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BLV Cube 3D Printer Review

8.1/10

The BLV started as a small project and quickly became one of the most popular community-designed high-performance CoreXY printers. Sourcing the official kit from Aliexpress, we were impressed at the number of features and hardware available but were thoroughly disappointed in the horrible heated bed included in the kit and its lack of a proper manual. While it lacks the feature set and builds guides found in competitors such as the Railcore II ZL, RatRig 3 and the Voron 2.4, its low price point makes up for its lack of headline features. If you are looking for the cheapest way to get into high-performance 3D printing, the BLV Cube is worth your consideration.

8.1/10

Manufacturer: BLV

The Pros
The Cons
Picture of Paul Chow
Paul Chow

Co-Founder & CTO

Amazon.com Disclosure: As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.

It’s easy enough to find high-quality printers with 300mm^3 build volumes. However, if you’re looking for a printer that can accommodate larger prints, there aren’t as many printers available, and many of them cost several thousands of dollars. With this gap in the market, users have turned to community-designed printers to fill a need for high-performance, affordable large format 3D printers.

Often these printers are self-sourced, requiring the user to navigate through several stores and websites to find the parts required to assemble their printer. Online marketplaces, such as AliExpress, have a small number of companies offering kits that include the parts required to assemble the printer. However, there is a certain level of skill and knowledge to properly assemble these kits and generally speaking, it is not recommended for a novice hobbyist.

The BLV cube is one of several community-designed, high-performance, large format 3D printers. Designed by Ben Levi, one of the major draws of the BLV cube is its ability to scale the z direction, measuring up to 665mm in height. The 665mm configuration found on the Railcore IIZLT and the Raise3D Pro 2 Plus can cost several thousands of dollars compared to the Aliexpress kit, which costs around $1,400 for the BLV Cube.

We purchased the 2019 version of the Aliexpress kit for the 665mm configuration. Our unit has received significant revisions and upgrades throughout 2021; however, for the purpose of this review, we will be only commenting on what was included in our original 2019 kit. In this BLV Cube 3D printer review, we’ll be looking into its strengths and weaknesses to see if it can compete with Railcore II ZLT and Raise3D Pro 2 at a fraction of the cost.

Key Features To Look For In A Great 3D Printer

One of the top features of a great 3D printer is print quality (to no one’s surprise). The BLV Cube has enormous build volume, with around 630mm height availability. Another major strength of the BLV Cube is the ability to cool down with 2 powerful fans. The BLV can quickly cool the molten plastic and let it settle in its correct shape immediately. Because of this, the bridging and overhangs are fantastic. Overall, we scored the BLV Cube a 7/10.

Another thing to look out for is assembly requirements. If you’re new to 3D printing, you typically want a 3D printer that comes fully assembled. With the BLV Cube, it requires full assembly. Ben Levi has included some videos, diagrams, and a 3D view of the printer to help guide consumers. However, no manual exists, and new 3D printing enthusiasts might find it difficult to assemble a massively complicated kit. In our attempt at assembling, it took us around 20 hours of trial and error before we were happy with the end result of the Cube kit. Note that the 2020 version of the BLV Cube kit is much easier to assemble, though. Either way, this is not a printer for beginner assemblers.

Lastly, you want to look out for maintenance and community support. The BLV Cube’s components are off-the-shelf parts from different manufacturers. This makes it a breeze to find a replacement for the hotend, motors, heated bed, and control board. Since it’s community designed, there are different combinations of parts being supported. This allows for awesome substitutes for many different parts that can be locally sourced. Even accessing the control board is easy since it’s on the rear of the machine. This is definitely a printer built by the community for the community. Consequently, due to this, the community support is fantastic, and you’ll get help with anything you need!

81

Overall Score

Ranked #12 of 37 Printers

Learn more about our 3D printer review methodology.

How We Researched This Printer

The BLV Cube belongs to the high-performance CoreXY family of 3d printers specializing in high-speed and high-quality FDM prints. These types of printers are known for their reliability, large community support and relatively high costs.

While the BLV Cube is not as feature-rich as some of its competitors, it is currently the lowest-cost way to get into the high-performance CoreXY 3D printer segment.

With that said, we decided to put the BLV Cube through its paces with a large number of 3d prints in a variety of unideal print environments. We also dove deep into its community groups, asking questions and getting a general feel of what it is like to be part of the BLV Cube community. At the same time, we also took a baseline measurement of its performance by comparing it to its top competitors, such as the Raise3D Pro 2+ and the Railcore IIZLT.

With high-performance 3D printers, you would want to know every single detail there is before committing to such a big purchase. We’ve done our research and went through all the headaches of poor setups and bad print quality, so you don’t have to. Don’t miss out on this read, so you know what to look for in a high-performance 3D printer!

Printer Setup

Assembling the Printer
As a kit printer, users are required to fully assemble the BLV cube. Ben Levi has included some videos, diagrams and a 3D view of the printer to help guide users. However, there is no instruction manual, and users may find it overwhelming to assemble such a large and complicated kit without a manual.

In our assembly of the kit, we were consistently frustrated due to the lack of documentation and needed precision when assembling the kit. It took us around 20 hours of trial and error before we were satisfied with the assembly of our BLV Cube kit. Please note that the 2020 version of the BLV cube kit is significantly easier to assemble due to the designed joints for connecting the frame.

After assembly of the kit, users would need to load the firmware and configuration files into the Duet 2 WiFi control board before first use. Fortunately, Ben Levi and the rest of the BLV community have several firmware and configuration files users can download and load into the BLV cube for easier software installation.

Leveling the Bed
Many 3D printers require the user to manually level the bed before first use. With the BLV cube, however, it is done automatically, thanks to the IR bed level sensor and Duet 2 WiFi board. Users would only need to input the distance between the IR sensor and the nozzle before printing, and the BLV cube will take care of the rest.

Replacing the Included Heated Bed
The included heated bed should be discarded and replaced before using the BLV cube. It is an extremely poor-quality heated bed made out of PCB and visibly flexes when heated. This results in inconsistent layers and poor print quality due to the constant flexing. Additionally, the exposed power connector pins on the heated bed are a short circuit hazard when combined with the spring steel flexible bed plate.

We replaced the included heated bed with a sheet of Mic6 aluminum tooling plate. This is a highly recommended upgrade as the Mic6 aluminum tooling plate is very flat, which is perfect for the first layers of 3D prints.

The BLV Cube has an enormous build volume of 310mm (l) x 310mm (w) x 665mm (h). In practice, we found we could use around 630mm of its height. Due to the low-quality heat bed, we replaced the heated bed for all our tests.

We tested the CR10 V3 in 4 major areas: the ability to resolve details, z layer alignment, dimensional accuracy and print repeatability. For the tests, we used stock 0.2mm layer height settings in Cura

To test the FDM printer’s ability to resolve details, we printed several detailed models, including the standard test model Benchy, a Mandolorian figure and a calibration cube. The BLV cube did a decent job of reproducing the details of the Mandolorian figure, Benchy and calibration cube. Due to the large and heavy extruder, the BLV cube exhibits ghosting and ringing on its prints. However, the Duet 2 WiFi board does have the ability to compensate if the user takes the time to tune it.

One major strength of the BLV cube is its ability to cool down with 2 powerful fans. The BLV cube can very quickly cool the molten plastic to let it settle in its correct shape immediately. As a result, bridging and overhangs are excellent on the BLV cube.

We tested the z-layer alignment consistency of the BLV Cube by printing an extremely 500mm tall tube. Quality control and design of the z-axis assembly dictate the consistency of the z-axis of a 3D printer. If the lead screw in the z-axis is off or bent by even a fraction of a degree, ribbing artifacts known as z wobble will manifest on the 3D print. A tall smooth object such as a tube will exaggerate any z wobble. Unfortunately, for printers, these tall, bent lead screws are a common occurrence. We found consistent z banding for our BLV cube.

To test dimensional accuracy and print consistency, we printed a 20mm calibration cube 20 times to see if there are any differences between the different cubes. We noted that our cube measured 20.3mm (l) x 20.2mm (w), making the BLV cube average for dimensional accuracy. We also noticed that between the first and twentieth calibration cube, there was no major difference in finish or dimensional accuracy, making the BLV cube a very consistent 3D printer.

Setting up Prints
As a community-designed 3D printer, the BLV cube does not come bundled with slicer software like many commercial 3D printers. Fortunately, the community has developed several profiles for the BLV cube, and the latest version of Cura does include a profile for the BLV cube. This allows for 3D models to be easily sliced and prepared for the BLV cube.

Once 3D models are sliced, they can be uploaded directly to the BLV cube over WiFi using the Duet 2 WiFi control board. The Duet 2 features an extremely intuitive web interface that is responsive and easy to navigate. From here, users can start and monitor their prints. This is by far the most pleasant way we have interacted with a 3D printer. For our tests, we used the default BLV cube profile in Cura.

Noise Levels
The TMC 2260 stepper drivers and the large aluminum frame susceptible to vibrations make the BLV Cube one of the loudest printers we’ve ever worked with. While idle, the BLV cube is relatively quiet at 41db. With the hotend fan and PSU fan running, it generates around 66db of noise while in motion. This is among the loudest we have heard in a 3D printer.

Unfortunately, the biggest culprit of noise is its aluminum frame, as any vibrations are amplified by it. We have tested silent TMC 5160 and TMC 2209 stepper drivers, and even those generate about 60db of noise when in motion. Some users reported that the aluminum frame could be silenced by filling the voids of the frame with sand.

Print Speeds
As a CoreXY 3D printer, the BLV is capable of printing at fast speeds. By default, it prints at a very conservative 60mm/s. However, in our tests, we have pushed it to 100mm/s for PLA and found that the printer has no trouble keeping up with such high speeds.

With its 3:1 dual drive extruder, it is also capable of printing TPU and other flexibles quickly with a very speedy print speed of 50mm/s.

Hardware

The BLV Cube is an enormous machine in its 665mm configuration. At 550mm (l) x 550mm (w) x 960mm (h), it’s unlikely that this 3D printer can be placed on a table instead of on the ground. Additionally, with a weight of 35kg, two people would be needed to move this printer. Sporting a build volume of 310mm (l) x 310mm (w) x 665mm (h), this makes the BLV cube the largest 3D printer we have ever tested.

Constructed primarily out of 2040 aluminum extrusion, the BLV cube is a robust and sturdy machine. In contrast, the Railcore IIZLT is a much thinner and lighter machine with 1515 aluminum extrusions, requiring the printer to be enclosed with panels for adequate rigidity. The BLV cube kit that was purchased did not include panels to enclose the printer, but this option is available to users. The Raise3D Pro 2 Plus is a polished machine that is fully enclosed with acrylic panels and doors. Due to its even heavier construction, the Pro 2 Plus is significantly heavier at 59.3kg.

Safety Highlights

Thermal Runaway Protection
One of the biggest concerns of 3D printing is the heater losing control and catching fire. Thermal runaway protection is a software feature that monitors the hotend to ensure it stays within acceptable temperatures. More modern printers, including the BLV Cube, have this feature enabled. In the case of the BLV Cube, if it detects that the heater’s temperature is going out of an acceptable range, then it will display a heating error message and power down the machine until the user has acknowledged the heating error message.

Cable Relief and Cable Management
A major aspect of a CoreXY 3d printer is the moving heated bed up and down while the printer is in operation. The moving bed places stress on the power cables that connect to the heated bed, which could break and cause a fire or risk electrocuting the user. We were disappointed that the included heated bed did not come with any cable relief to mitigate this risk.

The AliExpress kit includes a small length of flexible nylon sleeving that can be used to wrap and protect some of the cables that connect to the various components of the BLV cube. Unfortunately, the included length was not enough to cover all the cables connecting the various components, therefore, in our build of the BLV cube, we added additional nylon sleeving and cable chains to organize and protect the wiring.

Heated Bed Short Circuit Risk
The included heated bed of our AliExpress kit includes exposed pins to connect the power cables. These exposed pins are an enormous safety risk and will cause a short circuit if put in contact with the spring steel flex plate. We highly recommend anyone purchasing this kit to immediately discard the heated bed and source another one.

Maintenance

Finding Replacement Parts
Many of the BLV cube’s components are off-the-shelf parts from multiple different manufacturers. As a result, it is very easy to find replacements for the hotend, motors, control board and heated bed.

Due to its community design, there are multiple different combinations of components being supported. This allows users to substitute many different parts with ones that they can locally source, allowing nearly any 3D printer retailer to be a source of parts for the BLV cube.

Accessing the Control Board
The 665mm configuration of the BLV cube has its control board mounted on the rear of the machine. Due to the open nature of the BLV Cube, there is nothing in the way of accessing the control board.

Features & Upgrades

Metal Parts Upgrade
A large portion of the BLV cube is made out of 3D-printed parts. This is done to reduce the cost associated with machining individual printer components. While this does not affect print quality, some users may feel uncomfortable with so many structural components that are 3D printed. In 2020, some AliExpress vendors released a metal upgrade kit that replaces almost all the 3D printed components with metal versions for increased precision and rigidity.

Community Support

The BLV Cube enjoys its position as one of the more affordable ways to get into high-performance large format 3D printing. It has a large and active community on Facebook where users can find solutions to their issues and find mods and upgrades for their BLV cube:

Final Verdict

The BLV Cube sits in a unique space where it can compete with very large 3D printers that cost a lot more. While, in many cases, the BLV cube can match the performance of Railcore and Raise3D Pro 2 Plus, it sits firmly in the enthusiast market due to its poor documentation and quality control issues with its AliExpress kit. We can’t stress enough how unacceptable it was for our AliExpress kit to include such a poor and unsafe heated bed. Unlike a professional machine such as the Raise3D Pro 2 Plus, the BLV Cube is an extremely adaptable machine, accommodating a huge range of parts and upgrades, allowing it to be a 3D printer specifically customized for the user. We recommend the BLV Cube to enthusiasts looking for one of the cheapest ways to enter the high-performance large 3D printer space.

Disclaimer
3DGearZone.com is a professional review site that receives compensation from the companies whose products we review. We test each product thoroughly and give high marks to only the very best. We don’t guarantee, however, that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services. 3DGearZone.com is independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own. 

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Sources
1. BLVProjects.com, “BLV Projects” Accessed July 26, 2022.

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