The Sapphire Pro is one of a few recent 3D printers that have hit the market using a coreXY kinematics. I’ve previously reviewed the Sapphire S and I’m excited to see how well the Two Trees Sapphire Pro handles itself. Let’s dive in and see how it performs in this Two Trees Sapphire Pro review.
Brand Name:Two Trees
Model Number: Sapphire Pro
Build Size: 220mm x 220mm x 220mm
Input rating:110V/220V AC,50/60Hz
Power Supply: 24V – 360W
Operational Extruder Temperature:Max 260C
Operational Print Bed Temperature:Max 100C
Interface Type: Micro SD
Supported Filament:PLA, ABS, PETG, Wood
Unboxing The Sapphire Pro 3D Printer
The Two Trees Sapphire Pro coreXY 3D printer arrived with a package size of 500*430*250 mm. Inside the cardboard box is various levels of black soft foam holding the top assembly, bottom assembly, and middle components. The black foam used is not the sturdiest foam but appeared to retain the components safely during shipping. My particular unit came in great condition.
Everything was in the box, the parts list was complete, and I looked for the instructions to begin assembly.
Two Trees Sapphire Pro Assembly
The build instructions were OK with colour photos. The language barrier is evident as they name some components a little strange. An example of this is when they show how to install the Z axis smooth rods, however they refer to them as “Optical Axis”.
There were a few moments during assembly that I questioned the Two Trees quality control process. The heat bed still had the protective film on, but the edges of the bed were quite sharp and sliced my finger a bit. The z axis bearings were also new in plastic bag which was concerning for me since I would have rather they been opened and tested to make sure they were good.
The top XY assembly bolts down onto four tapped 2020 aluminum extrusions from the top down. The steppers for X and Y are mounted on the top plate now vs the Sapphire S which houses the stepper motors in the base and transfers to movement to the top assembly by way of steel rods, bearing holders, and pulleys. The new way on the Pro uses thick sheet steel plates that appears to be pretty sturdy.
The Y axis rails were not tight to the plate. I had to install screws and they did not feel like they were the right length. They felt like they were bottoming out just as the rail was tightening, but they did work. The XY assembly is a system of linear rails, and a CNC plate making for a really clean looking printer that can be easily enclosed by purchasing the acrylic shell also available from Two Trees.
First Impressions & First Print
Flipping the rocker switch at the power input, and then pushing the push button in on the front of the display mount brought the Sapphire Pro to life the same as my previous Sapphire S. I sliced my first print using Simplify3D with the same profile I’ve used for my Sapphire S in the past that I found from the Sapphire Facebook group.
This is where my problems began. Print after print, and layer shift after layer shift. I tried a variety of settings, and no matter what, the print would have massive layer shifts. This was not a pleasant start. I checked for belt slippage, or lifted sections to see if it was a mechanical issue. After a bunch of failed attempts, I noticed the stepper motors themselves were really hot and I proceeded to check the VREF for the XY stepper drivers.
That’s where I found the problem. The VREF for the TMC2208’s were set to 1.6V from the factory which was too high. I lowered the VREF to 1.2V and finally completed a first print. Since lowering the VREF I haven’t experienced any layer shifts. This was another QC issue from the factory.
The first print came out OK. It is Blackcat from the Eastman 3D Patreon that I subscribe to. There is some banding along the Z axis but it’s not an awful print. Printed using Geeetech silk black PLA.
Printing and Maintenance
The Sapphire Pro uses an MKS Robin Nano control board with TMC2208 stepper drivers for X and Y axis, and A4988 stepper drivers for Z and E. The results are that its a fairly quiet 3D printer. The touchscreen LCD has a clean interface but it does lack in the settings department that we are most familiar with in traditional Marlin based printers. The printer accepts your G-Code files via micro card with a slot located on the right side of the printer.
The stock build surface on the heatbed works very well and I did not have any poor adhesion issues on any of my prints. It actually adheres prints too well and I struggled every time to remove the print for the surface. It does provide a textured feel to the bottom of your print as well. I would prefer if the heatbed came with a strain relief for the wires as well but the printer does not come with this feature.
The following print was also from the Eastman Patreon group. The base was printed with grey PLA and the bust was printed with Eryone marble PLA.
I’m still a little uneasy with cantilevered beds on an inexpensive printer but it did not appear to be a problem here. I found that over the course of the all the prints, I didn’t have to level the bed after leveling it manually properly the first time. It seemed to find its z home position consistently providing good first layers.
I did notice that the hot end temperature fluctuates +-3 degrees very consistently. I feel a PID tune is in need as my prints did exhibit some occasional uneven layers along the Z axis that could be attributed to fluctuating temps. I also checked the e-steps on the extruder to see if that could be contributing to the small issues but they were correct from factory.
I went ahead and printed a couple Little Big Planet characters from Rober Rollin on MyMiniFactory. They were both printed with Geeetech Rainbow PLA and I was really happy with the results. My kids loved the characters and they were great prints to try for this Two Tree Sapphire Pro review.
A little PTFE oil was added to the linear rails for the X and Y axis to help lubricate them. Changing filament is inconvenient with the spool holder mounted on the rear as well as the extruder. I found the thumbscrew for the BMG clone to be a touch too short and it was difficult to insert the thumbscrew and catch a thread after loading filament into the extruder. That being said, the BMG clone extruder did function well and did its job without any issues during this review.
There is a helpful Facebook group you can turn to for support called Two Trees 3D Printer Group. The Facebook group does showcase some fantastic prints from other Sapphire users as well.
Conclusion: Two Trees Sapphire Pro Review
Two Trees provided the Sapphire Pro coreXY 3D printer to me discounted in exchange for an honest review. Most of the printers I have reviewed from overseas have had some sort of QC issues from factory. In this case we had improper set VREFs causing immediate failed prints. The other issues I found were pretty minor.
Once beyond the initial hiccups, the printer certainly can perform well. The aluminum extrusion cube frame fitted with the single piece machined top plate provides a rigid structure. The upgraded MKS Robin Nano board is welcome vs the Lerdge on the Sapphire S and the printer zipped along pretty quietly with the exception of extruder retractions. It’s a quick printer with some nice features and I’m quite happy to have it in my personal farm of 3D printers.
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Flux Beamo is a small, enclosed 30w CO2 laser engraver, currently launching on Kickstarter.
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Prusa Mk3s reviews are often by popular YouTubers who get 3D printers for free, sometimes sent by Josef Prusa himself. Not so here, I am not popular, and I bought both my Prusa printers (Mk2 and now Mk3s) myself!
Obviously, I wouldn’t buy a second Prusa if I didn’t enjoy the first, but they are far from perfect.
While my reviews are always honest and independent, I know there is a common rumor in the 3d printing community about reviewers having bias toward Prusa.
I can’t speak to the validity of that, I can only say I am not biased in any way, despite running one of the more popular Prusa-based Facebook groups and also supplementing my income with affiliate sales (this means my links earn me a small commission, but don’t change the price you pay).
In fact I often get static for maybe being overly critical about Prusa, as we will discuss in this here review.
Prusa Kit or Pre-Made?
The first decision when looking at the Prusa Mk3s is if you want to buy the kit or have them build it for you.
Prusa Mk3s Kit is $749, or you can buy assembled for $999. Assembled has a lead-time of 3 weeks, while the kit is usually in stock.
Remember to add shipping and import duty ($110-$130) to these prices! The final price for the Prusa Mk3s kit to my door was CAD$1,227.94
The kit arrived well-packaged, I would guess the assembled version would too, just in a larger box.
Building the Prusa Mk3S kit is NOT like building an Ender 3, where it is partially assembled.
You have to assemble almost every tiny piece, and it is a chore. Perhaps I was overly vocal about what a pain it was to build, but I would even suggest it is a bit more involved than assembling the Mk2 was, due to the newer extruder assembly.
I have day job and family responsibilities, so It took me weeks (25 weeks to be precise – that is excessive, and you are unlikely to take that long!) due to grabbing 10mins or an hour here and there.
It’s fiddly, and with 3D printed parts with rough overhangs, things don’t always go together well first time. Expect to have tiny nuts falling and rolling under furniture constantly.
Unlike me, some people report enjoying the process. YMMV.
Now, obviously, at the end you will understand your 3D printer intimately, which does have value.
Just don’t go for the kit purely to save you money if you value your time at all, because it is going to take you a long time, which could cause you to resent the printer like I did – especially if your hobby time is limited.
Prusa Mk3s Specs and Features
Once assembled, what do you get?
- 250mm x 210mm x 200mm Heated (120ºC), Removable, PEI Coated bed (I went for smooth, I have no idea why someone would want their prints to be textured!)
- E3D Extruder (max temperature 300ºC) with Bondtech gears
- Filament runout sensor
- Power out recovery
- Trinamic2130 stepper drivers detect skipped steps
- Quiet Noctua fan
- Auto bed level compensation
Understandably, given the long and proud history of the Prusa, it has a solid reputation in the community. While the Mk3 had some wobbles on release, with complaints about print quality, beds, filament runout sensor, power supply hum, and so on, the Mk3s seems to have resolved those issues.
By appearances the Prusa is very much a hobbyist, tinkerer machine. It looks home-made, and of course, it usually is.
It’s also quite old-fashioned in some respects, being made of 3D printed parts, no enclosure, an 8-bit main board, and sporting a monochrome LCD.
It’s not exactly the fashion challenger for the 2019/2020 season.
Of the machines in my hobby room, it appears the cheapest, while being the second most expensive after my monster-sized Craftbot XL.
It is, however, built out of top-of-the-line electronic and motion parts.
Sure, there are no linear rails that you might find in similarly priced machines, and there are still zip ties holding some vital parts in. Yes, zip ties. In 2019.
That said, the components, and particularly the machine’s firmware, are amongst the best in this sub-$1,000 segment of the market.
In operation, even in ‘normal’ mode, it is super quiet.
Oddly, while Prusa make a bit marketing buzz around their expensive Prusament 3d printing filament … the filament included with your purchase is some no-brand stuff that many group-members have complained endlessly about.
Prusa Software Stack
To an extent, Prusa is a lot like Ultimaker, in that they control the hardware and software design, and even the filament if you are willing to pay a premium on your usual cost, so everything is tuned together.
The slicer, based on a fork of Slic3r, is excellent, but oddly, the built-in profiles for the Mk3s caused me some issues, such as stringing and very difficult to remove supports that caused bad surface quality.
Even the Marvin demo file included on the SD card printed badly, which I put down to the gcode being tuned for Prusa’s own filament rather than the PLA they included.
Fortunately, the community provides. I am now using the Pretty PLA profiles by Chris W.
When you slice a model in Prusaslicer it will post a message in the Gcode to remind you to update firmware. This nag could be annoying on a machine where you are lax in updating (eg. my Mk2), but is a boon on the Mk3s where I will get the benefit of incremental improvements.
Prusa Mk3s Print Quality
As would be expected for a ~$1,000 printer, the print quality is great.
The Prusa mk3s is supposedly capable of 200mm/sec. It does seem capable of good speeds, but someone with more science than me would have to confirm the actual capability in practice.
What makes the Prusa an exception in this price-range, however, is the fact you can get this level of print quality without making any modifications or tuning.
So, really you are buying ease of use and convenience. While you could get multiple Ender 3 printers for the same price, and get close to the same output quality, you are going to have to put more effort and maintenance into the Ender 3.
Don’t get me wrong, you are not going to get resin-quality minis right out of the box, though I did try!
Who is the Prusa Mk3s good for?
The Prusa Mk3s is in an oddly unique spot in the market. It’s not a budget printer, for that I would recommend the Ender 3.
You could have multiple printers, a makerspace or print-farm starter set for the price of one Prusa, and you would get them faster because you can probably get the Ender 3 either locally or from Amazon.
If you are into 3D printing or electronics as a hobby, and you want to learn and tinker, then again I would go with the Ender 3. Especially if you are in the 3D printed tabletop community and want FDM for terrain etc.
But it is also not a prosumer printer, or a printer ideal for education, either. For those functions you ideally need an enclosure. In those markets I would look at Craftbot and Ultimaker.
Which brings us to another point for makerspaces or other environments where printers get worn-out and abused. Keep in mind, you can only get official Prusa parts from Prusa. Harry Brookes in the Facebook Group recommends a store on Aliexpress called Triangle Lab for 3rd party parts. I have not tried them myself. Joseph Tam has a Tindie store where he has compatible bed leveling probes and heated beds.
For pure print quality, for example small, detailed items like tabletop minis, I wouldn’t even suggest FDM, I would go for the Elegoo Mars, 100%. Note, Prusa does sell a resin printer, but it is over priced versus the Elegoo from what I can see.
The Prusa Mk3S is perfectly capable of printing good looking props and cosplay items, especially if you use something like Meshmixer to split into pieces. For larger cosplay items that you want to print in one go with no glue or seams, such as helmets and full armor pieces, due to the price and the print bed being not quite big enough, I would look to the Creality CR-10 range.
At this point we are left with the home or small office market of people who want to just hit print but don’t want to spend Ultimaker prices. For those people, the Prusa Mk3s excels.
Original Prusa i3 Mk3S
Check out the Prusa Mk3S at Prusa Research
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I don’t usually post negative reviews. My approach is to first let the company know of any issues I find, and if they can not be resolved, I move on, unless something is particularly dangerous or misleading, or there is a real risk of people being out of pocket.
This is the latter.
There has been a flood of cheap resin 3d printers hitting the market recently, so I thought I would take the plunge and buy one. Seeing as the Monoprice Mini was available for $200, and at Amazon, I thought it would be a low-risk purchase.
Yeah …. about that …[Read more…]
Glowforge review (laser engraver,not laser printer). This review is about the Glowforge Basic — the Glowforge is the best laser cutter I have ever reviewed, or used for that matter. Heck, the Glowforge is the funnest machine I have ever owned.
I say that as an owner of several CNC, laser, and 3D printing machines!
- Updated 12 July, 2019 – All models now available in Canada!
- Updated 6 May, 2019 – Appears camera calibration is solved!
- Updated 30 April, 2019 to include information about the compact filter, and “Set Focus” feature – see below
Personal Update – we got so much value out of the first Glowforge Basic after this review, we bought another one which arrived early May 2019![Read more…]