I am often asked by friends and colleagues which 3D printer they should buy for themselves. I work with 3D printers professionally which provides me with access to most types of 3D printing technologies available today. That plus having been involved in 3D printing for about a decade now makes me everyone’s go to guy for 3D printer questions. I love 3D printing and see it as a revolutionary tool that is being used to change the world for the better every day.
I have two answers for those that ask me which printer to purchase: If they are interested in using it for professional business use I highly recommend the Formlabs Form2 printer. This machine produces high accuracy prints in a range of materials suitable for professional applications such as prototyping as well as fit form finish models for user testing. They have a good range of material options, and their surface finish in printed parts is second to none. The price point of ~$3500 is a bit high for home use, but in the professional world this is barely worth consideration. The value the Form2 part quality brings is substantial over even the best of the desktop FDM 3D printers which are comparably priced such as the Ultimaker 3. If the asker is interested in having a 3D printer as a hobby/learning tool for their family, I recommend the Monoprice select mini 3D printer. This little $200 3D printer does something most cheap (and expensive) FDM printers do not. It works, and works well. I have now purchased 3 of these units, and each is amazing in both reliability, quality and ease of use. It is still a $200 3D printer so it has some flaws, which I have engineered some upgrades to eliminate. This is the first of a series of posts on my upgrades to make this tiny printer an even better machine.
Last year, in the fall I picked up a Monoprice Mini 3D printer for just under $200. Thinking of it as a toy more than a functional 3D printer at the time. Boy was I wrong. I was planning on setting up the Monoprice Select mini printer to test it before giving it as a Christmas present. My first print out of the box with some garbage filament I had leftover from my custom built large format 3D printer came out magically perfect. I was shocked. I did a few more prints, then ordered a second one for the gift and kept the first. Since then I have printed about 5 kG of resin through this small but fabulous 3D printer. The Select Mini 3D printer from Monoprice.com prints like a boss, and is the best value in 3D printing today.
With the mpiii select mini 3D printer’s smaller 120mm x 120mmx120mm build volume, it can’t compete with larger printers on the size of things you print. Chances are that most of the things you will find yourself printing easily fall inside this volume. When I purchased my first one, I was in fact building a small 3D printer for myself with a 100mm cubed build volume as I had realized most of my prints were of small enough size to fit in this volume. Using my large 3D printer requires significant heat up time as well as a large amount of energy to heat up the chamber. The startup time on the Monoprice select mini is only about 2-3 minutes from start of preheat to printing with PLA filament.
The printer include everything you need to print in the box, but you will want to purchase a few extras, as well as some filament. It comes with a micro SD card, a plastic scraper, some small allen wrenches, a power supply and a USB cable. These will allow you to start the first print, but they include only a very small sample of PLA filament in the box. You will want to purchse a kg of decent PLA filament along with your printer. I love the Hatchbox 1.75mm filament. And for your first spool, I suggest getting Grey. You can buy this great PLA filament on Amazon, and while it is not the cheapest PLA filament, it has proven itself to be the best. The other things I recommend purchasing is a roll of 2″ blue painters tape, as well as one of these 3D print removal tools.
In the next series of posts I will share individual upgrades I have made to my Monoprice select mini 3D printer. Most of these are 3D printable, a few require drilling or punching in the metal side panels of the printer.