Qidi Tech I 3D Printer Review
Launched in 2015, the Qidi Tech I is a clone of the popular FlashForge Creator Pro, which, in turn, was based on the MakerBot Replicator 2X. It’s a lot more affordable, going for $650 at most online stores while the Creator Pro retails for $900. That’s a significant price difference, one that’s hard to pass up for those on a tight budget.
A recommended 3D printer for beginners and hobbyists, the Qidi Tech I is a product of Qidi Tech, a company based in China. The company is known for its exceptional customer service, with some even calling it the best in the business in that area. Qidi Tech responds to its customers in a timely manner, either through Skype or e-mail. And unlike other companies, Qidi Tech always seems like it’s happy to help customers.
In addition to the official support, there are also online support groups that you can turn to in case you need help. 3D printing is a technical hobby, so you’re destined to run into problems every now and then. With support groups and a company that takes care of its customers at your side, you’ll never be alone.
When creating clones of popular 3D printers, companies often make a few cosmetics changes in order for their product to stand out and not simply appear like a copy-pasted product. Take the Monoprice Maker Select v2, for example. It’s based on the Original Prusa i3 MK2, but thanks to its all-black frame, it doesn’t seem like one at first glance.
The market is full of copycats, so it’s understandable for companies to try to make their products easy to single out from the rest of competition. But that’s not the case with the Qidi Tech I. It’s identical to the Creator Pro in almost every way. If you place them side by side and cover up the labels at the front, it’s hard to tell which is which unless you know exactly how to tell them apart.
The Qidi Tech I is a fully enclosed dual extruder 3D printer housed in a rigid metal frame. It has handles on the sides, which makes it easy to move around. It comes with a top-hinged door, a pair of transparent side panels, and a top cover, all of which are made of acrylic. Instead of inside the frame as seen on the BCN3D Sigmax and the Dremel Digilab 3D20, the spool holders are at the back of the 3D printer, which adds to the overall machine footprint.
Inconveniently, the power switch is also at the back, so it’s not a good idea to place the Qidi Tech I in a corner or against a wall. Inside, the Qidi Tech I has a heated aluminum print bed and a lighting system. As soon as you plug it and power it on, the LED lights immediately come on. The LED lights don’t have their own switch, however, which means as long as the Qidi Tech I is running, the lights are always on.
Since the original Qidi Tech I was released in 2015, Qidi Tech has made a number of modifications to the unit, presumably in response to customer feedback. The current model has an improved motherboard, print head, power supply, and cooling fans. On the cosmetic side, the Qidi Tech I has several notable changes. For one, the LCD interface at the base is now angled, which makes it easier to navigate. The SD card slot, on the other hand, remains unchanged: It’s still at the back of the LCD interface, accessed from the inside of the frame.
Previous models came with a top cover that needs to be assembled, which can be a pain as several customers have pointed out in the past. But from the manufacturer’s perspective, it sort of made sense. It’s easier to pack the bulky top cover when it’s in several pieces, not to mention it lowers its chances of being damaged during the shipping. But the assembly process proved to be too frustrating: The screws were too small and the pieces were difficult to align properly, especially if you didn’t have another pair of hands to help you.
And so, Qidi Tech overhauled the top cover design. The current Qidi Tech I now comes with a one-piece top cover that no longer needs to be assembled. In addition, the side panels are now magnetic, which allows them to be instantly removed. It’s the second redesign of the side panels. The previous model had top-hinged side panels just like the front door while the original 2015 model had the side panels screwed in place.
The spool holders are also different. Previously, the spool holders were made of plastic. The new ones are made of metal and are a bit larger in terms of diameter, which means filament rolls with small holes that used to fit in the old spool holders might not fit this time around. If the new spool holders are not compatible with your preferred brand of filaments, you can always create your own spool holder.
Other than the above-mentioned changes, the current Qidi Tech I is the same as the original model. It still looks a lot like the Creator Pro, even with the cosmetic changes Qidi Tech made the last two years. But give credit to the company for actually making those changes, which added more convenience to the user experience.
Since the Qidi Tech was based on the Creator Pro, it has the same features, which is to say that it doesn’t have a lot of them. So don’t expect to be graced by even half of the smart features installed on the Original Prusa i3 MK3, arguably the smartest 3D printer on the market today. This section will be straight about what the Qidi Tech I doesn’t have, so you know exactly what to expect when you buy it.
The Qidi Tech I has an open filament system, accepting filaments from third-party manufacturers, and that includes the ones from Hatchbox, one the most popular brands on the market. It’s not optimized for Qidi Tech’s own filaments the same way the 3D20 is optimized for Dremel’s filaments. So feel free to use whatever brand of filament you want on the Qidi Tech I.
For connectivity, the Qidi Tech I, as mentioned, has an SD card slot, which allows you to print without a connected computer. It’s the most convenient method to start prints. Just transfer the file into the SD card, load it from the LCD interface, and hit print. But for those who prefer a tethered approach, there’s also the usual USB connection – a USB cable is included in the package. Both options are reliable, so just use the connection method that suits you best.
One of the biggest reasons people prefer an open-framed 3D printer over an enclosed one is the maximum build volume. Although there are products that do offer a large build volume, such as the Raise3D N2 and the Jgaurora A8, the majority of enclosed 3D printers come with a limited build size, and the Qidi Tech I is no different. It has a decent build volume, but don’t expect to be able to print a large-scale 3D model unless it comes in several pieces.
Now, let’s move on to the other side of the fence. First, the Qidi Tech I can’t connect via Wi-Fi, which means there’s no way to send prints and view your print progress from your smartphone or tablet. The latter convenience is definitely out of the question because the Qidi Tech I also lacks an onboard camera. Installing your own camera might prove to be difficult since there isn’t much room inside the frame for one.
Second, the Qidi Tech I lacks a filament sensor, so make sure the loaded filament is sufficient before starting a print to avoid inconvenience. The good news is that you can easily pause the print in order to load a fresh roll, but that’s assuming you’re present when the filament is about to run out. Also, the Qidi Tech I doesn’t have a power panic function.
And third, the build plate is not the magnetic and removable kind seen on the Qidi Tech X-pro, so it can be difficult to remove completed 3D models, especially the large ones. But as with the filament sensor, there’s a solution to this one, and it’s more reliable: just replace the stock build plate with a removable, magnetic build plate. It’s easy to do so since you can easily buy one at online stores. If you can’t find one, you can buy the ones designed for the Creator Pro.
The Qidi Tech I doesn’t pack a lot of features, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad 3D printer. It performs well despite its lack of features and is even better than other 3D printers that come with more bells and whistles like the BIBO2, which is also based on the Replicator 2X.
Unlike DIY kits, the Qidi Tech I is mostly assembled out of the box. Although there are a few things that need to be assembled, the entire initial setup will only take about one hour. The older models used to take about a couple of hours due to the previously mentioned top cover assembly issue. But with that out of the way, the initial setup is a lot easier.
The Qidi Tech I comes in a neat and well-secured box. Everything you need is in the package, including tools and spare parts. Unlike with the older models, Qidi Tech now includes a printed startup guide to go along with the usual instruction manual on the SD card. Like the digital manual, the printed material is not written in perfect English, which is understandable, but it’s good enough to guide you through the entire setup. In case both the printed material and the digital manual are too difficult for you to understand, you can watch instructional videos on the internet.
After you take out everything in the box, the first thing you should do is throw away the included starter PLA and ABS filaments, which come in random colors, along with the glue. The starter filaments are junk while the glue is simply too sticky. While waiting for your package to arrive, go buy a few rolls of filaments as well as Elmer’s glue or some other brand.
Installing the remaining parts is pretty straightforward. To be more specific, the parts that you need to install are the spool holders and filament tubes, the top-hinged front cover, the magnetic side panels, the top cover, the side handles, and, most importantly, the extruder and the cooling fans.
The Qidi Tech I doesn’t have an automatic bed leveling system, which means you have to manually level the bed using the piece of leveling paper included in the package. Unlike other 3D printers with manual bed leveling, the Qidi Tech I is fairly easy to level. It should only take a couple of minutes, even if you don’t have prior experience with 3D printers.
Once all the parts are installed and the print bed is leveled, you’re ready to go. Qidi Tech includes a few test models on the SD card so you can print right away. For the software, the company now ships its own Cura-based slicer, which is user-friendly but very limited. Older models of the Qidi Tech I used to come with either MakerWare or ReplicatorG. Some users still prefer MakerWare, but for the best results, the recommended slicer is Simplify3D. It’s another $150, sure, but it’s definitely worth the investment right off the bat.
The Qidi Tech I is just like any other 3D printer. It needs tweaks and adjustments before it can live up to its potential and produce great results. It’s pretty much guaranteed that your first few prints are not going to end well.
The first issue that you’re likely going to encounter lies in the print surface adhesion, or the lack of it. That’s what the glue is for. But don’t use the glue Qidi Tech included in the package because it’s messy and too sticky, which can turn the removal of completed 3D models into a frustrating process. Even with glue, the print surface has a sort of break-in period before things really stick, so be patient about it.
Once tuned-up, the Qidi Tech I is a delight to use – both in single extruder mode and in dual extruder mode. It’s a total workhorse that can print PLA and ABS like a champ, with the enclosure making sure that ABS prints come out clean and accurate. For PLA, it’s best to remove the covers. The Qidi Tech I also works well with other high-temperature materials such as Nylon and TPU – but not without an all-metal hotend. If you plan to print with more advanced materials, the first thing you should do is to upgrade the hotend.
It doesn’t take a lot to maintain the Qidi Tech I. Just make sure to regularly check the extruder and the print bed for clogging issues and warping issues, respectively. Besides that, the only thing you need to pay close attention to is the alignment of the print bed. It tends to go out of alignment after about a dozen prints, although some users have reported having to re-level the print bed after just four to six prints.
As mentioned, pairing the Qidi Tech I with Simplify3D is the recommended route to consistently arrive at the best results. Simply put, it makes everything a lot easier. It blows the custom Qidi Tech slicer – and most other slicers – out of the water.
|Resolution: 100 microns|
|Volume: 9.1 x 5.9 x 5.9 in|
|Filament: 1.75 mm|
|Types: ABS, PLA, PETG, PVA, TPU, Nylon, and others|
|Weight: 48.5 lb|
|Connect: USB, SD card|
|Outstanding customer service|
|Rigid metal frame|
|Dual extruder setup|
|Decent build size|
|Good print quality|
|Easy-to-level heated print bed|
|Magnetic side panels and top cover|
|Open filament system|
|Works perfectly with Simplify3D|
|Limited LCD interface|
|Non-removable build plate|
|Power switch is at the back|
The Qidi Tech I is a really good 3D printer. It’s easy to set up and is more than capable of producing smooth and accurate prints once dialed in. Some even use it for commercial purposes, which says a lot about its overall quality. Qidi Tech is also one of the best at providing customer service, which is uncommon for a China-based company. If you want a cheap but reliable 3D printer that can last for more than just a year, the Qidi Tech I is for you.