The $200 Monoprice Maker Select Mini 3D Printer

Note that it's $200 US dollars
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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.

As I’ve only had it for a weekend, these are my impressions so far. Most of my prints were done with Hatchbox (green) or Proto-Pasta (coffee) PLA. Both printed wonderfully.

Maker Select Mini

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:

Maker Select Mini

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:

CuraCura

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).

Control interface

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.

Maker Select Mini

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.

Preheat mode
Maker Select Mini

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.

Print finished

Print finished

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.

Printing a mini-me

Maker Select Mini

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:

Maker Select Mini

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:

IMG_7543

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.

See this in-depth technical review at Hackaday as well. There is also a rapidly growing group on Facebook.

Also, today I received a this from Monoprice:

IMG_7348

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:

wifi-monoprice

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.

wifi-monoprice-android

Here’s a video of configuring and remotely controlling the printer via Repetier Host:

21 Comments

  1. Doug Penny says:

    Can you provide some details on how to clone the printer settings from the included elephant model? We have been able to print the two models included on the SD card, but anything we print from our computer (through Cura) doesn’t work. It looks like the extruder head is staying to close to the platform.

    • John says:

      Cura has an ‘Load profile from GCode’ option in the file menu. It’ll let you pull in the settings from the files included on the SD card and merge them with your Cura profile. It’s not perfect so you might have to manually type the settings to reflect the ones in my post.

  2. Tamas Simon says:

    nice detailed blog post, thanks

    could you send me a link to the dinos you showed me?

  3. Eric Schuyler says:

    John,

    Thanks for your detailed review. I got one of these printers and would like to enable the Wi-Fi by updating the firmware. Can you tell me whether you updated the UI Controller (lcd.bin) or the Motion Controller (update.bin) firmware (or both) to enable the Wi-Fi?

    Also, if it’s not too much trouble, could you list the steps you performed in the video to connect to the printer via Wi-Fi? The video is pretty blurry and it’s hard to see exactly what you’re doing.

    Thanks,
    Eric

  4. Brett Walker says:

    Where did you find the Malyan app? I have the FW updated but, need a way to configure the printer.
    Thanks

    • John says:

      It was linked in the same place as the firmware on their wiki. It’s Android only as far as I can tell.

  5. Brett Walker says:

    Thanks for the fast response. I am on Android and do not see the link on the wiki. Also, when you power on your printer, does it display v14.33 or v14.34?

    • John says:

      I get v14.33 on mine.

      • Brett Walker says:

        I found the .apk and some FW from 6/15/2016 but, still can’t get it to connect. Not an issue as I use octoprint. Tried to get original FW from Monoprice but, they claim not to have it yet.

  6. Eric Schuyler says:

    I updated the firmware and used the Malyan 3D Craft Android app to set the IP address. I watched the Repetier-Host video, but it’s very blurry and I can’t figure out how to connect to the printer. In the Printer Settings dialog, I selected “TCP/IP Connection” and entered the IP address displayed on the printer. I don’t know what the correct Port setting should be, but I couldn’t connect with the default value of 8876. Can you give me any suggestions? Thanks!

    • John says:

      I haven’t got anything further to work beyond monitoring remotely (which is mostly useless) on my Android tablet. I think the Repetier-Host relies on something Windows specific as I don’t have the same options on OSX and haven’t investigated further. I’m hoping Monoprice comes out with something official but this could also be the reason they turned it off in the first place.

  7. Eric Schuyler says:

    I found it! You were right, there’s a Windows program called “Malyan Link” that creates a virtual COM port that connects via WiFi to the printer. Selecting this COM port in Repetier-Host allows full control of the printer via WiFi.

  8. Chuck says:

    Just curious if you or anyone knows the steps per millimeter for the extruder? I think its around 110 but would appreciate anyone with more info jumping in.

  9. Steve says:

    Just as FYI the X axis can print a little bigger then the 120mm rated limit. I made two different devices, one 121mm and one 123mm – you should be able to go even a little bigger if you are careful and disable skirt in Cura.

  10. John Bottoms says:

    My Mini is new and the Z-axis does not work. I can see the vertical threaded rod turn but the carriage doesn’t turn. Any suggestions? Looks like it will be difficult to take it apart.

    • John says:

      If it’s new, contact support…they’ll either walk you through troubleshooting or will RMA a replacement. It’s likely either a bad connection, a broken wire or something else that would be hard to troubleshoot here.

  11. stuman1974 says:

    Hi, when setting up CURA on a Mac, what model did you select prior to your settings? On the manual, and for Windows, it says you can set a custom machine. But I only saw “other” and then no “custom” selection. Thanks.

    • John says:

      I don’t remember what I chose as Cura has updated a few times since I did it and it doesn’t have the same options. Just pick a Mendel or i3 and make adjustments for the build size for the Mini. People are also having great success with CraftWare (free) and just changing the default bed size.

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