Want to start 3D printing, but afraid it’s too complicated? The da Vinci Nano from XYZprinting makes it simple! And, at just under $230, it’s an affordable way to get started with 3D printing. Just expect to wait for your prints.
It’s Not a Bread Maker!
Getting the Nano set up is not difficult, but some assembly is required. The printer looks somewhat like a small bread maker and is about the same size as a large toaster. It measures 11 x 13 x 14 inches and weighs 10 pounds. In the box are the printer itself, a translucent dome for the top, and a set of tools that includes a scraper and some cleaning tools.
A short piece of thin tubing, called a Bowden tube, is also included. It allows the filament to feed easier and minimizes jams. The filament is the plastic strand fed into the heating element (called an extruder), melted, and deposited layer by layer to build the object you’re printing. The da Vinci Nano comes with a starter spool of this PLA plastic filament.
Also included are three large tape pads. During the setup, you peel the backing off the pad and apply it to the removable glass build plate. The build plate is where the object you’re printing is created layer by layer from the melted filament.
The Nano only accepts PLA, which is a biodegradable plastic. It’s not as strong as the ABS plastic that some other 3D printers can use. This is because the build plate isn’t heated, and ABS often warps considerably when printed on an unheated print bed. The da Vinci Nano requires a proprietary filament only available from the vendor. The chip inside the spool hub keeps track of how much filament remains, which is helpful. The downside is XYZprinting’s filament is noticeably more expensive than generic brands. For example, a 600-gram spool of PLA XYZprinting filament is about $23. A 1KG spool of generic PLA is about $20 and gives you almost twice as much.
The build plate is a small sheet of glass, and XYZprinting doesn’t seem to offer replacements, so don’t drop it! Measuring 4.9 x 4.9 inches, it’s similar in size to many other sub-$500 3D printers. The tape you place on the build plate is designed to provide better adhesion for the object you’re printing. The documentation warns that if the room is cooler than 77 degrees, it’s probably a good idea to apply a thin film of glue stick, such as Elmer’s School Glue, to the tape. I did use a glue stick and clean the build plate afterward.
Don’t worry about having only the three build plate tapes that come with the Nano. When these wear out (and they will), you can cover the plate with blue painter’s tape—I’ve had better results with the 3M brand than with generics.
Once you have the build plate covered, the rest of the assembly goes just as fast. The Bowden tube gets pushed into the back of the extruder, threaded through a hole in the domed top, and pressed into the top of the feeder mechanism. At this point, you have to go online, register the printer, and download the software you need to use it.
The Nano’s design is smart and, hopefully, keeps young hands away from hot components (like the extruder), and traps warm air inside the printer, so the filament sticks better and cools without warping. It accomplishes these things pretty well, for the most part.
Both the dome and the front flip-up door are translucent plastic with numerous small holes (you don’t want to keep all the heat in the printer). While these parts serve their purpose, the problem is they’re almost opaque. This makes it impossible to monitor the progress of the build without lifting the front door to take an occasional peek or trying to look through the small gap present when the front door is down (which kind of defeats the purpose of the design).
Drop, Click, Print
Using the printer once you’ve assembled it isn’t difficult, though the software might be a bit confusing at first. You have to download the XYZMaker Suite software from the vendor’s site, and it requires that you create an account.
Once you install and launch the Suite, you might be a little confused since only the two leftmost options apply to the Nano (the others are for other XYZprinting models). You might be interested in designing your own prints with XYZmaker, but XYZprint is what you use to produce objects.
While the XYZmaker software makes it relatively easy to create your own models, you don’t have to start from scratch or do any designing yourself. There are thousands of printable models you can download for free. The first place you might want to check is Thingiverse. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there, a quick Google search will probably uncover something close. XYZprinting also has an extensive gallery of free models you can download.
The software operating screen is straightforward. The Import button brings in your model and places it on the build platform.
You can then use the hidden menus to resize or rotate. You can also fine-tune layer size, print speed, and resolution. One menu opens when you click the “General” field on the left side of the screen.
To access the other hidden menu, click on the object.
When you start to print, the software gives you the estimated build time. I found this to be reasonably accurate and, for almost all the prints I tried, slow as molasses.
The print process is similar to other 3D printers: you click the Print button and go. A small blinking light on the bottom-left edge of the printer tells you the printer’s status. It can also be used to cancel the print if you experience a jam, or the print object is not adhering to the build platform.
Instead of trying to work within the cramped confines of the Nano’s interior, you can take the build plate out of the printer at the end of a print run. This makes it easier to remove the print.
In the photo above, the Benchy (a popular 3D print benchmark object) on the right was printed on a $400 Monoprice Voxel. The yellow Benchy was printed on the da Vinci Nano. While both are fairly decent prints, if you look closely, you can see the roof on the right tug is smoother than the roof on the yellow one. The smokestack on the red Voxel print is also smoother than the one printed on the Nano. But the Voxel sells for twice the price of the Nano, so the slightly finer detail is no surprise. Given the Nano’s price, its prints are acceptable.
Easy, But Not Too Easy
While the da Vinci Nano is targeted toward beginners (and, given its cute appearance, a younger demographic), 3D printing hasn’t gotten to the point where it’s a hands-free process. I experienced several feeder jams during my test, and the documentation isn’t very clear about how to troubleshoot this or extruder problems. If you have a bit of experience, it’s not hard to solve these common difficulties, and there’s a large community online that’s helpful if you run into a wall. With 3D printers, there’s a relatively significant amount of failed prints—it’s just the nature of the current technology.
As an introduction to 3D printing, the da Vinci Nano is a good learning experience. It’s not perfect, though. If you’re just getting started with 3D printing, the price and easy-to-use software are great incentives. However, if you’re a more experienced user, a printer in the $500 to $700 range would probably be more to your liking. A model at that price point will be faster, possibly have a larger build plate, and give you more filament options.
XYZprinting da Vinci Nano: A 3D Printer for Beginners was orginially posted by Ted Needleman