The iFactory Factory One is one of a handful of conveyor belt 3D printers. On paper, it boasts of a larger print volume and WiFi connectivity than its competitor, the Creality CR-30 Printmill. We were extremely disappointed in its components’ quality control, which resulted in us failing to complete prints on the Factory One. We highly do not recommend this printer and suggest users looking for a conveyor belt 3D printer to look at Creality’s CR-30 Printmill.
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The conveyor belt 3D printer is one of the newer innovations in the 3D printer space. The idea is that one axis of a 3D printer is a continuous loop allowing the 3D printer to either print indefinitely in one direction on continuously print the same object over and over without any intervention from the user. This opens the door to a few niche use cases such as printing hundreds of objects or very large objects such as cosplay props or industrial parts.
As a relatively new design, there are very few conveyor belt 3D printers in the market. Blackbelt 3D is currently the only company with a commercial belt printer: the Blackbelt printer. However, at $12,000 MSRP, it was out of the range for most users. As a result, a few companies and hobbyists have attempted to make a more accessible and affordable belt printer. Powerbelt 3D has created its Powerbelt Zero belt printer, and unfortunately, the company went bankrupt in early 2019. Karl Brown of Nak3D designs has created the open-sourced White Knight and Squire printers, both high-end and successful designs.
However, as of this writing, there are no commercial kits or printers available, making these belt printers accessible only to experienced 3D printer builders. In late 2020, Creality and iFactory announced their own conveyor belt 3D printers via Kickstarter. Promising high performance with the convenience of a commercial kit or assembled printer and a much lower price of $999, making these printers much more accessible for hobbyists and businesses.
iFactory is a German startup founded in 2020 and pitches itself as a high-performance 3D printer manufacturer with an emphasis on aftermarket sales support. Announcing the iFactory Factory One belt 3d printer in late 2020 on Kickstarter, it featured several advantages over its direct competitor, the Creality CR-30 Printmill. Most notably, it featured a much larger print volume and a built-in Raspberry Pi with Octoprint to allow for remote printing and monitoring. Additionally, iFactory has stated on their Kickstarter that they will release print monitoring software to assist in remote printing. As of the writing of this article, iFactory has not released or announced a release date for their monitoring software.
We took the risk to back the iFactory Factory One belt 3D printer on Kickstarter and received one of their early bird December units. Please note as this is a Kickstarter, potential buyers may not be receiving the same unit as we have. iFactory has been active on Facebook groups to gather feedback to improve their 3D printers. So is the iFactory Factory One going to be the start of the next generation of 3D printers? Or will it be just another Kickstarter toy that promises too much and fails to deliver? In this iFactory Factory One belt 3D printer review, we will take a deep dive into the assembly and tuning process and its strengths and weaknesses to see if it is worth considering for a belt 3D printer purchase.
One of the key features to look for in a great 3D printer is print quality. However, this printer is unique due to its belt functionality. The conveyor belt is around 300mm wide and advertised that it could print as wide as 290mm. The firmware included was limited to 260mm, and iFactory has released an update since then to unlock the 290mm. Belt printers also have a unique ability to print at a 45-degree angle to achieve unlimited printing in the z-direction.
That said, we tested this printer differently than the rest. We tested for dimensional accuracy, print repeatability, and large-scale prints. We used Ideamaker 4.1 beta with our own custom 0.33mm layer and settings due to the lack of any presets. Overall, the print quality was good given this innovative approach, and we scored it a 7/10.
The next thing to look for is assembly. We always suggest that if you’re new to 3D printing, don’t take on a printer that isn’t fully assembled upon delivery. However, if you’re a regular hobbyist, then assembling your own shouldn’t be a problem. The iFactory factory one came semi-assembled with the hotend and control board have some wired. However, it’s up to you to assemble the frame and install the motion components and plug all the electronics.
Even though iFactory included a manual, there were several problems assembling that could be because of design issues. Additionally, the motion system relies on X/Y motor belts being tightened to the exact same tension. A mistake here could lead the belt to shift while in motion. We also discovered many of the components upon arrival were faulty, specifically the ones manufactured by TronXY, and they all needed to be replaced. While we love the concept and printer overall, there are a lot of fundamentals that need to be covered before we recommend this printer with full confidence.
Ranked #37 of 37 Printers
The iFactory Factory One belongs to the conveyor belt family of 3D printers specializing in mass production and very long 3D prints. These types of printers are known for being unable to print hundreds of the same object without user intervention and for very long prints such as swords.
With that said, we decided to put the iFactory Factory One through its paces with several test 3D prints, connected with its community via its support groups and forums, stress tested the Factory One in several harsh printing conditions and more. To understand its performance, we compared it to several of its competitors, such as the Creality CR-30 Printmill and the Nak3D Designs White Knight belt printer.
This is a must-read for anyone looking for a conveyor belt 3D printer, so don’t skip out on this! Choosing the best printer can be the difference between a pleasant user experience, great quality prints and a poor user experience with terrible prints and many repairs. We’ve carefully done our research to make sure you have the right information to make your 3D printer purchase!
Assembling the Printer
The iFactory Factory came as a semi-assembled printer from the factory. This means that the hotend and control board have come wired. However, it is up to the user to assemble the frame, install the motion components and plug all the electronics in. iFactory has included an assembly guide which is thorough and easy to read. We appreciate the attention to detail iFactory has made with the manual; however, there were several issues in the assembly process that could be attributed to design issues.
The motion system relies on the X/Y motor belts being tightened to the exact same tension. Many modern 3D printers have included tensioning knobs to finely tune tension on the X and Y motor belts. However, the iFactory Factory One does not include any method of belt tensioning, and users must make sure that each belt is cut to the exact same length if belt tension is to match between the two belts. The conveyor belt tension must also be tensioned equally at each end. Otherwise, the conveyor belt could shift while in motion. Again, iFactory has not included any method to fine-tune the tension for the conveyor belt. The Creality CR-30 Printmill has foreseen this issue and included a way to fine-tune the tension on the conveyor belt.
During assembly of the printer, we noticed our control board was defective, and the iFactory Factory One could not function. Unfortunately, the control board is a proprietary board from TronXY, and we could not find a direct replacement. Instead, we installed a BigTreeTech SKR 1.4 Turbo control board and installed our own firmware. Over the course of the review, we had to replace the vast majority of the TronXY-provided hardware due to very poor quality control.
Leveling the Bed
For prints to adhere properly to the conveyor belt, the heated bed that the belt rests on must be perfectly levelled to the printer’s nozzle. If the nozzle is too far away from the belt, prints could potentially become detached from the belt, and if the nozzle is too close to the belt, there would not be enough room for molten filament to escape the nozzle, potentially causing a jam.
Typically with nearly all 3D printers, the bed must be adjusted at all 4 corners to be properly levelled. Belt printers are unique in that they only need to be levelled on just the right and left sides of the belt to achieve proper leveling. To do this, users move the nozzle to the right side of the printer, manually raise or lower the belt until it just touches the nozzle and repeats for the left side. We were disappointed that iFactory did not include this set of instructions in their manual, and we had to figure this out ourselves. We would also like to note that our heated bed was so warped (there was a 3mm dip in the middle) that we could not properly level the bed, and as a result, the middle portion of the bed was almost always too far away from the nozzle.
The conveyor belt is a unique feature of belt printers and almost all companies are using different materials for their belts. For example, Blackbelt 3D uses a customized carbon fibre belt, the White Knight printer uses a custom stainless steel belt loop, and the Creality CR-30 Printmill uses what appears to be a treadmill belt. The iFactory Factory One uses a similar nylon belt. Each belt material has its strengths and weaknesses, and with the exception of the White Knight printer, each material will leave a rough texture on the bottom of each print.
The belt that was included in the iFactory Factory One is approximately 300mm wide, and iFactory advertised that the Factory One could print as wide as 290mm. The firmware included in our unit was limited to 260mm, and iFactory has released an update to unlock the full 290mm. Unfortunately, we could not test it as our control board stopped functioning early on, and we replaced ours with an SKR 1.4 Turbo with the firmware we wrote on our own. We also could not utilize the entire 290mm build width due to the poor quality heated bed.
Belt printers have the unique ability to print at a 45-degree angle to achieve printing infinitely in the z-direction. As a result of this angle, many test prints, such as the Benchy, are much more difficult to resolve than a belt printer. We instead tested several different objects that would reflect the unique use cases for the iFactory Factory One.
We wanted to test the iFactory Factory One in 3 major areas: dimensional accuracy, print repeatability and large-scale prints. For these tests, we used Ideamaker 4.1 beta with our own custom 0.3mm layer height settings due to the lack of any included presets.
For dimensional accuracy, we printed a 100mm long square tower on its side. This allows us to test how accurate the motion system of the Factory One is, especially the belt. We noted that the tower measured 20.2mm (l) x 20.2mm (w) x 102.1mm (h). We were pleased that the length and width accuracy of the tower was slightly above average. However, the tower’s height was quite a bit taller than expected. Adjusting the belt motion was a relatively easy fix as it simply required us to input a 2% decrease in the printer’s firmware, and a second tower yielded a height of 100.1mm. Unfortunately, iFactory does not mention any way to adjust the belt accuracy, and new users of belt printers may be unaware of such a fix.
Next, we printed 40 calibration cubes to test how well the iFactory Factory One can handle repeated prints without user intervention. As one of the flagship features of the belt printer, we expected the Factory One to perform this well, and we were pleased to see that the Factory One had no issues printing multiples of the calibration cubes with no issues. We were also pleased to see that the print quality was very good on these calibration cubes. Details were reproduced well, with little to no ringing or ghosting to be found on the print. Layer alignment was also quite good, with nearly no artifacts on the Z axis.
Finally, we printed a few swords to test one of iFactory’s most compelling features: to print extremely long objects. We first printed a narrow and detailed sword. While the print was completed and the sword’s details were reproduced well, we noticed that the sword was warped halfway through the print, resulting in a bowed print that does not lay flat on a flat surface. We decided to print a much wider sword to take advantage of the iFactory Factory One’s wide print area. In our opinion, this would be the killer feature of the Factory One over Creality’s CR-30 Printmill, as the Printmill’s much smaller build width would prevent it from printing such a large object. Unfortunately, the iFactory Factory One warped the sword so much it could not complete and failed on multiple tries. We eventually had to abandon our attempts at printing this object.
Our tests with the iFactory Factory One left us with very mixed feelings. It is capable of printing multiple objects with very good quality and is capable of printing some large objects. However, its constant warping of large objects prevented us from completing prints we were hoping that the iFactory Factory One could do.
The iFactory Factory One is part of a new breed of 3D printers in which traditional notions of printing speed do not apply. In iFactory’s version of Blackbelt Cura, we found the default conservative printing speed to be 45mm/s. We replicated it in our Ideamaker profile, in which we found prints completing faster than in traditional 3d printing. The iFactory printer is also capable of printing much quicker than 45mm/s thanks to the included 3:1 gear ratio extruder and we pushed it to print as quickly as 75mm/s with no reduction in print quality.
Replacing all the TronXY components
The iFactory Factory One is based on a TronXY X5SA 3D printer. As a company is infamously known for its poor design choices and poor quality control, we were prepared to replace a few components to give the iFactory Factory One the best chances for success. Unfortunately, we were not prepared for the number of parts and components we had to replace as we had to replace every single TronXY-supplied part. This included the control board, hotend, extruder, motors, and heated bed, costing us around $300 extra due to the very poor quality components coming in the kit.
Replacing the Belt
The strength and weakness of the iFactory Factory One is its belt. Nearly all belt 3d printer manufacturers are experimenting with different belt materials for ease of use, durability and cost. iFactory chose to use a nylon belt for durability and its low cost of production. However, this greatly negatively impacted its ability to print large objects. As molten filament cools, it contracts, causing an upward force that needs to be accounted for by the print surface. Traditional print surfaces are rigid to resist this force. However, flexible surfaces are prone to warping with this force, and the nylon belt of the iFactory One warps considerably with long prints, ruining them. Printers such as the White Knight get around this issue by using hardened stainless steel for its belt that does not allow any upward movement. The Creality CR-30 Printmill’s workaround is to introduce a cooling zone on the second half of its belt to cool the print before warping can occur. In our quest to salvage the iFactory One, we are currently installing a stainless steel belt and cooling zone to see if we can print large objects without warping. This is a $600 upgrade without any documentation, and we are very hesitant to recommend this modification to any user without an extensive background in belt 3d printing.
Beta Software for Setting Up Prints
Belt 3d printing is a relatively new innovation, and as a result, there are very few pieces of software out there to take advantage of its capabilities. As of the time of this writing, there are 2 slicers capable of making files for belt 3d printers: Blackbelt Cura (with customized skin for both iFactory and Creality printers) and Ideamaker 4.1 beta. Both slicers are considered in beta and have usability issues. We found the Blackbelt Cura with the iFactory skin to be incredibly unstable, with frequent crashes and features not working as intended. For example, the printer is to slow down when it detects it printing directly on the belt to improve adhesion. However, in practice, we found it to print at full speed, causing some prints to become detached and fail. For the second half of our testing, we moved to Ideamaker 4.1 beta as it proved to be much more reliable and we highly recommend users of belt 3d printers to do the same.
Sending Files via Octoprint and Navigation
We were extremely pleased with iFactory shipping their Factory One with a Raspberry Pi equipped with Octoprint, as it is one of our preferred methods of interacting with a 3d printer. Users can load, start, stop and monitor prints remotely via a web browser which is incredibly convenient compared to the traditional method of loading an SD card and navigating on the printer itself. However, iFactory has provided a customized version of Octoprint that lacks the ability to accept plugins to expand its capabilities, which is one of Octoprint’s greatest advantages. Experienced users may feel that the loss of plugins may be restricting and iFactory has promised to release an updated version of their Octoprint to include plugins.
The stock TronXY control board is equipped with TMC2208 silent stepper drivers, and for a short while, we had it functioning; the movement of the Factory One was extremely quiet. However, the control board was equipped with a terrible quality fan that vibrated and buzzed when activated, causing the 3d printer to output 54db of noise when in motion. Disconnecting the fan (and eventually replacing it when fixing the printer) caused the iFactory Factory One to only output 45db of noise while in motion, which puts this printer among some of the quietest printers we have tested.
The iFactory Factory One is a large 3d printer, with an overall size of 710mm (l) x 640mm (w) x 500mm (h), sporting a roomy 290mm (l) x 180mm (w) x infinite build volume and weighs 18kg. It is a large machine that requires a large desk and two people to lift. Unique to the Factory One and other belt printers is the room required in front of the printer since prints can be extremely long. Users would need to ensure adequate room in front of the printer for large prints to fit.
Constructed primarily out of 2020 and 2040 aluminum extrusion, the iFactory Factory One is a sturdy and heavy machine. There are a small number of 3d printed parts that comprise of the printer feet, touch screen and webcam housing. Concerning, however, are the acrylic stepper motor mounts for the X and Y motors, which have been reported to snap under the considerable stress of fully tensioned motor belts. However, while testing the iFactory Factory One, we have not experienced any cracks or damage to these acrylic motor mounts.
It should be noted that most components such as the X/Y motion system, control board and heated bed have been sourced from a TronXY XS5A 3d printer. Unfortunately, TronXY is an infamous 3d printer manufacturer known for design flaws and quality control issues, which have been reflected in our test unit. We will be elaborating on this further in our review.
Compared to the Creality CR-30 Printmill, the iFactory Factory One boasts a much larger build volume as its print volume is 200mm (l) x 170mm (w) x infinite. However, the Printmill features a much sturdier construction primarily made out of 2040 aluminum extrusion and comes mostly assembled from the factory.
Thermal Runaway Protection
One of the biggest concerns of 3D printing is the heater in the hotend or on the heated bed, potentially losing control and catching fire. Thermal runaway protection is a software feature that monitors the heaters to ensure it stays within an acceptable temperature range. Just about every modern 3d printer, including the Factory One, has this feature enabled. As a side note, we would never recommend a printer without this critical feature. With the iFactory One, if the printer detects a fault with either the hotend or the heated bed, it will cut the power to the printer and display an error message, notifying the user of a heating fault and will not resume until the problem has been fixed and the printer restarted.
Finding Replacement Parts
Many of the parts and components found on the iFactory Factory One are user replaceable, including the hotend, extruder, control board, motors and motion system. The hotend shares the same parts as Creality printers allowing users to access Creality’s extensive network of retailers to find replacement parts. The extruder is a cloned E3D Titan, which also has an extensive network of retailers to find replacements. However, the control board is a proprietary TronXY component that can only be replaced directly by TronXY.
Unique to the iFactory Factory One is its belt system. As a new company, iFactory lacks the retailer network to get users replacement conveyor belts and their components. However, they do have their own store that offers replacements.
Accessing the Control Board
The iFactory Factory One features a control box mounted underneath the conveyor belt for its electronics. While this improves its aesthetics as its electronics are hidden away from the user, it is a pain to access. Users must fully disassemble the conveyor belt to access the control box, which could take more than an hour. Once assembled, users would be greeted by a relatively roomy workspace to access the control board. Connectors are hot glued to the control board, which is common practice with many 3d printer manufacturers. We disliked this as it requires us to perform the extra step of removing the glue before working on the electronics.
Filament Runout Sensor
Directly above the filament spool holder on the iFactory Factory One is a filament runout sensor. This sensor will detect when the Factory One runs out of filament, pause the printer and wait until the user loads in new filament before resuming. This is an incredibly useful feature, especially for a belt printer, as users may be starting very large, multi-day prints.
It should be noted in our review that the iFactory has not enabled this feature despite including all the necessary hardware. We have gotten it to work by writing our own firmware, and iFactory has promised retail units to have this feature enabled.
Metal Roller Rails
Most consumer-grade 3d printers utilize Derlin wheels rolling on aluminum extrusion for movement. While this is adequate for most 3d printing applications, Derlin wheels will wear over time and introduce wobbling in the printer. iFactory uses metal wheels on metal rails for motion, allowing for very high wear resistance and removing the need for users to replace the wheels as they will not wear out over time.
Raspberry Pi with Octoprint
A standout feature of the iFactory Factory One is the inclusion of a Raspberry Pi with Octoprint loaded. This allows users to remotely control their Factory One wirelessly using a web browser or controlled directly with a very easy-to-use touchscreen. It should be noted that iFactory has included a customized version of Octoprint on the unit we were sent, and it does not allow the use of plugins to expand its functionality.
A belt 3D printer should not be a user’s first 3D printer. Or even their second. Belt printers are currently firmly in the nice-to-have niche due to belt printers being new and unsupported and with many 3D models being unsuitable for the 45-degree printhead of a belt printer. Coupled with the fact that our unit does not work without replacing nearly every TronXY supplied component, we cannot recommend the iFactory Factory One to anyone. It feels like iFactory has rushed the development and manufacturing of its printer to beat Creality to the market. Users looking to use a conveyor belt printer for continuous prints or large objects should look at the Creality CR-30 Printmill or build themselves a Nak3D Designs White Knight printer.
iFactory has teased an updated version of the Factory One known as the Factory One+, which addresses several quality control issues alongside a dual zone heated bed and direct drive extruder. However, we advise that users wait until it has been released and any teething issues resolved before considering purchasing it.
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1. ifactorypro.com, “iFactory3D GmbH” Accessed July 26, 2022.