If you’re looking for an affordable and easy to use 3d printer, the Micro 3D is the choice for you! (No, I’m not getting paid for saying this)
A story from the early days…
I’ve got some previous experience with 3d printers. I was among a group of working colleagues who all chipped in and bought the first MakerBot Cupcake CNC together. If you remember the early MakerBot editions you know what early adaptors had to go through:
The printer was delivered as an assembly kit. You had to build, solder and calibrate it yourself. It took 5 of us and a whole day to get it built and working. Sadly the problems didn’t stop there, the printer was quite maintenance intensive, the software was bad and you had to accompany the whole printing process to make sure everything went well. The resolution and print quality was also not comparable to nowadays printers. Needless to say we basically all lost interest in the printer after a few months and since then it serves as a rather expensive dust-catcher in a cabinet somewhere…
My personal conclusion at that time:
Nice toy - but too cumbersome to actually use!
3D Printing Reboot
It all started - as often - with a Kickstarter campaign. The promise made was a relatively cheap and easy to use consumer 3d printer. They reeled me in with quite a few promises:
- No assembly required and easy to use
- Small and convenient form factor
- Comparably cheap price tag (the campaign price was 299 USD for one printer)
These promises were enough for me to seriously consider backing the project - which I did in the end ;)
The Long Wait
As it usually happens Kickstarter campaigns the team was unable to deliver the printers on time due to delays in the manufacturing process. But this is to be expected with the complex hardware they had to produce and test as well as the sheer numbers of printers they had to deliver (about 10’000). The whole campaign was very well communicated - there were always updates on the development and production progress as well as the different obstacles the makers encountered during the process.
I wish every campaign would get this level of attention from the initiators!
I’ve got the printer for about a month now - which allows me to give a few first impressions.
A quick feature overview:
- No heated print bed
- Print size: 116mm (height) x 109mm (length) x 113mm (depth)
- Can print ABS, PLA and other filaments
- Easy to use print software
- No manual configuration or adjustment required
I’m quite impressed with the printer and how it handles. Although the small form factor limits the print size quite a bit, the printer itself has a handy size and doesn’t take up too much space. It’s extremely easy to use and able to produce comparably high quality prints with the correct print settings. And let’s be honest:
You won’t find another consumer printer with this price tag!
There are some drawbacks of course…
The only true design flaw the printer has in my opinion is the internal filament storage beneath the printing bed. Inserting the filament and routing the thread through the filament tube is extremely cumbersome. My filament often broke somewhere in the middle which makes it extremely difficult to remove again. Furthermore the filament motor just doesn’t have enough grip and power to “pull” the filament into the extruder nozzle. So just don’t bother with internal filament, having it externally solves all the problems. The m3d printer team even provides 3d files for printing out an external filament spool holder which you can attach to the printer frame. My recommendation: just do that and be done with it!
The printing software works flawlessly most of the time but still has a “beta” smell on it. It’s .NET based which means it operates using the Mono Framework on OSX. The software is obviously still being polished and new releases are uploaded frequently. Because the software doesn’t have a version check feature (yet) you’ll have to check and download it yourself.
Another problem I’ve faced so far is print warping, it means larger prints don’t always properly stick to the print bed - although the bed is lined with BuildTak special printing surface. This seems to happen more often with ABS filament, PLA works just fine most of the time.
There are a few other things I’d like to mention - but I’ll keep it brief.
- Not all filaments work equally well, there are quite hefty differences between them regarding print warping and print quality. The only way to get a feeling which filament is good for what is to do test prints and compare the results.
- And there is the very long printing time for a considerable sized model. You can expect larger models to take at least 10 to 20 hours to print. A small model takes about 4 hours.
So that’s it. I’ll go on evaluating the printer further and of course also posting my successful prints.
If you own a Micro 3D Printer yourself, I’d be glad to hear your experiences with it…