I got a call from Roy Worthington of Octave Systems a couple nights ago. He was wondering if I’d seen Flashforge’s new 3D printer, the Finder. I told him that I hadn’t and he was anxious to give me the details.
I’ve known Roy since I first started covering the 3D printing industry and I respect his opinion. As a 3D printer dealer, Octave Systems receives many 3D printers for testing, but they won’t sell a printer Roy doesn’t personally approve. He cares a great deal about quality and user experience, because he doesn’t want the hassle of managing excessive support calls. So, when Roy chose words like “great” and “unbelievable” to describe the Flashforge Finder, my ears perked.
I have wondered for some time how long it would be until we started seeing truly good 3D printers for a price that could be considered consumer-friendly. A certain popular brand I won’t mention looks the part on Amazon, but everyone I know who has tested one tells me the print quality isn’t high and it requires proprietary filament.
By comparison, the Flashforge Finder sounds like the real deal. Not only is the price good at $699, it looks sharp, like a consumer device. It uses Flashforge’s proprietary software which makes it perfect for first-timers. Open source software is fine if you want to experiment with a new high temp filament and an all-metal hot end, but the last thing the average consumer needs is to be messing with retraction and first layer height settings. All that stuff is handled automatically when a manufacturer includes proprietary host software, because it is specifically designed to run that manufacturer’s printer, as opposed to potentially controlling a myriad of various open source machines. It’s a real time saver and headache reducer for beginners and everyday projects.
This little printer is feature rich and built for convenience. It has a full color touchscreen control panel, an automatic bed leveling system, a removable build plate to make surface cleaning easier, an SD card reader (card included), a filament tray underneath and Wi-Fi connectivity. I asked Roy about the automatic leveling, because I know some implementations don’t work real well. He said it was terrific.
The Finder can use any 1.75mm PLA filament or material requiring a similar nozzle temperature. This is a big bonus for those who hate being tied to one manufacturer’s filament. However, the tray under the Finder isn’t large enough to contain most generic spools, so Octave plans to offer a third-party spool holder for the unit. This will disable the machine’s sensor that warns when filament is running out, but the holder will be outside the printer, so one should be able to visually judge the amount of material remaining.
There are only two possible drawbacks to the Finder. It can’t employ high-temp filaments such as ABS or nylon and it has a relatively modest build area of 140 x 140 x 140 mm (roughly 5.5 inches cubed) – about the same size as an Afinia H480. But, for the $699 price, a purchaser is getting a lot in terms of features and ease of use. And anyone with a little experience knows that dealing with high-temp warpage, particularly on larger print jobs, is absolutely counter to the concept of simplicity. PLA-only makes sense for a consumer device.
Most importantly, Roy told me the print quality is good. Perhaps not quite as good as the Zortrax M200, which Octave also carries, but the Zortrax costs almost three times as much.
If you can afford seven hundred bucks and you know a 3D model maker who needs a special Christmas, the Flashforge Finder seems like an awful good choice. Give the guys at Octave a call for more information and details on the aftermarket spool holder.