS, chose to print with the bed adhesion type “Brim” instead of “Raft” in order to save filament, and I let it print overnight. When I went to take the print off the bed the next day, I was able to remove my part, but I spent the next fifteen minutes laboriously removing the brim from the build plate in tiny shavings with a combination of the included scraper and no small amount of elbow grease. While I was able to get it all off, the print bed was left in a less-than-desirable state. I consider it a lesson learned, and I accept it was my responsibility having switched from Basic to Advanced mode in the software, but whatever combination of settings it was that caused it, a warning that it was about to happen from the software would be very helpful.
Finally, there were a few minor software bugs that, as a developer myself, I can appreciate are a matter of course for early versions. Little things like checking the box that says “Do not show me this message again” doesn’t stop the program from showing you that message again. Also, if you’re manually adding supports and you accidentally go too far, there is no “Undo” (although you can hold down the Ctrl key and manually “unselect” the offending addition). Overall, though, these are minor inconveniences that will no doubt be fixed in later versions. Frankly, nothing about the Model 1 feels like a “Version 1” at all.
Price and Availability
The STANLEY Model 1 is available exclusively from Amazon and sells for $1,325. Replacement filament and smart chips, cartridges, and print beds are also sold on Amazon and will be available by the end of the month.
The STANLEY Model 1 3D printer is a simple-to-use, beautifully designed 3D printer that will fit well in any environment. I can confidently recommend it to anyone looking to get into 3D printing or wanting to replace their old printer. This thing has been running almost daily for weeks now, and it’s been absolutely bulletproof, but if something does ever go wrong, it’s comforting to know it’s backed by a 1-year warranty and a toll-free customer support line from a $20B company and not two guys from Rooster Trail, Idaho1.
1 I’m in no way implying people from the lovely town of Rooster Trail, Idaho (if it actually exists) are anything less than brilliant 3D printer designers. Please don’t send me hate mail.
Since Stanley Black & Decker was nice enough to provide me with a spool of both PLA and ABS in addition to the printer, I’m giving back to the GeekDad readers. Enter the contest below, and I will give away a fully assembled fidget spinner to 10 randomly selected entrants (U.S. residents only).
This is the spinner I’ll be printing, as it is released under the Creative Commons – Attribution – Share Alike license. Thanks, 2ROBOTGUY