I have been an avid follower of the burgeoning home 3D printing market for several years now and have firmly believed it was only going to be a matter of a very small number of years before a genuinely affordable and practical printer hit the market. There have been plenty of candidates the past 24 months, but always the size or form factor held me back. Price is also a factor obviously along with the practicality of how useable they are. Earlier this week the Micro 3D Printer (M3D) debuted on the crowd sourcing platform Kickstarter with a fantastically compact and stylish looking 7.3 inch cube shell, and an equally compact sub $300 price point (even cheaper if you were one of the fortunate early backers). To say this has been enthusiastically received would be an understatement, M3D having achieved its $50K target funding in just under 11 minutes. As I write this pledges from over 7000 backers have just topped $2Million with over 27 days still to go in the campaign.
Clearly this isn’t remotely aimed at the professional or semi-professional user and for prototypes I would still use a bureau service or higher resolution DLP type printer instead. However, weighing up the highly affordable price point and the M3Ds diminutive footprint I can see a huge amount of potential for this in creating after-market model parts or low-res primitive prototypes which can be further finished and finessed by hand. In other words making what I call the sub-structure (or underpin to use a soft-sculpt parlance). More details are still to be finalised regarding software and international shipping, but with nearly a month still to go this is a product that is quite literally building it’s own user-base from the ground up in front of our very eyes. Am I interested in the M3D? Yes, very much so. However, like any Kickstarter these days it comes with risk and no doubt there will be some who cast doubt on the veracity of the creators ability to produce this to the cost and specification they are presenting. You have to make your own mind up as to the legitimacy of these claims.
If you are thinking you will be able to knock out detailed 28mm miniatures with this, you are probably going to be disappointed from my experience. However as a relatively affordable tool to take some of the early leg work out of the prototyping, or to make the occasional replacement part I can see M3D having a role. Hobby uses aside I can also see this being very popular with Schools and Education.
Personally I will be watching this closely for the next 27 days and it may well be the machine I can see me playing around with a year from now for my own home printing shenanigans. So what do you guys think; cheap fun printer or dubious product? Comments below.
Until next time, have a great week.