My journey to a new 3D Printer: the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon

I got tired of waiting for my 5-tool Prusa XL pre-order to be honored, so I started shopping around for my next printer.

My journey to a new 3D Printer: the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon

I’ve owned my Prusa I3 MK3 (not the MK3S or MK3S+) for just over 5 years now. It’s been a fantastic purchase. I’ve 3D-printed tons of things, including a 3D-printed Mini-ITX NAS case. I’ve designed and shared quite a few of my own designs. I even started selling some 3D-printed items on Tindie!

Ever since Pat decided to buy the Prusa I3 MK3S back in 2020, I’ve been wondering if I should buy a new 3D printer. This wonderment has been exacerbated a few times when I was bottlenecked by fulfilling orders from my Tindie store.

First I Preordered the Prusa XL

All the stars seemed to align back in November of 2021 when Prusa announced the Prusa XL. The Prusa XL was supposed to be bigger, faster, and way more advanced than my Prusa MK3. The announcement claimed printers would start shipping in “Q2/Q3 of 2022.”

The day of that announcement, I paid the deposit, and then I began waiting for the preorders to begin getting fulfilled. In the time that I spent waiting, a few other things happened:

  1. Bambu Labs successfully crowdfunded and delivered on the Bambu Lab X1.
  2. My computer’s GPU, a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, began to show its age.
  3. Prusa FINALLY announced that they were shipping the Prusa XL, but the multi-tool version that I wanted was delayed to at least May of 2023.

As of the writing of this blog, Prusa is still not shipping what I wanted: the multi-tool version of the Prusa XL.

Once Prusa let me know that the earliest I’d see my printer was May of 2023, alternatives quickly came into focus. I could buy the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo ($1,450) and an AMD Radeon RX 7900XTX GPU ($999) for far less than the 5-tool Prusa XL ($3,500) that I planned to buy. Even better, there wouldn’t be a risk of the eventual delays that have followed.

Then I bought the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo 3D Printer instead.

When I realized I could have nearly everything that I wanted, that I wouldn’t have to worry about more delays, and that I could save $1,000 in the process, I canceled my preorder for the Prusa XL and immediately bought the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo and an AMD Radeon RX 7900XTX GPU instead.

What does Brian think of the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon?

As of the writing of this sentence, I’ve logged hundreds of hours of print time on my Bambu Lab X1C in the months following its delivery. Getting the printer unboxed, set up, updated, and printing took less than an hour. Most of those hours of print time have been 3D-printing things for my new 3D printer, but I have fulfilled a few Tindie orders of my ESP32 D1 Mini cases too. If these first 175 hours are any indication, I’m quite impressed!

  1. The X1C is incredibly fast: Just for fun, I had a “race” between my Prusa MK3 and the Bambu Lab X1C. I started printing this Adjustable Spool Holder for Silica Gel / Spool Weight on each printer using each slicer’s .20mm standard profile. I was able to print almost 4 of these spool holders on the Bambu Lab X1C in the time it took to print one on the MK3.
  2. The Automatic Material System (AMS) is genuinely impressive: I have wanted the option of multiple material prints for quite some time. From what I’ve learned in reading about others’ use of multiple filament systems (prior to the AMS) has been that they’re finicky and underwhelming. In those 175+ hours of 3D-printing, I’ve probably done hundreds—maybe thousands—of filament changes, and the only issue that I ran into was emptying a spool of filament, and it handled that quite gracefully.
  3. The X1C’s enclosure lets me print other materials: My first printer was tiny and came with an enclosure and hot end capable of printing higher-temperature materials like ABS. When I replaced that printer with the Prusa MK3, I attempted printing ABS but had a really difficult time doing so. Eventually, I decided to print almost solely in PLA. I’ve printed a lot of ABS since getting the X1C, and I think it’s exciting that I don’t have to worry about any 3D prints melting while they bake inside my car here in Texas.

Things Brian doesn’t like about the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon

As much as I like the X1,C there are a few things about it that worry me a bit.

  1. Bambu Lab is a very new company: Bambu Lab exists because of the success of their Kickstarter, and there’s a chance that they might not exist for long. I don’t necessarily know how valid of a concern this should be, but it’s a risk that needs to be mentioned.
  2. There are very few user-serviceable parts available: Should my X1C falter outside of its warranty, my right to repair would be seriously hindered by a lack of available replacement parts. My only repair option might very well be to send it back into Bambu Lab, which would be disappointing.
  3. Bambu Studio is nice, but it’s not PrusaSlicer: Technically, Bambu Studio is PrusaSlicer, since it was forked from PrusaSlicer’s source. They’re both similar enough that I can use them both, but dissimilar enough that I definitely prefer PrusaSlicer. I’m worried how long it may take for PrusaSlicer’s new features to get incorporated into Bambu Studio.
  4. Prusa is open-source (for now?) and Bambu Lab is not: Up until now, Prusa has embraced the concepts of open-source, and that’s been to the benefit of both Prusa and its customers. Bambu Lab is not following in this model. It’s very much proprietary and could have the potential to be quite limiting.

Prusa Research seems to be floundering

While my new printer was in transit, Prusa announced the release of the Prusa MK4, and I said to myself, “Oh no, now it is time for my Buyer’s Remorse to kick in!”

I immediately began to worry that the Prusa MK4 might have been a better printer for me. I’m no stranger to Buyer’s Remorse, and thanks to a series of concerning missteps, Prusa Research helped me realize that the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon was the ideal printer for me.

Enough of the product page for the MK4 printer or its kit(s) is fictional that I’m as alarmed as I am disappointed. If you were to buy the MK4 today, you wouldn’t get input shaping—so you’re definitely not printing a Benchy in under 20 minutes that they’re bragging about. If Josef Prusa’s blog is any indicator the MK4 may not be an actual “open-source” printer, you aren’t getting the 10% off you were led to believe you’d get by buying previous i3 printers, and unless you ordered the MK4 quickly (when it’s back-ordered for 6–7 weeks) you didn’t receive the 1Kg of filament that was promised to buyers when it was released.

A tiny bit of proofreading, a newfound commitment to honoring promises made to its customers, and a firmware release might be all it takes to break this recent pattern. But until that pattern is broken, I’ll continue to be glad that I purchased the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon Combo.

Is Brian getting rid of his Prusa MK3?

Heck no! I’m flustered and discouraged by what I’ve seen recently from Prusa Research, but that doesn’t completely erode goodwill accumulated from years of hassle-free printing!

My plan all along was to give me the option of simultaneously restocking my Tindie store while enabling me to work on other 3D-printing projects. A second printer has always been my plan, and I do love when a plan comes together!

Final thoughts about the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon

Over the past two months, I’ve been a 3D-printing maniac. I’ve been really enjoying working with the Bambu Lab X1-Carbon. I’d probably be printing this much regardless of what 3D printer I bought. But maybe I wouldn’t have printed this much stuff:

  1. A handful of Adjustable Spool Holders for Silica Gel / Spool Weight.
  2. Enough parts for a dozen DIY Filament Dry Boxes using cereal containers.
  3. An awesome four-color Spider-Man figurine.
  4. Numerous ESP32 D1 Mini Cases to restock my Tindie store.
  5. A Venom-like MINI 13 figure scaled up 400%

Two weeks from when this blog is published, I won’t be surprised one bit if I’ve managed to eclipse 200 hours on my X1C. I already have a few projects in mind for my office, for my Tindie store, and I’m half-tempted to print a whole new MK735 case for my DIY NAS.

I’m genuinely excited to 3D-design something and crank out iterations until I’m pleased with how it turned out. I’m ecstatic that I won’t feel have to choose to either print something for fun or restock my Tindie store.

Are you looking to add a second 3D printer to your setup? I certainly think that either the Bambu Lab X1C or P1P are fantastic values. But I also think you should check out the Sovol SV06 like Pat did. Much of the value is just having a second printer!

Are you thinking about buying a Bambu Lab X1-Carbon, a Bambu Lab P1P, a Prusa MK4, a Prusa XL, or something else? Come join us in the #3dprinters-lasers-cncs channel in The Butter, What?! Discord server and tell us all about it!