Let me say right up front, this is NOT meant to bash my FT-5 or any other FT product.
Please do not take it that way!
It is a (hopefully fair) presentation and contrast of the build experiences I have had with both these printers.
I recently decided to build a smaller printer for our son and grand kids to use.
The FT-5, though a work horse, is way too much for them to deal with.
At first I was going to build one from the discarded FT-5 parts (mine is highly modified).
But I am too busy at work and with other home projects to do that.
So I decided to buy another kit and take my chances.
I looked long and hard at other FT offerings and decided to go a different direction.
Based upon a year+ of experiences (good and bad) with the FT-5, I decided upon a Creality Ender 4.
It serves a print volume of roughly 200x200x300 mm, more than enough for the purpose.
It uses an "H" drive for X and Y (not a true CoreXY as they claim), a cantilevered bed with a single drive motor, a Bowden extruder, 2020 and 2040 framing members, a 24 volt PSU, a 2004 display and an auto-level sensor.
It was also only $242 delivered.
* It was extremely well packaged and organized
* In contrast to the FT-5 (which I have often described as a collection of loose parts), all the major modules came pre-assembled
* All the wiring was pre-cut and clearly labeled
* An SD card and reader were included containing the assembly manual (both the print version and an expanded video version), the firmware, Cura, and even a sample test object file (a cute cat)
* The controller board was pre-loaded with the firmware and pre-configured to run out of the box (with a slight caveat)
* The hot bed wires were pre-soldered, though a bit too short (more on this later)
* A decent set of tools was included along with enough filament to do a real test print
* Alignment of framing members was very simple and the method by which they are fastened together lends itself to frame rigidity inherently
* The framing members were cleanly cut and packaged- there were no loose chips to clean off
* The Z guide rods and leadscrew were nestled inside the 2020 cavities and were well protected for shipment. In addition the leadscrew was doubly protected inside a thick sleeve.
* The Z stop adjustment (though I ended up not needing it) is well designed and very robust
* Fasteners were neatly organized and bagged by assembly task making it very easy to build
* There were no part shortages and in fact they include a bag of spares (labeled spares!)
* A convenient spacer was included to align the Z-axis guide rods (a snap to do)
* Really decent adjuster knobs were included for the bed leveling
* The entire build process from box opening to power on took around 3.5 hours
* There was nothing to calibrate, nothing to configure, just turn on the power and start printing
The test print (the cat) took the next 3.5 hours to do, and came out nothing short of beautiful.
However just to be fair I then printed the very same gcode file without any changes on the FT-5 using the very same reel of filament and it too came out beautiful.
So I guess I could conclude that it was well-sliced......?
Pros/Cons relative to the FT-5-
First the pros-
Pro- As above, the build process could hardly have been easier or faster, as opposed to the FT-5 which took around 10-12 times as long to do (even without modifications).
Pro- It just works out of the box so to speak. Turn it on, level the bed, load the test file and away it goes. No having to locate, download, configure and transfer the firmware to the board. I didn't even have to set the contrast on the LCD display, it just worked.
Pro- The "H" drive system is smooth and rigid. The rubber rollers are quiet and there were no issues.
Pro- The print quality is simply excellent (in PLA), including some re-prints of older objects I did on the FT-5 originally. I have not tried ABS with it yet.
Pro- The printed assembly instructions, though a bit too sparse, were OK, however the video instruction sequence included on the SD card was very clear and detailed.
Pro- Although I was quite hesitant about the cantilevered bed, it turned out to be very rigid and I do not anticipate any future issues with it.
Pro- The auto-leveling sensor works extremely well. It replaces the regular Z-stop switch and adjuster completely, so they went back into the nicely labeled bags they came from. It inspires me to complete the work on the new sensor for my FT-5 in fact.
Pro- Cost of materials to complete the build to the point where it makes prints aside from those provided in the kit- $0
OK, now the cons-
Con- The firmware is "locked". The images are included on the SD card, but not the sources, so basically what you see is what you get. They modified the menus so that you really can't tune it. On the other hand, you probably don't need to. However, it is running Marlin, so I may play around with loading and configuring regular Marlin and see what happens.
Con- The wiring to the bed heater is around 300 mm (12") too short to be routed in a manner that reduces strain on the two ends. And the bed needs to be mounted 180 degrees out from where it would have to be with the stock wiring length. After extending the wires they now coil nicely.
Con- The power switch does not actually shut the PSU off, it just shuts off the 24 volts to the control system. An actual line switch will need to be added. Also the PSU connections are not covered other than the flip-down terminal strip cover. This is not really good around children so I will devise a proper cover for it. To be fair, most kits of this sort share this shortcoming.
Con- There is no part cooler, but there is a good design for one on Thingiverse. However when doing the test prints it didn't seem to be necessary.
Con- There was an acupuncture needle in the foam packaging. I don't know if that was intended as a nozzle cleaner or what, but it was not mentioned in the bill of materials, so ????
So, what do I conclude, if anything?
This isn't an FT-5.
It isn't intended to be.
It is much smaller (about 60% the size) for starters.
That smaller scale and the fastening methods that are used make the frame more rigid by default, and the "H" drive and Bowden setup make the moving components far lighter.
Having major sub-assemblies pre-assembled (notably the extruder and hot end) really helped.
Having fasteners and sub-kits neatly grouped, bagged and labeled really helped.
Having the controller pre-flashed and having the SD card with information and manuals really helped.
It was a far, far more pleasant build experience than the FT-5 was to be bluntly honest.
It is a slick little printer kit, I must say.
How will it hold up? Only time will tell.
Would I recommend it instead of an FT-5?
Well, not for someone who wants to experiment and modify or who needs a larger print volume.
But if the build volume is acceptable and it is intended for kids to use, and you are willing to use the firmware more or less as-is, yes.