The Cubify Cube’s “3D printing for the layman” approach is evident from the outset — its price range is among the lowest on the market, and its appearance can only be described as sleek. While other high-quality and very popular 3D printers are made of plywood and aluminum, with exposed wires visible, this one feels like a home appliance. Its smooth grey plastic case hides all the complicated workings, and the build platform is made of shiny black metal. If you like your hardware a little bit funky, you can order your Cube 2 3D printer in a bunch of case colors that aren’t grey (magenta, blue, green, white or silver). It’s compact, there’s a USB port, and just looking at it makes you feel like 3D printing has finally burst the bounds of the nerd bubble and is finally entering the real market.
Cube 2: the Walkthrough
When you take your Cube 2 out of the box you’ll find that it’s quite easy to get it up and running. The printed instructions are straightforward, but they include a step that you probably weren’t expecting — to use your Cube at all you’ll have to register on the company website. ABS or PLA printing material is supported, in one color at a time (a lime-green ABS cartridge is included). Then you choose from among the 25 stunning 3D models included with the software, sit back, and 90 minutes later you’ve got a green chess rook, or a bracelet, or whatever strikes your fancy.
Idiot-Proofing for Non-Idiots
But as seems to often be the case, when “even a child can do it,” an adult often can’t. 3D printing hobbyists will likely find the Cube to be too user-friendly for their purposes, with a stultifying dearth of customizability. You can’t change the extruder speed, you can’t change the infill density, and the printing software offers only the most basic options. No 3D design software is included with the printer, which means that if you want to make your own objects you’ll have to obtain the software separately. The makers have their own program, Cubify Invent, which they’ll sell to you for $49, and it’s actually very good — though its features are predictably more limited than most CAD programs, it’s tailored for 3D printing use.
Cubify: All About the Money
The other major drawback to the commercialization of 3D printing is that very same commercialization. You can buy 3D plans to print on the Cubify website, but mixed in among them in the listings are objects larger than 5.5 inches in any direction (the Cube’s maximum limits), objects that you physically buy from the company. Yes, they are fabricated on a 3D printer, but their inclusion among the plans is confusing. And while the 1st Generation Cube could be fairly easily hacked to allow you to use other brands of filament, with the Cube 2 you’re locked into using their proprietary cartridges. The ABS cartridges are $50 each, and when you compare the quantity of material inside (Cubify doesn’t tell you, but it’s about 320 grams) to the price of ABS from other sources, you’ll find that you’re paying roughly three times the market price for your printing material.
And ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to — with great ease of use comes great limitation of options.