US company M3D caused a stir a couple of years ago when they released the Micro 3D printer. Selling for $199 on Kickstarter, this was a small entry-level device with a respectable print envelope and some innovative technology. It did have its limits though, the main one being the 4.5-inch cube it could print into, but now the company has taken the concept a stage further with the launch of their new M3D Pro.
If you saw the earlier printer this one will be instantly familiar. It follows the same basic open cube design, although it’s in a more professional black colour instead of the Micro’s lurid green. It also has a much larger footprint – although, as a 10.5-inch cube, it’s still astonishingly compact. The print volume has expanded to 7.8 by 7.2 by 7.2 inches as well. One of the most remarkable things about the design is how effectively it uses space. There’s less than an inch and a half of non-printable volume all round, and that’s a huge contrast to most other affordable printers on the market. RepRaps deserve our eternal gratitude for making 3D printing so accessible, but compared to the M3D Pro they’re hugely wasteful of space.
M3D’s stated aim was to offer the capabilities of a commercial printer at a price consumers would be happy with, and they’ve made a very good attempt here. The print table is heated, which is a very useful feature considering its size – without that capability there would be a high risk of warping or layer separation. It’s compatible with all industry-standard 1.75mm filament, including any that are filled with wood, metal or stone particles. It will handle any material with a melting point of up to 270°C, giving you a huge range of options to choose from.
The software side is just as flexible. It comes with M3D’s own free software, which is touchscreen capable and lets you browse for objects online or save ones you created to a library for later use. This package is simple to use and will be fine for most people, but if you prefer something else the Pro will accept all standard G-code formats. The printer has dual onboard processors so can be run as a standalone unit, and it’s also compatible with both PCs and Macs.
Print performance is impressive; it can run through filament at up to 60mm per second, laying down layers between 25 and 350 microns. If you do have a problem during printing it has a recovery option to reduce the chances of having to scrap it and start again.
The M3D Pro will be available for pre-order in August, and the price is set to be $500. That makes it a great value device for someone who wants more capability than most hobbyist printers can offer, without breaking the bank. For the money you get a lot of features and very good performance, and it won’t take up half your desk either. This is an impressive printer and has the potential to give the market a good shakeup.