A VERY GOOD 3D PRINTER FOR BEGINNERS
The festive season is nearly on us again, and thanks to the coronavirus Christmas shopping is going to be harder than ever. Masks and social distancing take all the fun out of a trip to the shops, and if you’re in Wales you won’t even be allowed to buy anything when you get there. Luckily nobody’s figured out how to ban online shopping yet, so you can still pick up a shiny new 3D printer for the technology fan in your life (or for yourself).
If you’re looking for a new 3D printer you’re spoiled for choice – there are more models available than ever, and they’re easier to use and offer better performance, too. In fact there’s never been a better time to get your first printer. This week we’ll look at one of the best options for a beginner.
The Monoprice Select Mini
The Select Mini, and its larger brother the Maker Select, have been around for a couple of years now. Monoprice have recently upgraded both to V2 standard, though, and this makes the affordably priced Mini a very attractive option for beginners. Right now you can pick one up for not much more than £150, and we think that’s a great price for what you get.
Opening The Box
Most printers in this price range have the dreaded caveat, “Some assembly required”. The problem is that “some” can end up being several hours of holding fiddly bits in place with your teeth while you try to insert a screw in some awkward corner. Good news: There’s none of that with the Monoprice Select Mini V2. The printer comes almost fully assembled; all you need to do is take it out the box and slide the filament spool onto its axle.
One thing you’ll notice when you lift it out the box is that despite its compact size, it’s a fairly weighty item. Unusually for a budget printer it has all-metal construction and it feels really solid and well put together. It’s also simple, with a small but clear screen and a single control knob that lets you run through the menus and select functions. It’s similar to a BMW iDrive controller and really intuitive to use. That’s it for controls; there isn’t even a power switch.
All you have to do once the printer is unpacked is level the bed. Like the rest of the device this is a sturdy metal item – which is heated – and its four levelling screws make it easy to calibrate.
Prints Mean Prizes
So far, then, the Select Mini is an impressive device. The next question is simple but vital – how well does it print? We were happy to find that, with a couple of caveats, the answer is very well indeed. With an acceptable if not stunning 120x120x120mm build area, and a new all-metal hot end for the V2 model, it certainly has the hardware. The supplied Cura slicing software also works well.
The first caveat is that this isn’t the fastest printer in the world, or even in its price bracket. In fact on larger tasks it can be positively slow. The good news is that print quality is very acceptable; in fact it rivals some much more expensive printers with PLA filament. It’s not restricted to a proprietary filament either, so you can use any 1.75mm material.
Another caveat: While it should be able to print with ABS and a range of other materials, you’ll usually get the best results with PLA. ABS prints had some issues with warping and sticking to the printer bed. If you stick to PLA, though, you’ll get good results even with complex prints like the infamous 3DBenchy tugboat.
As you’d expect for a £152 printer the Monoprice Select Mini V2 has strengths and weaknesses, but overall it’s a solid performer. It tends to stumble if you get too ambitious, especially with some of the more specialised materials it can handle on paper, but if you stick with PLA it’s easy to set up and handles complex prints much better than you’d expect at this price. If you want to get started in 3D printing without breaking the bank, the Select Mini is an excellent choice.