I had recently acquired a Tevo Tarantula 3D Printer. There were a lot of other budget printers in the same price range but the Tevo Tarantula particularly caught my attention as it uses aluminium extrusions, includes heated bed and has the standard 200 x 200 mm build area whereas other printers in this price range were all using full acrylic (e.g Anet A8). The use of the V slot aluminium extrusions also mean that it uses wheels instead of linear rods/bearings, as wheels are much quieter and generally require low maintenance. There are actually a few that do use aluminium extrusions but those have a smaller build platform (~100mm x 100mm) and did not include a heated bed platform. An example of this is the Creality CR7. I got my Tevo Tarantula for US$198 / SGD$281 at Aliexpress.
Tbe shipping took 2 weeks to arrive, and was done through a third party logistics shipper. For me, I had chosen to use DHL but they ended up shipping it through aramex, a courier which I had never heard before. I was not too happy with the courier leaving the shipment outside my doorstep, even though I had told them 2 days in advance not to deliver to my house as I was going overseas.
Nevertheless, Tevo’s support on aliexpress was excellent. They replied to my messages within a few hours, including when I had questions the shipment status.
The packaging was well packed. It came in an outer brown box that covered and protected the original black box. The only damage that I found is a hole on the top of the outer box, which partially damaged the inner box.
On the inside, the components are all packed and protected tightly in closed cell foam. There are 3 ‘stacks’ of removable trays, with the heaviest components such as the aluminium extrusions on the bottommost tray. It also contains the MKS Base 1.4 motherboard and 2004 LCD. The tray above it contains the 4 stepper motors, hotend, extruder and power supply, most of the acrylic parts, mounting hardware and a few hex keys and a spanner for the eccentric nuts. The topmost tray contains the cables, heated bed platform, bowden tube and the 2 PLA/ABS 250g rolls. For mine I requested for blue and black PLA filament.
They also included a packing list, an after sales support card on how to contact them for warranty support and a manual, which has improved significantly than the 2 page they had previously included, but still not perfect either. The best thing is to watch Arcaded’s assembly videos before even reading the manual.
However, upon checking all the components, I discovered that the LCD contrast potentiometer was broken.
I sent a message to Tevo support and they immediately sent a new replacement. It arrived in about 4 days later through UPS. However, much to my surprise, Tevo sent me a 12864 mono LCD. I did managed eventually to solder in a new 10K pot to replace the broken one. Right now I’m using the 2004 LCD without any problems so far, so the 12864 will be a spare one for when I have the time to re-flash the firmware to be able to use the larger LCD.
On to the actual building, in total I took about 3 days to assemble it, with 2-3 hours spent each day. The first steps was to assemble the frame, X / Y carriage and pulleys. The manual does a fairly good job of showing what bag of screws and brackets you should use.
Although I think that the assembly manual can be improved by changing the order of assembly of certain parts. For example, the manual states that you have to assemble the bracket to the stepper motor and the extruder levers before installing the whole thing to the 2040 frame. However, the mounting holes for the bracket are blocked by the motor, and thus you couldn’t screw in the screws.
So the proper way to install it is to install the stepper motor bracket first, then the stepper motor itself and the extruder levers. Also, install the stepper motor with its connector facing down, so that its easier to route the cables to the motherboard.
Another mistake in the manual is that they showed that the stepper motor for the Y axis is to be installed on the right side, which is wrong as reported by many members in the Tevo facebook group that the Y axis is moving in the wrong direction when homing the axes.. The stock firmware that came from the factory is configured to be on the left side.
The acrylic plates are solid and thick, however, you should try to put in washers in every part that has great torque such as the carriages. According to the community, it is very prone to cracking when over torqued. In some places such as the Y idler pulley mount it is ok to use acrylic as it is not subjected to high forces. However, parts like the L bracket brace and the Y bed carriage should use aluminium. Still, its much better than using an all-acrylic build, right?
One of the most important thing to note when building up the main frame is to make sure that everything is square.The aluminium extrusions should be perfectly 90° to each other, especially at the X/Y/Z rails as this affects the accuracy of the print and the stability of the frame. A good tip when installing the aluminium frames are to make sure that the printer is square by using a right angle ruler. If you don’t have one handy you can also use a bubble level, although not as precise. The first time I finished the main frame the printer was not perfectly square and the the Z axis was not moving smoothly and was slanted to the left side.
As you can see in the picture above, the bubble was a little bit shifted to its left, meaning its not perfectly straight. A rebuild and tightening of the L bracket screw fixed it quickly. A quick way to check that the printer is squared is to place the bubble level on the X carriage rail, then move up the whole Z axis up and down. The bubble level must be perfectly centered all the way up. It should not move a single millimeter. The best way to install the L brackets is to push down the aluminium frame together closely to each other when tightening the screws for the bracket.
I also used this method to roughly level the bed platform when first installing it.
The use of the eccentric nuts for the X and Y carriages means that you can install the carriages without having to remove 2040 aluminium frame itself. It is important to not over-tighten the eccentric nuts as it may cause the wheels to not turn and bind up. It also may cause the carriage to be perfectly parallel to the aluminium rail as the wheels are slanted due to the overtightened eccentric nuts.
The electrical wiring was fairly easy and straightforward. Tevo included a wiring diagram in the last few pages of the manual. Only thing that I am not satisfied is the terminal blocks on the mainboard. The main power and heat bed terminal block is too small and flimsy for the thick wires that they have provided. Besides that, as the main wire is stranded, any stray strand of wire may touch the other wires and cause a short, which was what happened to mine when I first turned it on. (According to the Tevo Tarantula Facebook group, they now include the wires pre-crimped with ferrules so it should be ok now). Luckily for me, the power supply that tevo had provided has overcurrent protection and it shut down before any ‘meltdown’ of connectors could happen as what has happened to many of the tevo tarantula owners.
Many members of the tevo tarantula facebook group suggested use wire ferrules. I am planning to solder/use ferrules to attach XT60 connectors on to the mainboard so that its much easier to disconnect/connect wires. There also exists a 3D printed enclosure that can be attached on the power supply that can house the connectors.
The power cord that they had provided was a 2-pronged US-styled plug which I think is unsafe and dangerous, especially when the power supply is wired DIY-style. I tried to use the 2 pronged plug for my first print with an adapter and I could feel static when touching the metal case of the power supply, which was not supposed to happen. Subsequently, I used a 3 pronged UK plug with an earth pin and the static was gone. So, if you happen to buy the tarantula and was provided with a 2 pronged plug, throw it away and use a proper earthed 3 pronged plug.
The wire that Tevo provided for connecting the power supply to the mainboard is really thick. It does slightly warm up a little when the heat bed is being heated simultaneously with the nozzle, although I almost never heat up both at the same time as I fear of the small connector melting. I just got the external MOSFET for the heat bed recently so there should be nothing to worry about the connectors melting.
The stepper wire and end stop wires are just box-standard 1.5mm2 wires, so there’s nothing to talk about. The thermistor wire is a little bit thin though and I was afraid that I would damage it due to excessive bending.
The hotend came preassembled, and the only thing I had to install is the hotend cooling fan and bowden tube. The nozzle and heatbreak had some weird white silicone around it, but it isn’t even effective as the nozzle leaked eventually after ~ 10 hours of printing.
Initially I wanted to disassemble the hotend assembly when installing the printer kit but everything was torqued super tight due to the silicone. So I heated up the hotend to 160°C and then did a cold pull on the filament. Then I increased the temperature to 230°C and then disassembled the hotend using a plier and a spanner. I cleaned the heatblock with a wet towel and used an M6 nut to clean the PLA stuck in the threads of the heatbreak and nozzle . I will write a separate post on how to do that in the future.
Another thing to make sure when installing the bowden tube is to push the tube all the way in as far as possible. This is to make sure the filament does not melt at the heat break transition area, causing clogs.
In the box, Tevo provided 2 x 250g rolls. I has asked for blue and black PLA. Honestly, the quality of PLA were not so bad. It adheres quite well (partly due to the build platform sheet on the heat bed), sometimes a little bit too well although now for printing I now use a 5mm glass bed which is way easier to remove the print.
One thing I hated about the tarantula is the way that the bed leveling works. It uses a 4-point mounting system which makes it quite prone to warping as the only other 3D printer I had experience using was a Makerbot Replicator 2 which uses a 3-point mounting which is way better.
As for the software side, the Tarantula came with Repetier firmware loaded on the MKS Base 1.4. I find that the preinstalled repetier firmware is already calibrated and tuned quite well. It may not have the same amount of features that Marlin can offer, but I find good enough for most users. Although there exists a Tarantula version for marlin on the facebook group which I am planning to flash once I backup/dump the current firmware using an AVR USB ISP Programmer as I want to be able to revert back to the stock firmware if anything goes wrong.
For the printing profiles for the slicers, I used the one provided by the community on the facebook group. I used Cura 2.4. It turned out great with no stringing, or without any artifacts. I used G_normal quality.curaprofile uploaded by Gustav Fredriksson and it turns out great. There wasn’t any string or any artifacts
All in all the Tevo Tarantula is a great printer for those who are looking to learn into 3D Printing while in a budget due to its low cost. However, it is recommended that the user to have some background of technical and troubleshooting skills due to the DIY nature of the kit.
The spool holder is included in the kit, I printed it from Thingiverse in here.