This is my review of the JGMaker’s Artist-D 3D Printer. This will be a multi-post series where I discuss the Kickstarter Campaign and a review of the printer that I received.
In this piece I will briefly introduce you to the JGMaker Artist-D 3D printer and provide an overview of my experience with the Kickstarter campaign that produced the printer I received. In a follow-up I will dive deeper into the technical side of the printer and discuss my impressions and observations.
Artist-D IDEX 3D Printer
The Artist-D is an IDEX 3D printer that JGMaker brought to life through a Kickstarter campaign. An IDEX 3D printer differs from a “standard” 3D printer in that it has two independent extruders that share the x-axis. This design affords a number of additional printing options to the user.
The Artist-D can print two different materials or colors within the same print. It does this by switching between tools, extruders, during the print. This enables users to create models that have two colors or to use a support material that is easier to remove than a traditional support printed in a standard material An IDEX printer can also use both extuders at the same time for duplication or mirrored printing of a single model. Doing this allows you to complete projects that require multiple parts or mirrored section much faster!
The base level specifications for the standard model are:
|Layer thickness||0.05~0.3mm (Recommend 0.2mm)|
|Build size||300*300*340mm （Single Model） 111*300*340 (Dual Color)|
|Hotbed temperature||Room temperature to~90|
|Mainboard||MKS Robin Pro|
|Stepper Drivers||TMC2208 in standalone mode (X1, X2, Y, Z) & A4988 on E1 and E2|
A “Pro” version of the Artist-D features upgraded stepper drivers to TMC2209’s, optical limit switches for the x-axis, a touchscreen display, and a name brand Meanwell power supply.
If you are interested in my impressions of the printer and less about the Kickstarter campaign you can skip this article and jump to my review of the printer.
JGMaker introduced the Artist-D to the world in mid-September of 2020 through a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign which completed a month later. Over 1,200 backers pledged over $500,000 that completed .
If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter the first thing you should know is that Kickstarter is not a store. This is a mantra that you will see posted numerous times, often as a reply to an impatient backer waiting for their reward. Another thing about Kickstarter is that it often involves individuals and companies that have little knowledge of bringing products to life or are smaller endeavors aiming at producing niche products.
I am not new to Kickstarter campaigns. I have been a backer on campaigns that were run wonderfully and completed with an on time delivery of the reward (a backer, the person pledging money to a campaign, is almost always given some reward, usually the product at a steep discount). Unfortunately, I also have been a part of those that ended in a pit of despair with no reward ever being shipped. Those that have yet to follow a Kickstarter campaign from start to finish it can seem at times like it can be a roll of the dice when backing a campaign. However, I feel if a potential backer makes some basic observations and can keep their emotion of wanting a cool new “thing” in check that they can make an informed decision on how much risk they’re willing to take. In the end it can all be taken together to make a good educated guess on how the campaign will turn out.
Note to readers, I understand a lot of you are familiar with Kickstarter, but there are a lot of people out there that just hear Kickstarter but have no real clue how it works. I’ll forego any more in-depth discussion on how Kickstarter works and get more into why I backed this printer and my feelings on the campaign.
Why Did I Back This Printer?
Something a backer always needs to consider is what type of product the creator is trying to bring to market and how well they can reasonably be expected to execute that task. The first thing I did was a little bit of basic research. For JGMaker they had already produced a 3D printer and had an established store and community. To me it looked as if the company was looking to bolster their line of FDM printers with an impressive mid-range machine. Their store was already supplying consumable parts for their other printers which gives a good indication that the company didn’t just produce a Kickstarter machine and then disappear. I had previously backed a 3D printer that met these same criteria. While I received that printer, the whole experience with the actual product and how the company handled itself after the campaign made me be a little more cautious before I would back another.
There were some drawbacks that made me hesitate. I don’t like calling them “red flags” or really “drawbacks”, but they were more of a concern that came to mind. The product in the campaign is a consumer electronics item. Any time the reward for a campaign is something that needs to have components assembled and then is shipped from overseas there is the risk that schedules slip or components become scarce or any number of hiccups occur. Seeing that the company is located in China and is relatively small also put a bit of hesitation in my decision to back the campaign.
At this point I decided to consider the specifics about the product they were trying to get developed. I felt that the printer was not a large departure in terms of technological standards for 3D printing. There are some aspects of the printer that make it a “unique to JGMaker” design, but on the whole the printer isn’t breaking into any new areas of design. The electronics, motion system, and overall construction of the printer borrow from the overall form and function of many of the I3 style of printers (those coming from the popular Prusa I3 series) that are extremely popular at the moment.
The Artist-D uses a novel approach on swap-able nozzles. This brings in a custom heater block and a custom nozzle design. This was the was a bit of a red flag for me. Nozzles are consumable items. At some point they will need to be replaced. This printer uses a heating system that no other company uses. I was concerned that these may make it hard to get replacements several years down the road. The Artist-D also has nice purge/ooze buckets under the parking place for each extruder. When the extruder exits this area it goes across a brass bristle brush. Over time these brushes could get full of melted plastic or bristles would fall out requiring replacements.
In the end I decided that since JGMaker was already able to bring printers to market and maintain a storefront for consumable items that the risk of them falling through on their promises was less likely. It also didn’t hurt that JGMaker sent beta units to a number of well know 3D printing YouTube channels which showed that JGMaker already had tested hardware.
Thoughts and Feelings Regarding the Campaign
The campaign went well from my perspective as a backer. I received a reward and it is what was promised! I was fortunate enough to be one of the first to back the campaign, backer number #160 if that’s important. This ended up being fortuitous as I was lucky to be one of the first 200 backers. JGMaker decided to send out printers to those first 200 backers in an effort to get the printers into the hands of early contributors as soon as possible.
When I consider how other backers must feel I can definitely relate to being a backer that has to wait while others enjoy the fruits of the campaign. It does leave a sour taste in your mouth seeing others post their reviews, etc. In a way I hope that by putting my thoughts and feelings out there that I’m not rubbing anyone the wrong way. This article stems mostly from the fact that I want to document what I perceieved as a backer so that if JGMaker starts a future Kickstarter campaign that a prospective backer can gain insight into their previous dealings.
The one thing I think a lot of backers discount is how the current situation in the world really makes things difficult from a Kickstarter creator’s standpoint. I can only imagine that the continuing effects of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic did end up causing some delays with getting components and other items. This is compounded with the fact that as a Chinese company and exporter they do have some significant holidays from Christmas, through New Years, to Chinese New Years. This makes delivering a product at the beginning of the year a feat. Perhaps this is something that they as a company should have been aware of, but it is a phenomenon that I’ve seen in many Kickstarter campaigns so I put this up to JGMaker being a smaller company without the resources to command commitments from suppliers like a company the size of Creality can achieve.
Having the received this printer much earlier than the bulk of the backers along with being part of such a small group that was part of the initial shipment leads me to have an interesting take on the campaign. JGMaker champions the use of Facebook groups for the bulk of their communications and support for all their printers. I’m normally adverse to using Facebook and most social media platforms. I reluctantly joined the JGMaker Artist D Official User Group and prepared myself for the onslaught of notifications and other Facebook spam. What I didn’t anticipate was the how well JGMaker was using the group to communicate with backers and their fostering of the community around the printer.
Being part of the Facebook group and still receiving communications via Kickstarter also gave me a glimpse in the difference in perspective between the two groups of backers, those that relied solely on Kickstarter for updates vs. those that also communicated with JGMaker on the Artist-D Facebook group. My belief is that those relying solely Kickstarter are having a much more frustrating experience due to what is a perceived lack of communication from the company. This goes completely to the contrary with how the company is perceived on the Facebook group. Aside from Chinese New Years I personally have seen a lot of interaction with backers and the community from the various individuals directly and loosely associated with the company and the development of the Artist-D. Bill Gao does a great job at answering questions and listening to feedback. Where I think JGMaker needs to improve is making sure that there focus is equally applied to the Kickstarter communications as well.
I haven’t quite made it to “SuperBacker” status on Kickstarter yet. However, I’ve backed well over 40 campaigns. When I compare the Artist-D by JGMaker to those that I’ve been a part of I feel like the campaign has been well run. Improvements can always be made, though. Better communication on Kickstarter is always a take-away I’d like to see creators make. I would still like to see the JGMaker create a dedicated support and user forum so that they can facilitate a community that can communicate easily and efficiently, something I feel that a group on Facebook does not achieve. Detailed technical discussions and support threads that can be helpful to more than just the original reporter quickly get pushed down by the numerous posts showing off a user’s latest print or a new question.
When it all comes down to it, JGMaker delivered a promised reward and I feel that they should be proud of the campaign and what they have accomplished.