Thursday, February 22, 2024



All observations and opinions are my own. Your experiences may differ widely from mine.

Obligatory Disclaimer: I am not paid for these reviews, nor do I receive units for free to review. I get no compensation for these independent reviews whatsoever which leaves me free to give my completely unbiased and honest opinion on whatever I am reviewing. I am not printing for commercial profit.

Criteria For The Review:

1. Price and Delivery

2. Ease of Assembly

3. Ease of Use

4. How Well It Works (Functionality)

5. Customer Service

6. Overall Score and Impressions

Explanation of Device:

The 3D Chameleon is the brainchild of Bill Steele who is both the inventor and seller of the 3D Chameleon. The 3D Chameleon is a mechanical device that attaches to your printer to allow up to four colors to be used. The device switches the colors out as needed via Gcode generated via your slicer. It is a relatively inexpensive way to achieve color 3D printing without buying a printer specifically for that purpose.

At this time, the only slicer that is working with the 3D Chameleon is PrusaSlicer. If you don't already use PrusaSlicer, the transition to it isn't that difficult, though it does take some getting used to the vast array of options. There are plenty of resources available online to help the novice through the use of PrusaSlicer.

Price and Delivery

As of this writing, the unit sells for $179.00 via the 3D Chameleon website via PayPal. This does not include shipping. In my case, this brought the total to approximately $195.00*. The delivery of the unit is via standard USPS ground. This means it can take anywhere from 3 to 7 days (normally) to arrive in most places in the continental U.S.

The lack of offering an expedited shipping is unusual, but only a slight ding that the price of the unit easily compensates for. I would still give this five stars out of five.

Ease of Assembly

The landing page of the 3D Chameleon website states that it only takes an hour to assemble. First, the unit I received came mostly assembled already. Second, it definitely takes longer than an hour to assemble to your printer unless you already have the proper mounting parts for the 3D Chameleon itself and the activation switch. This was a problem for my Neptune 3 Pro. The 3D Chameleon is packaged with a mount and a switch, neither of which are suitable for the NP3 Pro. This meant that I had to either find one that someone else had made or remix/design my own. After quite a while of fruitless search, I came to the conclusion that if someone had designed these, no one had shared these mounts anywhere. I therefore wound up remixing my own Top Mount and Switch Mount (both of these links are available at the end of the review.) There is a third printed part that you will need as well, this is a part that goes over the top of the extruder to allow for the 3D Chameleon to connect to it. I give the link at the end of this review.

Let me give you a cautionary note here, unless you are very mechanically inclined, I would recommend not opening the 3D Chameleon unit. As loyal readers of my blog know, I am NOT the most mechanically inclined person on the planet. Because of this, my opening the unit caused major issues resulting in me eventually having to send the unit back so that Bill Steele could look at and 'repair' what I had done. If you feel you MUST open the unit, I recommend watching Bill's videos on assembling the 3D Chameleon and then watching the videos from Chris Riley of Chris's basement ( before you do.

What you will essentially be doing when you assemble the 3D Chameleon to your NP3 Pro (or above) will be to turn it into a Direct Drive/Bowden hybrid. You may want to trim the Bowden tubes so that they fit better (make sure you have enough length on each to reach everywhere on your printer.) When you do this, I recommend taking each tube out of the Y-Tube that comes with the 3D Chameleon and trimming from that end. This way you do not have to disassemble the 3D Chameleon itself. Make sure you are getting a completely straight cut. Mr. Steele provides a cutting tool or razor blade and a small fixture for this to make it easier.

Attaching the activation switch to your printer is much easier now with the mount that I have remixed. Initially, I attempted to mount the switch on the Z axis with the mount that comes with the unit. Some people with Neptune 4's did it this way. I do NOT recommend this unless you are the type of person that enjoys sitting and watching paint dry. The Z axis is very slow and will likely increase your print time by two or three times easily.

The mount I remixed goes on the Y axis of your printer, on the left as you face the printer and all the way at the front. If you follow Bill Steele's instructions on how to determine the distance to the switch you should be okay, but just in case, remember that 'zero' on the NP3 Pro (and above) is not the front left corner (which puts the bed all the way in the back.) You need to ignore that part and push or move the bed (Y axis) all the way back, then, using your control panel move it until it just activates the switch. You will be using the 10mm Y axis move for most of that and then switch to the 1mm and finally to the .1mm, keeping count the whole way. I did this a few times to verify it (mine came to 197.5mm.) This is important. Making sure that you are at the point where the red light on the switch just comes on is crucial to your timing.

I did not need to cut the Bowden tube coming out of the Y-Tube and into the extruder as it was the right length to seat properly and reach all places on the printer without a problem. I did trim the Bowden tubes coming out of the 3D Chameleon core unit which I now feel was a mistake. This trimming should be done where the tubes enter the Y-Tube.

Frankly, most, but not all, of my assembly problems were self inflicted. The claim of 'assembles in one hour' is a bit misleading to me and should come with a caveat about needing the proper mounts. I know that isn't great marketing, but it is more realistic. I think that Mr. Steele should also explain to people about where to make the cuts on the Bowden tubes if they want to shorten them and dissuade people from taking the unit apart. As I said, it is probably very easy if you are mechanically inclined, but if you are a typically a 'user' as I am, then you may run into problems (I am at over four weeks of owning the unit and not making a single part at this point.)

Another caution that I will give relates to the use of the remixed Top Mount that holds the 3D Chameleon. This causes the unit to be upside down. There is a very small gear that is used in the 3D Chameleon (2mm in length) that, on my unit, was not tightened down properly and fell out during assembly. It took me quite a while to find it and I had to disassemble the unit to put it back in and tighten it down. If you watch Chris Riley's assembly video, he shows where and how this has to be done.

Since at least 99% of the issues I had were of my own making, I am going to give Assembly Four and a Half stars out of five.

Ease of Use

This is where things got pretty sticky for me. It boils down to the Gcode for using the 3D Chameleon. On the 3D Chameleon website there are two methods listed for generating the Gcode you need. The first, Mode 2 Gcode, the second is Mode 3 Gcode. If you select Mode 2, it will ask you for the Axis you have placed the switch on, the distance in mm, and the length from the top of your extruder (the gears) to the Hotend. Once entered, it will generate the Gcode for you copy and paste into the Tool Change G-Code section of PrusaSlicer. If you have watched Bill Steele's videos, you will have a pretty good idea of what to do from there. On this same page, near the bottom, are a list of additional switch presses (pulses) and what they will do. Once your filament is loaded, it is advisable to ALWAYS HOME your unit before printing (7 pulses.)

Speaking of loading filament, this can be difficult at times. If you watch Chris Riley's videos, he will show you a way that makes it slightly easier.

In Mode 3 you will be asked the Axis the switch is on, the switch location or distance in mm, the Backout distance in seconds, and the length from the top of the extruder (the gears) to the Hotend. The Backout distance is the time, in seconds, it takes for the filament to exit back to the starting point. Here, one second equals one inch of distance.

You now need to go into the Gcode and make some changes. If you don't know Gcode, this can be a little daunting. I did not know Gcode before I started working with the 3D Chameleon but I HAD to learn at least some. Interestingly, while doing this, Bill discovered a change that he needed to make to the Gcode generators thanks to some of the issues I was having. To help me understand Gcode a little better, Bill suggested I watch a video by CNC Kitchen: He also provided a list of Gcode commands:

While of this is good to know, what is important is that you get your timing correct for the switch. First, near the beginning the Gcode (roughly the second paragraph,) you will find a line that has G0 YXXX F2000 ; <<-----EDIT THIS LINE TO SET THE INITAL LOCATION OF THE BUTTON. The number will be slightly different than the one you entered, I usually change it back to the number I entered (i.e. it is 3mm less than your original number.) From there, the fun really starts.

You will need to go down to a line that starts with G4 P500. This is the start of your timing for button or switch presses. There are four of the P500, P1000, P1500, and P2000. All of these were far too long for my NP3 Pro. You will probably have to experiment but mine came out much closer to P250, P770, P1180, and P1675. This is important and you should be able to hear the number of pulses for each. It is smarter to do this without filament in the 3D Chameleon and applies to both the Mode 2 and Mode 3.

The difference between Mode 2 and Mode 3 is that Mode 2 is far more automatic. It generates a standard 10” Extrude and 11” Retract with a single press for each of the color changes after it pulses to the proper 'extruder' or color. Mode 3 requires that there is the initial press to change to the proper extruder or color, then a second press to retract the current filament and a third press to extrude the next color. I actually prefer Mode 3 as it gives me more control over the timing of the unit.

One thing to note that was not very clear to me. Bill Steele states that the filament should be loaded to 1” above the Y-Tube. Let me clarify exactly what he told me. Measure one inch above one of the top branches of the Y-Tube from the green plastic portion (not the black connector) and load your filament to that point. Every other filament should be at exactly that same place, not 1” above their selected branch. To me, this seemed counterintuitive for loading and retracting the filament, but it works as it is somehow compensated for in the programming.

Honestly, it was ridiculously difficult for me to find the proper timing for my pulses especially in Mode 3. Remember when I said earlier that the bed should just barely activate the switch? This is why, you want it to be able to back off very quickly once it is done.

As you read further down in the Gcode, you will see places where it wants you to adjust and fine tune E values for Extruder loading. This is another 'experimental' distance that you have to determine in order to make sure that you get all the way down to the Hotend and back out all the way from it.

Another thing you will need to deal with is 'Tip Shaping.' The Gcode for this, as it stands, does not work well for my NP3 Pro. It had to be modified. This is the Gcode I had to have in order to make Tip Shaping work:

;<<< Start Of Tip Shaping- Remove If No Cutter! >>>
M109 R180; cool down to prevent swelling
M302 S0 ; enable cold extrusion
M106 S255
G0 E20 F1500 ;
G0 E-5 F500 ;
M109 R165; cool down to prevent swelling
G0 E5 F1500 ;
G0 E-1 F500 ;
M109 R155; cool down to prevent swelling
G0 E1 F1500 ;
G0 E-25 F500 ;
M109 R150; cool down to prevent swelling
G0 E24 F1500 ; last tip dip with cold tip
G0 E-24 ; last tip dip with cold tip
M109 R180; ok... go back up in temp so we can move the extruder
G0 E-110 F500 ; back out of the extruder
G92 E0
M104 S200;
;<<< End Of Tip Shaping >>>

This replaces the 'standard' Tip Shaping that is generated in BOTH Mode 2 and Mode 3.

If you get a 3D Chameleon, feel free to copy and paste this.

Next, you need to let PrusaSlicer know that you are using four colors. This is done in the Printer Settings tab under General > Capabilities > Extruders. Here you will put in 4 and underneath that check the box that says Single Extruder Multi Material. Extruders 1 through 4 will then show up. You can go to each and change the color here if you like. Save this by going to the top line next to the box with the name of your printer in it and choosing the first item (it looks like a list.) If you want to rename it, you can do that first by clicking on the box that looks like a piece of paper with a pencil on it.

You need to turn off PrusaSlicer's own tip shaping by setting several parameters to zero.

Look at the diagram below:

You need to save this or you will lose it. Again, the top box that looks like a list will let you save.

At this point you should be ready to test. Make sure you have your filament loaded in each Bowden Tube to the 1” above the Y-Tube. If you have watched Bill's videos you know that each hole with a Bowden Tube in it is given a designation T0, T1, T2, and T3. So, something that might make your life a little easier, tag each one of your Bowden Tubes with the proper designation, this way you will always know which one is being used at any given time. Someone has created printable 'Identifiers' for this at I have not tried these myself, I'd rather just use a label, but that is personal preference.

So, after all of that how would I rate Ease of Use?

Because of all the time involved in experimentation to find the proper timing and adjusting of Gcode (which you will likely be tweaking constantly,) I have to give this Four stars out of five.

How Well It Works

This area had mixed results for me. For some very simple or basic items that only required one tool change (i.e. two colors) there was no issue. When I tried to move into more complex items that required multiple tool changes I experienced jamming after a few cycles. The jamming was due to one or more of the filaments not properly retracting out of the extruder and another filament attempting to load. To get any reliable results at all, you MUST pay attention to Bill Steele's videos on how to bring a multi-part, multicolor object into PrusaSlicer and the FAQ's (under Troubleshooting) on Tip Shaping. Jamming means that you would lose any long print unless you were there to clear the jam before the next filament was able to load. Very few of us can be there 100% of the time for a really long print. You can eliminate or greatly reduce the probability of jamming by getting your Tip Shaping right. An improper tip will cause your filament to get stuck in the extruder when it should be moving out prior to the normal retraction.

Also, please remember, you WILL waste quite a bit of filament for your color printing. THIS IS NORMAL FOR ANY COLOR PRINTING. You need to have a purge tower in order to clear one filament in the nozzle before you begin printing with the next. Color printing is also much slower than using a single filament. In the case of the 3D Chameleon, it not only has to change to the next color and clear the previous color, it also has to move the Y axis to the switch. All of this adds to the time for printing.

Once we figured out the jamming issue, things seemed to go much smoother. I will give the 3D Chameleon Four and a Half stars out of five for functionality based on the issues I had.

Customer Service

The customer service is very good. Bill Steele is very responsive both in Email and on the 3D Chameleon Forum (on the website.) Because he has another full-time job, it may take him a little while to get back to you, but he always did respond to me. As I stated near the beginning of this review, I had issues with my unit to the point where Bill asked me to return the core unit. He reviewed what was wrong with it and repaired it for me (I paid return shipping, he paid for shipping back to me.)

Overall Score and Impressions

My overall rating with the following:

Price and Delivery – 5 out of 5

Ease of Assembly – 4.5 out of 5

Ease of Use – 4 out of 5

How Well It Works – 4.5 out of 5

Customer Service - 5 out of 5

Overall Rating = 4.6 Stars

Final Impressions

The 3D Chameleon is an interesting piece of equipment. For less than $200.00 it claims that it can turn any 3D printer into a four-color printer. This appears to be the case on the Neptune 3 Pro, after a lot of fiddling. It is not a plug-and-play solution. At present, this is a hobbyist's add-on requiring quite a bit of additional effort to make it work properly. There is nothing wrong with that since many of the printers out there require some level of constant 'tinkering'. As I stated earlier, by far, the vast majority of my issues with the unit were self-inflicted (deciding to trim my Bowden tubes from the motor side rather than Y-Tube was probably the first mistake I made.) If you can avoid opening the unit, do so. I would have had to open mine regardless, since one of the gears fell out. From there, my issues seemed to multiply (springs were suddenly in the wrong place which did not allow the unit to close properly, the Bowden tubes in the unit were crushed, etc.) If it were not for Bill Steele's kindness and patience, I would likely not have kept working at it.

If I wanted another color printer would I buy one of these units instead, again? Most likely. Spending anywhere from $700 to $2000 for a color printer simply isn't in the realm of probability for someone on a fixed income such as myself. Buying a $200 to $250 printer and putting another $200 into it is much easier on my budget.

One more note, as you go through the 3D Chameleon website you will probability hear about something called the 3D Clippy. This is a part that you would print and put on top of your printer extruder that cuts the end of the filament so you have clean end to work with. I have not been able to find or design one that will work with the Neptune 3 Pro. If you happen to design one that works, please DO let me know and put in a link to the .stl file.

The link below will take you to my NP3 Pro (and above) 3D Chameleon Mounts:

Bowden Tube Adapter Mount:

3D Chameleon website:

Switch location NP3 Pro

Shroud Mount/Bowden Tube Adapter

(Yeah, I know, I wasn't going for pretty, just functional...)

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