Simple to set up, easy to operate and outstandingly cheap to buy, the da Vinci Jr is the best entry-level 3D printer around. The results aren't always perfect but there's no need to spend more for small models and basic components.
Superb ease of use, well-designed software, good print quality for the price
Occasional printing failures, flimsy case
Resolution: 100-400 microns
Build size: Up to 150x150x150mm
Mechanism: Fused Filament Fabrication
Print head: Single nozzle
Filament: Proprietary PLA, 1.75mm
Ports: USB-B 2.0, SD card (up to 32GB)
System requirements: Windows 7 or later/Mac OSX 10.8 or later, 4GB RAM
3D printing is an incredibly exciting field, which is why it's such a shame that most 3D printers are so prohibitively expensive, ranging from £500 to several thousands in most cases.
Not so with XYZprinting's da Vinci Jr. The machine costs £300, and the firm claims it to be the cheapest 3D printer on the market. We've seen some caseless and build-your-own kits for less, but that's still relatively inexpensive. And with surprising print quality and a focus on user-friendliness, this printer is definitely worthy of attention.
The da Vinci Jr is housed in a large, 420x380x430mm plastic case with clear orange accents that evoke the old iMac G3. It's somewhat bulkier than it needs to be, with a fair amount of empty space inside, although this also means it weighs a manageable 15kg despite the size.
The printing area itself is 150 cubic millimetres. This seems compact, relative to the printer's overall dimensions, but that's actually a perfectly serviceable potential print size for such a cheap device, and will easily suffice for creating models and small parts or components. Resolution, which determines how finely-detailed prints will turn out, maxes out at 100 microns, on par with XYZprinting's more expensive models.
Like most consumer-grade 3D printers, the da Vinci Jr uses the Fused Filament Fabrication printing method, also known as Fused Deposition Modelling. It melts a string of filament then squirts it out in layers, which quickly cool and fuse together, building the print from the base up. This filament is proprietary, which can limit colour and purchasing options, although the good news is that it doesn't appear any more expensive than generic filament. Both are about £19 for 600g, enough for several large or dozens of smaller prints.
One drawback of this printer's nature is the low-quality case. The plastic is thin and bends easily, and we don't have much faith in its protective abilities in the event that the printer takes an accidental knock.
However, the crucial internal mechanism is as solidly built as we'd like, and it's not like the printer is lacking in added features. Besides being able to print from a PC via the USB-B port, the da Vinci Jr has an SD card slot. Designs can be saved to any SD card up to 32GB in size and printed directly, without any wires, which is extremely useful if the printer is positioned away from a desk.
We'd actually recommend keeping this distance in a work environment. The da Vinci Jr doesn't make a racket, but it can be loud enough to disturb in operation, particularly when heating up the filament.
Next: Setup and software