Enter the Atomstack Cambrian Pro, designed from the outset to print flexible filament, with the option to print standard materials after a quick print head change.
The printer on arrival did require some assembly, but it wasn't too challenging, and luckily the manual is laid out in great detail to help explain where everything fits.
Once the machine is bolted together (it takes 5 to 10 minutes), you are ready to go. There is a range of printable models on the included MicroSD card, designed for rubber printing, or you can import and use your own models using Ultimaker's Cura software.
The main focus of this printer is on rubber printing, and the provided model impressively shows what is possible.
If you don't always want to print with rubber, there are quick-change printheads and you can print with standard filaments like PLA, ABS, and PETG.
From the appearance of the machine to its use, there are obvious hints of engineers rather than product designers. Some things on the machine, like the push-on ribbon cable, are not designed for everyday use or longevity.
Other features like belt adjusters are definitely owned by engineers, but not product designers.
However, this is a unique machine, mainly for printing rubber, which makes it stand out in an increasingly crowded market.
Currently there is an increase in multipurpose 3D printers(opens in a new tab) with dual and even triple capabilities. The benchmark for this type of machine has to be the SnapMaker 2, which is well designed and supported.
The Atomstack features an all-aluminum design that mirrors the Snapmaker, but the Snapmaker is a streamlined commercial product, while the Atomstack has a bit of a rough edge.
Read the manual, the content is detailed, and the construction and maintenance methods of the flat packaging machine are accurately pointed out.
Once built, everything looks solid, and the manual runs through all the points that need to be checked regularly to maintain print quality.
After a closer look at the design, there are no cosmetic errors in the part or structure.
Still, while the main structure of a 3D printer is solid, pushing it into the ribbon cable end of the printhead is a worrying and weak link. The cables are not finished with standard style connectors, but remain as push-on ribbons only.
Other than that, once screwed on, the construction is sturdy enough, and the all-metal frame design makes it look very neat on a workbench. One feature that stood out from the start was the touchscreen interface. This enables you to quickly complete machine setup, select materials, add custom materials, configure bed leveling and check parameters.
The interface, while nice, isn't the most intuitive I've seen, and there are some screens, such as those showing machine parameters, that leave you a little confused as to why it exists.
While the touchscreen gives the machine a fairly advanced feel, other features that usually go hand-in-hand with the touchscreen are missing.
Bed leveling is done manually, as is filament loading and nozzle cleaning; then there is no filament detection or Wi-Fi. The Atomstack Cambrian Pro is a 3D printer with flexible printing at its core.
The Atomstack Cambrian Pro comes in two sizes, the Pro I saw in this review and the larger Max. Basically they are the same except for the size.
Both have interchangeable tool heads, and the model I'm looking at comes with a flexible and standard 3D print head. Looking through the literature, there seems to be an option for laser engraving heads as well.
Printer manufacturers have developed TPR filament, which has good elasticity and high resilience, and is rated at 50-70A hardness and >50% resilience. In comparison, NinjaFlex has a Shore hardness of 85A and a 20% elasticity.
In essence, TPRs are more flexible and less likely to break when bent, making them ideal for real-world solutions.
Atomstack has also invested in decent hardware and motor drivers to help ensure the machine makes very little noise, aside from the noise of the fans.
The print area is 235mm x 235mm x 150mm, enabling you to print a wide variety of products. If you really need something bigger, there's the Max model.
Machine setup is relatively quick with the help of instructions. Bolt into the frame as instructed to attach the filament spool holder, LCD screen and light head of choice.
Then clip in the cables and wires, power up, run the calibration test and you're done.
For this test I used CURA as the manual has setup instructions, but you can configure the software of your choice to work with Cambrian as it doesn't come with it.
It would be great if Atomstack could provide Cura profiles, but maybe that will come later.
Either way, setup and configuration are simple, and you can be set up and printing in about 30 minutes.
Mounting either of the two printheads requires you to secure the printhead to the frame with three small bolts, then push in to mount the ribbon cable. The bolts are small and the tightening head is not as smooth as you might expect. The real problem is the ribbon cable, which feels very flimsy, and Atomstack tells me that this cable design will be updated in the final version of the machine.
Once CURA is configured, files can be saved to a MicroSD card and inserted into the machine base. There's also a MicroSD card slot on top of the LCD, but this doesn't seem to recognize the card, so it might be for something else.
Started and printed with flexible filament and the results were impressive. The large 0.8mm nozzle ensures a large print, and the quality of the balls, types and shoes I print are very good.
There are some rips on the side of the tire walls, but that's due to wall thickness rather than print quality, and this shoe is one of the most amazing things I've seen from a 3D printer in years.
Atomstack surprisingly brings the wow factor to 3D printing.
This is a flexible filament, and by flexible I mean more flexible than any flexible filament I've printed in the past.
Switch to PLA to check standard print capabilities and average printer performance. It prints OK via a direct-drive 0.4mm nozzle, but the real focus of this printer should be flexible printing capabilities.
During a month of testing, the printer produced decent rubber prints, however, the ribbon cable did prove to be a weak point and ultimately failed.
Multipurpose 3D printers are the theme for 2021, and the Atomstack is the first I've seen that prints flexible and standard filament to good standards.
Swapping between each header is fast, but you need to be very careful with ribbon cables. This push-on design was far from ideal and did cause problems during testing, as the cable end contacts started to lift, making it difficult to reinsert the selected printhead. I've spoken to Atomstack about the Ribbon and they say it's being researched and should be updated in the final design.
This printer has a simple design, although it lacks some of the finer and more advanced features of the latest printers. It prints rubber very well, as does standard filament printing.
If you need to print rubber, the Atomstack Cambrian is a good choice, but if that cable isn't updated, I'd stick with it as a single-function printer.