EXAM – 3D printers are a regular review item here at The Gadgeteer, and I’ve been waiting in the wings to tackle a printer that matches my level of experience as a beginner. In addition to documenting my experience with the Monoprice Joule 3D Printer DIY Assembly Kit, I’ll also share some of the resources I’ve found useful for learning more about 3D printing. Let’s see if I can translate them into some successful prints!
What is that?
The Monoprice Joule DIY assembly kit is a build-it-yourself 3D printer, as the name suggests. This printer is marketed and intended for beginners, as the assembly process familiarizes you with the components and how they work with each other. I work in tech and often find it much easier to support something I’ve created or implemented than trying to troubleshoot someone else’s work, so I appreciate it. approach here. Don’t worry – you won’t be soldering circuit boards or anything else, but there’s more work here in the assembly than I’ve seen on other printers.
What’s in the box?
- Everything you need to assemble the Monoprice Joule 3D printer, and start printing!
- SD card with USB-A adapter, includes test prints and software.
- Instructions for assembly and use.
|Printing technology||Fused Filament Manufacturing (FFF)|
|Print area||220 x 220 x 250mm|
|Number of nozzles||1|
|XY axis accuracy||±0.2mm|
|Maximum print speed||≤ 180mm/s|
|Normal print speed||30~60mm/s|
|Nozzle temperature||≤ 250°C|
|Build plate temperature||≤ 100°C|
|File format||STL, OBJ, AMF|
|Print methods||microSD™ card, online|
|input power||115 VAC, 60Hz or 230 VAC, 50Hz|
|Maximum power consumption||350 watts|
|OSD menu languages||English, Chinese|
|Compatible operating systems||Windows® 7/10, macOS®|
|Compatible slicing software||Cura, Simplify 3D|
Design and features
- Large build area of 220 x 220 x 250mm
- Easy assembly thanks to the detailed assembly guide
- 4.3″ color LCD screen
- Rapid heating in 5 minutes or less
- Auto-resume function continues printing after a power outage
- Heated carbon-silicon glass print bed
- All-metal frame reduces vibration
- MicroSD™ card slot and USB connection options
Monoprice has done a great job of lowering the barriers to entry to 3D printing, both in terms of printer prices and by making great educational resources available.
Common terminology in 3D printing
Types of 3D printer filaments (this is by no means exhaustive, but covers what the Joule can do)
How to upgrade a print bed
No Monoprice, but a great reference to types of 3D printers is available at ProtoLabs.com.
If you’ve noticed that the FFM printer type isn’t listed on the ProtoLabs blog, but looks a lot like FDM printing technology… there’s a reason for that. There is a historical history between the terms, which is detailed by William Stone at 3Dprintingspot.com. This article also covers some of the common FFM/FDM printer types you may see and different extruder technologies.
Finally, I found this video on the stem.t4l YouTube channel particularly useful for getting started with the FlashPrint software included with the Monoprice Joule.
If you’re new to 3D printing, don’t be discouraged if much of the content in these articles or videos seems intimidating. Like most things, context is important to understanding. Once I dove in and started printing on the Monoprice Joule, I found things started to make a lot more sense.
Assembly and performance
The Monoprice Joule DIY assembly kit arrived well packaged and with all the tools needed to get straight to building. Included in the box is a set of paper instructions, which I’ve set aside in favor of Monoprice’s official YouTube assembly video.
Assembly took about an hour and a half, and in retrospect it probably would have been quicker if I had watched the entire video before digging. I needed to reference the paper instructions a few times because the angle of the video wasn’t always optimal to understand how certain parts fit together.
Having the screws clearly labeled and in their own respective packaging was very helpful. I was surprised at the quality of the tools provided and found no reason to use any of my own tools for the building process (except for that one time I dropped a screw and I needed my pliers to get it out of a channel in the frame rails).
Overall I would say the assembly was pretty much what I expected – not too difficult, but a bit of patience is required. I appreciate good cable management, and I feel like it’s possible to clean the various wires and tubes of the Monoprice Joule, but I’ll need more time to figure out the best way to accomplish this without hampering performance. I was also a bit surprised that the control panel ribbon cable was as exposed as it is. Probably not a problem as it doesn’t move much, but noticeable.
Now that the Monoprice Joule 3D printer is assembled, let’s print!
Wait – not yet. The Monoprice Joule 3D printer does not come with a self-leveling bed, so we have to do it manually. Although the assembly video and instructions touch on this topic, I found the bed leveling guide linked above explained the process better. I made the mistake of rushing the leveling process the first time and my first test print didn’t go well.
The large leveling adjustment wheels located in each corner of the print bed make it easy to make leveling adjustments by hand, without the need for tools. With the bed properly leveled, I dialed in one of the test prints from the included SD card and turned the printer on.
When powering on the printer, the extruder fan turns on immediately whether or not there is a print in progress. I found the sound noticeable but not overdone. The actual noise during the print is less than I expected and was mostly just the noise of the moving print bed. A common theme I find in 3D printing is patience. After watching the extruder and printing the bed dance for about ten minutes, I realized it was going to take a while – and the control panel confirmed that I had over an hour left. I had already installed the software on my PC before running the test print, so I headed there to queue the 3DBenchy print.
The software included on the SD card is FlashPrint 4.6.4 which appears to be specific to certain Monoprice printers. If I download the latest vanilla FlashPoint 5.3.4 (at the time of this writing) – there is no option to select the Monoprice Joule as an option in the software configuration. Also, I couldn’t easily locate this version of FlashPrint on Monoprice’s website. For these reasons, I would suggest making a backup copy of the software installer right away, to avoid any headaches if you need it later and don’t have access to the SD card.
I found the software’s interface easy to understand, and there’s a lot to learn here when it comes to configuration and print settings. With the STL file downloaded and configured with some of the basic settings such as material and supports, I was able to generate the .gcode file needed for my next print and drop it into the root of the SD card. I already wish this printer had wireless capability as it would make setting up prints a lot easier.
After I finished my first test print, I was impressed with the results. A little cleaning is needed at the tip of the triangle in one of the corners of the tower, but overall the result is excellent. I suspect I could improve this by adjusting the layer width.
Finally, the 3DBenchy result. There are some extrusion straps left between the arches, but overall I’m again impressed with the result. I see opportunities to go even further and improve (which is already good, in my eyes) print quality, given that these prints were made with minimal setup.
What I like
- The hands-on assembly approach helps to understand how the printer works.
- Low barrier of entry with reasonable price.
- Relative ease to obtain a successful impression.
What I would change
- Stitching video could be better improved with different camera angles at certain points.
- Wireless printing capability.
- Auto-leveling function. While leveling isn’t necessarily difficult, it’s one less thing to worry about.
Monoprice Joule 3D printing was a lot of fun to put together, work with, and learn. The additional assembly steps are worth doing, as they allow you to familiarize yourself with the workings of the extruder’s X-axis moving assembly. I look forward to experimenting with different filament types and seeing how different print settings affect print quality. I encourage anyone hesitant to get into 3D printing to consider it a solid entry point.
Or buy: Monoprix
Source: Product sample has been provided by Monoprice for review.