The 3D Systems Cube 3D printer comes off as good buy with its conveniences such as Wi-Fi print options, intuitive touch screen, and removable build platform, but with not-so-powerful software, inability to customize the hardware, and high priced printing material, average consumers and hobbyists will want to think twice about purchasing it.
Begin by registering your Cube on the Cubify website. This is necessary, as after creating your user account you will be given an activation code that must be entered on the printer's touch-screen display. This may just be a clever ploy to get you to check out the website, where they have numerous software packages, accessories, and design files for sale, as there are no other printers out there that require this step.
Use the touch-screen to go through the hardware setup process, where it will instruct you on how to load the plastic filament into the print head, and then level the build platforms to ensure your prints come out perfect every time. It is a tedious process just as it would be with other printers, and requires a wrench, which is not included.
The idea of the 3D Systems Cube is user friendliness. The idea that making an overly simplified interface and a one-stop shop at Cubify.com seems like a great idea on the surface. What a great way for those who haven't the faintest idea how to design a 3D object to accomplish just that. However, there will come a time where you'll want to modify a design, or even create your own, and that is where you'll be stuck.
Also, where other printers allow multiple materials to be used, the Cube only allows ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, the most common material used to make 3D objects). ABS is highly malleable and a bit cheaper than other materials, but can present a problem in printing, as it may sometimes be difficult to adhere to the build platform.
The software is touted as simple, and for the most part, it is. The user is guided step by step through the process via an icon-based system. However when moving and rotating an object using the “Orient & Scale” feature, you'll find the object does not move in real time, which can be rather frustrating. You cannot customize the height of the layers of plastic. You also can't change the speed the extruder travels or the density of the infill material to ensure a strong finished product.
Included in the box is a USB key containing three printable files, as well as a code good for downloading 25 different designs at Cubify.com. The site is a bit confusing. There is no way to filter the shop to display files for you to print yourself. Another downfall: there is no guarantee that your printer will accurately print out the plans you purchase. 3D Systems claims to be working to Cube-certify the user-printables on its website. Aside from the listed downfalls, the Cube is interesting and one of the first of its kind. Will this printer make hobbyist holiday lists? Probably not. But, it’s a great idea all the same.