Update: normally I'd put the update at the bottom, but this is important. The driver board on this printer caught fire today. The driver IC for the extruder stepper blew up and caught the board on fire. I've emailed HICTOP and am waiting on their response now.
I bought this as an early Christmas gift for my son. This is without a doubt, an entry level machine. That said, my 11 year old son did 98% of the assembly, with me helping when he got to the wiring and belts.
As previously mentioned, there are a lot of extra parts, which is good, because we used some of the longer screws for the filament stand. The 10mm long screws barely caught a thread in the nut, so we used some leftover 16mm long screws instead.
Assembly was pretty straight forward, watching the video. The only downside to the video is that you have to keep stopping and starting it. It would have been easier if there would have been screen captures at those points put into a pdf. But it worked. Some details were left out, such as how to fasten the belts, but that wasn't too difficult to figure out.
The driver board seems to have been rev'd since the instructions were written. There are some pdf instructions and a ppt on the SD card, that apply to specific things like the wiring, for example. The driver board now has at least one extra connector on it, and the need for an adapter board that was shown is apparently gone, as is the board, though we searched for "awhile" for it. Machine seems to work without it, so I guess it isn't needed.
It is much easier to wire it if you strip the ribbon cables down to individual circuits. They are too rigid to route effectively otherwise.
I turned a smaller spacer for the controller board. The one that was there interfered with the knob and made it difficult to turn in spots. No big deal with a lathe handy, but otherwise, I suppose an Xacto knife would have had to be used.
There doesn't seem to be a power switch. There is a slide switch on the controller, but it seems to only turn on/off the backlight. I can see the connector on the driver board wearing out or getting broken eventually, so I may print or machine a bracket to hold an actual switch to turn the machine on and off. The machine does get turned on and off a lot, as it seems the SD card has to be in before it's turned on to be found.
The encoder is a bit coarse. By that I mean, closer detents would be nice. When jogging the machine, it is easy to go past the intended spot. And it is important to know how far you need to jog and not go past it. It doesn't really hurt anything, but the machine doesn't know how long each axis is, so it will try to keep going. And the way the software is written, it will try to go all the way to where you sent it before coming back, no matter if you turn the knob back before it gets there.
For all these flaws, it really does seem to be a good little machine for the money. It is plenty rigid for the purpose and has plenty of adjustment built in. Even with no instructions, it was pretty easy to figure out how to operate it.
So far, we've printed a half-dozen items and the biggest issue seems to be getting the bed leveled. The thumb-nuts, especially the one on the backside, are hard to get to, they aren't knurled, and the springs are very strong, so it is a challenge to adjust the bed height. I'd like to find a way to adjust it from the front of the machine, but it will take some design work to make that happen.
I am considering buying a second machine so that I can play with one while my son plays with his.
2nd update: adding pictures of the damage to the driver board. also added a picture of the whole board so that you can see the layout of the connectors and how they worked out for me. If you buy the machine, you'll find that the PDF instructions for connecting this board do not match the actual board.
I'm going to spend some time on CNCZone and see what other boards could be used with a similar GUI so that my son can still use it without having to do too much work to get it to print.
It did take a lot of assembly. You are best looking at the assembly instructions of the Freaks3D printer that this is based on. If you wire it correctly, it will not catch fire. After having it for three months, I can say that I LOVE my printer. It takes a little getting used to and is definitely for those who are more mechanically inclined. Out of the many prints that I have done, I've had a total of four failed prints, and that is mainly due to an error on my part, and once because I let my filament get too moist. If you have mechanical aptitude, can follow directions, and have a can do attitude, this is the printer for you. If you get easily frustrated, and can't spend a day going over what needs to be done and THEN assembling it, walk away, as this is not for you.
Lost patience! first motherboard - DEFECTIVE, waited for 2nd Motherboard = ALSO defective. Expect to troubleshoot for 2 MONTHS, with out of the country vendor (lost in translation will be problematic). It wouldn't POWER UP, yet asked to upload video of defective unit inability to TURN ON, then took days to review - BOTH times for both defective motherboards. Finally ended up purchasing another motherboard that worked with remainder of unit/assembly. I hope AMAZON deducted the amount we asked to be credited, to purchase the motherboard elsewhere after waiting 2 months for our unit to function. NOW it works, not with either of the 2 defective motherboards. Only PRO portability of unit. We like to design, just too bad it wouldn't POWER up.