As cheap as it gets: Turnigy Fabrikator Mini 3D Printer review! (TinyBoy)

It’s cheap. But is it good? The Fabrikator Mini tries to be the most affordable 3D printer out there, but i think it leaves out a few too many core features.

Last one that’s listed on Hobbyking
TinyBoy 2 campaign
TinyBoy 1 source files

Hobbyking Turnigy Fabrikator Mini aka TinyBoy v1.5

How low can you go? Or actually, how low do you have to go to make a $175 3D printer? Well, stick around to find out as we take a deeper look at the Turnigy Fabrikator Mini from Hobbyking, which is exactly that.

Now, surprisingly, this isn’t the only complete 3D printer you can buy for less than $200. In fact, for probably the same price once you factor in shipping, you can get a Prusa i3-esque machine with an LCD, a heated bed, and around 16 times the build volume of the Fabrikator Mini. But if you watch my review of the Malyan M150, a printer that is actually a good bit more expensive than that, you’ll get to see some of the flaws these rock-bottom 3D printers can come with. With something like the Fabrikator Mini, you will get the same experience anybody else is getting with it because you will receive the same hardware every single time – as opposed to simply buying the cheapest i3 from a random seller and getting a surprise package every single time. So what is the Mini Fabrikator all about? Well, let me show you its features! Actually, there’s not a lot to talk about since there are not noteworthy features per se. I guess the biggest “feature” would be its size, as it only takes up a 150mm square footprint on a desk. This is small enough to fit in the actual build area of most of my other 3D printers! Of course, you do sacrifice build area on the Fabrikator Mini that way, which leaves it with an 80mm cube build volume. Sure, that’s tiny, but i still think it’s a very usable size for its intended purpose, in fact, probably 95% of the things i print fit into this volume. The Fabrikator Mini is also surprisingly silent once you add the included feet, which come with a foam pad on their underside. These also lift up the bottom of the printer to allow for additional airflow, since some users complained about overheating of the motor drivers, which, in my case, didn’t seem to be a problem. But only after i retuned the driver’s current setting, which, out of the box, is set so high that not only the motor driver will shut down eventually, but it will actually heat up the smaller-than-usual NEMA14 motors so much that they will warp the thin acrylic frame. On the other hand, if you tune down the stepper drivers too much, there are reports of these brass bushings starting to bind and causing the motors to skip steps, thus ruining your print. In my case, it printed perfectly fine after setting the driver’s reference voltage to about 0.7V. This is a bit higher than most viewers recommended in the live unboxing stream, but i had to add an external fan anyways, which in this case also cools the motors, but mostly serves as a part cooling fan. You see, this printer is made to work with PLA – it doesn’t have a heated bed, after all – and PLA needs a part cooling fan to print well, which the Fabrikator Mini does not have out of the box. These two prints were done from the exact same gcode, the left one without the fan, the right one with. Quite a big difference! Now, if you don’t want to just have a fan sitting on the table next to the printer, you can download and print one of the fan shrouds you can find online – again, an advantage of having a somewhat stable platform from a single vendor.

Other than the printer itself, a power supply, a few extra sheets of blue painter’s tape for the bed and the feet, you don’t get a whole lot in the package. I guess the PLA sample isn’t really worth mentioning since it’s literally just enough for, like half a test print. The initial unboxing experience is really simple – you load the print profile into Repetier host – if you want to use Cura or any other slicer, you will need to type them in manually – adjust the bed height with this little screw on the back, plug in the bowden tube and you’re ready to print.

Now, the print quality in general is pretty ok – especially for the money. Of course, grey PLA does amplify any quality issues on camera, but except for some slight layer inconsistencies, it’s really ok. Which was expected, given that the default print speed is a whopping 15mm/s – for comparison, i run most of my other printers at 60mm/s, which is, i guess, a normal speed. But on the Fabrikator Mini, anything faster will start showing some artifacts from the extremely weak linear guide system. The first print i started actually used the wrong slicing profile and had it printing at 40mm/s, which worked, but it also only had smooth surfaces, so there wasn’t any risk of ending up with ringing artifacts. It’s also set up for quite low accelerations and uses a bowden system, so the forces on this motion system are fairly low. Still, XXmm unsupported linear rails and this tiny M4 Z-axis spindle, which has a ton of backlash, all in combination with the 4mm thin acrylic frame are anything but trust-inspiring. But in the end, it works! So i had the Fabrikator Mini set up for a full day of printing, and printed off 8 of these clamps that i’ll be using in an upcoming project. Except for some slight variations of the first layer bed height, these all came out very consistently and reliably. Pop one off, start the next one, rinse and repeat, all day long.

So there are actually a few nice features in here that you wouldn’t expect in an “as cheap as possible” 3D printer. On is the E3D v6 imitation, which, i mean, doesn’t add a whole lot of value as-is, as, as usual it’s not particularly well-made and uses a heatbreak that is much too thick, wastes a bunch of power, but also heats up the heatsink so much that it’s incredibly easily to jam the hotend if you pull out the filament too slowly when swapping filament. What will happen is that the filament will stick to the warm, but not hot metal sides and form a pretty solid plug, something the genuine one avoids by not heating up the heatsink so far and by putting a bit extra effort into making the heatbreak smooth inside.

Also surprising to see here is the fully featured MKS base mainboard. Five stepper drivers, three power outputs, a heated bed output, and as expected for a cheap-ish board, standard Allegro stepper motor drivers and zero consideration for component current limits or any sort of failsafes. Ironically, though, now my smallest and my largest cartesian 3D printers use the exact same boards.

And the way the belts are set up here is pretty ingenious. Instead of just using a single loop, it uses this hoist-like system, which reduces the torque needed from the motor and also increases positioning accuracy.

And that’s why i kinda like the Turnigy Mini Fabrikator – yeah, sure, it’s super cheap and barely any features to write home about, but it’s got that vibe to it where it tries to do more with less and is mostly successful with it.

Now, this machine is not designed by Turnigy aka Hobbyking, it’s a project from TinyBoy aiming to provide affordable 3D printer for education – for that job, i think the way the Turnigy version is put together with the lack of a part cooling fan and the overheating issues, it’s just barely not enough to fit that bill. Educators are notoriously short on time and typically don’t want to spend it on getting a machine like this to work well. But – and here’s the kicker – there is a new version coming up, the TinyBoy 2, which was launched on Indiegogo a good year ago and should have been shipping by now, but TinyBoy’s CEO dropped out for a while due to medical issue and it looks like, they now are actually producing the new machines. I fully expect the new version to become available at Hobbyking again, seeing that the original one has been quite popular. As of right now, this exact machine here is on backorder and it looks like none have been shipped out for a while, so i can’t really recommend ordering it it right now. But it is a promising base for that next model.

With this exact setup, you could make it work really well if you can and want to do a bit of tinkering, and with things like the fake v6, the big bowden extruder and the MKS board in there, you do even have the option of taking this entire thing apart and using those components to build something bigger if you feel like you need the extra space.

So those were my impressions on the Hobbyking Turnigy Fabrikator Mini aka TinyBoy v1.5 – if you’re looking for a similar machine, but, like, want it right now, check out my review of the Printrbot Play right up here. Now, for this video, if you enjoyed it, leave it a thumbs up, if not, a thumbs down, if you want to stay up to date as new videos come out, get subscribed, and if you’re really into what i’m doing here, drop me a dollar or two on Patreon. And that’s about it, see you in the next one or in this weekend’s livestream right here on Youtube.

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Music is Jahzzar – Halley, licensed CC-BY-SA

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