When you’re looking for an affordable 3D printer, you should first and foremost discern how simple it is to use and what features it provides. The sheer size of the hobby these days makes it near impossible to find a good 3D printer that ticks all the boxes required to make good, high quality prints without sacrificing something. While the Spark 3D SP1 does fit that descriptor, like so many of its counterparts, it’s still an exceptional printer for a very reasonable price.
For £199, the Spark 3D SP1’s print quality is excellent, offering quality compatible to more expensive builds. With a build volume of 22x22x25cm, Spark’s 3D SP1 is also primed to build reasonably sized prints, making it an excellent printer for anyone who produces props or medium-sized 3D models. However, for cosplay parts, you’ll still need to split large models into multiple pieces.
With its print speed of 120mm/s, the Spark 3D SP1 printer is comparable to similarly priced printers on the market, such as the Creality Ender 3. However, in our testing, we found the machine to have trouble producing text on prints, introducing offsets between layers that, while slight and mostly imperceptible, can be noticed.
With printers such as Anycubic’s Kobra series designed around easability, many look for new machines with modern quality of life upgrades — the Spark 3D SP1 has two. For starters, the machine’s automatic bed levelling is excellent. I barely had to manually adjust the print bed levelling, other than to compensate for a little bit of off angle, and the automatic system did a very good job. If need be, manual levelling can still be done using the screws under the print bed, which are large and easy to operate, so manual levelling will never be a chore. Secondly, the device's flexible magnetic build surface made removing prints a breeze.
Alongside this, the control screen is superb, with easy-to-use menus, a simple UI, and a good amount of control for prints in progress. This allows you to fine tune settings such as Z-Axis offset while the print is beginning, helping you troubleshoot issues instead of wasting filament.
Unfortunately, the Spark 3D SP1 isn’t perfect. For example, the printer advertises a ‘silent mainboard’ and ‘silent fans’, but we found the fans to be anything but silent. Now, we’re aware that fans will always have some noise, but this machine does sound more like a jet engine is firing up whenever the printer is running. This is not a major gripe with the printer, just something to note should you value a reasonable amount of quiet in your build room.
Furthermore, a number of its instructions will confuse complete newcomers. As you need to construct the device when you unbox it, clear insurrections for newcomers are paramount. However, in the current instructions, essential information — such as connecting the Bowden tube — is completely missing.
One major restriction with this printer is that it can only take PLA filament by default. This means that ABS, TPU or any other filaments are not able to be used. This isn’t so much an issue to the hobbyist 3D printer, but it could cause some headaches if you’re using the printer for more advanced prints.
Some 3D printers come built ready in the box. Given that the Spark 3D SP1 has an aluminium frame, this is not such a printer. To begin with, the layout of all the parts in the box was excellent, and made it very easy to knoll everything and efficiently work out where everything is supposed to go. In addition, the manual was very easy to follow, all the necessary parts came in their own specific plastic bags making it super easy to find what I was looking for, and all necessary tools were included.
In conclusion, the Spark 3D SP1 is a highly impressive budget printer. It has a very large range of features for the price and is very solidly constructed once you put it together. Everything slots together nicely, the included tools are of a good quality, and it certainly seems like a printer that costs a lot more than it does. For beginners and experts alike, this is an excellent budget printer.