The Layer One Atom 2.0 is a high-tech 3D printing machine made in Taiwan. Taiwan is home to reputable brands like Gigabyte, Acer, ASUS, JMicron, Che Mei, Lian Li, Foxconn and TSMC. Therefore, you can also expect an undisputable performance with the Delta 3D printer.
Layer One Atom 2 Review
This is the sleekest 3D printer in the market. Read on to find out about its design and performance.
Unboxing and Setup
Layer One Atom 2.0 comes as a complete kit with a bunch of hex keys. The wires come completely crimped. Unless they get damaged, you won’t need to do any extra crimping, soldiering or drilling.
The printer also comes with a comprehensive manual complete with illustrations for each setup step. You will find the manual detailed enough to guide you to end up with a complete working machine. It should take you about 5 to 10 hours to assemble the Atom 2.0 3D printer in a normal environment.
The included slicer profiles could however do with some revamp. Although you can get a profile for the old Cura (and with updates also for the new Cura), and also a ready-to-go KISSlicer zip, this is only available for one layer height and one PLA material. The current settings require you to optimize each layer height and PLA material manually, unless you are contented with the default settings.
The Atom 2.0 can easily print PETs like TGlase. However, the default PID tune on the hotend will struggle to keep it steady at high temperatures. Essentially, the printer is designed for PLA material. In fact, the PTFE parts in the hotend are limited to about 240-250 degrees Celsius.
Design and Features
The Layer One Atom 2.0 comes in an all-black, stealth look. It measure 76cm (30 inches) in height, has an atom shell (three shaped aluminum corner covers), an optional heated bed, and a beautiful spool holder. The aluminum corner covers make the frame more rigid, make the moving carriages more discreet, and accommodate acrylic enclosure panels. The printer would look just as attractive even without the add-ons. But then again, they make it much slimmer.
Layer One provides a drop-in laser engraver with a 150mW diode laser. This is capable of doing engravings on things like flat plastics, leather and some thin dark materials. The printer’s nominal printing envelope is a cylinder that’s 32cm x 22cm in diameter.
The current printer comes with a single hotend. However, an upgrade might see a dual or even a two-in or one-out hotend installed. The manufacturer pitches the printer as a modular with a swappable effector. However, so far, this is the only source file of the design that has been posted.
The laser engraver with an effector that has a single hybrid metal hotend machined from titanium with a noticeably short melt and transition zone. This effector is custom designed and has a 0.4mm nozzle, ceramic disc heater and a captive thermistor.
Layer One Atom Components
The hotend of the Layer One Atom also works as a bed probe, just like in the CEL Robox. The upper half of its effector is a folded steel that’s been bolted down on two points. The lower half is made of a rigid aluminum piece, a third of which the upper half rests on. This setup makes it possible for the hotend to slightly swivel up as it comes into contact with the bed.
There is also an adjustable switch on the third spot. This not only acts as an endstop but also serves as a motion sensor.
The general outlook of this setup is an auto bed leveling setup that measures to the exact height of the nozzle and does not require a separate sensor. The nozzle has been machined from titanium and is therefore protected from deforming easily on hitting the bed.
Far from the effector, the Atom uses carbon fiber rods with nylon ends. The nylon ends are magnetically coupled to the carriage’s balls. Most people are often cynical about magnetic ball ends as they are known for carelessly falling off. The Layer One Atoms magnetic and ball joints are actually really impressive. The only time I saw them disconnected or move is when I manually increased the acceleration settings, or when I tried pushing the effector down by hand.
Overall, the linear motion system of the Atom is very rigid and precise. This is partly due to the fact that the three carriages have been machined from aluminum and ride on THK linear rails. Clamped with the aluminum couplers are the GT2 belt, making belt tensioning easy without the need for extra softness to the motion system.
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Mechanically, the Atom 2.0 is built well. Its frame is compact and lacks wobble in the effector or joints. Moreover, it has no slop anywhere else in the motion system. The effect of this is reflected in the impressive print results. You will not see any artifacts from backlash or ringing. Actually, a Cartesian machine or a delta can both make good platforms for a 3D printer. They only have to be excellently built.
In terms of firmware settings, the Atom’s settings such as jerk and acceleration are already configured. The configuration is focused more on reliability and quality than pure speed. Also, the numbers are quantifiable. However, if you decide to speed up the printer to high speeds like 200mm/s, it’s performance will still not be greatly compromised.
The Atom’s sensible acceleration limits help to keep speed low for curved surfaces or small details. For larger, straighter sections, the high top speed increases overall acceleration of the print speed without compromising the print quality in comparison to the default 30 to 60mm/s speeds. Without the sensible acceleration limits, the high speeds would definitely reduce the quality of your prints. Nonetheless, at higher speeds, some prints may skip a step. Therefore, it’s best to stick to the default settings.
Next, let’s talk about the specs of the processor that runs the Atom. This is an 8-bit processor that efficiently runs the delta motion. However, using the LCD display on it during a print can cause some hiccups. The plans to update the Atom’s processor to the 32-bit board are welcome since this would be more applicable for a Delta.
Out of the box, the mainboard is an Atom-branded one. The branding may be related to one of the MKS boards. It is worth mentioning that the heated bed upgrade does not use the board’s MOSFet that is specifically made for it. On the contrary, it adds a solid state relay meant to manage the bed’s power lines. Although it probably works, we generally felt that simply using a better MOSFet on the board would have been more efficient, more reasonable and probably cut on cost.
Print Quality of the Layer One Atom 2.0
The prints on the Layer One Atom are overall impressive. However, when you take a closer look at the micro stepping artifacts, especially on the translucent prints, you may notice some issues. These visible microstepping artifacts follow the Delta’s on coordinate system instead of being aligned with the X, Y and Z axis of your part.
We felt that perhaps swapping out the Allegro drivers with some Trinamic ones or simply swapping the oversized 0.9 degree motors with 1.8 degree ones could have helped with this.
The aluminum hobbled gear of the extruder does not also perform as impressively as you may anticipate. The hotend combination is just not right, and the filament tends to push through it more rigidly in comparison to other hotends on a Bowden tube.
Most prints with this combination work ok, but for me it will normally slip and grind when I use larger layers compared to the print speed (higher filament flow rate), or the filament spool shows some resistance. There are times that faster prints for me will actually make out extruder artifacts.
Layer One Atom recommends adding little fan shrouds to the part cooling fans, and printed Bowden clips to the couplers. However, they haven’t included these in the packaged box. The bowden clips reduce retract artifacts and make the bowden system more direct. This makes them greatly impact the print quality.
Other little disappointing things we experienced was for example using the spring clips to run both part cooling fans from a single input. This miserably failed after a few prints. We also failed at putting the tinned wires in the screw clamps (this was actually a dangerous attempt if you look at it in the long run).
We saw the Delta’s resolution artifacts with the straight-walled and the glossy parts. However, these are mostly cosmetic and tend to be less visible on the more organic shapes. The machine is also somehow slower than we had thought it would be. Generally, a Delta produced at higher print speeds will actually print slower.
You should not be so worried about the speed of the machine if you prefer a single clean print person rather than several non-attractive prints.
All in all, printing on the Atom is somehow luxurious. The print quality is above average. The 50µ layer print that I printed on this machine is the best low-layer-height print any 3D printer has ever produced for me so far. So we can safely say that anything from 250 to 50µ layers prints consistently.
Of course there are the little issues, like the strings you might see on some parts as a result of the provided slicer profiles, and others that I talked about before. A good thing is that you can either fix these when building the machine, or get an upgrade if you want a better experience with this machine.
Setting Up the Layer One Atom 2.0
The price of the Atom 2.0 starts at $1,699$. You should also purchase a heated bed to help you print more comfortably with any material, even PLA.
The heated bed will cost you another $349 but it will also come with a frame extension, a power input panel, a power supply and new bed clips. If you include the shipping cost, the total cost will come to 2,000$.
Frankly, we felt that the heated bed is costly, but the all metal and custom-machined hardware makes the price worth it.
Nonetheless, the Atom doesn’t have an entirely perfect build. In fact, even the frame is not quite as tall as I wished it was. But it looks really sexy.
You also have an option for purchasing the Atom Shell for $139 and can add another $39 for the spool holder. If you prefer, you could simply stick a cross brace through your filament roll. By the way, a filament roll that will give you a perfect print with this machine costs $29 per kilogram. So, add that too before you start grinning at the affordability of this 3D printer.
I have some issues with the Atom 2.0 that in my opinion would benefit from some improvement, although they don’t necessarily downgrade it.
My first bone to crack is with the heated bed upgrade. Instead of the upgrade resulting in an external power brick that you can use with the unheated version, you get a larger Meanwell power supply. My complain is however not with this, but with the IEC plug that lacks a protected earth pin.
In the end, the entire frame for the metal printer has some tingly, electric feeling when you run your fingers over it. This is due to the capacitive coupling to the live phase. By the way this is the same feeling sometimes felt on Macbooks as the power supplies they use also don’t have a protected earth pin. Moreover, since the heated bed is around the PCB heater, stuck to an aluminum plate, it takes a long time to heat up and to cool down.
On a more positive note, the setup of the heated bed is what sets the glass build plate and makes it rather easy to remove and to reinstall. Moreover, when you clean the build plate well, the PLA material will perfectly stick to it.
My last point of concern is the 8-bit processor. The fact that this is an expensive Delta 3D printer makes it somewhat disappointing that the whole machine, including the text-only LCD is run on an 8-bit processor.
Conclusion and Recommendation
The Layer One Atom 2.0 is a compact and sturdy machine that produces admirable 3D prints. Although there are a few nitpicky issues that would do with slight improvement, the printer delivers as it is. The components of the Atom that work well will give perfect outcome.
If you need an attractive, well-built 3D printing machine, then this is your pick. However, keep an eye out for the Atom 2.5 that is set to be rolled out. We’re hoping many of the features that are unsatisfactory with this 2.0 version will be fixed in the new version.