The new M3D Micro is like a toy that you'd get for your 10-year-old kid, or use the kid as the excuse to get it for yourself.
For one, it's affordable, costing just $350 -- there's a retail version on Amazon that costs $450 that includes filaments and extends the warranty from three months to a year. (It's not widely available in the UK or Australia, but $350 converts to around £250 or AU$450.) Not exactly a tiny amount of cash, but in the world of 3D printers, where prices can run up to a few grand, it's definitely one of the cheapest. It's super compact and cube-shaped, measuring a mere 7.3 inches (18.5 cm) in each dimension and weighs slightly more than 2 pounds (1 kg).
And it's simple to use. Everything you need to know about getting it up and running can be found in this instructional YouTube video and as long as I followed those instructions, the printer worked smoothly with nary an issue. That said, it's far from perfect.
The Micro has one major shortcoming: It needs to be physically connected to a computer at all times in order to function. If during a print job the computer is turned off, goes to sleep or if you accidentally close the printing software, the job will fail. Most 3D printers I've tested only require a connection to a computer to initialize a printer job, but are able to finish the job on their own. This one can't.
Additionally, the Micro can only print small objects, its print speed is slow -- an iPhone 6 case would take about 2 hours on normal-quality setting -- and the print quality is lacking. However, these are common flaws of the popular Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printing technology the Micro uses. If you want truly high quality prints, you'll need a stereolithography (SLA) printer. (Read more about 3D printing technologies here.)
|Print type||Fused Filament Fabrication 3D printer|
|Printer size||7.3-inch (185mm) cube|
|Weight||2.2 pounds (1kg)|
|Build volume||Base: 109 by 113mm, at 74mm and above: 91 by 84mm; max height: 116mm|
|Filament cost||$14 (regular) or $18 (tough) for a spool of 0.5 pound|
|3D model files||.stl, .obj|
|Platform supported||Windows 7 or later, Mac OS 10.6 or later|
If you're looking to ease into the world of 3D printing, the Micro is a safe buy. It's a fun and easy machine to use, even for most kids, and won't dig a huge hole in your wallet. However, if you're serious about 3D printing and are ready to pretty much learn a new trade, a larger printer, such as the XYZprinting Da Vinci Jr. -- which costs the same, but is more capable! -- will serve you better with more printing options. And if you really want to make high-quality objects, save up for the $3,000 Formlabs Form 2.