Review: The Makertoolworks MendelMax 3!

Hi everyone, Tom here, and this is my review
of the MendelMax / 3. And the Mendel Max 3 is # not your typical 3D printer kit in a
lot of ways. While the earlier MendelMax 1, 1.5 and to a certain extent, the MendelMax
2 were still RepRap-style printers with lots of printed parts and off-the-shelf fasteners
and rails, the MendelMax 3 heavily builds on custom sheet metal parts. They’re all
nicely powder-coated black and, along with large amount of OpenBuilds V-slot profiles,
give the printer quite a bit of heft. And seriously, this is very much a beast of a
printer. The one i got here is the all-out dual extruder
version, featuring # two E3D v6 hotends, a pretty massive 250 by 315 by almost 200 millimeters
build space, a heated bed running off of the # 24V supply, Openbuilds Xtreme Solid wheels
and matching rails on all axes, a genuine Ultimachine RAMBo to control it all as well
as some LED lighting that serves as a smart status indicator.
But let’s start chronologically: The MendelMex 3 is a printer kit, so the entire building
and calibrating process is something you get to do yourself. And you better enjoy assembling
these kind things: Just the build itself took me thirteen and a half hours, which i split
up into a few evenings and weekend build sesions. The parts of the kit were all very, very nicely
machined and during assembly, fit together pretty much perfectly. Except for the few
printed parts that needed some of their holes reamed * ahem *, but all the sheet metal parts
have spot-on tolerances and no sharp edges, the openbuilds v-slot profiles are very nicely
anodized, very straight and cut the the exact right lengths, and even the included hex wrenches
are top quality stuff. But I guess the wrenches had to be of decent quality, because you will
be using them # a lot. If you look at the included number of fasteners, be it screws,
washers, t nuts, regular nuts, it’s pretty apparent that this is not going to be a simple
build. The fact that the instructions were not always
all that clear didn’t help, either, i found myself redoing quite a few steps because i
ended up assembling stuff mirrored or in the wrong sequence. Some of the instructions mention
using one, two or no washers for specific sections, only to later on leave you confused
with seemingly contradicting information. Or no information at all, in the late stages
of the build guide it just says “assemble this part” in a few sections.
That being said, the way things fit together did make sense in the end, and even without
clear instructions or good images of some the sub-assemblies, the printer turned out
alright. And i know the folks at Makertoolworks are already working on improving this guide,
but also, and i actually tried this out anonymously, they have a superb web support platform, basically
an IRC channel, where there seems to always be someone from Makertoolworks available to
help you out. It might take a few minutes until you get an answer there, but it surely
is faster than logging your question into some ominous support ticket system that will
only connect you with a customer support agent in India. We’ve all been there. By the way,
Makertoolworks is based in Oklahoma. The other thing that delayed my assembly by
a fair amount was the fact that the kit had quite a few parts missing. Some of them, like
metric screws and washers i had at hand – the MendelMax uses 100% metric parts [thumbs up,
grin] – but others, like a few parts from the second extruder kit, a corner bracket
or some sheet metal parts, were not so easy to replace. Thankfully, with this being a
review unit, i got spares shipped incredibly quickly, but then again, stuff like this shouldn’t
be an issue, # especially not with a review unit, but i guess if you’ve got so many
fasteners in a kit, it’s quite easy to miss a few.
Now, after the assembly, there’s one more tricky bit, and that is adjusting the bed.
The bed consists of a Kapton heater stuck to an aluminum heat spreader, on top of which
there’s a glass sheet. Then this entire assembly sandwich is clamped onto the bed
platform with three of these brackets; in two of these, there’s a screw below them
that lets you adjust the height, the third one is fixed. The problem here is that not
only do you awkwardly have to work on adjusting these from below the printer, but you can
also only adjust them if the nozzle is at the opposite side of the spot you’re trying
to get to the right height. So that’s kind of a bad design, and it takes way longer to
tram the bed than it should. Mine still isn’t perfectly adjusted, and i really have to wonder
why this printer does not have an inductive sensor doing all that tramming jazz for you.
And that would have made that entire assembly a fair bit simpler, too.
But the bed is almost the only spot where i can really complain about the final, assembled
MendelMax3, because the entire design seems to have a different philosophy than a lot
of the other “full size” printer kits out there today. It’s a bare bones machine.
It gives you all the essential components that you need to get printing, makes those
really high quality, and leaves out everything else that you don’t strictly need. That
includes things like drag chains, which are pictured in the official shop images, but
aren’t actually included with the kit, fan mounts and air guides for the part cooling
fans, filament guides from the spool mounts to the printhead and any sort of cover for
the mains wiring inside the printer. Yes, you heard that right, there is exposed mains
wiring inside the MendelMax and it’s shockingly easy to get your fingers in there when reaching
below the frame. I already ended up soldering the connectors onto the switch and plug since
they were the wrong size for the tabs, but at no point do the instructions mention anything
like at least adding some electrical tape over them.
So this is definitely one of the upgrades that i’ll be doing shortly, the other ones,
like those drag chains, can be printed piece by piece as you customize the printer to truly
make it your own. So software-wise, the MendelMax3 runs a customized
version of Marlin to support those LED strips, which have their own buck power supply and
Arduino to control them, while on the printer host side of things, Makertoolworks provides
a licensed and branded version of Repetier Host. Which is constantly trying to make you
buy its Android or iOS app. Really? Repetier host isn’t my favorite host software
and can be somewhat confusing to get into, but it does the job and the installer even
provides you with a Slic3r profile for the MendelMax 3 that you can use independently
of the Repetier host software. And while the default profiles don’t include anything
fancy like custom start gcode or optimized extrusion widths for the first layer, they
do work surprisingly well to get you started. Sure, the retract settings and minimum layer
times could use a bit of tuning, but again – bare bones. Those are not inherent flaws
of the machine, but tweakable and customizable settings that you can # mess with as much
as you want. And the print results again showed that the
core mechanics of the MendelMax 3 have very little left to be desired. After all, the
OpenBuilds wheels and rails provide an extremely rigid framework and the high-quality motors,
pulleys and belts do the rest. For the z-axis, the ends of the spindles are even properly
machined to fit the couplers, so Z-Wobble is an absolute non-issue.
As expected, the extruder-hotend combo also had no issues with printing ABS, PLA or Nylon
– maybe a stainless steel filament drive gear would have been nice instead of the brass
one for longevity, but really, that’s complaining on a very high level. The extruder overall
is also massively built, well, maybe a bit too complex, but you know, better safe than
sorry. The tension of this guy is adjustable, but you should rarely need to fiddle with
that once you’ve found a setting that works for you.
Now, what i’ve been ignoring so far is that i got the dual-extruder version. The two v6es
mount into an aluminum holder that lets you clamp each hotend individually with a pair
of grub screws to get them to the same height, and / while that # does work well enough,
i don’t see why they didn’t simply go with an E3D Chimera instead, which / would
have made that entire offset fine-tuning easier when the two hotends don’t perfectly match
up – and they won’t – / but, again, would have also made the assembly smaller. And simpler.
And cheaper. I gave dual-extrusion a try and, yeah, i managed
to print a dual-extruded part, again, with the stock settings, it doesn’t look too
nice, but honestly, i’m not too interested in printing two-color items anyways. What
i think dual extrusion is going to be the most useful for, at least for the things i
typically print, is for printing water-soluble support material, which should solve a lot
of problems instead of create new ones. So to sum up the MendelMax 3 / experience:
This is not a plug-and-play printer. Not by a far stretch, and you will end up frustrated
and disappointed if that’s what you are expecting. What you are getting here is a
# platform – yes, it does already print very decently once you managed to assemble the
thing, but then there’s still so much headroom for improvement. Or even total conversion
/ – i’ve looked into mounting a Dremel-style rotary tool to a few of my printers before,
but the MendelMax 3 is the first one that seems beefy enough to handle such a tool.
Now, would i recommend the MendelMax 3? Yes, absolutely, but absolutely not as a beginner’s
printer. If you want an upgrade from something like a Velleman kit or an older Printrbot
and are looking for the next big thing, then by all means, this is a great option for you.
While the MendelMax 3 is neither a real self-replicating RepRap nor currently an Open-Source design,
it still firmly occupies the territory that the high-end RepRaps used to hold.
And for a sticker price of 1495 US dollars for the single-extruder version or 1645 for
the dual-extruder one # seen here, it’s decent value, too. Sure, the design could
be manufactured cheaper in a lot of ways, but compared to what the alternatives are
in this segment, / well /, there aren’t really any alternatives if this kind of printer
is exactly what you want. So that about sums up my thoughts on the MendelMax
3 platform, / if you’re looking for a more beginner-friendly printer, stay tuned and
maybe subscribe for my video series on the brand-new PrintrBot Play! / I’ll also post
some video guides as i upgrade and modify my MendelMax in a quest to turn it into the
# ultimate printing machine (™).. As always, thanks for watching guys and girls,
if you feel like i’m doing a decent job with this entire video thing, please do leave
this video a rating that reflects that; also consider replacing your ebay bookmark with
one of the affiliate links in the video description, that way i get a small kickback from the purchases
you make there, which helps me make this channel more awesomer with each video. And that’s
it for today, see you in the next one. Bye bye!


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