Thursday, July 02, 2015

3D Printer Project, Part 14: The FolgerTech 2020 Reviewed

Over the last few weeks, I've written a lot about my experiences of buying, building, tuning and using the FolgerTech 2020 3D printer. I'd like now to summarize some of the good and not so good points about this kit. This is not a full review, more like a collection of observations. Up front, I want to say that I think this is a very good kit. I enjoyed putting it together and it gives remarkably good prints. You could of course spend more and get better results, but it is by no means an toy product. You will get a real, working printer out of it.

Some specific good points:
  • the construction is very sturdy. The 2020 aluminium struts are themselves solid and the L brackets that join them together give robust right angle corners without the need for extra bracing. Before I bought the kit, I had some concerns about whether having the Z axis motors at the top or the filament spool on one side would make it unbalanced, and I've not seen any sign of this. I don't have any experience with acrylic framed printers; what I've read and seen on YouTube is that the acrylic is brittle and may warp over team. Acrylic frames were a deal breaker for me when I was deciding what to buy and I was glad to find this kit.
  • the kit was complete. Apart from tools, I had everything I needed. There was one minor error in that the instructions called for one more bolt and nut than the inventory listed. I was able to work round this.
  • the metal parts are cut accurately. All of the 2020 pieces and the chrome rods were the sizes they were supposed to be, to within a millimeter. As I mentioned in my construction diary in previous posts there were only a couple of minor shims and tweaks needed.
  • the printed parts were, in most cases, accurate enough. Everything fitted together the way it should, apart from an issue with the end stops that I'll mention below. Assembling the X carriage took a fair amount of force; this is a good thing, as you want it to be solid.
  • the instructions were pretty good. I never got stuck without an idea of what to do. I know at earlier points in Folger's history people said it was more like they were supplying a kit of parts rather than a kit, and I think this is no longer the case. The same is true of many of the cheap kit vendors. You do have to think for yourself, which for me is fine, as it's part of the point of buying a kit rather than a ready made printer. The weakest points are in the configuration, where some of the information (about Configuration.h) is simply incorrect, as are some of the Slic3r settings.
  • the price. It's about the cheapest RepRap printer kit you can find. The previous points show that they haven't cut corners to make this happen.
  • it an American company. I want to be clear what I mean here. Many people writing on forums and blogs are negative about Chinese vendors. They just assume that Chinese products will be badly made. This has not been my experience of buying things from Chinese vendors (for example via Banggood). The reason I single this point out is that it means fast delivery if you are in the US, and that you can get support from someone in the same timezone and with the same language. It's nice to have that if it turns out you need it. I found Dan from Folger good at replying to my email, and he has also dropped in on the forums at from time to time.
    Edit: I have since heard that Dan has left Folger.
Now a few things that are less good:
  • the ordering process was a bit disorganized. I was given two tracking numbers, one for the printer and one for a spool of filament. The tracking number that was supposed to be for the printer was used for the filament, the one that was supposed to be for the filament was never used, and the printer itself arrived on a third tracking number. Until it arrived, this left me with some doubt about whether the order had even gone through, and I was not able to get Dan to understand this and give me a clear answer.
  • several things show some lack of attention to detail or quality control:
    • as mentioned above, the instructions for configuring the firmware are wrong, and the settings supplied for PLA are wildly out (219C is way too hot). The forums really helped me here, so it turned out OK. Folger should take this information and correct their instructions.
    • one weak spot in the printed parts is the mounts for the end stops. The one I had are such that the level for microswitch on the end stops only just extends beyond the mount. As I described in a previous post, this caused a significant problem for me on the Z axis, resulting in me having to disassemble the X carriage and partly rebuild it. It was fixable, but annoying. No-one else reported this problem, so I may have just got some poor limit switches.
    • the extruder was assembled in a different way to the one assumed by the instructions. Again, this had an easy fix (reversing the extruder motor connection), but it took me a day or two to figure out that this is what was going on.
    • the RAMPS board was so badly made that I didn't want to use it. The soldering quality was awful (again, see an earlier post on this). Dan says they have since switched suppliers, and to his credit, he did offer me a replacement, though in the interests of instant gratification, I had already ordered one from Amazon.
So there we are. If you have any comments on your own experiences with this kit, please add them in the comments, or drop in at the reprap forums (here).


DanD said...

Just wanted to thank you for documenting your i3 2020 build like this. It really helped me and I'm sure others out a lot! I was having the same exact problem with my X axis and now it's fixed. Keep up the great work!

Dan D

Moosteron said...

Thanks Dan, glad I could help.