Lotmaxx sc-10 shark review by JAMES BRUCE
This reivew by JAMES BRUCE on makeuseof.com
Easy to use, good quality prints, reasonably priced: pick any two when it comes to 3D printers.
At least, that used to be the case. The Lotmaxx SC-10 Shark doesn't compromise on build quality, yet it's also easy to use, works out of the box for reliable prints, and is very reasonably priced. It even has a selection of upgrades available, able to turn it into a dual-color extruder, or even a laser engraver.
Initial Impressions and Design
Arriving somewhat flat-packed, you'll need to spend a good half hour or so putting together the SC-10 Shark before first use. This isn't as bad as it sounds; it's certainly not what I'd call a DIY kit. Construction amounts to bolting on the upright gantry, as well as the spool holders, and screen. An extensive set of tools are provided, as well as a replacement Bowden tube, clippers, and scraper. Everything you could possibly need to get started printing is included, including some sample filament.
lotmaxx sc10 shark, some construction required
The component quality of the SC-10 is a class above most printers, with an all-metal T-slot chassis and injection molded plastic parts. It looks and feels premium, and solidly built. Whether that translates to good quality prints is another matter.
lotmaxx sc10 shark quality parts
The core design is that of an Ender 3 clone, with a Bowden tube feeding the filament into the print head. A filament feed sensor ensures that running out of filament mid-print will pause and alert you to change it.
lotmaxx sc10 shark filament sensor
While the filament sensor is a useful touch, I admit I'm not a fan of the Bowden tube. The interface of the printer means that changing the filament requires pressing the same button about thirty times in order to move the filament 10mm at a time until it leaves the tube. A direct-drive extruder located directly on the print head is much easier, but this is a minor complaint.
lotmaxx sc10 shark screen
A large, removable full-color touchscreen can be found on the right-hand side, with a coiled cable which means you can manipulate the screen from anywhere within about a foot radius. Although this sounds like a small point of note in the hardware specs, I found it to be surprisingly useful, especially when you've got the printer perhaps pushed off to the back of your desk, or in a cabinet. The interface is a little slow, however, and could probably have simplified into a monochrome scheme to speed up processing.
You can transfer Gcode to the printer using a micro-SD card. Although USB printing is supported, it's not recommended from a PC, and I have yet to see any official support for Octoprint.
lotmaxx sc10 shark flexible build plate
Particularly useful for beginners is the heated and removable flexible build plate. A heated build plate helps with first layer adhesion, which means fewer failed prints. Removing prints is effortless: just pull off the magnetically attached steel build plate, and bend it slightly to release the print. Scrape off any residue using the supplied scraper.
Lotmaxx SC-10 Shark: First Print
Before getting started with your first print, you'll need to manually level the print bed using four large dials located underneath. Select the leveling process from the settings menu, and place a sheet of paper on the print bed. Tap each leveling point in turn, and adjust the dial until you can start to feel some friction on the paper between the nozzle and the build plate. Repeat until it feels the same at all five points.
My first print was using the supplied test Gcode: a lucky cat. I'm pleased to report it worked the first time, with good adhesion and fast printing speed. While there is a slight issue with a drooping overhang under the right paw, it's still incredible quality for a first print, and these could easily be fixed by slowing it down.
lotmaxx sc10 first print lucky cat
What really surprised me was how incredibly quiet it was when printing. When idle, the fan noise is audible but easily ignored; but when printing starts, you could be in the same room and not actually know it's on. This is in sharp contrast to my aging Prusa Original mkII, which the entire house is aware of. The combination of solid metal frame, powerful stepper motors, and good quality stepper driver chips are what makes this possible. I would happily put the Lotmaxx SC-10 Shark in my office or bedroom while it prints.
Lotmaxx provides custom software for slicing; it appears to be a modified version of Cura. Though I'm more familiar with Slicr, it feels easy enough for beginners and pros alike, displaying all the features I'd expect in an accessible way. There's a variety of quality presets, or you can delve into the individual parameters and create your own custom profiles. Slicing a downloaded STL file (for a 2V geodesic dome) was effortless, and again, produced a fantastic quality print with no failures. Printed at a slower speed than the lucky cat, there were no bridging issues at all.
lotmaxx sc10 shark dome piece
There's no reason you can't use your own favorite slicing software, of course—the printer uses standard Gcode, and the settings can be taken from the device profile. But for beginners, I'd recommend just using the Lotmaxx software until you're more comfortable.
There's another reason to use the supplied software: if you purchased the laser engraving upgrade, the design software to produce laser Gcodes is integrated. Unlike 3D object slicers, I'm not aware of any third-party software that can handle this. Which brings us neatly onto the first upgrade available for the Lotmaxx SC-10 Shark.
Laser Engraving Module
The laser engraver is the easiest module to install, requiring only a few bolts to secure it to the right-hand side of the standard 3D print head. Once plugged in (to the front of the machine), the printer will automatically recognize it should switch over to Laser mode, without any firmware modifications or settings being changed. The interface adjusts accordingly, and you'll be able to select your laser Gcode for printing.
lotmaxx sc10 shark laser engraving in action
Use the clips provided to attach your print surface securely to the build plate. Since the engraver module is attached to the right of the print head, the actual area available to print on is less than the full build plate; roughly two-thirds the size, but this is still plenty big enough for most purposes. MAke sure you're wearing the provided safety goggles, then activate the laser and use a combination of the Z-axis and manually adjusting the focus dial on the laser module until the laser beam is focussed. Then you can start printing your design.
lotmaxx sc10 shark laser engraving results
While it's generally safe to leave a 3D printer to its get on with its business thanks to thermal safety features, burning wood and other materials with a high-powered laser is another matter. Do not leave the machine unattended when printing in this mode.
Unfortunately, my results with the laser engraver were disappointing. Rather than treating outlines as a continuous movement then filling in the middle (as it would when 3D printing), the laser engraver prints line by line, like an inkjet. It looks quite terrible and ruins the utility of the module for me. The hardware is obviously capable of much better, so either I'm doing something completely wrong that isn't well explained in the manual, or it can be fixed with a software update.
The second upgrade you can purchase with the SC-10 is the auto-leveler, a 3D Touch module. This is a small, physical probe that drops down, touches the print bed, then retracts. It's an inexpensive module, but in my experience, wasn't worth the hassle.
The auto-leveler attaches in much the same way as the laser engraver and also plugs in around the front of the machine. Unlike the laser module, you'll need to modify the firmware configuration file in order to make use of it, as well as change the Gcode start settings found in the slicing software.
lotmaxx sc10 3d touch autoleveler
Though I did manage to get one successful print having installed the auto-leveler, subsequent attempts sent the print head crashing into the bed. After much experimentation, I found the BLTouch seemingly requires the print bed to be manually leveled first, which somewhat defeats the purpose of an auto-leveling mechanism.
At this point, I was also frustrated with the lack of live Z-adjustment. Live Z-adjustment means that you can move the print head up and down even when the print process has started, so it's easy to back off or add a little more squish for the first layer, as needed. If you've manually leveled the bed anyway, this generally isn't needed, since it's already tuned to a paper thickness. But every time using the auto-leveler, I found I needed to tweak it slightly. Which again, involves the manual dials underneath the bed.
This is the first time I've used a 3D Touch probe, and I hope it's the last. The PINDA inductive probe method used by Prusa is more reliable and is able to adjust for all manner of warped beds without any manual intervention.
So despite being an inexpensive upgrade, I just wouldn't bother with the auto-leveler. Out of the box, manual leveling works just fine.
Bi-Color Printing with a Dual Extruder
The final upgrade you can purchase for the SC-10 Shark is the most complex to install, and most impressive—if you can get it working right.
lotmaxx sc10 shark dual color printing a butterfly
Printing in multiple filaments takes the creative possibilities of a 3D printer to a whole other level. As well as multiple colors, you can print more complex objects thanks to water-soluble support structures.
lotmaxx sc10 shark dual color printing butterfly results
The dual-extruder upgrade on the Lotmaxx SC-10 involves completely disassembling the print head and replacing the hotend. You'll then have two Bowden tubes to deal with. You'll also need to fit a second extruder motor, sensor, and filament holder onto the gantry, and remove the base of the printer to install a driver chip. And there'll be more cables to route, which again, plug in at the front of the machine. It took me at least an hour, and I'm fairly certain I broke the single-color hotend in the process, thanks to an uncooperative Bowden tube clip.
lotmaxx sc10 shark dual color print head bowden tubes
When you're finished, it's a little messy, if I'm honest. While I can deal with a dangling cable for the temporary use of a laser engraver, once you add in an auto-leveler and second extruder, the neatly wrapped cabling and overall aesthetics of the printer are ruined.
lotmaxx sc10 shark messy cabling
After again altering the firmware configuration file and printer profile settings, the test print turned out great. It's a beautiful two-color cone, it really is. But one thing you should know about bi-color printing from a single print head is that getting defined colors like that requires cleaning the hotend at each color change. The print head moves off to the side, squirts a bit out into a column of waste, then carries on. To produce that one lovely test cone required an equally large column of waste.
lotmaxx sc10 shark dual color printing
Perhaps this is a non-issue if you're printing an entire plate full of beautifully bi-color cones. Wider, flatter models produce comparatively less waste, for sure. But I have to ask if it's worth it. You can turn off the column of cleaning waste if you want, but the results are terrible; you can see below how the bi-color effect is ruined, and you'll get "bobbling" where it tries to change colors anyway.
lotmaxx sc10 shark dual color printing without waste
Unlike some printers, the Sc-10 Shark can't mix colors. Attempting to push the other filament in at the same time doesn't work, and you'll hear the extruders clicking as the filament jams. This means that before each print you'll need to ensure both filaments are retracted about 1cm into the Bowden tube. This isn't an automatic process, so you have raise the hotend temperature first, then retract each extruders. It's even trickier with lighter colors filaments as the tube is opaque white, so you may need to use a smartphone flashlight to shine through the tube.
You should also know that designing a two-color print requires two models. You'll need to load both models in, hope they align, assign each to the respective print head, then merge them. There are comparatively few ready-made bi-color models available in this format for you to download.
Although the results are impressive, the additional wasted plastic, slicer complications, and inability to color mix filaments inside the hotend mean that you need significantly higher levels of patience to get good results. Once I swapped over to the dual-color system, my failure rate skyrocketed.
I should also note that it's still possible to print in two colors even without a second extruder if the color change occurs at a specific layer. This enables you to print things like signage by just sending a pause signal at a certain layer, and swapping the filament over.
lotmaxx sc10 shark pillowing prints
Aside: the print above was terrible quality (though it didn't fail, as such), with pillowing on the first layer and what seems like over-extrusion throughout. I'm still trying to isolate why.
Lotmaxx SC-10 Shark: Great for Beginners
Let me be clear: the Lotmaxx SC-10 Shark is an incredibly well-built and reliable printer out of the box, which makes it perfect for beginners. With easy to use features like a flexible heated build plate and handheld touchscreen, in my experience, there were zero tweaks required to get amazing prints. That's an incredible achievement for any printer, let alone one at this price point. I've tried a lot of 3D printers over the years, and almost none of them have "just worked". Full marks for the core package.
But once I got to the optional upgrades, I ran into increased failures and disappointing results.
The auto-leveler is unreliable and still needs manual adjustment. Manual leveling really isn't that hard anyway, so I ended up just disabling the 3D Touch module.
The dual-extruder adds too much complexity for the beginner and decreases the overall reliability of the prints; I wouldn't recommend installing it and ruining what is otherwise a great printer. If you're a pro user who must have the ability to print with dual-extruders, I'd recommend a printer that's designed for it from the outset, rather than an optional upgrade.
The laser engraver is the most promising upgrade that requires the least effort to install. While I haven't had great best results with it yet, I'm confident it can be improved. If you can buy one upgrade only, it should be the laser module.