A STEM Teacher's Review of the BCN3D Sigma D25 IDEX 3D Printer
Applied Engineering & Technology teacher Bill White reviews the Sigma D25, an independent dual extrusion 3D printer by BCN3D, from an education perspective.
The purpose of this letter is to give an honest, in-depth review of the Sigma D25 Independent Dual Extrusion 3D Printer by BCN3D. I will be reviewing it both as an educator as well as a personal 3D printing enthusiast. My 3D printing adventure started about 8 years ago, but it really didn’t take off until about 6 years ago. With that being said, my experience with IDEX (or independent dual extrusion) was relatively limited before using the Sigma D25.
Adding the BCN3D Sigma D25 to my 3D Printing Arsenal:
As an educator, priority number one has to be reliability. There is only so much time in the day, let alone a class period, so the printer must be a reliable asset. A close second priority for me: how good is the tech support? No matter how reliable your printer is, it is inevitable that it will need maintenance and/or an upgrade like any other machine. Sure, there are YouTube videos out there for most things; however, it doesn’t hurt to have a solid support team there to help out. Obviously, there are also many other variables that go into investing in a 3D printer:
3.) main use/purpose
4.) grant restrictions (for advice on applying for a grant, check out my article here)
5.) district vendor issues
So, should you and/or your district invest in this BCN3D Sigma D25? Hopefully, my review can help you decide!
Part 1: Setup
Upon arrival, this machine has honestly delivered in every sense of the word. First, it arrived in a large box; big enough that I needed to help the delivery guy unload. The next big thing that I noticed was that it just worked pretty quickly right out of the box. I also love that the filament is sort of concealed inside of the machine itself. The machine has a refined look to it, and it is also constructed really well. Lastly, the independent dual extrusion capabilities are a thing of beauty, especially in the classroom. To say I was super impressed initially would be a mild understatement.
Connecting to a computer and setting up BCN3D Cura:
Honestly, this process has become so streamlined that I would say that I spent no more than 15 minutes connecting my printer to the desktop as well as setting up somewhat custom slicer settings, which by the way, aren’t really necessary at all to start. It is also very easy to connect to a wireless network to allow for any updates. BCN3D Cura is plug and play at this point. For someone just starting out, you can use the default settings for the filament you are using and it will work. For a more seasoned veteran of 3D printing, Cura provides many opportunities to tweak settings for the ultimate customization.
Part 2: Hands-On Experience
My first print:
My first print on my new BCN3D Sigma D25 was of course one of the demo prints. I tested out duplication mode right out of the box because why not? Being able to print the same part in two different colors at the same time is an awesome thing in the classroom; at least in my opinion. The prints both turned out really well. Having success right out of the box is also really, really important for someone just starting out on their 3D printing journey. This printer provided that experience for me as well.
Taking advantage of IDEX
Being a classroom teacher that has brought 3D printing into my classroom, I have learned very quickly that I and my machines need to be efficient. Having a group of students for 45 minutes doesn’t give much wiggle room for much of anything. With that being said, the 3D printer just has to work the first time. This machine excels at just working, most importantly, it works the first time. To do one better, this machine can double up the output by using the independent dual extrusion capabilities. I took advantage of duplication mode the most as I like to print things in various colors as all students have their preference. This feature just will flat out save you time when it comes to setting up and slicing a model to print.
What material next?
For me, a big advantage of the dual extrusion capabilities becomes apparent when you need to print a complex part, especially one with significant gaps or overhangs. Allowing one extruder to print with your filament of choice while the second extruder prints either breakaway support material or dissolvable support filament (like water-soluble PVA) in this scenario is priceless. Since I have been super impressed with the print quality with everything that I have printed up to this point, I am definitely interested in pushing this machine to its limits to see what it can do.
Part 3: Thoughts & Final Impressions
For work or for play?
From an education point of view, this printer knocks it out of the park. At this price point, you are getting an industrial grade 3D printer. Depending on what your classroom needs are, this printer will more than take care of them. A strong belief that I stand by when it comes to a 3D printer in the classroom is this: The printer needs to be reliable, consistent, and functional. Buying from a company heavily invested in 3D printing, MatterHackers, is also crucial for when you do have technical questions. If your budget and space allows for it, I highly recommend this printer for your classroom.
Personally, having a printer like this for play is beyond awesome. One thing I have learned in my 18+ years in education is that learning doesn’t stop after college. This printer has pushed my boundaries in what I can and cannot do. Now, I can print larger and more complex parts more efficiently than I have been able to in the past. Moving from a hobbyist printer to an industrial grade printer also ratchets up the reliability and consistency that makes it easier to keep improving on what you are doing. This printer would be an out of this world addition to your personal printing arsenal.
Why do I love this printer?
What’s not to love about this printer? This printer has really exceeded my expectations. Not only was I overwhelmed upon delivery, but print after print, I am continually impressed with the quality. I cannot stress enough the importance of a printer just working; especially, right out of the box. The technology has come a long way for sure, but I remember when I first started, failure after failure. Having independent dual extrusion capability is also a feature that I really didn’t know that I needed until I experienced it first hand. Trust me, duplication mode in education is hands down a must in my book now. It will save you so much time. Plus, it is really cool watching both printheads move in sync. For my current classroom needs, this machine does it all and it does it well.