The Artillery (EVNOVO) Sidewinder X1 is quickly becoming one of my favorite printers. With a low price point of around $400, it packs quite a few goodies that make it better than many alternatives: 1. A generous build volume of 300x300x400mm. 2. Direct drive extruder, not bowden. 3. Volcano hotend, which can extrude plastic faster than a regular hotend. 4. Dual Z motors, more powerful and helps reduce backlash on Z. 5. Beautiful unibody design for electronics.
All of this amount for a good deal; better, in my opinion, than the competing Creality CR-10 v2.
As a tinkerer, I find it hard not to mod my printers to better suit my needs. Here are some of the mods I’ve done so far:
0. Fix Z banding and backlash
These fixes are only necessary if you’re experiencing any Z issues, especially banding.
The top of the Z axis leadscrews is constrained by a pulley and a belt that syncs both leadscrews together. This isn’t necessary, as the two Z motors are already running in sync. At best, it does nothing; at worst, it overconstrains the axis. Simply unscrew the two pulleys from the top of the leadscrews, and remove the belt.
While you’re there, also remove the bearings from the plates at the top of the printer. These bearings are overconstraining the leadscrews, so if the leadscrew isn’t perfectly aligned with the motor, you’ll see Z banding or other Z axis issues. The top of the leadscrew needs to be able to move freely.
If you look at the back of the printer, you can see that the X axis is connected to the Z leadscrews at the two blue plates on the sides of the printer. Each plate is connected to a brass nut, but there’s a plastic buffer between them. This plastic buffer causes backlash on the Z axis, and Artillery (EVNOVO) are instructing users to remove this part if they experience Z banding. Just screw the leadscrew nuts directly to the blue plates.
1. PEI Flex Bed - around $40
While the Sidewinder X1 comes with a nice glass-based bed, I personally love PEI flex beds. Adhesion is great and removal is very easy; and if you ever damage the sheet you only need to replace that instead of replacing the entire bed assembly. This isn’t an upgrade to the print quality, but to the quality of life of the operator.
PEI is a good bed material for most plastics you can print. It handles PLA, ABS and ASA without any worries. PETG and TPU tend to stick a little too well, so you’ll need some separation layer (glue stick, hair spray, or even some forehead grease). It leaves a satisfying mirror-like finish on the bottom of the prints.
(Pictured above: Fulament Spring Steel PEI Flex Bed)
Another option is to use a powder coated PEI sheet. Instead of sticking a layer of PEI on a flexible sprint steel sheet, these flex beds are powder coated with PEI particles. This does two things mainly: It leaves a very nice textured finish on the bottom of the prints, and it doesn’t get damaged by PETG or TPU. The only downside is that PLA sometimes has a tough time sticking to it.
(Pictured above: Thekkiinngg Double-Sided Pei Textured Powder-Coated Spring Steel Sheet)
2. BMG Extruder - $40 for a clone, $80 for the original
The stock extruder for the Sidewinder X1 is a remix of E3D’s Titan Aero. It does the job, but you can get better print quality by replacing it with an extruder that has dual drive gears pushing the filament. With this kind of extruder retractions are more precise and flexible materials are easier to print.
TriangleLabs does a good clone of Bontech’s BMG extruder, and at half the price.
Another option is E3D’s Hemera, which is also a dual drive gear extruder. The Hemera has an exceptionally short and constrained filament path, so flexibles should perform better on it than on the BMG. I am currently evaluating this extruder on my printer.
3. BLTouch - $38
The BLTouch is an auto bed leveling sensor. It allows the printer to probe the bed at various locations, and correct for any unevenness. It can help in cases of concave/convex beds, or when the bed isn’t properly levelled.
On the Sidewinder X1 it’s really easy to install a BLTouch, since we can remove the stock printing LED and reuse its pins. That way we don’t need to run extra wires from the extruder to the controller. See Waggster Mod for a complete walkthrough.
4. Octoprint - Free
Octoprint is a web interface for 3D printers. It allows you to control and monitor your printer from a browser. You can connect a camera and see your printer live, upload gcode (sometimes directly from your slicer), and even setup timelapses.
Octoprint is free and open source. You can install it on any PC, but I personally recommend getting a Raspberry Pi for it. Get the 3B+ or 4, as earlier versions don’t have enough power, in my opinion, to be effective.
5. Update Marlin - Free
If you installed Waggster’s mod (for BLTouch), you’re already running a newer version of Marlin than stock.
I forked Marlin and configured it to work with the Sidewinder X1, and also incorporated Waggster’s BLTouch mod. It also enables some nice features like
G34 (align the two Z motors) and firmware retraction, and supports the Hemera Extruder. It is available on Github at https://github.com/MoshiBin/Marlin/tree/sidewinder-x1
6. Bypass the screen if it causes issues - Free
The MKS LCD has a known bug that sometimes corrupts gcode it reads from USB before sending it to the printer. If your printer sometimes does odd moves (like going to the side to extrude a line), chances are it comes from the LCD.
Unfortunately it doesn’t look like MKS is going to fix this, so I opted to disconnect the screen. Since I’m using Octoprint I don’t really need it, but I still like to be able to glance at the printer so I purchased the BigTreeTech TFT35 V3 which is supposed to be compatible with the MKS LCD and also offer a “classic” LCD mode which doesn’t act like a full controller.
I’ll update this section after I fully test this product.