3D Printers are cool–they’re very fun to play with. But they have some drawbacks too. They’re slow, the quality of the surface finish on parts you print often requires a lot of extra work to smooth out, they can be finicky unless tuned up, and they’re not incredibly cheap either for all that.
Here at CNCCookbook, we’ve got a Rostock Max that we like really well. We built it from a kit we purchased from SeeMeCNC for about $1000. It took a couple of afternoons to build and has worked reasonably well ever since.
I can’t really say we needed another 3D Printer, but the ads for the M3D made me super-curious. First, it’s really cheap–$349! Anyone could afford to play around with a 3D printer at that kind of price point. Second, it’s stylin’–the ads and other graphics from the company look awesome:
This ad with the little 3D printed soldiers is the one that suckered me in, for some reason…
Then there’s the feature set–it comes with built-in auto-leveling and auto-calibration. Dang, my Rostock doesn’t even have that–I’ve been wanting to get something along those lines for it because 3D printers can be finicky unless you keep them well calibrated.
How Cheap Can You Make a Decent 3D Printer?
I know, I know–ads are always slick. And the demo is always better than the real thing. But I couldn’t help but keep wondering–how cheaply can you make a decent 3D printer? What if this little guy could print just as well as my Rostock, just with a smaller build volume? That would make it an awesome value, no? But is that even possible?
I don’t know yet whether the M3D is up to that task, but I contacted the company and asked for a review copy. Most companies ignore those emails. I sent one to Glowforge and got back a, “No thanks,” from their CEO almost immediately. These guys were all for it, and I had an M3D show up on my doorstep not long ago. I’m going to write at least one more article about it next week when I start printing with it, but for this week, I want to walk you through the unboxing.
BTW, once I got thinking about 3D Printers in the same terms as things like inkjet printers, I decided you could probably build a decent one pretty cheaply indeed. We’ll see how well M3D measures up to that potential!
Unboxing the M3D
The shipping box was sure small and light!
A box-within-a-box, but things are looking more interesting…
Out popped a much prettier carton, and an uber cute little reel of pearl white PLA filament!
Get used to cute as you unpack this thing. Here’s the cute little reel of filament next to Big Brother–a standard roll of filament for my Rostock 3D Printer…
Things are well done up in bubble wrap and foam to protect the M3D…
Once through the bubble wrap and foam, we’re onto the last defenses–blue tape protects the case edges and locks the movable components from moving…
There’s also a couple of these plastic clips and some foam blocks keeping the print head firmly secured…
Tada! There’s my little M3D in all of its cuteness!
It’s actually a very decent looking little machine. While there’s a lot of plastic, it comes of more as small and cute than cheaply made. In fact, I would venture to say that in a lot of ways it looks higher quality than the Rostock, which is a tad closer to that “homemade” feel. This looks like a consumer product, which is exactly what it is intended to be.
They can also be had in a variety of cool colors:
I should have enough track time printing things with the M3D in the next week or two to publish an installment that gives an idea of ease of use, print quality, and any gotchas I encounter with it. It’s so tiny it can sit on the end of my desk quietly purring away while I work on other CNCCookbook business. I’m really looking forward to having a good play with it!
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Bob is responsible for the development and implementation of the popular G-Wizard CNC Software. Bob is also the founder of CNCCookbook, the largest CNC-related blog on the Internet.