The CraftBot's 2.8-in LCD color touchscreen is impressive. While it's a resistive touchscreen rather than a capacitive one (which enables a far lighter touch, similar to a smartphone or tablet), the screen is fast and responsive. It uses both images and descriptions of functions to help you navigate the system.
When it comes to beginner-level to intermediate 3D printers, simple is the name of the game. Anything too difficult to decipher will ultimately keep users from discovering the full potential of the machine. I found the CraftBot's touchscreen menu's usability and functionality just right.
With the LCD menu, you can perform critical functions. You can load and unload filament, and manually raise or lower the print bed, level it and pre-heat it. You can also turn lights and cooling fans on and off. And you can use the menu to select objects to print from an inserted USB thumb drive.
The CraftWare software
The main functions of the CraftBot, however, are contained in CraftUnique's CraftWare software, which is still in beta.
I was struck by CraftWare's simple user interface. Like the latest iterations of Microsoft Windows, CraftWare uses tile icons for its functions, which were refreshingly easy to use and yet offered some sophisticated tools.
CraftWare's Options menu enables a good deal of object manipulation on the virtual print bed. For example, you can choose the size of your print bed area, which restricts the size and number of objects you can print at one time. You can also choose the display mode -- whether you want an object to display as transparent or solid. The menu has a handy undo feature to remove any previous changes you may have made to a model.
In the Slicing menu, you can select your print materials, enable automatic scaffolding support, add a raft (base) to the object and indicate whether you're printing with PLA or ABS thermoplastics. You can also select Expert mode, which enables more than a dozen fine adjustments to your print job, such as choosing the layer thicknesses -- from 10 to 200 microns.
You can choose to create objects stored in four file types: .CWPRJ, .CWSP, .STL and .OBJ. The menu also allows users to set auto functions, such as checking for software updates and sharing statistics from print jobs with CraftWare.
Best of all, the speed with which CraftWare slices objects (i.e., turns them into multi-layered models that can print) is stunning. No matter the complexity of the model I was building, the CraftWare sliced it in just a few seconds. Some machines I've used in the past could take minutes, even tens of minutes, to slice an object.
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