First-time Kit: Which is Better, FLSun i3 Plus or ZoneStar Z8X?
May 10, 2018 05:36AM
Hello all,

I'm a maker (duh?), been around 3d printing and 3d printers for a long time, but this is the first time I've decided to get a cheap printer as a kit. I've owned prebuilt printers in the past, but I don't have one anymore and I wanted to get back into the trade in a more DIY fashion. (Also, the fact that I don't have a printer means the kit I buy needs to work well enough out of the box to reprint any replacement parts I need to upgrade it to a decent standard.)

I've been looking at two printers specifically, the FLSun i3 Plus - with dual extrusion, touch screen, auto level, etc. - and the ZoneStar Z8X - also dual extrusion, auto level, but standard LCD (and possibility of adding a laser in the future?).

I've been looking around, but I can't find many solid reviews of either one as of yet so I don't really have much to go on. I know both can get decent print quality with the proper calibration, and at the same time both (being cheap Chinese kits) have some dodgy components and mixed feelings towards them.

The reason I'm considering getting one of the two is they both support dual extrusion, while at the same time they have a large print size similar to the CR-10 (something I need) and are made mostly out of aluminum extrusion for a very (almost insanely) good price.

There are a few design differences that concern me, though, those mainly being the bearing setup and the Z-axis screw design. On the FLSun, the Z-axis motors are both mounted on the top, rather than the bottom. It appears as though inverting them could end up being very difficult, and I've heard that the top-mount designs get steadily worse print quality over time as the weight of the X-axis pulls at the spring couplers (a problem I've heard a lot of discussion about from looking at the TEVO Tarantula). The ZoneStar doesn't seem to have these issues, but there is also a lot less information on the ZoneStar Z8X available, with no reliable reviews whatsoever. I know the Z8X uses a custom ZoneStar control board, which is a concern because I want to be able to modify the firmware (something I can do more easily with the cloned RAMPS controller on the FLSun printer). It seems that, depending on the reseller, FLSun can have quite reliable customer service, while I've not seen much info about this on the ZoneStar. The Zonestar seems to use a much sturdier build and setup, using plenty of V-slot bearings on all axes except the heat bed, while the FLSun has a questionable bearing setup and seems to use rather odd-looking rounded bearings instead of the typical fitted V-bearings. The hot end assembly of the FLSun is puzzling, they have the bearings on the horizontal instead of the vertical and use a less-standard looking mount system as compared with the compact, seemingly well-thought-out assembly on the ZoneStar.

These are just some of my thoughts on the two based on the appearances of each and what reviews I have been able to find, as well as prior experiences with other printers, but I'm finding myself wanting a bit more of a solid standpoint before I go and buy one.

Any pointers, suggestions, experiences with either, and of course maybe a bit more of an explanation of the why the mechanical bits I've mentioned are the way the are and why they are better or worse, would all be appreciated.

Thanks!
Re: First-time Kit: Which is Better, FLSun i3 Plus or ZoneStar Z8X?
May 10, 2018 09:43PM
This may not be what you want to hear, but avoid dual extrusion, avoid mendel/prusa printers (especially big ones like these printers), and you probably don't actually need a big build volume.

Also, avoid open frame laser machines. Just don't do it, there is a very good reason all laser cutters/engravers bar a select few very cheap and low powered ones from china come with an enclosure. Hell, even a lot of the chinese ones come with an enclosure. You know it's essential when the cheap knockoffs are doing it too.

A few other points to address. They both use too many v rollers. You only need 3 per slider, any more and you'll just have to wrestle with them to make sure they all make contact. 3D printers do not place a high load on any of their axis, so you don't need the added load bearing capability of half a dozen v rollers per slider. It's just more parts, more hassle, and probably going to lead to uneven wear, a wobbly axis or binding.

A quick google search of zonestar control board reveals a board that looks like what's on the z8x (hard to tell, there are no close ups of the board on the printers listings), and it says its ramps compatible, just like the mks gen that the other printer uses. I can't vouch for either board over the other, but I can say there's things I don't like about both.

Here is where I found the info on the controller. The board is the same blue color and has the polyfuse and connectors in the same place as what I could see from the z8x pictures.
[www.gearbest.com]
Re: First-time Kit: Which is Better, FLSun i3 Plus or ZoneStar Z8X?
May 11, 2018 02:42AM
Quote
Trakyan
... avoid dual extrusion, avoid mendel/prusa printers (especially big ones like these printers), and you probably don't actually need a big build volume.

Yeah, I've heard about bugs with dual extrusion, but I've never had any, having used both the 3D Systems CubePro and Ekocycle printers (which I hated- I don't like enclosed, un-mod-able, not open source printers). Things like oozing, calibration, and nozzle alignment are all things I'm aware of and willing to deal with if I ever have to, but being able to print in a solid material like PLA and add flex TPU joints in key places would really be helpful for some of the projects I do.

I'm not sure why I should avoid Prusa/Mendel printers, you might have to elaborate that. I'm aware of all of the advantages (and disadvantages) of different designs, and the Prusa/Mendels seem perfectly fine. There's a reason they are the most popular design on the market, and that's because they are cheap to make, easy to fix, and offer really decent structural qualities. I have no idea whatsoever why a bigger printer would be any worse than a small one, extra Z-wobble is the only problem I can think of (and I know how to fix it).

And I do actually need the big build volume. I am the sort of guy who doesn't like slicing up models, and most of the projects I do wouldn't tolerate that sort of construction (big -like really big- drones, robot arms, large mobile single-piece gantries, etc.) I need the volume so I have the option to print tall, or go wide, or both. Batch prints are another thing that I would like to do regularly, and that makes the larger bed a better option.

Quote
Trakyan
Also, avoid open frame laser machines. Just don't do it, there is a very good reason all laser cutters/engravers bar a select few very cheap and low powered ones from china come with an enclosure. Hell, even a lot of the chinese ones come with an enclosure. You know it's essential when the cheap knockoffs are doing it too.

Lasers seem like a pain to set up, but it's nice to have the option. The large build volume of an open frame printer means that, if I do it right, I can self-print an enclose that I can assemble around the printer for lasering things. Most of them just come with a partial enclosure and a pair of green glasses, so I don't think enclosures are essential so long as your eyes are protected. Especially at low powers with a blue dot laser. Gimme a CO2 laser and then I'll want an enclosure.

The part about the bearings makes sense, I can see how those would be tiresome. The fact that very little documentation of the ZoneStar board is what concerns me, not the microcontroller part. It's hard to program something you don't know the specs for.

Anyhow, I'm starting to lean towards the FLSun printer, it seems to have better reviews than the ZoneStar, as well as being slightly cheaper with more included features. However, I might just jump up a grade and get the Alfawise U-10, it also looks promising. Additional input would still be appreciated, though, as I haven't made a solid decision yet.
Re: First-time Kit: Which is Better, FLSun i3 Plus or ZoneStar Z8X?
May 11, 2018 03:09AM
You dont use lasers over glass or alu beds as they act like mirrors reflecting the laser into your pets and family.
Re: First-time Kit: Which is Better, FLSun i3 Plus or ZoneStar Z8X?
May 11, 2018 05:07AM
Quote
DeltaEcho
Yeah, I've heard about bugs with dual extrusion, but I've never had any, having used both the 3D Systems CubePro and Ekocycle printers (which I hated- I don't like enclosed, un-mod-able, not open source printers). Things like oozing, calibration, and nozzle alignment are all things I'm aware of and willing to deal with if I ever have to, but being able to print in a solid material like PLA and add flex TPU joints in key places would really be helpful for some of the projects I do.

I wouldn't expect anywhere near the same experience from a cheap chinese kit as you had with a CubePro. I know a lot of people hate the cube printers, but they're still a high end printer from an experienced 3D printing company. I've heard the "i'll use TPU to incorporate flexible joints/dampers/etc." reason from almost everyone who thinks about getting a dual extrusion printer, I've also seen almost no implementations. I don't see why printing the PLA and TPU separately isn't a viable option. The printing will be much faster, and a print failure wont be so bad.

Quote
DeltaEcho
I'm not sure why I should avoid Prusa/Mendel printers, you might have to elaborate that. I'm aware of all of the advantages (and disadvantages) of different designs, and the Prusa/Mendels seem perfectly fine. There's a reason they are the most popular design on the market, and that's because they are cheap to make, easy to fix, and offer really decent structural qualities. I have no idea whatsoever why a bigger printer would be any worse than a small one, extra Z-wobble is the only problem I can think of (and I know how to fix it).

Flinging the print around (especially big prints) is a bad idea. 3D printers are relatively fast machines, for fast machines moving mass is bad. More moving mass causes more vibration and deflection from acceleration/deceleration forces. Secondly, flinging the print back and forth will cause the print itself to wobble and shake, which will cause even more artifacting, especially on big prints like you're wanting. Yes they're cheap, that's why they're popular, can't argue with that, just saying there are better options, especially for big printers. You can lessen (not get rid of) these issues by printing slow, but that will make your already long (since they're big prints) take even longer. I realize I sound like an ass here, but you should make sure you fully understand the problems with the i3 style design and scaling it up.

Quote
DeltaEcho
And I do actually need the big build volume. I am the sort of guy who doesn't like slicing up models, and most of the projects I do wouldn't tolerate that sort of construction (big -like really big- drones, robot arms, large mobile single-piece gantries, etc.) I need the volume so I have the option to print tall, or go wide, or both. Batch prints are another thing that I would like to do regularly, and that makes the larger bed a better option.
I doubt they wouldn't tolerate that sort of construction. A lot of the time the glue holds up just as well if not better than the 3D prints themselves. That and I wouldn't go using 3D prints that big for anything other than decoration. 3D printing doesn't produce particularly strong parts and they don't scale very well. I haven't seen many large, functional prints at all.

Quote
DeltaEcho
The part about the bearings makes sense, I can see how those would be tiresome. The fact that very little documentation of the ZoneStar board is what concerns me, not the microcontroller part. It's hard to program something you don't know the specs for.
I don't quite get what you mean. As far as the firmware is concerned the zonestar board might as well be a RAMPS, or Mks gen, or whatever. In any case if you feel like replacing it, it's like $10 for a RAMPS kit, hardly the largest sum of money you'll be spending.

My opinion on big printers is this. For functional parts you wont need big, simply because FDM parts just aren't strong enough for whatever big part you're planning. For printing giant vases, you'll get bored before the first one's done.

I won't go much further into lasers. Yes glasses are technically fine, but they only work as long as you remember to put them on, or they don't fall off, or someone doesn't walk in while you're laserin' stuffs. Everyone slips up. Is saving $10 on MDF and an hour building a box really worth skimping on? I'm a cheap little fella but even I value a bit of insurance for my eyeballs and whatnot over $10, because if I can't spend that much I have no business buying the several hundred dollar machine its enclosing.
Re: First-time Kit: Which is Better, FLSun i3 Plus or ZoneStar Z8X?
May 11, 2018 11:12AM
Quote
Dust
You dont use lasers over glass or alu beds as they act like mirrors reflecting the laser into your pets and family.

Of course not. You put down a piece of plywood or nonreflective plastic or even just masking tape first, then whatever you are cutting. I wouldn't want to risk cutting into my hotbed anyway, even if the mirror thing wasn't a problem.
Re: First-time Kit: Which is Better, FLSun i3 Plus or ZoneStar Z8X?
May 11, 2018 12:43PM
Quote
Trakyan
Flinging the print around (especially big prints) is a bad idea. 3D printers are relatively fast machines, for fast machines moving mass is bad. More moving mass causes more vibration and deflection from acceleration/deceleration forces. Secondly, flinging the print back and forth will cause the print itself to wobble and shake, which will cause even more artifacting, especially on big prints like you're wanting. Yes they're cheap, that's why they're popular, can't argue with that, just saying there are better options, especially for big printers. You can lessen (not get rid of) these issues by printing slow, but that will make your already long (since they're big prints) take even longer. I realize I sound like an ass here, but you should make sure you fully understand the problems with the i3 style design and scaling it up.

Okay, I see your point. So you would have me believe that something like the Tronxy X5S would be a better choice for a large volume kit printer. I suppose I could consider that. I guess this is one of the better things about the Cube printers, they follow the same format (same with Ultimaker, Raise 3D, and several others, come to think of it). The problems start when I want to move the printer, having a huge cubelike frame makes that really difficult, not to mention all the added weight. The biggest thing I don't like about those particular designs is the complexity of the belt systems, making it difficult to assemble and repair.

Quote
Trakyan
My opinion on big printers is this. For functional parts you wont need big, simply because FDM parts just aren't strong enough for whatever big part you're planning. For printing giant vases, you'll get bored before the first one's done.

Well, that is your opinion, but I must respectfully disagree. A well-designed part on a well-calibrated printer can be very durable, especially in ABS. Bigger volume means I can print larger, more complex parts with less hassle and postprocessing afterwards (I hate gluing things - it never sets right for me). I don't have any use for vases anyway, other than to sell to neighbors- a good idea but really impractical.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/11/2018 12:43PM by DeltaEcho.
Re: First-time Kit: Which is Better, FLSun i3 Plus or ZoneStar Z8X?
May 12, 2018 07:44AM
Quote
DeltaEcho
Okay, I see your point. So you would have me believe that something like the Tronxy X5S would be a better choice for a large volume kit printer. I suppose I could consider that. I guess this is one of the better things about the Cube printers, they follow the same format (same with Ultimaker, Raise 3D, and several others, come to think of it). The problems start when I want to move the printer, having a huge cubelike frame makes that really difficult, not to mention all the added weight. The biggest thing I don't like about those particular designs is the complexity of the belt systems, making it difficult to assemble and repair.
I've actually heard bad things about that tronxy. Also, they don't all follow the same format (for example the tronxy is a coreXY, ultimakers used a cross axis gantry and there are also the standard cartesians where X rides on Y etc.). Lastly, cube style printers are actually smaller for a given build volume than i3 printers. They only need to be as big as the build volume+space for motors and electronics, whereas the i3 needs to fit those same things and be at least twice as big in the Y direction as its Y axis travel. They are definitely not more compact and easy to carry, I have both styles of printer so I speak from experience.

The belt systems are not very complex once you actually put one together, and there are simpler and more complicated ones to pick from. The simplest ones are no different from an i3 (look at the replicator, solidoodle and similar plain cartesian machines). I suggest you do a bit more research on the mechanics of the machines and their strengths and weaknesses, you seem like you've skimmed over a lot.
Re: First-time Kit: Which is Better, FLSun i3 Plus or ZoneStar Z8X?
May 12, 2018 02:23PM
Quote
Trakyan
The belt systems are not very complex once you actually put one together, and there are simpler and more complicated ones to pick from. The simplest ones are no different from an i3 (look at the replicator, solidoodle and similar plain cartesian machines). I suggest you do a bit more research on the mechanics of the machines and their strengths and weaknesses, you seem like you've skimmed over a lot.

Well, you seem to know your stuff, so I'll take your word for it. It is true that I skim over some things, I've only recently started looking at kit printers and there's quite a bit of information on them out there, so I tend to focus more on the essentials (you know, extruder types, basic frame designs, etc.). I'll go ahead and see if I can find a little bit more info on cube printers, but the reality is, they all seem to be quite expensive. I don't really have the budget for an expensive printer, I'm more interested in getting a cheap one and modding it to my liking. I'm a hands-on guy, so I don't mind working for a few days to get a cheaper kit well calibrated and such, in fact I'd even consider that sort of thing to be fun. For my purposes, the slightly increased precision of a cube printer is of little importance, it would end up just being an added bonus.

As I stated previously, my main concern is finding a cheap kit for a big printer that works well enough out of the box that I can start to modify it to the point where it's actually useful. I've narrowed my choices down to a group of about 10 printers, a number that fluctuates based on the day of the week, and I'm willing to consider other options. My original question was more aimed at figuring out if either the FLSun i3 Plus or the ZoneStar Z8X fit my standards, and if they do, which of the two is more reliable both in terms of function and quality as well as in customer support.
Re: First-time Kit: Which is Better, FLSun i3 Plus or ZoneStar Z8X?
May 13, 2018 07:22PM
I personally prefer cube printers and won't be buying another i3 style design. Cube framed printers have the edge in rigidity/speed/precision (not so much here, but the advantage gets bigger at higher speeds and bigger prints)/compactness. If you're the hands on type on a budget, I'd recommend building your own from scratch. If you're the REALLY hands on type, try designing your own, it's really fun and you learn a lot about design, CAD and the printer itself. Depending on how low you're willing to stoop quality wise, you could easily build a very large format (I'm talking a meter square build volume) printer on the cheap. Or if you live where TDD does, you might get lucky and find some quality components for "cheap", your mileage will vary drastically depending on where you live though.

I can't reccommend either of the two kits over the other. I haven't used either of them and have nothing to go off other than a few pictures of the printer on their listings, I'm just listing general issues you'll face with an i3 and some minor stuff about the mechanical design which are visible in the pictures. I wouldn't expect much in terms of customer support from any chinese kit. Even if some guy got good customer support, they probably just got lucky with what/when they asked and the seller they bought it from.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/13/2018 07:26PM by Trakyan.
Re: First-time Kit: Which is Better, FLSun i3 Plus or ZoneStar Z8X?
May 23, 2018 03:06PM
They are looking for a cheap kit. I have a TronXY X5S and an X1. They are both capable of fine prints. The X5S took quite a few upgrades to get it up to snuff but it is a good printer. I got it for less than $300 using a code I got off of youtube. Not sure why anybody says to avoid mendel/prusa printers either. I have a Prusa i3 MK3 and it is an awesome printer. In fact, Make magazine consistently rates it as the best consumer printer.

If I was looking for a cheap kit then I would buy one that has some sort of user group on facebook. There are many prusa style printers available in sub $200 kits. What do you get for this? Maybe not a great printer out of the blocks. However, building the kit gives you experience and knowledge that you won't get from a prebuilt printer. Once you build the kit then you will spend lots of time researching and printing upgrades which will give you much additional knowledge.

A few prusa clones with large/huge FB groups:

Tevo Tarantula
Anet i3
Geeetech i3
Re: First-time Kit: Which is Better, FLSun i3 Plus or ZoneStar Z8X?
August 16, 2018 02:07PM
Well, it's quite a few months down the road, and I've finally made my decision. I've decided that neither of the two original printers (the FLSun i3 Plus and the ZoneStar Z8X) were quite what I've been looking for, and after more research I've decided on the Tronxy X5S. I know it's a bit controversial, but it's also full of potential for a tinkerer like me. Huge upgrades incoming! :-D

Anyway, I'd like to thank you all for helping me out and pointing me in the right direction, I value your input and I've learned a lot while I was here.

Cheers, and Happy Printing/Making/[insert hobby here]!
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