A while ago I tested the Alfawise U20. It was my first step into the world of 3D printing and we found out that it is a good printer for a decent price. Although the U20 has some very strong points but also some drawbacks. Now I take a closer look at the little brother of the U20. The successor of the Alfawise U20 is the Alfawise U30. Is it also a decent printer for a good price? And has Alfawise learned from their mistakes and listened to the input from the community?

Specifications

Specifications as stated on GearBest:

  • Brand: Alfawise
  • Type: DIY 
  • Model: U30 
  • Engraving Area: 220 x 220 x 250mm 
  • Frame material: Aluminum Alloy 
  • Nozzle quantity: Single, diameter: 0.4mm 
  • Nozzle temperature: Room temperature to 250 degree 
  • Layer thickness: 0.1-0.4mm 
  • Memory card offline print: TF card 
  • LCD Screen: Yes 
  • Print speed: 120mm/s (max.), 30 – 70mm/s ( recommended ) 
  • Platform temperature: Room temperature to 100 degree 
  • Supporting material: ABS,PLA,Wood Filled 
  • Material diameter: 1.75mm 
  • File format: G-code,OBJ,STL 
  • XY-axis positioning accuracy: 0.0125mm 
  • Z-axis positioning accuracy: 0.0025mm 
  • Voltage: 24V 
  • Host computer software: Cura,Repetier-Host,Simplify3D 
  • Packing Type: unassembled packing 
  • System support: Windows / Mac / Linux 
  • Connector Type: TF card,USB

Expectations

I was very happy with the Alfawise U20 but there were some things that could be clearly improved. The total construction of the printer was very large and the power supply was next to the printer, so in total it took really a lot of space. When looking at the product specs of the Alfawise U30, it looks like Alfawise listened to the community because this printer has some very nice improvements. First: It’s a lot smaller! Next to that a common issue of the first edition of the U20 was that the cables for warming the printing bed got disconnected, now this cable has a connector which is a good improvement. So my expectations are high.

Packaging

The Alfawise U20 came shipped almost completely pre-assembled, so as a result the box is bigger. The U30 requires some construction work to put it together but therefor the box is a Lot smaller.

  • Product weight: 7.8000 kg 
  • Package weight: 8.6000 kg 
  • Product size: 42.50 x 40.20 x 50.50 cm / 16.73 x 15.83 x 19.88 inches 
  • Package size: 46.70 x 41.20 x 18.70 cm / 18.39 x 16.22 x 7.36 inches

What’s in the box?

  • 1 x 3D Printer Kit ( Semi-assembled )
  • 1 x English Manual.

Almost everything you need to build this printer. Almost! The only thing that is not included is a cheap cutter to cut the belt. But the manual is not the easiest way, use Youtube instead!

Features

The features of the Alfawise U30 as stated on Gearbest:

  • 0.1 – 0.4mm precision printing
  • With standard 0.4mm diameter nozzle, accurate alignment, and up to 120mm/s speed
  • Filament run-out protectionandpower outage protection
  • More successful 3D printing, 100 percent completion on every print
  • 2.8” full color touchscreen
  • The display can be installed on the left or right side to provide more intuitive control, especially great for the left-handed
  • Built-in power supply, under the build platform to avoid the electric shock
  • Quick assembly only 1 hour needed
  • Great for any beginners to train hands-on ability
  • Reinforced aluminum alloy construction, durable, in classical black and red colors
  • Powerful heat bed using safety voltage for fast heating. With heat-resistant heat bed sticker, easier to use and clean
  • 100 Deg.C max. heat bed temperature, 250 Deg.C max. nozzle temperature for various filaments, such as PLA, ABS, wood filled, etc.

Software

To be able to print objects with the Alfawise U30 you need special slicer software, in this case a program called Cura. After installing this software I updated the firmware of the printer and after that I was ready to print. There is a version of Cura shipped with the printer on the SD card, but this version is outdated. Therefore you should always download the latest version. It can be downloaded for free over here. In Cura version 4.0 and above the Alfawise U20 profile is included. To make it compatible with the U30 you only have to change the bed dimensions, because the bed of the U30 is smaller. Change the settings to 220x220x250.

You can print using two different methods: put your print job on the SD-card and plug it in the printer, or use the USB cable (which is not included) and send directly to the printer from your PC. I used the SD-card because my printer is located in another room. But please make sure you are next to it when printing your first jobs, to make sure everything goes well and if not, you can intervene immediately.

From model to print

You need only the driver when connected by USB cable. Otherwise, you can slice your model and start printing. What’s a slicer or slicing? A slicer is software where you can load a model and give various parameters and set several settings like speeds, infill percentages, temperatures etc. all slicers have tons of settings and the settings are very important.  The settings make a difference between a good print and a failed print. That’s why it’s so important to know how slicers work and how each different setting will affect your print.  

Cura 4 has Alfawise profile included so make sure you have the latest version. Cura can be downloaded for free on: Download latest Cura here.

Beside Cura there are a lot of other free and paid slicers. Check also this nice article:3D Slicer Settings for Beginners – 8 Things You Need to Know

To set the optimal slider settings you need to learn a few new words like: brim, support, skirt, retraction, infill etc. Those settings can be tweaked and are very important. There is not one optimal setting for every print. It depends on the material you print, the complexity of the model you print and your printer. So my advice is to use the latest software and go setting by setting through it. The video below shows some basic settings which can be a little different on other sliders or versions of Cura, these are the most important settings. So good to check them with help of this video. However the video is based on a older version of Cura and for the U20 it is still useful for the Alfawise U30.

A common first thing to print is a benchmark object to test every aspect of your printer and your settings.

#3DBenchy is a 3D model specifically designed for testing and benchmarking 3D printers. It is a small recognizable object that you can download for free.

#3DBenchy_about_features
3dBenchy Boat model to experiment with settings and find the optimals.

Updating Firmware of the Alfawise U30

Before you start you should update the firmware of your printer. These printers have a lot of firmware updates already, which is a good sign. It seems like Alfawise is very keen on supporting this device.

Download all Alfawise U30 firmware updates here.

The manufacturer will provide a zip file that contains multiple files, but you only need there two files, put it on a empty SD-card and after insert the card turn on the printer. The printer will update itself in a few seconds.

Build Quality & Design

The overall build quality is very good. Seach on youtube and you find a lot of instruction video’s to assemble the printer.
However the used materials are quite good, alfawise made 2 choices they could do better.
They include a timing belt that you must fix it by yourself and cut it on the right length and tight it with tie wraps. This is a done that could be better, why not a fixed length belt, with metal clips to fix?

Noise

The two little fans can be a little loud so I’m looking for the right fan duct and replace the 3×3 fans with bigger ones to get a better air flow and more silent. Check the fangs under customizability.

Other sources of information

There are a few places where lots of info can be found. Handy to learn from others.

Facebook group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/Alfawise.3d.Printer.Group/?fb_dtsg_ag=Adw8gA0l-DHmU9wnMCsyIDi094Rp63hFJmXuJGMzdDI9yQ%3AAdyk08LarFVOr2QUEVdDp4jGb2_Dxr2rrCCeCDKHLFpO5Q%3Cbr%3E

A group of french guys doing some great work! They made a marlin firmware, attached a bl-touch sensor, made some great mods and have several fan ducts to print so you can improve your printer a lot, for free!
Check out their forum: https://www.lesimprimantes3d.fr/forum/132-alfawise/

Customizability

Marlin Firmware 2.0

Yes! A number of French guys are working on a Marlin 2.0 firmware for this printer (and I believe the whole Alfawise range). That means that you can leave the closed software and take the open-source and very popular marlin software!
Instructions can be found: https://www.lesimprimantes3d.fr/forum/132-alfawise/

BL-Touch sensor for auto bed leveling

I have ordered a BL-touch sensor and will post a tutorial and my findings when I received the goods.

Free improvements to print

Fangs (fan ducts)

Here you find various fan ducts for different fan sizes and with support for a bl-touch sensor. It’s french but google translate is you friend. https://www.lesimprimantes3d.fr/forum/topic/19591-fang-modulable/

Octoprint

more info at octoprint.org

Octoprint is a free opensource software that can be running on a Raspberry Pi and is a complete printserver. It’s hosting a web service where you can upload prints, start printing and control your printer. When you attach a Raspberry PI camera or webcam, it automatically creates photo’s and creates a timelapse of your project. 
It can be extended with lot’s of plugins, my favorites are:

  • Print history
  • Cost estimation
  • Filament manager

Download it for free on Octoprint.org and use the plugin manager to extend your config. On the site of octoprint there are some video’s and gettings started tutorials that you can follow, it’s really easy.

Check also the movies of DIY3d:  http://diy3dtech.com/octopi-and-octoprint-project/

Complementary Products

Buy filaments

Gearbest
Some dutch stores:

Smooters

I’m waiting for my smoothers.  I’ll show you the results and how to later. How to use a smoother and what is does should be clear after watching the next videos:

Order your smoothers here at banggood.

Others

The printer uses 2020 alluminium profiles. There are tons of nuts, corners, plates etc.  When attaching things it’s very handy to mount camera’s, spools, Raspberry PI.

Alternative

pro / cons of the Alfawise U30

pros

  • Compact design
  • Touchscreen
  • Good print quality

cons

  • Instruction manuals are bad
  • Fan duct is printed but with support left
  • USB Cable is not included
  • Cutter not included

Verdict

Alfawise did a very good job to listen to the community and improve there design. The fact it’s an closed source firmware is not a problem anymore. Because it’s good but when you want to use a bl-touch sensor for automatic bed leveling the printer can be flashed with Marlin 2.0 firmware. The tutorial on https://www.lesimprimantes3d.fr/forum/topic/22306-tuto-alfawise-u20x-u30-flasher-marlin-2x-firmware-alternatif/ is great but in french so you probally needs google translate.
So for a few bucks and some improvement prints you get yourself a very good printer. Overall it’s a better printer then the already good u20, but smaller (more compact). The wiring is better and the power supply is beneath the printer.

Out of the box a stable and fine printer that is worth your money. But with a little effort it even can be better (more quiet, faster printing and more software possibilities.

Where to buy?

U20 a very good compact 3d printer. Alfawise: our compliments!
Review
  • Design
  • Quality
  • Usability
  • Price
4.6