Aldi 3D Printer -First Impressions

20160217_Cocoon Create

Yes that’s right, Aldi are selling a 3D printer! For those of you not familiar with Aldi, they are essentially a global supermarket chain, and here in Australia, they also sell “special buys” each week which could be anything from power tools to clothing and everything in between. This weeks special: the Cocoon Create 3D printer for $499AUD, a bit of a bargain when you look at its’ specs. Although of course I had been skeptical, being burned by my last 3D printer purchase from Solidoodle (which you can read more about here) which I have now hacked to do other things, and still waiting for the Tiko that I funded on Kickstarter last year I had to have one… It might be sad by I actually can’t live without a 3D printer anymore with all the work I’m doing.

However what really grabbed me is that being Aldi, this printer would come with a warranty (1 year) and be easily returned if it was a dud (a real challenge when most printers are bought online and can be difficult to return), and also this printer is based on the RepRap Prusa i3 which means any replacement parts and tweaks will be easy to obtain. With some nice upgrades, particularly the metal frame (as opposed to most RepRap’s which use acrylic or plywood and can therefore be quite flexible) this really looks like a promising machine . Like anyone else serious about getting their hands on these limited weekly specials, I joined the 2 or 3 other nerds outside my local Aldi before they opened, and made the mad dash inside like a kid in a candy store! As you can see, I was successful ๐Ÿ™‚

20160217_Cocoon Create Unbox

In the above photos you can see some of the initial finds from the package, which included a thorough manual designed to guide someone with little to no experience of setting up a 3D printer and using Cura to slice STL files through the process, a spare pad for the print bed, some tools, a small roll of PLA and a SD card to use for transferring the G-code from Cura onto the machine (there is also a USB connection, but I like the SD card which means I can have my printer in another room where the fumes can be ventilated). Setup was very quick with just a few screws to join the pieces together, and then the leveling of the bed. Let me summarise some of my initial observations and thoughts after doing a few small prints so far:

  • The navigation through the menus is a little bit old-school (reminds me of DOS!), and could benefit from a touch screen. However there are a lot of controls available in the menu, allowing you to really tweak the performance of the machine without connecting to a computer. The beeping sound as you scroll through each option is a little annoying.
  • The home screen of the printer (shown at the top) is awesome and shows some really useful information such as temperatures of both the nozzle and bed, and how much of the print has been completed.
  • Leveling of the bed is manual and easy to do with the 4 corner wingnuts. Many printers now come with auto-leveling which can be quick, but also doesn’t always seem to work as well as just leveling it out yourself.
  • At one point I wanted to stop a print part way through as it was lifting off the bed – you have to navigate through the menu to find this option, and the only other way is to switch off the power. An extra button just to pause or stop a print would be really handy for those emergency situations!
  • To remove a print you have to pry it off while fixed to the printer – you can’t just un-clip the bed and really get at it with a scraper. This may cause some problems down the line, every other printer I’ve ever used allows the bed to be removed.

These are just a few things I’m noticing right off the bat, but overall I’m really really impressed with this machine – the very first print I did worked flawlessly which you can see below.

20160217_Aldi 3D Printer

This SUP paddle clip (which you can read more about here) was 3D printed with the same settings I’ve used on the Up! Plus 2 printer, specifically a 0.2mm layer height and minimal support, and printed in about the same 50 minutes. I can honestly not tell the difference in quality, which is extremely clean and accurate. As I write this a second one has been printed to the same high quality. For $499 this is a much better finish than I expected!

Funnily enough a significant reason I started this blog in the first place was to share what I thought would be an enjoyable experience with the Solidoodle Press, and begin comapring it to other printers I’ve used and hopefully benefit others looking to get into 3D printing – it’s nice to finally come full circle back to writing about my experience with this (so far) promising 3D printer. Stay tuned for more frequent 3D prints, designs and discussion of how this printer performs.

– Posted by James Novak

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6 thoughts on “Aldi 3D Printer -First Impressions

  1. Hello James, was that you at the Strath Hill Aldi at 08:29 on Wednesday?
    We were there…. Thanks for the useful review!

    Don’t have as much experience as you do, so things (like those poxy wing nuts) are not at all easy for these increasingly arthritic fingers.
    I could also rant about the manual(s), with three separate literary offerings to get the thing set up.
    As an old hardware guy who always reads the whole manual collection first, this was excessive repetition.

    The rant-worthy aspect of the wing nuts is that their screws are not captive, so the screw can turn as you wind the wingnut, resulting in no change.
    Ours turned real easy….
    PRO Tip: use the (provided) small allen key to turn the screw itself, and a spare finger to stop the wing nut turning (lots easier than turning it) and Robert will be your relative in no time.

    Are you familiar with Cura?
    New to us, as is the whole practice of 3D printing.
    But Cura is Open Source, and Cocoon seem to offer only the Win and Mac ports with their proprietary config embedded.
    Do you know of a route to getting Cura working with the Cocoon under LInux?
    Happy to recompile it if necessary, but the Cura-for-Cocoon Win flavour is reluctant to run well under WINE, so far.
    As I say, we’re not familiar with it, but it looks to be pretty good.

    All the best, Ben

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    • Hi Ben, do you mean Bald Hills? That’s where I was!

      I see your point with the wing nuts, although mine worked well without any need for the allen key (maybe I just got lucky!). I have used a variety of different printers and believe me, this is the easiest manual bed leveling method I’ve seen – my favourite desktop machine, the Up! Plus 2 requires you to get underneath the print bed and adjust 3 screws, and there’s not a lot of room to do this and also prop the bed up in the highest position! But thanks for your tips, hopefully they’re useful to someone else setting this machine up.

      I found the A4 pamphlet the easiest for setting up, although will admit there may be some gaps between setup and printing a file for someone not familiar with the process of 3D printing. But for getting the machine set up and calibrated, that’s all I used. I must say the thicker manual is the best I’ve ever had come with a printer (although of course it’s not perfect, but a hell of a lot more detail than most, especially the ones out of China) even if some sections were repeating themselves.

      Cura does work on Linux, just go to the Cura website and it’s there to download. In the thick manual it tells you how to set up Cura to use the settings of the Cocoon Create (basically just its print dimensions).

      My problem right now is that I’ve tried to change filaments and now my extruder won’t load any new filament – goes in the top about 5mm before it seems to get stuck and the motor just goes “clunk, clunk, clunk.” Very annoying, I’ve had to email Cocoon to see if they know what’s causing this.

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