A few months ago I received a Snapmaker 2.0 A350 which is a 3-in-1 machine. It’s a modular machine that can act as a 3D printer, a laser cutter/engraver, as well as a CNC carving and milling machine.
I was a little unsure of what to expect when I received this unit. First, it’s a multi-function machine, and in my experience, a lot of the time when you have a multi-function machine, it doesn’t really do any one of the functions nearly as well as a machine that’s dedicated to that specific purpose. Secondly, this product came out of a Kickstarter campaign. Now, that was the original Snapmaker and this is the second generation of this product, but still, knowing that it originally came through that Kickstarter process I just wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of production quality and software integration.
I’ve got to tell you though, when I received this machine right from the minute I opened the box, I was surprised and impressed. And I continued to be surprised and impressed throughout the process of testing each of these three different modules. Now that’s not to say that this machine isn’t without its downsides. Certainly, there are shortcomings when you have a multi-function machine like this, but overall I was pleasantly surprised and I’ll tell you more about why in the video below.
Snapmaker 2.0 Overview Video with Jeremy Simon
Unboxing the Snapmaker 2.0
When my colleague and I opened the box for the Snapmaker 2.0, the very first thing that we were presented with was a quick start guide. This quick start guide is packaged in a way that it’s flush-mounted with the custom foam packaging in there so you can’t quite see until you take it out that it’s actually 90 pages long! We had a bit of a chuckle over that, but it turns out, of course, it’s mostly pictures and it was exactly what we needed. It’s beautifully done, has great photos, and has step-by-step instructions that provided everything that we needed to get through the assembly process without issue.
After you take off that top layer where the quick start guide is, you start to see the rest of the packaging, which really blew me away! Everything is perfectly fitted together in custom boxes and each box is labeled to let you know what’s inside of it. Even the components within those boxes are labeled, so you got all the different screws and little baggies that are labeled with the types of screws and all the accessories, and everything is just beautifully laid out and organized.
I was really quite impressed as I went through the unboxing process. As we proceeded, the next thing that surprised me was the quality of the parts themselves. I immediately associated it with Apple products because those are the products that really have impressed me the most in terms of the quality of the components used, the packaging, and the whole experience of unboxing and getting started with the product. Snapmaker really achieved that level in their product quality and packaging. You’ll see that in all of the parts and you can really feel that quality as you put the machine together because it’s very solid.
Everything goes together nicely and it just feels like it’s a stable, solid, machine. The assembly process took me about an hour to an hour and a half for the machine itself but I was kind of taking my time. The enclosure took probably another hour or so to put together. So the assembly process is not difficult. Again, the instructions are really excellent both for the machine itself as well as the enclosures.
3D Printing on the Snapmaker 2.0
Once we had the machine together, the first test I did was the 3D printing function. That’s where most of my background is. I have a lot of experience with different 3D printers, so I had a good basis for comparison, and it made sense to start there.
As I mentioned earlier, when you’re dealing with a 3-in-1 machine, the expectation is that it’s not going to do as well in any of these functions as a machine dedicated to that purpose, and that certainly was the case here using the 3D printer. There are faster 3D printers on the market, and there are printers with higher-end features, such as dual extrusion and other more advanced capabilities, but for a basic 3D printer, this machine performed well.
The Snapmaker 2.0 does have a nice build volume, especially with the model A350 that we were testing. You’ve got a heated bed so you can work with a range of different materials. The performance of the printer was very reliable, and the quality of the prints was very good. In fact, surprisingly good. Some of the calibration prints that I did came out better on the Snapmaker than some much more expensive printers that we’ve tested.
The only noticeable downside was the speed. It took about three and a half days to print a large bust of Darth Vader that we did for a longer stress test (see photo above). We didn’t have any issues whatsoever with the print. It came out flawlessly, but that same print with similar settings on some of the other more expensive printers could have probably been done in a couple of days. So this machine is certainly not as fast as some of the other printers on the market, but otherwise, I had no complaints at all about the performance of the 3D printer.
It was very easy to use and I’ll show you their software in this video. Snapmaker’s “Luban” software, a free download, has come a long way even since we started testing. It gives you everything that you need to do as far as basic 3D printing, just as you’d expect. All the settings are customizable, and all of the test prints that we did complete successfully without issue.
Laser Cutter Function on the Snapmaker 2.0
Next, we moved on to testing the laser cutting and etching function. I had a similar experience here. It was very reliable, very easy to use the software, which is very powerful and makes it easy to get started. The only downside once again is, comparatively speaking, it’s not as powerful a laser as others that we offer and that you can find elsewhere.
This is a 1.6-watt laser, whereas a lot of the ones that we offer here are 30, 40, or 50 watts even, and so the thickness of materials that you can cut through and the number of passes that it’ll take to cut through materials is going to vary compared to those higher-end laser cutters. Aside from that, I found it very capable and you can do quite a large range of projects with this laser cutter and engraver.
Note: Since we produced this video, Snapmaker has released an upgraded 10-watt laser module, which is available here.
When you’re working with the laser cutter function, you can work in one of two modes. You can either use the work origin point mode where you specify the starting point for the job and then your graphics are positioned in relation to that starting point, or you can use camera capture mode. Now if you haven’t used a laser cutter with the camera capture feature before, you’re in for a treat. It really is a nice way to work with your laser cutter and it makes it very easy to get your jobs going.
Say you have an unusually shaped piece of wood that you want to etch something on and you want to position your graphics so they appear in a certain position on this piece of wood. Well, you can lay that wood on the platform and then use the camera capture feature (there’s a camera built into the laser head). You can trigger this through their software, and it will take images from straight above. It’ll go through and take images of the whole work area and then stitch those images together and give you a single view of that entire work area with whatever you have sitting on there. Then you can visually lay your artwork on top of that and just drag it around and rotate it and position it so that it fits right where you want it on that medium.
It’s very accurate so that wherever you place your graphics in relation to that media, that’s exactly where that etching or engraving or cutting is going to happen, within a very small distance. I don’t know exactly what the tolerance is but I would say probably a fraction of a millimeter. It’s very accurate, so it makes it very easy to get started with laser cutting and engraving.
CNC Function on the Snapmaker 2.0
Last, I moved on to the CNC function. I saved this for last for a couple of reasons. First of all, my background is in 3D printing and laser cutting and I’ve had experience with a lot of machines in those categories, but I don’t have much experience with CNC.
This is all new territory for me, so I am learning as I go. This was really a great machine for me to get started with. Just like the 3D printer and laser cutter functions, I have no doubt that there are far more powerful CNC machines, and if I was to invest in a dedicated CNC machine, it would have much more advanced capabilities. But in order to learn the basic principles and the workflows involved with CNC, I have found this a tremendous tool. I think it’s able to open up a wide variety of project possibilities with the ways that you can use this CNC function.
This CNC machine can operate at spindle speeds of six thousand to twelve thousand rpm. It has a standard ER-11 collet that accepts bits up to a quarter-inch diameter. That includes a huge variety of bits that you can choose from, and the supported materials include wood, acrylic, PCB, carbon fiber sheet, jade, and a lot more materials are being tested. We’ve had reports from the user community of all kinds of materials that you can actually get away with cutting and carving and milling with this machine, but I won’t mention some of those because they’re not officially supported by Snapmaker at this time.
In the video, I show you some of the projects that I’ve done throughout my testing of the CNC function just so that you can see the kinds of results that you can get from this very affordable machine. I was blown away quite frankly. I had no idea that I would be able to achieve this level of detail with wood carving and milling operations.
Using the Tools and Bits with the CNC Option
What I have been interested in doing specifically are 3-dimensional CNC milling operations. I want to do detailed carving, and to do that, you want to do multiple passes with different tools. I usually do a first pass that’s sort of a roughing pass using a quarter-inch flat-end mill. That allows me to get rid of a lot of the unneeded wood very quickly. It would take a whole lot longer if I was using one of those finer bits that come with the Snapmaker 2.0, so for this, I like to use a larger bit first.
So I start with a quarter-inch flat end mill, just to rough out the piece and get rid of as much of that unneeded wood as possible as quickly as possible. Then I switch to a finer bit, and in that finer pass, you go through and carve out all the details. Sometimes you may want to use multiple passes for that, so I might do a three pass job or a four pass job, but in most cases, two passes are enough. You can do one just as a roughing step and then the second as your detailed step. But for this to work, each of the tool paths that you’re generating needs to be aware of the tool path before it.
It needs to know what that previous tool path did, how much material was removed, and from where so that it can then start from the appropriate point, knowing what’s already been cleared, and just work on taking away additional new material. That sort of connectivity between different tool paths is not yet supported within the Luban software. It’s something known as “rest machining”.
For that, I had to turn to some slightly more powerful software. I went to Autodesk Fusion 360. If you haven’t used Fusion 360, it is a very popular and very powerful CAD program. It is what’s considered a hybrid solution – that is, it operates partly in the cloud but mostly it runs locally. You do need to have some pretty significant computing resources available to run it well, but there are free licenses available for students and educators as well as for personal use under certain conditions. Definitely check out their website for the current terms on that, but you might be able to get access to a free license to this very powerful platform.
Fusion 360 is not just a CAD platform – it is also a CAM platform, which is what you use for CNC. That’s where you do the tool path generation and it does have full support for multiple tool paths linked to each other. I’m going to be sharing a very detailed tutorial later to show you how that works, and in that tutorial, we’re going to show you everything you need to get jobs set up in Fusion 360 for multi-tool machining. We’ll go through all the different settings, give you all the files that you need to get that started, and we’ll show you some tips and tricks to get the best possible results. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss that.
Snapmaker 2.0 Add-ons
The Snapmaker 2.0 is not just a modular machine – it’s more of a modular platform. You can purchase optional accessories, add-ons, and components to extend the capabilities. For example, you can get different sizes of the linear rail modules and you can actually assemble the machine in different ways to give you different types of work areas and format layouts.
I’m not going to spend time going through all of these options here, but I do want to touch on just a few of them, specifically the air purifier, the enclosures, and the rotary add-on.
If you plan on using the CNC function of the Snapmaker 2.0 in any significant way, I definitely recommend that you consider the enclosure.
I was actually surprised to find that this is not just a simple enclosure that provides a physical barrier. It actually is connected to the machine and the software is integrated with it, so from the touch panel you can turn on the integrated LED lights that are inside the enclosure, and it provides great, even illumination inside so you can see what you’re working on.
You can also adjust the fan speed on the enclosure (there is an exhaust with a fan on the back). The enclosure really helps to keep that sawdust contained, so if you’re working with the CNC mode in any significant way, it really is a must, or your whole room is going to get filled with salt dust. If you’re working with CNC and doing things like wood carving and milling like I’ve been doing, you’re definitely going to want that enclosure. You’ll be happy that you have it.
Air Purifier Option
The air purifier is a fairly recent addition. This is really nice to have if you’re going to be doing a lot of laser cutting and engraving. You definitely want to make sure that you have a good exhaust system. The enclosure does have an exhaust port with the fan that I mentioned and it has an exhaust tube that you can connect to an existing ventilation system, or you could run it out of a window using a booster fan if needed. But if you don’t have access to a window or existing ventilation system, then you can use the optional air purifier.
It is a self-contained unit with multiple layers of filtration, and it provides a very high level of safety to work with this kind of machine within an enclosed environment. If you need to use the Snapmaker within a classroom or within an office environment or something like that, you can just put this air purifier next to it and connect them up, and you’re good to go.
Rotary Add-On Option
The other thing worth touching on is the rotary add-on that is available now. This is another fairly recent release. I’ve been testing it and have been very impressed so far. It’s a lot of fun, and their latest version of the Luban software is fully ready to support the rotary add-on and makes it very easy to get your jobs going.
The rotary add-on is compatible with both the laser module as well as the CNC module. With the laser module, for example, you could do engraving on a cylindrical object. I have not had a chance to test this add-on in the laser mode but I have tested it in the CNC mode and it worked quite well.
The latest version of the Snapmaker Luben software makes it very easy to use the rotary add-on. It’s pretty much drag-and-drop to arrange your model to where it will fit over the object that you’re carving. It’s very easy to get set up and running, and it works very smoothly. I’ve only done a couple of tests so far, but I look forward to doing more with it, as it adds a whole new dimension to your making. Essentially, it’s taking it from a three-axis CNC machine to a four-axis CNC machine with that axis of rotation being the fourth axis. It opens up some interesting possibilities when it comes to the types of carving and sculpting that you can do.
Software Options for the Snapmaker 2.0
The latest version of the Snapmaker Luban software includes lots of great features. It has everything you need to operate the Snapmaker machine in all three modes (3D printing, laser cutting, and CNC). In the video, I provide a demo of the software so you can see how it works.
Overall, the Luban software has really impressed me. It’s very easy to use, it’s very stable, and I haven’t had a crash yet, even when working with large and complex jobs. It works very well, and the tutorials included within the software are excellent to guide you step by step through each of the different processes. They’ve done a nice job here. The only limitation I’ve run into is in the CNC module, where I wanted to be able to do multi-tool jobs that need the rest machining function discussed earlier. For that, I used Autodesk Fusion 360, and the details of that will be covered in a later tutorial.
Learn More or Ask Questions!
I hope this overview was helpful for you! If you have any questions about the Snapmaker 2.0, please visit our website or feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
You can also watch and listen to our 3D Universe Untethered web series and podcast episode where I share more about my experience!