A reliable FDM printer with a large build volume. Streamlined, functional, and easy to use, the Orca should suit anyone from the beginner to the versed maker wishing to add a new toy to their workshop or office.
Another inspired creation from the good folks over at RepRap, the Orca is through and through inspired by and improved upon the classic Mendel model. The Orca has taken on multiple revisions over the years, resulting in what is considered the most widely available model, the Orca 1 from Xinkebot.
As with any open source printer designed for self-replication, constructing an Orca from scratch is possible thanks to a slew of guides and articles over on the RepRap website. For the sake of this review, we are focusing solely on the Xinkebot Orca 1, a much refined and streamlined version.
So what does the modern iteration of this timeless classic have to offer budding makers? Let’s jump in and find out as we review the Orca 3D printer.
|Printing Area||400 mm x 400 mm x 450 mm|
|Layer Resolution||50 – 300 microns|
|Supported Filament||PLA, ABS, HIPS, and PETG|
|Filament Diameter||1.75 mm|
|Extruder Diameter||0.4 mm|
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Design & Features
Aesthetically, the Orca borders on the surgical in part due to its full aluminum frame and shell that extends even to the casing of the power supply unit. The sleek silver color scheme is aptly suited to an overall tidy appearance that hints at Xinkebot having opted for efficiency rather than superfluous additions. It feels almost industrial but in a reasonable price range.
The design is all about stability, rigidity, and although basic compared to more ambitious alternatives, proves to be understatedly in keeping with what this printer is all about. The open plan design coupled with the minimalist design means it is just as suited to a permanent berth on a desk in the home office as it is in a rough and ready workshop scarred by indelible oil stains and awash with all kinds of other hobbyist paraphernalia.
To no one’s surprise, the Orca uses Fused Deposition Modeling tech with the X and Y axes running on the printhead and the Z-axis controlled by the print bed. The printer uses a pulley track system running on ridges cut into the aluminum frame powered by Bushen stepper motors.
Although not native to the Orca design, the Orca 1 sports an excellent addition in the form of a switchable direct drive extruder mount whereby the user can hop between a single or dual extruder setup based on the project with one providing build filament and the other support material.
It boasts a large print area of 400 mm x 400 mm x 450 mm for a total build volume of 72000000 mm3. By anyone’s standards that is one big build area, and we are at odds to disagree. The extra emphasis on height makes it suited to taller prints that require ample extra headroom. The Orca can print in layer resolutions as low as 50 microns and up to 300 microns with a print speed variation of 20 to 180 mm per second.
Filament support runs the gamut from ABS and PLA by way of more obscure materials such as HIPS and PETG. Diameter is the standard 1.75 mm we’ve come to expect in most modern models and is housed on a practical spool holder located on top of the frame for both space saving and easy access to the extruder. The Orca supports third-party filament.
Onboard controls are compressed down into a 3-inch full-color LCD with the usual panoply of functionality from powering on the printer, calibration, feeding the filament into the extruder, and similar monitoring tools.
Software is open source in keeping with the design, although for this particular model, Xinkebot does recommend Cura, Slic3r, and MakerBot Desktop citing these are providing the best results when using the Orca 1. Connectivity is assured through either USB to PC or untethered SD card.
Packaging & Assembly
It’s hard not to be impressed by the packaging of the Orca. Xinkebot appears to have invested money in the quality of the protective materials, and we can confidently say it felt like the best-packaged printer we’ve come across in recent times. The different boxes and thick black styrofoam oozes organization, and very few printers come close to matching the enjoyable experience of unboxing the Orca.
Assembly does take some doing in the sense that the printer doesn’t come fully assembled, but Xinkebot has done well to provide clear instructions and a simple enough overall design that shouldn’t trouble most users. Once pieced together, the Orca is very portable as everything is connected to the frame.
The bed leveling process is straightforward as is setting up the software, in our case Cura. The touch screen is functional and does what it says on the tin proving to be more than suited to what was expected of it.
With such a low layer resolution, the Orca is a printer that can unequivocally do detail and when put to the task lives up to it as well. Overall, we were pleasantly surprised with the quality of the Orca and it very much matched the quality of the parts and the overall sense we are working with a piece of equipment backed by a dedicated and passionate manufacturer.
ABS results were more than solid, and we found that the heated plate works well, even heating up relatively fast. PLA fared just as well, and the only real tiny issue was a little bit of sub-par layering traces that we were able to sand out in post-production, but nothing to seriously have us worrying. To give a benchmark, the performance of the Orca is nearly on par with the ever-popular CR-10.
The open plan design does mean the Orca can be noisy, but relative to similar printers it’s nothing too troublesome or out of the ordinary.
The Xinkebot Orca 1 has 12 months parts and labor warranty. If you opt for the do it yourself version, check with individual component suppliers for detailed warranty information or the distributor if you opt for a kit form version.
As for real help, the RepRap website and forums are an amazing source of useful tips and advice, while Xinkebot provides a pretty extensive support system with tutorials and after sales help on its website including leveling and user guides. As for contacting the company, English language support is lacking and is exclusively offered in Chinese so be wary if you are based in the US or otherwise brush up on your Mandarin.
Overall, the Orca is a versatile printer with a focus on functionality and ease of use. We found very little wrong with what was offered, and it performed admirably in our print tests.
In this simplicity is the Orca’s possible biggest flaw. It doesn’t offer anything innovative or surprising. It sticks to the tried and trusted, and does so well but without flourish making it hard to differentiate in an ever busier mire of competing alternative models.