3D Printing: Ready for mass market?

Shrek 3D Print

While revising the 3D design for Moment, I started off using a Makerbot Replicator at TechShop. These machines were the first to usher in an era of accessible consumer 3D printing. The bundled software is easy to use, and the printers generally work well. That said, with a $2,000 price tag, they aren’t truly accessible to the average consumer, and a TechShop membership can also be expensive if you don’t use it regularly. With affordable rapid-prototyping in mind, I began asking “Can you get started 3D printing for less?”.

Now, with the Monoprice MP Select Mini, you can. At an MSRP of $200, I decided to get one and try it out for myself. It doesn’t disappoint. It works with a wide range of filaments (ABS, PLA, XT Copolyester, PET, TPU, TPC, FPE, PVA, HIPS, Jelly, Foam, Felty), including a PLA-based wooden filament from Hatchbox. After 3D printing a few models of Shrek and some geometric Pokemon, I was impressed.

Pokemon 3D Print

The Good

  • absurdly cheap ($200)
  • heated print bed
  • compatible with many different filaments
  • solid exterior built of steel and aluminum (very few plastic parts)
  • full color LCD display on the printer
  • MicroSD card slot
  • works with Cura software from Ultimaker
  • possibly capable of connecting to wifi networks in a future firmware update
  • print bed leveled out of the box
  • active user community
  • 1-year limited warranty
  • extremely accurate Z-axis motor (possibly more than 100 micron resolution)

The Bad

  • limited print space (120x120x120 millimeters)
  • very minimal instructions – debugging can be hard
  • cheap built plate material (scratches easily)
  • imprecise temperature regulation
  • no enclosure or hood around prints
  • non-standard parts that require warranty replacement or buying a new printer

Conclusion

If you’re looking to get started with 3D printing, or want to try out different filament types inexpensively, buy this printer. Its price sets it apart from the competition. Any comparable printer is easily 3x the price, but the additional cost may also come with improved reliability—only time will tell whether the MP Select Mini is a durable product.

Author: Shantanu Bala

Shantanu Bala graduated from Arizona State University in 2014 with a double B.S. in Computer Science and Psychology.

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