The Airwolf HD is a powerful, albeit expensive 3D printer designed for rapid prototyping and commercial applications. It’s worth the high price but beware of the high secondary costs associated with maintenance.
Let’s say that you’re looking for a real workhorse 3D printer. You need something big enough to print large models without having to manually assemble it from parts, but you also want it to print quickly. Well, you’re in luck: we’ve actually found a 3D printer that claims to do both.
Enter the Airwolf HD printer. This is a high-end product with a price tag to match, but it may be just what your business needs. We’ll be taking a look at its strengths and weaknesses to help you decide if it’s the right choice, and more importantly, if it’s really as impressive as it seems.
|Extruders||1, optional 2nd|
|Supported Materials||ABS, PLA, Nylon, Wood, Stone, 11 others|
|Connectivity||USB, SD card|
|Printing Speed||Up to 400mm/s|
|Build Volume||12 x 8 x 12”|
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Well, it definitely looks professional. The Airwolf HD 3D printer is futuristic, with a fully transparent outer casing. This is 6mm thick acrylic, however, with adds a considerable heft. Considering that this product already takes up more space than most of its rivals, you’re definitely going to require a dedicated printing area.
You’ll notice the dual filament reels, one on either side. However, these both feed into the same extruder, and cannot be used to print with multiple materials simultaneously. A second extruder kit is available, but predictably, costs more money. The Airwolf HD is faster than most anyway, so there’s really no need.
We’re always pleased to see a printer with an onboard controller, but the lack of WiFi connectivity is a surprise, particularly given this printer’s price point. Still, it’s clear Airwolf put a lot of thought into this printer’s design: it’s sturdy, created with high-quality components, and seems built to last.
With most premium 3D printers hovering around the 200mm/s mark, the Airwolf HD stands well ahead of the pack. It can print at a blistering 400mm per second, but understandably, this has a pronounced effect on the quality of your prints. Generally, you’ll want to stick to lower speeds for any model where appearance is important.
Don’t get the wrong idea: even at high speeds, the Airwolf HD creates passable models. However, they’ll usually require some post-processing to really make them look good. The main issues are layer definition and edges: both pose significant problems for any high-speed FFF printer, so the HD is far from alone in this.
At the very least, this printer supports a wide range of materials. All the usual suspects (ABS, PLA, Nylon, are accounted for, but you’re also able to print with wood, stone, and bronze-based filaments, among others. This greatly increases the versatility of the printer.
Rather than show off flashy but ultimately rarely-used features, most of this product’s advanced functionality could easily pass unnoticed. Take the heated bed, for instance: it’s rarely remarked upon in premium models because it’s taken for granted so often. Still, in this case, it helps ensure your prints aren’t warped before they even really get started.
There’s also a special anti-jam nozzle, and you can even swap it out for a higher resolution one if you’d like. This is temperature-controlled too, so there’s no need to worry about accidentally ruining your print or filament. When combined with the fully-enclosed design, this ensures you’ll waste as little material as possible.
There are a couple of other features. You can slice models directly from the printer using the small LCD screen, but that’s not all. With a minimum layer thickness of 0.6mm, if you go slowly, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to build some truly magnificent and detailed models.
The price really is the Airwolf HD’s biggest stumbling block. This printer was initially released in 2014, but it still commands quite a significant price tag. Currently, this product retails for around $3000, so it’s all but inaccessible to hobbyists, small companies, startups, or anyone other than medium-to-large businesses.
There is one silver lining, though: with the Airwolf HD, you don’t have to use a proprietary filament. In fact, since so many materials are supported, you’re free to use almost any 3mm filament you’d like. This (and the printer’s anti-waste temperature control) helps keep waste down, which keeps profits up.
The big question is whether you can justify this high initial fee for the promise of lower running costs later. Again, this comes down to whether or not you really need this level of speed or this high a build volume. If so, go for it, but if not, there may be something more reasonably priced that will meet your needs.
The Airwolf support page provides tutorials and walkthroughs for some of the most common tasks. Best of all, specific guides are available for every printer the company has ever made. If your problem isn’t addressed here, you can also submit a support ticket (and check your ticket’s progress) on the same page.
So what other support is available? Well, there’s a one-year warranty which guarantees a free replacement of any defective parts. There’s a nasty sting in the tail, though: even if it wasn’t your fault, you have to pay for shipping to and from the repair center. Remember: this printer weighs 40lbs.
This is flat out unreasonable. Sure, if the printer cost a few hundred dollars, perhaps it would be justified, but we’re talking about a high-end model here. The expectation seems to be that since businesses buy these products, they’ll pay in order to get their workflow back on track as soon as possible.