Biqu B1 3D printer review: under $ 300, some useful features, but not perfect
Welcome to ZDNet’s DIY-IT Project Lab, where I test 3D printers for your entertainment and edification. Today we’re going to take a look at the Biqu B1, a relatively inexpensive direct drive FDM (fusion deposition modeling) printer that rivals the popular Ender 3.
In the accompanying video, we assemble and test the Biqu B1 from BigTreeTech. This is a fairly functional printer, under $ 300, but there are a few setup and usability issues that may not make it a top choice.
The Biqu B1 has a build area of 235 x 235 x 270 mm. It’s not huge, but it’s also not small. For a 3D printer, I would put this build size just in the Goldilocks area: that’s about right. You can make objects of reasonable size, but the printing area is not so large that heating it evenly is a problem.
- Less than $ 300
- Flexible heated bed
- Extruder light
Do not like
- Uneven print quality
- Time-consuming configuration
- Crazy dual operating system interface
One of the highlights of this printer is the bed. It is a heated bed, and the surface is magnetically attached spring steel. So, assuming you can get the objects you print to paste (and yes, that was a problem), removing them is pretty straightforward.
There are a few useful features on this machine, beyond the spring steel build plate. The printer comes with an end of filament sensor, so if your filament runs out before your print is complete, printing will stop and you can replace the filament and resume work without losing any prints you have. have already done.
The printer also has an RGB light at the bottom of the extruder. At first I thought it was a silly gadget (I’m not a big fan of RGB). But I really liked having a dedicated light pointing directly at the print surface. When I leveled the bed (I use a geometric print to gauge the depth of the first layer) the light helped me a lot. It also allowed for better turnaround times when creating videos of ongoing impressions.
The printer is delivered as a kit. While the base, with the touchpad and logic board is mostly assembled, there is quite a bit of assembly for the gantry and the rest of the printer.
Oh, and here’s a tip I wish I had thought about before building it. All building instructions are available online in PDF format. So I could have watched them on my iPad and exploded. Instead, I squinted at the small print on the instruction sheet.
As the video shows, the assembly was relatively straightforward, but I encountered some issues while trying to assemble the crosshead on the gantry. Getting all the pieces hooked up, while trying to get the aluminum extrusion through the various channels turned out to be an exercise in dexterity (and blue tape).
Overall it took me about two hours to ride it. If you have experience assembling projects like this, you will be fine. If this type of assembly is new to you, this could be a challenge.
When I finished plugging in the well marked wiring I plugged it in and it worked. It’s always nice. Oh, and there was a weird design decision. The B1 uses a USB C cable to send control signals from the main board to the extruder. There is nothing wrong with that except I found that the USB C connector was not seated properly on the back of the machine. Like I said, it worked. But using a USB C cable for non-USB connections was a bit of an odd choice.
While we’re on the subject of weird choices, I’m going to share with you something that the folks at BigTreeTech are apparently very proud of, but which I think is a bit unnecessary. They have integrated two completely different user experiences into their LCD controller. On the one hand, you can use the very common and standard Marlin. But then you can switch to a full-color touchscreen experience where, apparently, one of the great features is changing the color of the button.
I found the touch screen interface software to be very slippery. For example, when the extruder or bed was heating up, the screen would stay there without showing any temperature change in the bed or nozzle until it reached the maximum temperature, then all of a sudden it was went from zero to maximum temperature, then started. to print.
Since there were both interfaces, I switched from the color touch interface to Marlin, then plugged in a Raspberry Pi with Octoprint and had no more problems. I wonder, however, if the company had spent less to incorporate a touchscreen and multiple user experiences, it could have cut the cost by a few more dollars or added something more useful like automatic bed leveling.
Well, let’s move on to printing.
I started with Yoda. I am printing Yoda heads as a test print for all of my FDM printers. They make great test pieces because the ears and chin show how well the printer handles overhangs. Yoda spare head prints are also great gifts for 3D printing curious visitors to the Fab Lab.
For some reason, my first attempt was insanely stringy. I reset all my print settings and tried again, and Yoda came out pretty much normal. There were a few small spots on her face and a bit of sagging ears, but all of this is what I would expect printing such a model without supports.
Then I tried to print the dragon Adalinda. It is an extremely difficult model to print without support, which is why I started using it for testing.
I tried printing a few times, but had a lot of trouble getting the model to stick to the print bed. For the record, when I printed this on other printers, I didn’t have these bed grip issues. I contacted the company and asked if I should use a glue stick, but they just asked me to increase the temperature of the bed until the adhesion was resolved. I started at 60 degrees C, and I ended up at 80, where it finally stuck.
Once I got it to adhere to the bed, the video shows how well the print came out.
Finally, let’s take a look at the Benchy. This turned out to be a bit problematic. In the video, you can see from a shot from below that the first layer prints with good definition. The video shows a nice texture on the bridge from this top view. And as the video focuses, you can see how well defined the chimney and roof are.
And while the bridging, as seen on the front window, maintains its definition well, there is a pronounced layer shift. Looking at the print from the side, the video shows how the layer shift is even more pronounced, and you can also see that there is a lot of stringing.
I made a second impression of the Benchy and even though the diaper change wasn’t as pronounced, it was still there.
Layer shift can occur for many reasons, ranging from an incorrect setup to a wobbly or loose print surface to a wobbly gantry. Since I didn’t have the diaper change on the larger models, I’m not sure exactly why the Benchy did so poorly. Honestly, I didn’t have time to do a thorough test and investigation to find out what was wrong. I will say that this sort of thing is often fixable. I was just a little disappointed to see this problem in a $ 300 device.
I would normally say maybe it’s because I assembled the device incorrectly, but the dragon print would have shown the layer shift as well. So I guess I put the thing together correctly, but there is still some level of tuning to be done. Like I said, I don’t have time to make this adjustment – and this is the first 3D printer I have reviewed that required such an investigation. You will have to decide, if you choose to buy it, if you want to take the time to tweak it for maximum performance.
So let’s get it over with. On the plus side, the Biqu B1 uses a direct drive rather than a Bowden extruder like on lower cost machines. I haven’t tested flexible filaments, but a direct drive has a much better chance of extruding flexible materials reliably. The spring steel build plate is nice.
On the negative side, setup takes time. The dual user experience on the touchscreen adds complexity and didn’t really perform well. Print quality was inconsistent, but it’s probably fixable if you’re dedicated and have some spare time.
That said, the result is this: The Biqu B1 is a nice little printer, but there are probably better alternatives. There are great printers (like the Ender 3) for less. And for a little more money, there are printers with a few more useful features. But if you want an original printer that will end up doing the job, the Biqu B1 might be an option.
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