I didn’t want to buy this printer, but I am glad I did. This Wanhao Duplicator i3 review is in two parts, I am not just going to cover what I like and what I don’t like. I am going to tell you what I did to take it from being a happy purchase to “OMG I love this printer” in part 2.
Ready? Let’s go take a look.
Maybe I should start by addressing that first statement. Why on earth would I not want to buy this printer?
Well the thing is I purchased this printer because my other new printer, had arrived broken and I was on a self-imposed deadline. Myself and a couple of other folks from the Calgary makerspace had in mind to build a working BB8. With the other machine being useless, and my existing printers not having heated beds, I scrambled to find something that could also do the job without breaking the bank. As mentioned in the 3d printer buying decisions guide, I had a choice of buying a kit or buying pre-made. That deadline pushed me toward getting pre-made and cheap.
Fortunately the BB8 building community has put together specifications for build capacity and lists of printers where people have successfully printed the parts. Top of the list (well, top of the “not going to cost you a fortune” list) was the Wanhao Di3, and online reviews were mostly backing this up (more on that later in this review). Win!
Getting help with a 3D printer is super important always, but especially when it is a budget printer. Before even buying a printer it is a good idea to research how much support is going to be available, both officially and unofficially.
Online this machine has a ton of support. YouTube videos abound, both official and community submitted. Jetguy and James have a bunch of guides. The Wanhao has an excellent Google community, and I already knew the Wanhao had a lot of fans on both Reddit and on Facebook, but wow, the Facebook Wanhao Di3 community is top notch. I would say the community folks supporting the Wanhao Di3 are the most friendly and generous I have come across, and I say this as a huge fan of the Printrbot community.
When it came to purchasing there were a couple of resellers that were getting poor reports from the community, including one that people were mistakingly believing to be Wanhao itself just because the reseller managed to snag the USA domain. Seems this particular reseller in the USA is, shall we say, on timeout from Wanhao HQ, but clearing up the reputation damage they have done will take more than that. Seems a few of the Amazon reviews are complaining about that particular company, which is a shame because it reduces the star rating unfairly.
I’m a big fan of ordering within your country because shipping, import duty, support, pricing and pretty much the whole process is simplified. Fortunately there were a couple of Canadian resellers who scored well. I decided to go with DigitMakers, who have been excellent.
So we have our first big plus. You are going to get good help from both the community, and if you choose your supplier well, from the reseller you purchase from.
Unboxing and First Print Experience
Unboxing the Wanhao Di3 after the gong show which was the other printer was a dream. Well packaged, and smooth experience all round.
Good eh? OK, Joel intentionally didn’t correct his X axis level because he was following the instructions to the letter, but you know to do that now, right?
Using the supplied quick start guide to remove tape, plug in what needed plugging in, and so on, within 30 minutes I had unboxed the printer, added the couple of screws to fix the base to the uprights, levelled the bed and X axis, and launched the “OK hand” print off the supplied SD card.
Yes, I am ashamed to say I recorded this video portrait.
What you get in the box in addition to the printer:
- SD card (a cheap SD card but at least you get one)
- Scraper (this bad boy is sharp, much nicer than the one I got with my Cube3)
- Allen keys/wrenches
- Sample filament
- USB cable
- Buildtak (one sheet was installed, and I got a spare)
- And the power cable was correct for North America.
Remember this is a budget printer, and yet you get all of that. The more expensive other new printer that will remain nameless within this review? I got nothing apart from a broken printer. Not even a North American power cable. Can you tell I am a bit bitter about that whole experience? That’s why I am writing the Wanhao review first.
Turns out a lot of the reviews I found were not reviews of the exact model I had purchased. Not just because Wanhao is rebadged as Cocoon Create, and Maker Select, but because Wanhao have done a great job of improving the printer, how they assemble it, and how they ship it. This was a good thing because this meant 90% of the criticisms were no longer relevant. I won’t go into all of that here, just suffice to say when you purchase a Wanhao Duplicator i3 specifically, ensure you get a version 2 with all the corrections.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. Taking into account the low, low price, there are still a couple of things I would improve.
Things I don’t like:
- The X axis belt rubs on the blocks – This is not a huge concern for me but it does drive some people mad. YMMV.
- The Mk10 extruder takes a lot of practice – I am used to being able to see what I am doing when feeding in filament. It’s taken some practice to get the “muscle memory” so that I can now reliably change filament in this extruder without the filament going everywhere but where I want it.
- Temperature fluctuations – Every printer has some temperature fluctuation, but this machine has more than usual. Turns out there is a fix that involves soldering, and I am sure Wanhao now will put that right for future customers. As my issue has yet to cause any serious printing problems I am leaving mine as-is.
While many people love the buildtak, I don’t like it. My go-to combination is glass and glue stick. I’d have liked glass to be a supplied item. Apparently some of the resellers supply glass and others don’t. I had to purchase mine. I’d advise you to do the same.
Other people complain about the power supply fan being loud. For me I found it not overly loud compared to my other printers. That either means they are being picky or my other printers are particularly loud. Who knows.
I already mentioned two huge positives that I will remind you of first.
- Awesome community – I can not tell you the massive difference this makes. Any question you have will either be answered in Google or by asking in one of the discussion groups. Only the Printrbot community even comes close, none of my other printers have the community support that the Wanhao has. Printrbot beats them for official support, but Wanhao takes the cake overall when taking into consideration 3rd party parts/support, and customer to customer help.
- Value for money – This sub $500 USD printer blew me away. I paid $550 Canadian, delivery included. No import duty. The capabilities, what you get, the build quality, everything you get for that low price? I don’t think any other printer can compete. The metal frame is rigid. It has a heated 200mm x 200mm bed. Using the Wanhao feels like a more expensive printer, with an excellent on board control and display that surpasses others I own and have used.
- Capabilities –
I’ve already mentioned the good sized heated bed. What I didn’t mention was the resolution and accuracy of this printer is excellent. Take a look in the Facebook group at what people achieve with this machine with all kinds of filaments, designs, enclosed and wide open. It is not going to hold you back from whatever you can imagine.
All of this is goodness is “out of the box”! In the follow-up part to this review I will show you everything I did to get it to go from great to excellent. You can see my modified Di3 printing a Bender Head here:
Spoiler alert: While there are many amazing and low-cost community supplied mods to print or follow, 80% of getting brilliant results out of this printer is to get good slicer settings dialled in and to slow down.
I highly recommend this printer. Right now out of the five printers I own, it’s the one I go to the most. Look out for the follow-up article where I go through all the tweaks, settings and updates to get it all dialled in. Sign up to be notified of when that is published.
If you are in the USA and do check out the Wanhao Duplicator i3 I would appreciate you following my Amazon link as they will give me a small affiliate commission for my troubles, and that will help me continue to provide more 3d printing and making content, but I would recommend this printer regardless (and have).