I’ve talked about inexpensive 3D printers for a while now. It’s going to help get a lot more people interested in 3D printing but many of the printers on the market fall into that ‘you get what you pay for’ category and fall short. Until now. Monoprice just started shipping their $200 Maker Select Mini 3D printer.
I literally heard about this printer a week ago and I’ve had one delivered on Friday. I bought mine through Amazon.com partly because I was skeptical it was as good as it seemed and figured that it would be easier to return if I wasn’t happy. Monoprice lists the printer at $199 but Amazon had it for $215 with shipping. I had it shipped to my US mailbox in Lynden and the full charge worked out to $290 Canadian. I declared it at the border and didn’t have to pay any further taxes or duty.
Strangely they originally had 3 different buying options (all from Monoprice) on Amazon but with and without taxes, with and without Amazon Prime shipping and one with both tax and not-free shipping. As I write this it’s sold out everywhere with restocks not likely until mid-July.
In the box you get the printer, a single piece of paper telling you where to download the manual from, a power supply, an allen key (for leveling the bed platform), a plastic spatula (for scraping off your prints from the bed), a paltry 256mb SD card and a micro USB cable. It doesn’t come with any filament so make sure you have some 1.75mm PLA on hand or order it when you order the printer.
The build area (aka platform) is 120mm x 120mm x 120mm – it’s just shy of being able to print an object the height of a can of pop:
For software, the manual recommends using Cura or Repetier. I like Cura so used that to prepare my files for printing. It should also work with Simplify 3D if you manually create a profile. I figure someone will ask for my Cura settings so here they are:
It has one of the nicest and accessible interfaces I’ve ever seen on a 3d printer, let alone one that cost this much. A bright, full colour display that clearly displays the information you need to be able to load filament and print. It’s worth noting that rarely does a low cost printer come with SD card/LCD control. My M3D required a tethered computer to operate, likely to keep the costs down. This printer makes it a great experience without the need of a tethered computer for printing (you still need one to prepare the files though).
Despite Monoprice’s website saying it’s a touchscreen, it’s not which is too bad as the scroll wheel (which has a nice satisfying click and backlit blue light) is kind of blocked by the build plate sometimes. The display shows the currently printing file, percent complete, bed & extruder temperatures and a simple to access cancel button. You can also adjust the print speed right from this screen while printing.
Choosing a file to print is also really nice…unlike most arduino based print controllers, it clearly displays the full filename.
Preheating and moving the platform are also done in a nice, clear way. Yes it has a heated bed too! But it’s limited to how hot it can get so don’t expect to print lots of exotic filaments with this without modding the crap out of it. Likely the limitation is due to the 10amp power supply but it’s also baked into the firmware. Stick to PLA filament and you’ll be fine. You don’t even need to heat the bed for PLA.
When you’re finished a print, it displays the elapsed time and gives you the option to print the file again or go back to the main menu.
The other big thing that I find hard to believe is the build quality of this printer. It weighs over 16lbs and is made from folded sheet metal. Everything is accessible but not overly so like most budget printers which is good for use around children.
Here’s some of the print quality I’ve gotten so far:
I’ll be posting more photos and videos to my Flickr album as they come off the printer.
This video shows it printing a 3d scan of me and gives you an idea of the sounds it makes while printing. It’s not silent but it’s not crazy loud either.
It’s not the best quality print I’ve done from a scan, but it’s not horrible either…some of the blips and zits can easily be addressed with settings.
Still, it really is incredible to get this kind of quality from a $200 printer with minimal fuss, right out of the box. I have spent a little time tweaking the print settings so that doesn’t hurt but even the elephant which was on the included sd card printed great and it’s easy to clone it’s print settings into Cura to replicate that experience.
This is a print of the Fillenium Malcon (heh) done on the Mini and a $2000 printer:
Can you tell them apart? Sure you can…but there are ways to make the lessor one better quality just by tweaking the software and print settings. The more expensive printers generally have more robust hardware, have bigger build areas and support a wider variety of filament. But this seems to be the perfect ‘starter’ printer that combines ease of use, build & print quality and is affordable. It’s a machine like this that will help people decide if this is something they want to spend more time and money on, without dropping a lot of money on a bigger machine (which they will likely want once they get their feet wet).
I find it really hard not to recommend this printer to anyone that wants to get into 3D printing at a super low cost, without having to build it from a kit nor fuss with much right out of the box. I don’t feel like this printer is going to fall apart anytime soon compared to some of the kits I’ve seen. The other elements this printer (great LCD display, heated bed, sheet metal construction) has also make it feel like a printer costing double or even triple what I paid for it.
One thing that I can’t stress enough is that having access to inexpensive (but still decent) technology like this printer for schools, students, individuals and enthusiasts is crucial in moving this technology forward. I literally see thousands of people each year that get really excited about 3d printing but often that’s where it ends because the cost of entry is too high and there aren’t enough places around that let people actually use 3d printers. Sure lots of libraries and schools are getting them but they never have enough machines to meet the demand and often require their technician to operate them for fear of breaking them. It’s hard not to think of this machine (and the range of clones sure to follow) won’t be the tipping point in the mainstream 3d printing realm. Mattel’s $300 3d printer is due in October and people were thinking that might the machine that tips things…I think we may already be there.
Update (June 13): One thing I didn’t cover originally is the fact that upon boot up, the Mini had a strange message:
It looked like ‘no wifi connection’. I had attributed it to possibly a generic firmware they were using that was also used on the Pro machine coming soon. But it turns out thanks to folks that like to take things apart, the controller does indeed support wifi. Using the non-Monoprice firmware, some folks have been able to enable wifi and use it remotely. There are also apparently desktop and smartphone apps for control and for sending prints to the printer. I’m going to give it a week or so to see if Monoprice releases updated firmware (which is also supposed to address the nozzle temperature issue where some people have noticed 5C +/- swings of temps while printing that should be handled by proper PID values). It also turns out that the controller itself is a 32-bit ARM Cortex M3 which explains the snazzy user interface. This little printer just keeps getting better and better for the money.
Also, today I received a this from Monoprice:
I appreciate the gesture, it’s just such a small amount of filament to be basically useless. The discount code is nice – it’s generic so feel free to use it as I don’t need any more filament for a while. It’s also not Monoprice’s fault but this was shipped to my US mailbox. I wasn’t sure what it was when I got notification of a parcel being delivered so the trip and parcel fee kind of cancel out any ‘bonus’ for me. But at least I could do a grocery run.
Update 2: I couldn’t wait and went ahead and updated the firmware and got the wifi working:
I was able to get my Android tablet (Nexus 7) to connect using the Malyan app. It just seems to be good for remote monitoring the printer so far.
Here’s a video of configuring and remotely controlling the printer via Repetier Host: