The BQ Hephestos 2 3D Printer is one of the few open source 3D printers that offer a stress-free printing experience. Being the 2nd version of BQ’s DIY kit, the printer is expected to surpass the standards set by the vanilla i3 (yes that’s a Prusa i3 name).
But does it really live up to its expectations? Read on to find out.
BQ Hephestos 2 3D Printer Review
The Hephestos 1 was based around the Prusa i3, and so is this second version of BQ DIY kit 3D printer. However, this second release has been largely re-designed, right from the packaging and assembly down to some of the components. Hephestos 2 is revamped and more efficient than its predecessor.
Check the video below for an overview of the printer:
Assembling the BQ Hephestos 2
Assembling the BQ Hephestos 2 3D Printer is easy and fast. The package comes with a comprehensive manual that makes assembly easy. You should be through with setting up the printer in two or three hours’ time.
The printer’s build space is about 210 x 300 x 220mm. This is a deviation from the usual 200mm squared that’s offered by i3. The X and Z axes use Hiwin linear rails, which are smooth, reliable and stiff. The Y-axis (also known as bed), on the other hand, rides on encased LM8UU bearings.
Apart from the change in packaging design, changes have also been made on the pre-labeled wires. Individual parts in the cardboard trays have also been labeled and the bed clamping has been improved.
The Heated Print Bed
Does this printer have a heated print bed?
Well, I wouldn’t really call it a heated print bed since it’s merely a piece of glass that’s been attached to a sheet of steel. While this design allows for a quick-release of the build surface, it’s not heated. Therefore, you are limited from printing hotter plastic materials like ABS (the hotend only heats to about 250 degrees) because not only will the layers of your print crack as a result of the cool ambient temperatures, but also the material won’t even stick to the bed.
The BQ Hephesto’s extruder makes it a work horse. The extruder is a two-sided drive mechanism that’s been inspired by Bondtech. Both the two sides have a spring-loaded idler drive gear and therefore contribute to driving the filament. This mechanism work well such that BQ has put a tension adjustment screw in the back that hinders accessibility of the drive gears.
Since the filament is constrained well, the extruder efficiently releases flexible filament. This makes printing with the 3D printer fast and convenient. So if you’re into printing with flexible filament, you will want to have the one.
Jumping on to the hotend, it has been custom-designed in an almost-all-metal-hybrid fashion. The part is made with an almost-all-metal-hybrid fashion and has a piece of an extremely hard PTFE that goes up to the melt zone.
The printer’s heat breaker is made of stainless steel, similar to what the E3D Lite6 has. However, for BQ2, the extruder body is what is used as a heat sink.
With the BQ Hephestos 2, the PLA can now be more reliably printed with application-specific, adhesion-improving surfaces like the 3DLac (a hairspray copycat single use coating material), 3D EEz, BuildTak or Coropad. However, the printer would definitely have been better with a heated platform.
The Inductive Sensor
Another unique feature of BQ Hephestos 2 printer is a custom-made inductive sensor. Most other 3D printers use off-the-shelf industrial sensors. The reasons for using a custom-made sensor are
- The sensor is actually made for sensing a precisely set distance
- The sensor allows easy tweaking of things like temperature compensation
- Full control of the quality of the sensors is possible with a custom option
The inductive sensor is effective. I didn’t even bother to tram the bed on the included adjustment points. Of course the option for manually adjusting the bed and turning off auto-tramming is still there if you prefer it.
For me, I loved the extra stiffness I got from completely tightening down the bed and simply relying on the sensor.
You can use the sensor to adjust the nozzle offset from the bed and set your starting point. However, since the sensor has an offset in the Y direction from the nozzle, it can completely throw your offset off if you end up slightly tilting the frame of the printer (for example, when you are picking up the printer or setting it placing it down).
Luckily you can adjust the offset from an LCD screen. Since the printer is fragile, it’s best avoid moving it around and instead, make your adjustments on the LCD.
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The main frame plate has no bracing to support and keep it upright. Instead, there are 8mm rods that hold it together. This is practically a weak frame. Some i3 designs or even the Mendel90 have attempted to make the frame more stable by adding struts. Hopefully, Hephestos 2 will also go in a similar direction.
3D Printing Capabilities
This open-source machine does not disappoint when it comes to performance. Its ease-of-use and reliability are also noteworthy. This is definitely one of the best 3D printer for beginners and 3D printer enthusiasts. However, it’s definitely not for high-end users.
The printer performance excellently. However, based on its features and the general implementation, it’s more suitable for newbies. The LCD screen, the bulletproof extruder design, and the pre-assembled extruder and drag chains are testimony to this.
For a better illustration, let’s look at the LCD screen. This is a white graphical screen with the usual click-wheel and SD reader. However, it has a custom-built interface that is on top of a modified version of the Marlin firmware. Forget about the text-only menus and the cryptic abbreviations. Instead, there are assistants are meant to guide you through the first setup, including simple things like inserting and removing filament.
Moreover, the printer will home all axis prior to letting you change the filament, or vice versa. It will also heat up the nozzle even when you only want to adjust the offset. The reason for these settings is that one might try adjusting the offset with a booger stuck on the nozzle, or try swapping the filament with the nozzle right up against the bed. As you can see, these settings make using this printer much easier.
By the way, the BQ Hephestos also uses a custom Atmega-based electronics board. This has the capability of four-axis RAMBo, minus the part of the heated bed. Perhaps BQ will expand the set and place all the extra hardware in their upgrade.
When you first get hold of the BQ Hephestos printer, you may not get really excited about it. But anyone who has been using it for some time will tell you that it’s trustable, dependable and the print quality is not any less than that of other FDM printers on the market.
However, the price of this 3D printing machine is quite high (check Amazon price). The Hephestos 1 price was reasonable. Besides, you only get a slightly larger build space with this upgraded version.
Also, compared to the E3D’s all-metal hotend and the PrusaResearch Prusa i3 (which has a heated bed), the BQ Hephestos doesn’t look like a fair deal.
Generally, I would recommend this printer for anyone looking for a sexy printer, doesn’t want a machine that takes too long to assemble, doesn’t need a heated bed, and wants a comfortable LCD screen.
However, if you also want things like a fault-proof extruder, a bed sensor or components like the Hiwin rails, then perhaps you should check out the PrusaResearch machine.
The Hephestos 2 is going in the right direction, and even though the features don’t look like much, they are well-implemented.
Therefore, even with a few occurrences of power-coated through-holes, pulleys that are somewhat overly tight to mount, and the loud stepper whine at 15 kHz, this is still one of the best 3D starter printer.
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