Printrbot Simple – the $300 3D Printer

I’ve seen a lot of 3D printers lately and one printer that surprised me was the Printrbot. A few people in our club have them and I was blown away by the quality they were getting from such an inexpensive 3d printer – which meant a $500 machine. I usually tell people to expect to spend at least $1000 to get anything of decent quality and Printrbot has changed my mind on that.

They recently announced a new ‘beta’ printer, called the Simple, that would be initially available for $249 (eventually it will be $299) in a very limited batch with the idea that those early adopters would help shape the build instructions, configuration and ultimate experience that buyers can expect for $299. I figured this was too good to pass up as I had also been wanting a smaller device to take with me to the various demos I do and the Simple has all the bits exposed so it’s easy to explain to people how 3d printing works. I placed my order and got one of the limited edition kits and waited for it to be delivered.

It arrived in less than a week and I set aside an evening to build it:

I ended up taking about 4 hours to assemble the kit. The documentation was a little rough around the edges and I’m not sure someone with no background in building these machines would be able to get it done without asking for help on the forums…but it does look like the documentation has improved already.

I was quite impressed with the ingenuity that went into something so inexpensive (compared to bigger machines I’ve built). I liked that it was completely laser cut too. You get up and running easily and can then 3d print better upgrades for things like the extruder.

Unfortunately, I got a bad Printrboard (the main electronics board that runs the motors). It looks like some stray solder got under one of the chips and was causing a short so I had to open a support ticket and request a (free) replacement. It arrived yesterday and it worked perfectly out of the box.

Printrbot Simple

I printed a calibration model to see how it did, with no calibration and it worked surprisingly well. I hadn’t leveled the bed, calibrated the extruder or set a proper Z height (the first few layers were very smushed).

I then got cocky and tried something a lot more challenging:

Printrbot Simple

and it worked pretty well again with that model considering I still haven’t calibrated it.

disregard the divot caused by pressing the wrong button & crashing the hotend into the print

disregard the divot caused by pressing the wrong button & crashing the hotend into the print when it finished

Next up is some actual calibration and it should be a fun little 3d printer. I just received an LCD controller for it as well and it can become a completely computerless printer.

OctoPrint Simple

I did try running it with OctoPrint on a Raspberry Pi and was able to control it (which worked surprisingly well!) so I may mess around with that more too.

So far I’m pretty impressed with it…a number of the beta participants have already designed upgrades for it that enhance it even further as well, Brook Drumm @ Printrbot has said they are fine tuning the design and will make those updates available to the beta folks for just the cost of shipping.

UPDATE: Printrbot is now taking pre-orders for the new $299 printer


  1. Bill Owens says:

    We’ve had similarly good experiences with the Simple, keeping in mind that it’s still a beta and has room for improvements – some of which we’ve made on our own, and others we’ve suggested to Printrbot HQ. I can report that Octoprint on our older Raspberry Pi model B (256MB RAM) works well. Of course it’s also a development version, and there are occasional glitches or restarts needed, but freeing the printer from a specific machine is a good thing when you have multiple people wanting to print (and now two printers, the Simple and our Printrbot Jr).

  2. Graham says:

    Great for the price! We’ll be taking a look at this one too. Thanks for the review

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