TronXY X5S (In-Depth Review)

The X5S is a large format DIY 3D printer kit from TronXY and is the only model from the company that features a CoreXY design. Currently priced at just $290 with free shipping at GearBest, the X5S is a printer that offers fantastic value considering that it is a CoreXY 3D printer with a large print capacity of 330 x 330 x 400mm.

For the uninitiated, CoreYX or CoreXY is a design approach that allows for stationary X and Y stepper motors which work simultaneously to move the hot end along the X and Y axis. With this design approach, inertia from both stepper motors do not contribute to vibration when printing.

Less vibration means better print quality and performance and the X5S’s all-metal cube frame only makes things better. With a price of less than $300, the X5S is probably the best large format 3D printer from TronXY at the moment. The sample X5S featured in this review was kindly sponsored by GearBest.

Product Highlights
  • CoreXY design
  • Build size: 330 x 330 x 400mm
  • Technology: FDM
  • Extruder drive: Bowden
  • Board: Melzi
  • Heated bed: MK2a (300mm)
  • Nozzle diameter: 0.4mm
  • Frame: v-slot aluminum extrusions
  • Bearings: Pulley (X and Y axis) / Linear LM8UU (Z axis)
  • Z axis drive: dual 8mm lead rods / dual stepper motors
  • Power supply: 12V 360W (30A)
  • Filament diameter: 1.75mm
  • Print speed: 20 – 150mm/s
  • LCD screen: 2004A
  • Printer dimensions: 52.00 x 49.00 x 49.80cm
  • Gross weight: 10kg
  • External memory: TF card
  • File format: GCode

Selecting a large format 3D printer from TronXY’s current range is really a no brainer, especially with the X5S around. Although the company has done a decent job in the newer and updated version of the X3S, the X5S is still quite simply the best model in the company’s lineup that has a 330 x 330mm. heated bed. This makes me wonder why TronXY even bothered to released an updated X3S when the X5S is clearly the more superior printer and both models have very similar price tags and feature set.

Unlike the smaller heated bed on the earlier X5 which is supported on only one side by one Z axis lead rod, the bed on the X5S is supported on both sides by dual Z axis lead rods. This eliminates the problem of having a wobbly print bed that the X5 suffered from. Apart from that important update, the X5S has plenty of smaller improvements over the X5.

Although the X5S is usually advertised as a DIY kit, quite a number of parts come pre-assembled. Before unboxing my X5S, I had actually set aside 5 to 10 hours of time expecting the assembly process to take that long. I was pleasantly surprised that it took roughly 4 to 5 hours to build it (minus the time needed for fine tuning and setting up before performing the first test prints).

Some of the parts that came pre-assembled include the hot end assembly (with wires readily inserted into the supplied chain link), X and Y axis carriages, power supply unit and some pulley assemblies. All these assembled parts meant a shorter overall build time.

Build Quality

The X5S is, however, not without its flaws. Like many other DIY kits from TronXY, the X5S suffers from poor quality control. This includes missing parts and inconsistency in the quality of some parts. In fact, my sample unit came with a few screws missing and a missing tow mount for the heated bed’s chain link (I had to design my own and print it). This is something that didn’t surprise me because prior to receiving my X5S, I had been following posts by other X5S owners in the X5S users’ support group on Facebook. Apparently, this is a problem that affected many other owners and is something I experienced also when building my X3S.

Not only did I discover missing screws and parts, there were also some wires that had wrong labels. I had noticed that the hot end thermistor wires were labeled as the model fan. During assembly, it is important to trace the wires and be sure that they are plugged into the correct ports and not put all your trust in the labels and user manual. In other words, you need to know what you’re doing. With that said, the X5S is not a printer that is well-suited to beginners. Those with basic knowledge on 3D printers should have no serious issues with it but beginners who are just starting out in 3D printing should avoid the X5S unless they have friends or other sources that they can refer to for advice.

Another flaw on the X5S is that is it shipped with the incorrect power supply unit (PSU) for its 300mm MK2a heated bed. This problem,  which also affects the earlier X3S, has been widely discussed among X5S/X3S users. With the supplied 12V PSU, the X5S’s heated bed simply cannot get any hotter than 60C to 70C without any insulation. Even with insulation, it can only reach the lower 70’s and seems to take forever to reach approximately 80C.

This is because the 300mm MK2a heated bed has an internal resistance (impedance) of  approximately 2 Ohms at room temperature. By using a 12V PSU, the current that is being supplied to the bed is a mere 6A which is way below the recommended 10A to 12A needed to heat the bed up properly. Current is calculated by applying Ohm’s Law or I = V/R where “I” is current, “V” is voltage and “R” is resistance. Therefore, the only way to provide enough power for the bed is to use a 24V PSU which is  capable of generating about 12A of current (12A = 24V / 2 Ohms) for the bed alone.

To make matters even more confusing for some owners, the RepRap wiki page specifically states that the MK2a bed can only be powered by 12V. Some vendors also add to the confusion by specifying 12V for their 300mm MK2a product pages. This has led to some owners believing that the MK2a can be damaged if it is powered by 24V. Bear in mind that the RepRap wiki page was published a few years ago, at a time when 300mm MK2a beds didn’t exist.

Since it was published, the page has never been updated to mention the newer 300mm MK2a beds. In fact, the page itself specifically refers to the 200mm MK2a bed which is smaller and has a lower internal resistance of approximately 1 to 1.4 Ohms. Generally, the resistance of an electrical conductor increases with size.

Some might be wondering why the 300mm MK2a actually has a physical dimension of 330 x 330mm and not 300 x 300mm as as specified on the bed itself. This is because the 300mm label refers to the size of the area covered by copper tracings in the bed which is 300 x 300mm. The same goes for the smaller 200mm MK2a beds which usually have an actual physical size of 220 x 220mm.

On the smaller 200mm MK2a bed, using 24V would almost certainly guarantee damage. With an internal resistance of 1.2 Ohms, for example,  using a 24V PSU will result in a current of 20A which will cause damage to the copper tracings (the RepRap wiki page recommends a maximum of 15A only). For the 200mm MK2a, a 12V PSU is the right choice since it generates some 10A to 12A of current (depending on how much resistance the bed has).

This makes one wonder why TronXY has been shipping 12V PSUs for the X5S and X3S. My only guess right now is that the company was too busy rushing out these printers to the market that they didn’t perform enough tests on prototypes. They may have also relied on outdated information found on the RepRap wiki page for the MK2a or other similar sources.

I have been printing for over 100 hours on my X3S with a 24V PSU on its MK2a bed and have encountered no issues so far. With a 24V PSU, the bed can reach 90C in about 7 to 10 minutes (without insulation). It can reach a maximum temperature of slightly over 100C. Going the 24V way isn’t the only solution to this problem (remember to install a 24V to 12V converter for the main board). It is also a matter of personal preference. Other owners have resorted to using silicone heater pads. These pads are available in 12V and 24V versions and in various sizes. There are also pads that draw power from 220V or 110V mains (via a Solid State Relay).

Personally, I like to have everything on my printer to be fully functional and this includes the copper tracings in my heated bed. If they don’t serve any purpose, they shouldn’t be there in the first place which is why I chose not to use a silicone heater pad because using one is like having a band aid fix although they cost very little and work quite well.

If you intend to use a 24V PSU, make sure you get one with a current rating of at least 20A / 480W (a 25A / 600W PSU would be better). If you plan to use a 24V / 15A PSU, you will have to dial down your voltage to about 21V. This is because a 15A PSU has just enough power for the entire printer. Using it at 24V may result in the PSU getting fried as reported by some owners. With a 12A current pull from the bed at 24V, a 15A PSU is working on its limits or beyond since only 3A of current is left for the rest of the printer.

All these flaws aside, the X5S is actually quite sturdy once fully assembled. With its cube frame, it is certainly more rigid than the X3S. Wiring is also less messy, since all large components such as the main board and PSU are attached to the frame itself and not placed in a separate console box. Due to this, the X5S takes up less space on a desk compared to the X3S.

Printing Performance

In its standard form, the X5S is capable of some very good prints and getting it to print right is so much easier compared to the X3S. In terms of bearings for its three axis, the X5S combines the best of both worlds — featuring pulley bearings for the X and Y carriages and linear LM8UU bearings for the Z axis. In terms of printing accuracy, linear bearings are more accurate though they tend to wear out faster compared to pulleys.

With the hybrid bearing setup on the X5S, TronXY has struck a middle ground between practicality and printing accuracy. Since the Z axis does not move as much as the X and Y axis, it gets linear bearings, providing for decent accuracy on the Z axis. The X and Y axis get pulley bearings for durability since they move a lot more. Although I personally prefer linear bearings over pulleys, this is not a bad compromise.

With its standard board and drivers, the X5S prints quite well up to 100mm/s, anything faster than that would require a better board and drivers. Thanks to its sturdy cube frame, the X5S can comfortably print at speeds of well above 100mm/s if you have the right board and drivers installed.

As can be seen on the Benchy that I had printed above, the print quality of the X5S in its stock form is quite impressive. This Benchy was printed using black PLA at 60mm/s, 190C and a layer resolution of 200 microns. The model cooling fan was set to 50%. If you look closely at the #3DBenchy plate at the rear of the boat, the text is almost readable with the characters “#3D” and “nchy” visible. The only 3D printer that I know that is capable of outperforming the X5S in printing this fine text is the class-leading Prusa i3 MK2S which costs three times more. I know this for sure because a local 3D printing shop where I live has a sample MK2S on display along with various print samples which includes Benchies. On the MK2S Benchy sample print, the text #3DBenchy can be clearly read without using a magnifying glass.

There is a bit of oozing on the hull of the Benchy though but I believe this could be due to cooling, retraction or temperature settings or maybe because I used a cheap no-brand PLA that has been exposed to moisture in the air for some time. I chose black PLA because flaws on black Benchies are a lot more obvious than any other color. Below is a gallery of more print samples. Click on the images for a larger view.

The yellow casing was printed for a friend who wanted a wall thickness of just 0.8mm, which explains the straight lines caused by the infill pushing outwards.

The X5S comes with a model fan pre-installed, unlike the earlier X3S which doesn’t have one. It also features a Bowden extruder, chain links for all three axis, filament spool holder and cooling fan for the main board. Like other DIY kits, there are plenty of upgrade options for the X5S and the X5S users support group on Facebook has a good list of upgrades for it if you want it to perform even better or faster.

Conclusion

Overall, the X5S is one of the best value 3D printers I’ve ever tested. Priced at just $290 and with a print capacity of 330 x 330 x 400mm, it certainly offers more value than cheaper kits such as the Anet A6 or A2 which cost around $160 with much smaller print volumes. There are also very few DIY 3D printer kits around that offer a very sturdy cube frame with a CoreXY design in the sub-$300 price range making the X5S one of the best buys you can find if you’re looking for something that costs $300 or less.

Like many other cheap Chinese DIY kits, the X5S does have its flaws but it is not as bad as the X3S which requires a lot more work and upgrades before you can get it to print properly. Its quality control issues also mean it is not exactly a printer that’s suitable for beginners. Those who are new to 3D printing and want to buy the X5S as their first 3D printer should proceed carefully, especially when building and wiring it.

Once you’ve overcome the initial issues during the assembly process (think missing parts and wrong wire labels), the X5S is actually capable of some decent printing performance in stock form as long as you’re printing only PLA (the bed won’t get hot enough for materials such as ABS using the supplied 12V PSU). To unleash its fullest potential, upgrades are needed and two must-have upgrades for the X5S are a 24V / 25A PSU (along with a 24V to 12V converter for the main board) and MOSFET for the heated bed.

In other words, the X5S is a printer that requires some working on and upgrades before you get to see what it is truly capable of. Despite this, it is one printer that I highly recommend to anyone looking for a highly affordable 3D printer with a large print capacity that prints very well and has plenty of room for upgrades and tweaks.

The TronXY X5S is currently available at GearBest for just $290 shipped. Click here for more details.

For a limited time only, GearBest is offering a $10 discount on the X5S with coupon code GB11.11Deal72. Now that’s a neat discount for what is already a very affordable CoreXY 3D printer with a large print capacity.



TronXY X5S

TronXY X5S
8.5

Affordability

9.0/10

Print Quality

9.0/10

Features and Performance

8.2/10

Community and Support

9.0/10

Build Quality

7.3/10

Pros

  • CoreXY design for less than $300
  • Large print capacity
  • Plenty of room for upgrades
  • Excellent print quality in stock form
  • Sturdy frame capable of handling 200mm/s speeds (with the right electronic upgrades)

Cons

  • Quality control issues
  • Shipped with wrong power supply for heated bed (won't go beyond 70C)
  • Not suitable for beginners

Adrin Sham

Adrin Sham is a designer and photographer turned drone enthusiast. Since buying a drone for aerial photography some years ago, he has since developed a passion for UAVs and all things related.

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