The M3D Micro 3D Printer has been on the market for quite some time now, and it has finally dropped to a reasonable price of $449.
When they initially launched their Kickstarter back in 2014, they surpassed the goal of reaching $50,000 in funding in only 11 minutes due to its awesome and complete functionality.
We now finally have one in our hands and were able to test it out.
There’s a reason that the M3D Micro 3D Printer has the word ‘micro’ as part of its name. It’s small enough to carry around with a build area of 109 mm by 113 mm at the base, and at the top it’s 91 mm x 84 mm with a height of 74 mm. In all, the printer comes at a volume of 185 cubic millimeters. Although the printer and the print size is quite small, it’s quite impressive how much it can do with such a small space. It’s print quality can range from anywhere from just 50 to 350 micros in layer thickness. The M3D was originally built with the intention of getting the most effectiveness out of a small space, and they even include a hidden area under the print bed in which print filament can be placed.
My First Print
There is a space under the bed that has a tube that connects to the extruder for when you want to start prints, but it’s actually recommended that you place the spool outside the printer and externally feed it in. While this way you don’t have a spool holder, it tends to feed through a bit easier. If you’re completely lacking in space you can still use the compartment below. M3D provides you with a sample model that you can print out for your first print, which is actually a great aspect. This way I can compare what I print out with their expected results. The software that’s included makes the printer very easy to use, and they walk you through the necessary steps that you need to partake in so that you can get your printer up and running. They walk you through steps such as changing ink, reducing the complicated process of sliding models, rotating and resizing objects, all the way down to starting your first print.
The M3D Micro 3D Printer doesn’t come with a heated print bed, and sometimes this may result in ABS prints cooling a bit more rapidly than expected and thus warping slightly upwards before the print actually finishes. This can add some stickiness to the print bed. There are ways to prevent this mess by using a gluestick on the surface of the bed, but the slight warping may be difficult to prevent. I tended to have more success on smaller ABS prints, but if you’re looking specifically to print ABS prints, I recommend going somewhere else. PLA is where it’s at with the Micro, and prints using this material can be printed without any problem onto print beds that aren’t heated. In fact, the quality with PLA tape rivals in comparison to the Cubify 3D Printer which cost upwards of $1,000 dollars. This is what makes the M3D so great for just a third of the price. There weren’t any problem with either small or large PLA prints, but I still suggest using a BuildTak surface for easier removal and to help preserve your print bed. Overall, the quality was smooth and there wasn’t any warping using PLA tape.
Print speed lacks a little bit when compared to higher-end printers, but this is to be expected for a printer a fraction of the price. The tiny dinosaur that you see in the image above took roughly 8 hours in total to complete on high quality using a medium fill. Out of all the prints I’ve done so far, the stereographic projection sphere in the image below is one of the most intricate pieces that I’ve printed so far. It does a great job of demonstrating the amount of plastic waste you might end up creating due to the multiple support rafts that are needed for a project like this. Hopefully in the future they’ll have a decent way of recycling this type of material.
The So-Called ‘Ink’
When using the M3D Micro 3D Printer you’ll need to use any standard 1.75mm PLA or ABS filament. It may be slightly confusing that in the instructions it says that filament is referred to as ‘3D Ink,’ but they’re actually one in the same. If you go with a branded spool you’ll end up spending around $13 for about 225 grams. The upside to this is that each branded filament comes with a little code engraved on each spool. When you enter it, the software will use it to derive the optimal print settings based on temperature, type, material and other aspects that go into a print job. If you do end up going with some third-party print filament, it will be left up to you to figure out how to configure the machine yourself in order to optimize your prints. This won’t be a difficult task, but it would definitely be much easier with a branded version. This is simply just one less task to worry about.
Getting used to handling a 3D printer for novices can be quite a difficult task, no matter what printer you buy unless you’re looking at upwards of thousands of dollars for a machine that’s mostly pre-configured. Otherwise, you’ll be spending time calibrating, figuring out jams and fixing filament feed issues. This is a big part of 3D printing and at the current moment there’s no way to avoid this. New 3D printing techniques are slowly being refined, but this is most likely what you’re going to get for now. We even had a chance to test the MakerBot Replicator, and we found out that this machine was also not immune to nozzle jams. However, even after using the M3D Micro 3D Printer for a couple of months, I never have once experienced a nozzle jam. I’m not sure as to whether this is just luck or not, but it could definitely be due to the recent improvement of core technologies built into 3D printers. Let’s hope that’s the case.
The one thing that tended to bug me the most overall was the printer calibration. When auto-calibrating, there’s a small warning message about how the printer may be damaged if you don’t use BuildTak. I didn’t have any idea what his was, and one wasn’t included in the box that the Micro was shipped it. I eventually found out that they are a layer of flexible plastic that you place onto the bed in order to get better adhesion for each print. You can get them for around $9 on Amazon, and I ended up getting some to test it out. The sheets come with instructions for use and state that you need to raise the hight of the base of your printer by a few hundreths of a millimeter. Doing this caused any auto-calibration that had previously occurred to be lost, and I need up drilling a small hole through the surface of the sheet along with the print bed itself. For that matter, I recommend being very cautious and careful if you do decide to use BuildTak sheets.
The M3D Micro 3D Printer is facing strong competition from other printers in its class, but for the user who is on a budget this one is one of the best. It comes fully assembled making accessible to beginners looking to get started in the 3D printing field, especially since it’s basically plug-and-play. The only downside you might find to this printer is that it has such a small build area. Therefore, if you decide to build bigger models, you’ll have to create a bunch of small prints and then connect them together. Remember to stick with PLA tape in order to avoid warping. Overall, I’m quite satisfied with my M3D and the print quality that comes with it and rivals higher-end printers. And for such a cheap price I definitely couldn’t complain.