3D Printer HardwareReviews

Move over Ender 3, the LABISTS ET4 3D printer offers even more for $250

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We hope Creality won’t take it personally that we used their Ender 3 in the title of this article as the reference standard for the new generation low-cost desktop 3D printers. The LABISTS ET4 wants to position itself as a new leader in this segment.

The term “new generation” describes here a family of 3D printers that cost just between $200 and $250 and do everything – and even more – than early desktop 3D printers used to do for $2,000. So, when LABISTS contacted us to review it, we were curious and accepted.

Now that we tested it, we are happy we did (full disclaimer: we got to keep a couple of them).

Meet the LABISTS ET4 3D printer

We’ve become a bit skeptical about reviewing 3D printers, especially developing projects that promise a lot and often do not deliver anything beyond an early prototype. Here though, we can confidently report that LABISTS is not just improvising.

The printer exists, and it is available to buy. In fact, you could buy it right now, on Amazon or LABISTS’ official websiteshop, for just $249. LABISTS will also offer a 30% discount using the LABET430 code.

They delivered the three printers to us – via Amazon – within just a couple of working days. A very professional approach.

Great packaging and a very nicely edited, full-color manual in multiple languages.

Would you want to buy it? Probably. Most who have, and have written a review on their Amazon page, are quite pleased with their investments and rightly so. We also checked the negative reviews and found they were mostly complaining about issues such as excessive noise and the auto-leveling function.

Said that, auto-leveling on a $250 machine is certainly to be intended as a perk, and we had no problem with it (as you can read further down). The noise, well, that too is to be considered a given on any ultra-low-cost system. Don’t expect to be sleeping in the next room while the printer is running.

The printer arrived perfectly packed and assembling it took just a few minutes, much faster than the Ender 3. Assembling it only requires connecting the bottom section (with the plate, screen, and electronics) to the top brackets, connecting the extruder head, installing the belt and plugging in a few very simple cables.

The printer comes with all the tools you’ll need and a clear and professionally redacted instruction manual in several languages (also a nice touch), with color images and sufficiently clear instructions. Anyone, literally anyone, can do it: the age of 3D printers for everyone who wants one is really here.

The plate can be leveled automatically or manually. Either way, it takes just a short time. In Auto-Leveling mode, you just press a button and the leveling detector measures 25 points within 5 minutes for automatic calibration.

With manual leveling, you can take advantage of the built-in guide that lets you select the four corners to level using a standard A4 sheet of paper, to ensure there is the same distance to the nozzle from all corners of the build plate.

The build plate, by the way, is glass but it can be covered with a mat. The mat is necessary to use the automatic leveling function but you also get by just fine with manual leveling and printing directly on the glass. It’s heated, of course, which means you can print with a wider range of materials, including ABS and HIPS. We’ve only tested the PLA so far, but we have some TPU on the way and will update this article to report on the results.

Just print it

I think the point of a review should be to highlight the good things but also to try to find things that could be improved. Perhaps the ET4’s firmware could be a little more intuitive and the touch screen a little more responsive.

Also, the build plate is only 200 x 200 mm wide, which does limit the range of printable objects, especially considering that parts don’t stick very well on the outermost edges of the plate.

These are minimal issues. As is the fact that the procedure to set up Cura for the ET4 is not particularly intuitive. But the challenge is definitely not insurmountable. The fact that it supports Cura means it can be used on Mac and Windows computers alike.

The included dog 3D model is an easy print but it shows good surface quality.

On the other hand, there are a lot of good things to highlight. The pause function works very well as does the Filament Detection Prompt: when the filament detector detects that PLA filament is broken or runs out, it automatically pauses printing and prompts for feeding. One-button automatically feeds and unloads filament with a touch screen.

The LABISTS ET4 3D printer also has a resume function in case of a sudden loss of power. It can resume printing from the last recorded extruder position after suffering unexpected power failure or PLA filament outage.

The best part is the printer’s surface quality and precision: we printed thin walls, tight tolerances at 100-micron resolution and they came out excellent. Probably even better than some printers with a higher price point.

To test the LABISTS ET4 on a more challenging print, we downloaded the foldable Star Wars Imperial Shuttle by Fab365. The models on Fab365 are great because they can be printed without supports, but they do have very tight tolerances in order for the parts to fold and connect together. The result was very good (model available at www.fab365.net).

Printed happily ever after?

The LABSITS ET4 is a good quality 3D printer. Considering the price, it’s a real bargain. To put it into context, not even five years ago, a system that could do the same quality prints and with the same features would cost no less than $2,000. Fifteen years ago something like this may have cost as much as $50,000. Now it can be yours for $250.

The question remains: is this to be intended as a “disposable” 3D printer? So far we’ve been using it for almost two weeks, almost non-stop, without encountering any issue. It’s hard to say, at this time, how well it would hold up to even more intensive use, for example in a prototype shop or in a printer farm. For this price, you probably should not expect to receive a lot of support from the company if it breaks.

We will continue to use it and continue to update this article as new information comes in and as we become more familiar with this system and its proficiency. If you have one – or if you bought one – and would like to share your opinions, you are welcome – as always – to do so in the comments below.

Yes, in the end, we could not resist printing the 3DBenchy. At 100 micron and 60 mm/s it came out really well.

Update October 7th, 2020

As promised we are updating this article to reflect any change in the system’s performance. After about a month of almost constant usage, one of the machines ran into a fairly major issue during a particularly long print (20 hours). Apparently, due to an electrical connection failure, the extruder suddenly cooled down during the prints and we were not able to get it to run properly again. We brought the machine to a specialized 3D print shop (3D Store Catania), however, the problem was not immediately fixable. We will update the article again as soon as we have a definitive reply from the shop.

Update October 8th, 2020

We just received the diagnosis from Simone Smedile, owner of 3D Store Catania, who confirmed the issue was fairly easy to resolve. “The problem was due to a connector that was failing and could not properly carry the electrical signal,” Simone told us. “It is a very minor issue and easy to solve. Nothing that the manufacturers can really be blamed for, other than using a little more glue to set the connectors in place.” In conclusion, we can confirm our initial assessment that the system is valid while possibly not extremely durable if undergoing significant stresses. Just make sure you are either confident with fixing mechanics and electronics, or you have a friend at the 3D printing store in your neighbourhood.

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