We began reviewing 3D printers when the market thought these hardware products could truly appeal to a wide consumer demographic. That proved not to be the case, as 3D printers proved too costly and too hard to operate for most people, including the author of this piece. While the hype (fortunately) is not as high as it used to be, our Ortur 4 review shows that 3D printers are now truly within everyone reach and that anyone can use them, including the author of this piece (who does cover the global AM industry as a journalist and analyst but can be considered a consumer when it comes to actually 3D printing).
That’s because, even today, most professionals that could benefit from having a 3D printer (product designers, architects, marketing professionals) as well as consumers who are familiar with CAD and 3D modeling software (their number has been steadily growing), want a 3D printer that just works. Not something they need to tinker with, nor something with tons of advanced features and capabilities. At just over $500, the Ortur 4 provides exactly this (and if you are already sold, you can buy it here on Ortur’s Ali Shop).
Get the printer and run
We were contacted by Yomi Xiao from Salone Electronics, the online retail division of Dongguan Ortur Intelligent Technologies, producers of the Ortur series of printers (along with the Ortur 4 they also have two more industrial grade filament extrusion systems and a photopolymerization system). Yomi proposed that we test and review the machine. While we were a bit skeptical after a few “challenging experiences” with Asian-made systems, but we accepted to give it a try. Within a week he had it delivered to our front door.
Unboxing, assembling, leveling it and getting it to print the first part with the supplied G-code took us less than one hour which is quite impressive. Perhaps the hardest part was reading the manual in English (it was also available in German), which is definitely not-user-friendly but is sufficiently intelligible nonetheless. I would recommend the team at Ortur to have a more precise manual edited and published by a professional, native English speaking company. A good quality product needs to be communicated and explained with marketing and editorial products that are at least as qualitative.
The printer comes with a few tools such as precision cutters, a USB adapter for mini SD cards, two small wooden blocks to calibrate the printer the first time, a little bit of PLA filament to test it out and of course all the necessary screws, cables. It also comes with a spool holder, which however was too small for 1Kg spools (along with manuals Ortus did include the STL files for several replacement parts and for a new spool holder).
What we got here
The Ortur 4 is a dual axis linear guide rail 3D printer, which means it can print more precisely and at faster speeds. Again this is not a unique feature but it is certainly welcome at this price. Inside the shipping cardboard box, we found the printer divided into two modules: one for the solid metal frame with the extruder and one for the base and print plate. Putting them together really takes five minutes and requires just 4 screws.
On top of a generally very solid appearance, the Ortur 4 includes several features that are there to just simplify your life. Nothing extravagant but just generally intelligent solutions. For example, it features a filament run-out detection system with a built-in filament sensor that pauses printing filament about to run out. It can also resume printing from the breaking point in case of power failure. Auto-leveling can also be set up but in all honesty, the manual leveling is so quick that it is not necessary.
The print volume is also conveniently large for a system priced this low, with dimensions of 260*310*305 mm. This means you can make some very large prints. Too bad the machine is not fully enclosed, like the higher-end Ortur systems, but that would be asking a bit too much.
Getting the printer to print what we wanted proved to be a little more challenging. Mostly because the supplied version of Cura, with Ortur-4 specs, was not av available for Mac. Not a huge deal. We invested in a MiniPC and for less than $100 we took home a perfectly functional Windows system. With the PC, installing Cura and the relative specs, included in Ortur’s SD card, with a USB adapter was easy. In case you are wondering, Ortur also supports Simplify 3D and RepetierHost. The firmware is based on Marlin 2.0 for easy firmware updates. The screen is a standard LCD and parts can be loaded via a standard micro SD card. Changing and loading filaments is very easy just by following the on-screen directions.
Once it was up and running we started putting it to work using standard PLA to generally test precision and reliability. The Ortur 4 can print at 100 or 200 micro resolution with the supplier .4mm nozzle. It does have a heated bed that can go up to 100°C, while the extruder can go up to 275° (we put this to the test with some nylon carbon fiber filament so read on).
In terms of reliability printing PLA, the Ortur 4 get a perfect score. We printed at all different speeds, with both 0.1 mm and 0.2 mm resolution, a number of different shape parts, and the machine always delivered. It never got stuck, never failed to get to the end of a print. Even when we tested with a large part (the pen holder from BeeVeryCreative, downloaded from Thingiverse), it printed at 80 mm/s, for 28 hours straight, without a single glitch. Having a 3D printer that always delivers does make a difference for casual users.
Pushing the consumer limits
After testing reliability we decided to test accuracy on a somewhat more complex geometry. To do this we downloaded the Bender foldable robot for the Fab365 marketplace by Goo Sangkwon. We set the print resolution at 100 microns, which did take 11 hours printing at 60 mm/s. The print was completed without any issue, other than it required a bit of post-processing to remove some of the filament that did not retract correctly (however that may have been due to a setup error on our part). The result, especially after a quick chrome paint job, was satisfying enough for the artistically-challenged consumer in me.
As a final test, we decided to risk the nozzle’s health in order to print a part using Treed‘s Carbonium nylon-CFR filament. This ultra-strong material prints with an ideal bed temperature between 80° C and 100° C and with nozzle temperature around 240° C. It was a great opportunity to see how fast the bed and extruder would reach these relatively high temperatures. It did take a little more than we expected (however I’m not sure how much faster or slower it is than other systems, certainly faster than any similarly priced system). The first time we tried to go to 100° the failsafe system kicked in, which shows that it works but also that 100° may be a bit of a strain. We printed it with bed plate at 90° C and nozzle at 240° and it worked out perfectly every time. First with a small bottle for the Bender robot above, then with a custom mobile phone motorcycle holder. The fact that a $500 3D printer can print nylon carbon is a great confirmation of the quality of both printer and filament.
In conclusion, the Ortur 4 is definitely recommended for anyone and a great buy for the price. For myself specifically, it made me once again discover the fun part of 3D printing and now I have it running almost all the time. It may still be a bit early, but it feels good to be back on the consumer 3D printing wagon.