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Review: JGMaker Magic 3D Printer

Samuel PinchesSamuel Pinches Posts: 2,997Administrator
edited March 2019 in JGMaker Magic
Here's my youtube review:


=========== Introduction ===========

I bought my first commercial 3D printer back in 2015, and the price was well over $1000USD. Thankfully, today there are now quite a number of good printers under the $500 USD mark. The question I'm trying to answer now, is what kind of printer can we get for $250USD? Could it possibly be any good? That's what I'm trying to answer today, as we take a look at the new budget printer from JGAurora, the JGMaker Magic.

If you're just getting started with 3D printing, you might feeling a little overwhelmed with the incredible number of options out there. I love the fact, that we keep seeing better and better printers be released, at lower and lower price points.

I can understand that many people decide they want to start out with a budget model, as way to dip their toe in without spending too much money. I think this is is a sensible approach. However, this becomes a challenge for manufacturers. How can you make a printer, of better quality than your previous model, and sell it for a lower price, but still make a profit? In order to achieve this, choices have to be made - some manufacturers remove features, others make their printers significantly smaller. Others, not only remove extra features, they sometimes start to cut corners here and there on quality, in order to save on costs.

This can buying a budget printer a bit of a minefield, as there's a risk of getting a printer for a bargain price, only to find out, that it breaks down frequently. and produces terrible quality 3D prints. I've seen bad experiences put people off 3D printing entirely, thinking its all too hard - when actually, it was the machine that was letting them down. I think that is the worst case outcome, as 3D printing is really such an amazing hobby to get into.

The goal of my review, is to shine a spotlight on the JGMAker magic, give you a look behind the curtain, to see if JGMaker Magic knows any good tricks, or, if its all just a illusion.

So I received this printer for review from Gearbest, way back in early january, and I've been using it off and on since then. This new budget model has been designed to compete with models such as the very popular Ender 3, or the Alfawise U30. In this review, I hope to show you both what is good about this printer, as well as show you the points at which they cut corners to achieve such an aggressive price point.

=========== Unboxing ===========

Once you open the box, you'll find the printer well packaged in foam, with all the parts and components nicely organised in plastic bags that are all labelled with what is in them. There only a dozen or so components to attach to the main frame, and the assembly process is not difficult.
The manual is not as good as some that I have seen, but the JGMaker magic manual is clear enough that even total beginners won't run into major problems.

For comparison, the Alfawise U20 came with an excellent full colour printed manual in the box... whereas the JGMaker magic only comes with a digital manual on the included SD card.

Apart from the SD card, the only other accessories the printer comes with are the USB card reader, a USB cable, a spare nozzle,   a couple of hex keys and a nozzle wrench, and finally a very very very short section of filament. There was enough filament included that I was able to complete this calibration print object, but that's literally it. You're going to need to buy some filament to use with this printer, and a few other accessories- would probably help too - I'll put a link in the description of some I recommend.

Now I've put together quite a few printers, but even so I still had to refer to the manual, to ensure I was getting parts the right way around. It took me 90 minutes from opening the box, to my first print starting, but this included a lot of time mucking around looking closely and inspecting the different parts. I think if you were more focused, you could easily do this in half the time, or less. They claim 10 minutes in some of the ads ... I would say more like 20-30 minutes and you'll be up and running.

After finishing the assembly, I found that I had two or three spare screws. I'm very sure that I didn't miss anything, but its certainly a disconcerting feeling to have left overs!

Plugging in the printer, revealed the first surprise. The print part cooling fan was crazy loud. I attempted to oil the fan, but that did not change the sound at all. Since the fan was still working I decided to try some prints. I contacted JGAurora, and they sent me a replacement fan, which was easy to install, and was significantly quieter.

Out of the box, the first prints came out very well. While this is something you should expect, it doesn't always happen, especially with budget printers, so this was a really good start.

=========== Hardware & Design ===========

JGAurora's strength is working with sheet metal. They invested in high quality sheet metal production facilities years ago, and it shows across all of their printers. This gives the printer a more refined appearance compared to some of the other budget printers out there. The control unit is integrated into the main chassis, which helps to keep the printers footprint down and make the best use of space.

Looking at the top half of the printer, there is very little to distinguish this from the Ender 3 or the Alfawise U30, as the design and function is very similar. The vertical gantry frame is constructed from aluminium extrusions, with this folded sheet metal cover at the top just for looks. The overall appearance of the printer is very similar to the Geeetech A20, which retails for a higher price.

The z axis and x axis both ride along the extrusions along on solid wheels, made of POM or delrin which is a very rigid plastic. This is a very cheap way to make a linear motion system. I'm not saying it is a bad system, but it definitely is cheap to do. These wheels roll along grooves in the extrusions that keep them aligned.

One thing that is important, is to inspect all your wheels, and be careful not to damage or dint them. If these wheels are crushed or dinted, this will cause them to not ride smoothly, and this will in turn result in defects appearing in your print surface. Some of the rollers on my printer were more dinted than I would have liked, but I didn't see any print artifacts in my prints.

One thing I was concerned about, is there is no way to adjust the tension of the wheels on the extrusions. On my printer, everything seems fine from the factory. But on other printers that use this roller system, often there is a mechanism provided to allow the compression of the rollers to be adjusted, using a eccentric nut.

Looking at the z axis, the z axis supports the entire x axis, and extruder motor, but it only has a single leadscrew on the right side. It's really fine, we've seen this design work well in other printers, but honestly, I don't really like it - I'd much rather see it supported on both sides with dual lead screws. But from the results I've seen, I don't think adding a second lead screw would increase print quality, and this is a budget printer.

The extruder on this printer is a bowden system, which means the filament is pushed down a tube, into the hot end. By having the extruder motor be mounted separately to the hotend, means there is less mass on the nozzle, and this results in better quality printing at high speed. The downside to bowden systems can be that the distance can result in a bit of lag between when the motor starts turning, and when the filament starts to come out the other end. On this printer, I'm happy to report that it isn't an issue. The bowden cable here is actually relatively short, and as a result there is very minimal stringing and oozing seen in prints, I would say a slightly better result than the JGAurora A5S and A1 printers, and miles better than the JGAurora A5 printer which came with a bowden tube that was excessively long.

Looking at the hot end, there is a nice and tidy enclosed hotend. My favouite feature is the detachable cable. I can't tell you how much easier this will make maintenance, as it allows you to replace the cable easily if it gets damaged, or to remove the hotend from the printer without needing to take all the wiring off with it too. This is a big plus in my opinion, an advantage for servicing and maintenance over the Alfawise U30 and Ender 3 - and many other printers.

Moving attention down to the bed, the bed rides on polished rods with linear bearings, and the motion of the bed is quite smooth. The bed is well supported with a rigid steel frame, and there is no wobble in the bed, which I have seen in some other printers. The bearings on the magic seem to be great, and the bed moves nice and smoothly. When I reviewed the JGAurora A5S last year, the bearings on my unit were terrible, so I'm hoping this means they have found a better supplier.

In order to get your prints to stick, the heated print bed surface is fitted with a PVC sticker, the same as the Ender 3, or Alfawise U30. Yes, it's quite easy to get your prints to stick, but the problem is that getting the prints off again at the end can be difficult. Fortunately, the top surface can be removed from the heater surface, as well as being flexible, so with a bit of flexing, parts can be removed without too much difficulty.

However, while it may be cheap, in my opinion a PVC sticker surface is inferior compared to the ceramic coated glass frit surface used on many other printers. The glass coatings are sold under a range of different names - JGAurora calls it "black diamond", Anycubic calls it "Ultrabase", Geeetech calls it "Super Plate", what ever you call it, I think it is a much better bed coating system. It does take some practice to get used to, but at the end of your print, after cooling down, the prints practically pop off the surface with very little effort. Comparing this printer to the Geeetech A20, even though the cost of the A20 is more, I would suggest you consider budgeting an extra $35 usd to the cost of the Magic so that you can buy one of their super plates to use as a print surface upgrade. When you do that, that closes the pricing gap a bit.

There's more bad news about the heated bed. If you've seen DaHai's review, you'll know what is coming. Right now, March 2019, if you search for JGMaker magic, all of the current advertisements indicate that this printer comes with a magnetic bed. However, my printer arrived with the top surface held on with bulldog clips, and not a magnet in sight! This in turn caused another problem. With a magnetic system, the heater can be designed to use the whole bed print area without any problems. However, when you use bulldog clips, this causes a problem. Bulldog clips are sharp and made of metal, and putting them on and off the bed can cut through the insulation on the bed, and cause a short circuit. If this occurs this could damage the motherboard, kill the powersupply, cause sparks, any number of things. I'd be tempted to say this was just an oversight, but we saw the exact same problem on some versions of the JGaurora A5 in 2018! They've seen this problem before, so it really is pretty poor that it wasn't picked up. Since then, they have supplied me with a replacement bed, that has a safe margin around the edges, to prevent any chance of short circuit when using clips.

Sadly, I can only guess that this means that the bulldog clips are a permanent design change, and that there will never be a magnetic bed option. If that really bothers you, there are 3rd party magnetic sheets you could add to this printer. Just be warned, the cheaper ones use fridge magnet material, and those may start to lose their magnetism over time when heated above 70C, so they are probably not suitable for printing ABS. I actually did a review of one of those sheets on my channel, and I found it worked quite well. While there are high-temperature magnetic bed platforms available to buy, they are significantly more expensive. I'm just mentioning this so you know there are options and alternatives out there.

One final thing I'd like to comment on is the size of this printer. Compared to the 300mm cube that can be printed on the JGaurora A5S, the print volume of the Magic might seem small, but in reality, I would estimate over 95% of the prints that I have ever done would comfortably fit within this smaller size. This size is far from being small - the total print volume is still about 7x that of the UP Mini, which is still enough for most prints.

But being smaller only brings advantages, and here's just a few that come to mind -  it reduces the size of the heated bed, which means that you can use a smaller and thus cheaper power supply. It means that the bed itself is lighter, so you can print faster with the same size of motor, and with less vibrations from a large bed moving back and forwards. It means that the frame itself will feel stiffer, and will resonate less. Finally, it means that you're less likely to suffer from a warped bed surface. So definitely, unless you're planning on printing full cosplay helmets, don't let the slightly smaller size put you off.

Features wise, the JGMaker is distinguished by a few fail-safe features, including filament run out detection, power outage detection, and SD card removal protection. While these features did work reliably, at the moment the resume behaviour does leave behind blobs, so I think JGAurora still has a little bit of tweaking of the firmware to make those features work as well as they could.

=========== Electronics & Software ===========

The electronics on the magic are on the underside of the bottom enclosure. This semi open design is really nice from a maintenance perspective. The dangerous AC mains voltages are quite nicely hidden away by sheet metal, although the gaps are still a fraction larger than I would like to see.

The main 24V power supply is a cheap generic unit, rated at 250W and it works well enough. During heating, I measure a peak of 200 W being drawn at the wall. Heating from room tempeature to 60C takes 3 minutes, while heating to 110C takes 12 minutes.

The JGMaker magic runs on a custom motherboard designed in house by JGAurora. From what I can see, it appears properly designed, and well laid out. The stepper drivers used are HR4982. These are made by a chinese company called jiah-jin heroic technology, and they should not be confused with the similarly named Allegro A4988. From what I can see, they do perform well - they are not much quieter than the Allegro drivers, but there is no noticeable salmon skinning, which is nice to see. Unfortunately, the stepper drivers are soldered to the motherboard, which means that if a stepper driver is damaged or fails, then the entire motherboard needs to be replaced. It also means that upgrading the stepper drivers is not possible. There is no active cooling fan over the stepper drivers, but there is at least a heatsink on the underside of the board.

While the motherboard is completely adequate for this printer, what it lacks is any kind of expandability. Even though it uses the same CPU as other motherboards, none of the additional spare pins are made accessible, which means that adding something like a BL-touch is much more difficult. Other printers like the Geeetech A20 offer much easier upgrades - they actually sell their own auto bed levelling upgrade, and the printer comes from factory with mounting points and spare ports on the motherboard that make adding extra features a doddle.

The printer runs on the Open Source Marlin firmware, and it looks to be a recent and up to date version. One of the rules with using the Marlin firmware in a product, is that you must share the source code to the customers who buy the product. It must not be withheld from them. Unfortunately at present, March 2019, JGAurora is NOT complying with the GPL, and has not released the Marlin source code for this printer. I was verbally told that they would, but they have not committed to any timeline to do so. This is disappointing, but its especially frustrating for me, as I have been pursuing to comply with the GPL for several years now. They did release the source code for the A5 and A5S, so I am still hopeful, I guess we will have to wait and see.

Another area that is often overlooked, is the cabling on the printer. On the Magic, I already mentioned the detachable hotend plug, which I liked. Unfortunately the rest of the cables on the Magic are a bit of a mess. The cables seem to be of decent quality, but there is very minimal effort put in to make them tidy or neat. The cable for the bed at times rubs against the Z-axis, while the cable for the hotend has me worried it will catch on the bed or on prints. Even spending some time with cable ties, I haven't yet been able to arrange the cables in a way that I am really happy with. Cable management is an area that budget printers often cut corners on, but it doesn't really need to add significantly to the cost of the printer - it just requires a bit of thought during the design phase.

=========== Print Quality ===========

I've been using the JGMaker for a few prints, and so far I've been quite impressed. The surface of prints is smooth, the layers are consistent and accurate, and there is minimal oozing or stringing. In summary, there's actually not a lot that could be improved - but there is one thing that I noticed. I've been trying my hardest to dial in the print settings for the JGMaker. I've been printing tolerance tests, where there is one object, inside another object, with a small controlled gap between them. So far, the smallest gap I can make that doesn't stick is 0.5mm - which is huge and quite a poor result. I've narrowed the problem down however, and there seems to be something strange going on mechanically. From watching Dahai's review of the JGMaker, I checked my z axis motor, and I found that my motor was a little bit spongy, and that this was affecting my prints. However, the issue didn't completely go away after I replaced it, and I've continued to notice a severe amount of elephants foot in my prints.

I was inspecting the printer closely, and I noticed that of the three wheels on the left side, one of them was loose, able to spin freely and not gripping the frame. I then noticed that when moving the printer up and down, there was some noticeable backlash, where when moving the z axis up or down, the unsupported side would just tilt or pivot, before it started to move.

The job of these rollers is to guide the other side of the arm, and to stabilise it and help to keep it level.  Since one of the wheels was loose, I wondered if it was positively contributing at all. What I decided to try doing, was to remove the entire carriage on the right side all together. Amazingly enough, this actually solved the problem for me! My print quality has remained very good, and the elephants foot problem has been corrected, and I was able to produce successful tolerance tests all the way down to 0.2mm.

So what does this hack mean? Have I compromised the integrity of the printer? Far from it - there have been several other successful printers designed from the factory in exactly this fashion. But it does give me more reasons to dislike the use of only one leadscrew on the z-axis.

Looking more closely, I think this problem arises, because the roller wheels on the magic are not adjustable. Like I mentioned earlier, if there was a eccentric nut on the magic wheels, then I could have adjusted the roller and tightened the wheels on the frame. I think this would have prevented the pivoting and backlash, and I think would have fixed the elephant foot problem. Eccentric nuts are available on ebay, so I've ordered one, and I will test it out when it arrives. But for now, I'll live with my simple hack solution as I have seen no negative effects.

I'm going to give this feedback to JGAurora - they are known to make changes to the products over time, so maybe this is an area they could look into and fix.

=========== Conclusions ===========

To summarise, the hardware on the printer is all round decent. The frame is nice and stiff, and there is nothing majorly wrong that I can fault. However, the use of a single lead screw, the lack of eccentric nuts, and the poor cable management are all areas that take this printer from being a easy recommendation for any beginner, to something that makes me say "it's good , but"....

I'm disappointed that JGAurora has not yet released the marlin source code. However, from looking at the motherboard, I now see that actually the very basic motherboard really leaves very little scope for upgrades or modifications. As a beginner printer to try out 3D printing, I think this is a less important issue. However if you're looking for something more like a platform to build on, then I have to wonder if spending a bit more money could be worth while, to open up the door for upgrades down the track. Alternatively, rather than worrying about getting into modifying and upgrading this printer, you could easily and comfortably use this printer as is without issues, and then when you find the need for a new 3D printer, you could use this one, to help print parts from scratch for your next one.

Overall, the value offered by the JGMaker Magic is undeniable - the print quality is very good. From my use I have been especially impressed by the very reliable extruder system, one of the best I've seen. I think the nice short bowden tube here really helps. Even though the documentation is fairly sparse, it is an easy enough printer to operate, that I think would be comfortable giving it to a beginner. From what I've seen, JGAurora's customer support has much better customer support than some of the other manufactures, so even if there are problems you'll be taken care of.

Compared to the competition like the Ender 3 and the Alfawise U30, I think the print quality is better out of the box, and the addition of features like power outage resume and filament run out detection give this printer a valuable advantage over the Ender 3 in particular.

Well, that's the end of my review! If you have comments or feedback about this printer, or how I do my reviews, I'm always happy to listen.

Finally, thank you to Gearbest for sending me this printer for review, without their support these reviews would not be possible. I have bought a lot of electronics from Gearbest, and I can recommend them. I do recommend paying for shipping insurance if offered, as these printers are big parcels, and the global parcel carriers are far from gentle.

Thank you for your time, and happy printing!

Thanked by 1aestrems
Post edited by Samuel Pinches on


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