Conceptually, a great printer, the CEL Robox looks the part but falls short in terms of its printing capabilities and the disappointing performance of its supposedly smart features. Opt instead for the rejigged and much improved CEL Robox Dual.
Today, we take a hard, long look at the CEL Robox. Does its stunning design equate to a quality 3D printer? Let’s find out.
|Printing Area||210 mm x 150 mm x 100 mm|
|Layer Resolution||20 to 400 microns|
|Supported Filament||PLA, ABS, HIPS Nylon, PC, and PVA|
|Extruder Diameter||0.3 mm and 0.8 mm|
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Design and Features
The CEL Robox strays from the usual aesthetic mold of budget level 3D printers with a low-profile rectangular form bolstered by a full black aluminum frame that covers the printer on the back, left side and bottom, while see-through acrylic panels adorn the rest of the printer.
A sky blue color scheme that plasters the inner chamber truly pops and when mixed with the black frame gives the CEL Robox a certain flair and professional allure. The inside of the printer is also fitted with a set of full RGB LEDs to keep things nice and lit up inside.
A hinged transparent acrylic hinged door allows access to the chamber and when closed means the CEL Robox is fully enclosed. Also, the door locks for the length of the print session making it ideal for educational contexts where safety is a prime concern. CEL’s SafeLock tech is also temperature controlled and only opens when heat levels are within a safe range.
Overall, the CEL Robox is a looker with a sleek design and a compact form that makes it perfect if space is limited or you want a good looking printer for your desktop or home office. The 8kg overall weight is pretty light for 3D printers, but enough to ensure a sturdy footing on most surfaces, not to mention easy to transport.
Although the low-profile is unusual, the CEL Robox employs standard Cartesian design principles using FDM technology. It’s just miniaturized, and this is no more felt than in the restrictive build area of 210 mm x 150 mm x 100 mm. The limited verticality is a factor to consider and does limit the type/volume of models you can expect to get out of the CEL Robox. With that said, the build area is big in comparison with the dimensions of the printer.
All axes run on the conventional arrangement of flush rods connected to belted stepper motors (1.8° step angle with 1/16 micro stepping) and 6mm/8mm ball race linear bearings with the print platform controlling the x and y-axis, while the bed moves on the z-axis.
The dual extruder setup differs from the usual fare in that the extruders print from the same filament cartridge with one focused on details, while the other manages less-precision demanding extrusion work like infills and walls. Both extruders are attached to the same print head and funnel filament from the same source. CEL calls it QuickFill Dual-Nozzle Technology.
Although this arrangement throws the ability to print with two different colors or filament types out of the window, it does improve overall precision and speed. The detail-oriented extruder has a nozzle diameter of 0.3 mm, while the other has a diameter of 0.8 mm striking a happy medium between accuracy and fast printing depending on needs, something that standard 0.4 mm nozzle diameters don’t offer.
The extruders have a max temperature of 280 degrees centigrade and can reach 240 degrees centigrade in under a minute giving the CEL Robox one of the fastest initialization times around. Layer resolutions range from 400 to 20 microns.
The extruders also make use of HeadLock tech whereby the printheads are attached via a tool-less locking system meaning they are easily exchanged. The tech also means the bed is auto-leveled. In the future, CEL hopes to provide modular print heads compatible with machining, knife cutting, paste extrusion and more.
The heated bed uses CEL’s patented 1 mm thick ThermoSurface polyetherimide coating technology that provides adhesive properties lowering the need for glue or tape. The bed is also removable and reaches temperatures of up to 150 degrees centigrade. CEL claims the bed can heat up to 130 degrees centigrade in no less than 3 minutes. The bed provides the best of both worlds: models stay firmly in place during printing, but are easily removed once finished.
Filament support is versatile with 1.75 mm diameter PLA, ABS, HIPS Nylon, PC, and PVA compatibility. The CEL Robox doesn’t use a locked filament system, so you are free to use cartridges sourced from third-parties.
CEL does, however, recommend its SmartReel cartridges fitted with a rewritable EEPROM microchip that stores filament data including the type and amount used, as well as details about the ideal parameters (speed, temperature, etc.). SmartReel can, therefore, tell the printer/software how much filament is left and how to best prepare the components for use. SmartReels are also reasonably priced at only a few more dollars than standard filament cartridges.
In keeping with the compact feel, filament cartridges sit on a spool located in the casing on the left side of the printer for a well-kept, prim look.
Connectivity is limited to USB with no untethered features. As for Software, the CEL Robox is compatible with CEL’s slicing software Robox AutoMaker on Windows, MacOS, and Linux. AutoMaker is based off the same engine as Cura and Slic3r while being designed specifically for the Robox, but will nevertheless be very familiar to those with experience using these other utilities.
AutoMaker offers simple functionality with a user-friendly UI. As the Robox has no onboard control features, everything from calibration and diagnostics to creating supports and triggering prints is managed through the software. AutoMaker is a pretty powerful piece of software that offers a lot of information about the printer especially if there are issues as well as guiding hand with the trickier aspects of maintenance.
We particularly like the detail of the monitoring data during the printing process that includes popups explaining what the printer is doing (heating up, printing, etc.), operating temperatures for both the build plate and print head, as well as a progress meter. The slicing side is relatively limited, but with the ability to import OBJ and STL files from CAD software, this isn’t too much of an inconvenience.
A compact printer means a small package and the CEL Robox fits this to a T. The packaging features cardboard trays to protect the printer that itself comes in a cloth carry bag of all things with the accessories in an adjacent cardboard flip box. Although we would have felt more comfortable with a little more padding, the printer came in perfect condition.
The package contains the CEL Robox, a SmartReel spool of filament, quick start guide, warranty registration card, safety documentation, 512MB USB drive loaded with a selection of models to try out and AutoMaker loaded on it, power cord, USB cable, tweezers, bed cleaning alcohol wipes, axes lubricant, and a pack of chisels for cleaning the print bed.
The CEL Robox couldn’t be more pre-assembled, and the setup process is nothing short of enjoyable. It involves removing a set of plastic brackets holding the print head/Z carriage in place during transit, then feeding filament into the tubing near the spool holder in the casing, installing AutoMaker, plugging in the USB cable and power cord, then firing up the printer.
Feeding the filament is as simple as pushing it into the tubing until the geared motor latches onto it and feeds it into the extruder. Fitting the cartridge onto the spool holder produces a satisfying snap befitting how easy the whole process is. We were also thrilled that no manual calibration or bed leveling was required and AutoMaker did a great job of doing this before each print.
The instructions are concise, and the video tutorial on the USB key makes the whole process incredibly easy to follow. The setup of the CEL Robox is among the most painless and even enjoyable assembly experiences we’ve had with any 3D printer regardless of price or features.
When a printer arrives and promises us the moon, we immediately take notice and in the case of CEL Robox it’s hard not to, given the array of smart features, the alluring design, and the feeling that CEL has invested a lot of time and effort into conjuring up a user-friendly printer that’s enjoyable to use.
Sadly, this first impression falls to the wayside when it comes to printing. When the printing process went off without a hitch, the quality of the prints was there (especially when using the precision 20 microns mode and PLA) but success was sandwiched between all too common layering mishaps, less than ideal contours, small bungled masses of plastic, and stringy remains. When the CEL Robox failed, it did so in spectacular fashion with what can only be described as a mess littering the chamber.
Overall, the experience was disappointing, and we’d say that only 2 out of 4 prints came out in a salvageable form.
The CEL Robox is, however, very fast fruit of the work produced by the dual extruder setup. We’d go so far to say it is among the fastest we’ve come across.
The CEL Robox arrives with a standard CEL 2-year warranty which is miles better than the shoddy offerings (3 months in some cases) flogged by other manufacturers.
CEL’s website provides a comprehensive library of troubleshooting, educational, and setup guides, as well as contact details for the support team that, from what we’ve heard on the grapevine, is responsive with expert knowledge and support for all types of issues.
The CEL Robox is packed full of great features and a stunning look that makes it far easier on the eyes that the majority of similarly priced printers. Unfortunately, the print quality doesn’t match up to the lofty surface promises and its amazing speed. It isn’t bad per se but is nothing to write home about, and the frequency of errors is a little too pronounced for our liking.
The CEL Robox also has its downsides beyond the inferior print quality: the limited connectivity, small build volume, and the ok-but-not-exceptional software.
Fortunately, CEL seems aware of the issues plaguing the device and have created the much-refined CEL Robox Dual with an array of new features and improvements with the print quality to match. In our opinion, avoid the standard Robox in favor of the updated Dual if you can. The Dual is everything the Robox strives to be and more.