A disastrous crowdfunding campaign and too many technical issues mean this printer performs sporadically. The quality of the prints is of a high standard when the printer works, but getting there is just too much hassle for the average maker that wants a reliable 3D printing solution.
|Printing Area||214 mm x 214 mm x 200 mm|
|Layer Resolution||50 microns|
|Extruders Diameter||0.4 mm|
As a child of the crowdfunded 3D printer goldrush of the early 2010s, the Rapide Lite 200 is touted as ‘’the most affordable desktop 3D printer’’ on the market but does it live up to this tagline?
Hundreds of disappointed backers who have yet to receive their machines suggest otherwise. Given that it is no longer manufactured the question evolves into a more measured interrogation on whether bagging this printer second hand on the cheap is worth it for quality prints. Let’s find out.
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Design and Features
The Rapide Lite 200 is crafted from a solid block of precision CNC-milled aircraft-grade aluminum and is a robust model for a rather small footprint that means it is as much at home in a home office as a design studio as a go-to prototyping solution. The frame, rods, and base are all made on the same aluminum, and in a departure from most 3D printers, there are next to no acrylic parts or paneling.
The aesthetics, although barebones with an open plan configuration, are sleek and hint at an overall quality that isn’t necessarily in keeping with the printing capacity of this model. The metallic look indicates a sturdy printer, which is crucial for assuring stability during the printing process.
We have here a maximum build area of 214 mm x 214 mm x 200 mm, which is rather generous for such a small profile 3D printer and amounts to around 8000 cm3 of build volume. Given that the model is aimed at the hobbyist consumer, this is well within acceptable limits and should suit the vast majority of models and parts. The fact the build area is uniform in all direction means vertical prints are definitely on the cards with the Lite 200.
The Rapide Lite 200 follows the usual Fused Deposition Modeling tech standard with a Cartesian configuration with the X-axis controlled by stepper motors on the print bed, and the Y and Z axes controlled by vertical rods that move the extruder.
The extruder itself is the Rapide proprietary Q-Extruder fitted to what the company calls its X-Wing technology extruder mount which sits atop the Z axis rods. These two technologies coupled together can attain print speeds of 150 mm per second and a detailed layer resolution of 50 microns. The build bed is heated to counterbalance the non-heated chamber-less open design and ward off warping when working with vulnerable ABS especially.
The Lite 200 is compatible with 1.75 mm diameter ABS, PLA, PVA-based, Nylon, HIPPS, and Laywood filament. The filament system is open source and can accommodate material from any third-party in keeping with the affordable ethos of this printer.
Connectivity is assured through either a standard USB to PC connection or through an SD card inserted directly into the back of the printer. The Rapide Lite 200 doesn’t ship with proprietary slicing software and instead works on an open source basis with widely available third-party slicers like Cura, Simplify3D, and Slic3r or any that suit your needs.
The benefit is that the printer is compatible with models in STL, M3F, OBJ file formats that are then analyzed and converted to Gcode, or in other words, a set of parameters that the Rapide Lite 200 can convert into precise bed and nozzle temperatures, print speeds, coordinates, and similar variables resulting in a 3D print.
On-printer controls are assured by a 2.8 inch full-color LCD touch screen. The functionality is simple, to say the least, with a menu to navigate through models on the SD card and a few monitoring features. The GUI is well designed, but as we said pretty basic in terms of options.
The Rapide Lite 200 sits halfway between a kit and a pre-assembled 3D printer, which involves a good dose of installation, but nothing close to that of through and through kit builds that can amount to dozens of hours merely to get them up and running, let alone printing.
The printer comes in one sizeable protective package that contains two smaller boxes. One includes a fully enclosed styrofoam tray for transit protection that houses the base (with build plate attached), X-Wing mount, filament spool(s), and Q-Extruder. The other box is home to the vertical frame parts that require assembly (frame, supports, brackets, mounts, rods, etc.), USB cable, nuts and bolts, pins, zip ties, power cord, tools, 4GB SD card, Allen keys, filament tubing, and official documentation.
Assembly of the frame and extruder isn’t particularly difficult, although it is time-consuming it must be said, but the lack of clear instructions caused headaches as we pretty much had to go at it alone, unaided. The whole process over three hours from start to finish and for a supposedly pre-assembled 3D printer was wholly unsatisfactory. A tinkerer who enjoys building will have a field day, but a first-timer will struggle too much to find the process frustrating, much less enjoyable.
Feeding the filament into the extruder was surprisingly easy and involved feeding the filament into the hot end, then tightening the extruder gears to secure purchase on the material.
Calibration was nothing short of a nightmare: too many variables to consider, the absence of assisted calibration, setting axis limit positions, and an endless back and forth of trial and error that was more trouble than it was worth.
Frustration levels reached such heights that we had to tackle calibration in multiple sessions to avoid tossing the whole printer out of the window in sheer desperation. The problem was so pronounced that even someone well-versed in 3D printing would find it a source of irritation.
To add insult to injury our kit was missing a few bolts. We solved the problem thanks to a collection of odd bits and parts we had lying around. Quality control was lacking at the production and shipping level.
The print quality was overall reasonably good when the printer performed with smooth surfaces, a fast print speed, and few imperfections. However, when things did go wrong, the results were disastrous with the sense that even the slightest issue was at risk of turning into a catastrophic bundle of wasted plastic.
Issues seemed to surface based on the quality of the parts, and a quick visit to a selection of forums uncovered a wealth of recommended upgrades and basic maintenance tasks (such a lubricating the axes and calibrating them) that the printer desperately needed to stop consistent printing problems.
Once again, a veteran may find joy in tweaking the printer to suit their needs, but given that Rapide presented the Lite 200 as an affordable, precision, easy-to-use printer, the results didn’t live up to that premise.
Another supposed feature that doesn’t work to the advantage of quality prints is the all aluminum frame. It provides rigidity, but the result is that the whole printer tends to sway with the extruder rather than keep it firmly in place. The problem repeatedly led to layering mishaps that caused the extruder to snag on the print, tear it off the build plate, and continue extruding a mess of filament destined for the trash pile.
Overall, the print process caused more problems than it birthed good results and this significantly affected our appreciation of the experience.
The Rapide Lite 200 is no longer manufactured, and Rapide is all but defunct meaning there are no support services to rely on for assistance. Equally, any warranty on existing products has long since expired. The result is that if you pick up a Lite 200, you’ll have to rely on web-based enthusiast communities for troubleshooting help and part repairs. As for replacement parts, the only real option is to get creative and conjure up artisanal fixes that are more a stopgap than long term solution.
Rapide’s demise is a strange story of hacked servers, the inherent difficulty for a foreign company to manufacture in China, police bribes, denied licenses, factory walkouts, and incognito employees from other companies infiltrating the Rapide factory. Regardless of this rich tapestry of events seemingly pulled a Hollywood movie, many backers are out of pocket with no chance of recuperating any of their investment, perks, and the like.
On the surface, the Rapide Lite 200 promises an affordable 3D printing solution that brings the technology to the hands of those who don’t want to fork out multiple thousands of dollars for a decent machine. In reality, there is too much wrong with the Lite 200 to make it a worth well investment regardless of whether you are a first-timer, intermediate user, or weathered veteran.
The difficulty of assembly, questionable design choices, and fluctuating print success rates put too much of a dampener of our experience to warrant a thumbs up. We’d say that in keeping with the sketchy end to a thrilling crowdfunding run, the Rapide Lite 200 is an all-around disappointment.
We can only recommend it to someone who can pick it up for a low price (and we mean at a fraction of the full cost) and is ready and willing to work long hours to improve the printer.