After planning it for almost two years, my friend Mauro recently opened a store in Milan called Solid3DPrinting and, of the first 3D printers he decided to carry, he started with the Italian brand Gimax and the Polish brand Zortrax. I had heard good things about Zortrax’s M200 3D printer, so, while he was waiting for his display model to arrive, I decided to contact the company to see if there was a chance to test one out.
I was not sure if they would reply, since they have reached a certain amount of notoriety after they closed a very large deal with Dell computers; and I did not know if they were still too busy filling the orders. Instead, they replied right away and were very proactive in setting up the shipping of the review unit. This was good for them, since I can easily say that I have never tried a 3D printer as efficient, reliable, solid, and capable of achieving such a high print quality as the Zortrax M200.
I will say, right away, that, in my opinion, this is the best professional-level 3D printer I have ever tried and I am amazed that it costs only €2,212 (including sales taxes). The M200 is ideal for any small professional studio and can easily rival with much more expensive Stratasys systems, in terms of print repeatability and reliability. It could truly be a game changer, as it requires no skills whatsoever to start printing; most of the settings (material, speed, plate and extruder temperature) need not (and cannot) be modified so anyone can start printing high quality parts right away.
Once the machine arrives, all you have to do is take it out of the box, follow the guided setup procedure, which includes inserting the magnetic build plate and the filament, to, then, let the machine calibrate the plate through the fully automated procedure. Zortrax sends out its 3D printer along with the most complete toolkit I have seen, with gloves, goggles, pliers and many more accessories. The guided procedure also prompts users to always wear gloves when handling the machine, which is somewhat funny. Inserting the filament and printing the first object present in the supplied SD Card is only a matter of minutes.
There is little doubt that this is an excellent 3D printer that it is definitely worth its price; however, I feel that, in a review, it is useful that I point out those features that could be improved. The first one is the software. Getting the Mac version of Z-Suite to run is very complex, and I am still not entirely sure how I did it. Sure, Zortrax’s users are probably mostly Windows adopters, but the Mac installation procedure requires downloading and installing the Mono framework, and, even then, it did not work right away.
But it did work in the end and it is a very intuitive software to use, with very few settings to choose from. While this is a positive aspect for the professional audience that Zortrax is targeting, it makes this system not exactly a “Maker-friendly” machine. The other aspect that makes the M200 not ideal for this who need an affordable solution is that Zortrax only supports its own materials. This means that you can only select the material presets from the software’s menu and that using any other material is something you do at your own risk. Zortrax offers its own range of technical polymers like ABS and Zortrax’s own ULTRAT, which offers even superior mechanical properties. Other available materials include HIPS and Zortrax’s GLASS.
The M200 has a heated plate and comes with optional side covers that avoid print deformation when 3D printing with ABS. Zortrax’s plate is magnetic and covered with tiny holes that enable objects to stick to the plate easily, even too much. Removing a rafted piece is no easy task and requires you to detach the plate, both from the magnetic connectors (which is easy) and the electrical connectors (which is kind of annoying and risks damaging them). As the little holes get filled with plastic, detaching the object becomes easier but the downside of that is that the plate will eventually need to be replaced.
The upside of the closed-material approach is that the quality of the prints is truly impressive and can almost rival both the precision of resin-based 3D printing and the smoothness of injection folded parts, with all the geometrical advantages of additive manufacturing. I printed all sorts of large, highly complex objects, such as a full motorcycle model, in one single print. The simpler geometries are a breeze, even when they require many hours to complete.
The work volume allows for prints that are up to 18-cm tall, which can take as much as 20 hours or more. In the case of longer prints, the only issue is the noise level, as the M200 is not a quiet machine. However, while it does fit on a desktop, it is not a desktop machine. At about 20 Kg, it is not easily transportable either and should be placed in a dedicated prototyping or a small manufacturing facility. There, it can print away at the Robotic Arm parts that Zortrax has made freely available to promote its new, Z-Suite-integrated 3D printable model database. The ease with which you can 3D print all 29 parts on a Zortrax M200 just makes you want to embark on other long and complex 3D printing projects.