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Best Budget 3D Printer

Monoprice Select Mini Review: Best Budget 3D Printer 2017

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Picture of Bulent Yusuf
by Bulent Yusuf
Aug 4, 2017

Monoprice Select Mini Review: Best Budget 3D Printer 2017

The MP Select Mini (V2) offers the best value for your money right now. Read our Monoprice Select Mini review to learn more.

In this article we’re reviewing the first available Monoprice Select Mini. There is a version V2 with several minor improvements. If you’re interested to learn what‘s new, please consult this artice.

Don’t Miss: Monoprice Select Mini - 7 Tips for Better Prints

The price of a desktop 3D printer just keeps on tumbling. Once upon a time, we would gibber with excitement if a decent 3D printer carried a price tag less than $600. But as the technology continues to mature, designers and manufacturers continue to find ways to bring the price even lower. Case in point: About $200 for a Monoprice Select Mini.

Important to note is that this micro-budget 3D printer bucks the prevailing trend in one critical way. The Monoprice Select Mini didn’t start life as a Kickstarter project.

Other 3D printers like the M3D Micro, Tiko, OLO/ONO and Trinus have all flourished on crowdfunding platforms, where their asking price was the cornerstone of their marketing plan.

It’s an effective strategy, with backers eagerly making pledges for early-bird specials. But there is often a substantial gap between the completion of the campaign and the delivery of the final product (or the establishment of a customer service team).

Monoprice, by comparison, is a US technology company that didn’t even bother to design and manufacture their own 3D printer. They simply imported the Malyan M200 3D printer from China, rebadged each unit to carry their logo, and then offered them for sale at an incredible $199 price tag. And if you got yourself a buggy machine? No problem, send it in for a replacement.

Can such a cheap 3D printer hold its own against the Ultimakers and Printrbots of this world? Is it even a fair comparison? To find out, we bought a Monoprice Select Mini and put it through its paces.

1

Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer Review Pros

  • Highly Affordable
  • Sturdy Design
  • Simple to Operate
  • Reliable Results at Low-Speed Prints
  • Works with any Slicer and Standard Filament
  • Hackable
  • Did we mention the Price?
2

Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer Review Cons

  • Tricky Calibration
  • Fails at High-Speed Prints
  • Build Plate is Unprotected
  • Faulty Power Brick
  • Wireless Features Deactivated
  • Inconsistent Hotend Temperature
  • Strange Quirks
3

Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer Review Verdict

Image of Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer Review: Verdict
Best Cheap 3D Printer: Monoprice MP Select Mini

The Monoprice Select Mini is a VERY impressive 3D printer for the price. It has a heated print bed; it’s very simple to operate; and it produces reliable and consistent prints.

The machine isn’t perfect, of course. There’s a curious anomaly with variable temperatures while the hotend is in use, and it tends to fail if printing at high speeds. The calibration process of Monoprice Select Mini is a bit of a pain in the bum. And the supplied AC power brick died within 12 hours.

But once it’s up and running, the Monoprice Select Mini is a marvelous little machine that packs in a great many features. It generally works as described, and the quality of the models we printed surpassed our expectations.

Monoprice Select Mini is also hackable, for those who are brave enough to pop it open and make some upgrades. Changing the hotend and upgrading the firmware would be the first priority, and then perhaps laying down some glass for the print bed. You could add those features and still have change from a more expensive 3D printer.

Would we recommend the Monoprice Select Mini to a first-time user? Yes, definitely. Approach this 3D printer with an open mind, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

4

Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer Review Features & Specs

The topline specs for the Monoprice Select Mini are a build area of 120 x 120 x 120 mm, which is roughly the height of a can of Coke. The highest print resolution is 100 microns, with a heated build plate, and a printing speed of 55 mm per second.

Files can be uploaded to Monoprice Select Mini via a microSD card slot or a USB connection. The manual says that compatible slicing software — the application you’ll need to use to prepare objects for printing —  is Cura, Repetier-Host, ReplicatorG, and Simplify3D.

What this means is that the Monoprice Select Mini can parse standard G-code, and is not confined to proprietary software. For the purposes of this review, we used Cura.

Similarly, the Monoprice Select Mini doesn’t require special filament and can accept any standard 1.75 mm spool of PLA or ABS thermoplastic. For our testing, we opted to use ColorFabb PLA in sky blue.

The two aspects concerning software and filament are incredibly rare at this price level. Other 3D printing manufacturers like M3D Micro and XYZprinting tend to impose closed software or filament, which locks you into their operational ecosystem for the long-term.

5

Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer Review Unboxing & Setup

Image of Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer Review: Unboxing & Setup

The setup of the Monoprice Select Mini is fairly easy. You should be up and printing within 20 minutes or less.

Inside the box you’ll find the printer, an AC power adapter, a hex key for leveling the bed platform, a dinky plastic spatula for scraping prints off the bed, a microSD card with 256mb storage capacity, and a micro USB cable.

A scrap of paper has basic setup instructions and then points you towards a URL where you can download the full manual for Monoprice Select Mini.

There’s also a rectangular length of folded sheet metal inside Monoprice Select Mini, and its purpose is not immediately clear. Turns out it’s a spool holder that clips onto the side of the main unit.

Important to note is that the Monoprice Select Mini doesn’t come with any filament. Make sure you have a 1.75 mm spool of your favorite material ready to go or order it at the same time as the printer.

For setup stage, you have to navigate a full-color LCD interface with a click-wheel. The menus in Monoprice Select Mini are clearly structured and well thought out. Via the interface, you initiate the process of calibration, preheating the hotend, and then loading up your filament.

The calibration is a bit tricky; this is supposed to have been set at the factory, and you should be able to slide a sheet of paper between the print bed and the hotend. If you can’t, you have to use the hex key to tweak the springs at each corner of the print bed. This can take some time before you get it juuuuust right.

Which brings us the first quirk (of many); the heated bed of Monoprice Select Mini is an aluminum plate with no protective covering except for a sheet of builders tape. This is quickly going to degrade over prolonged use, so you should ensure you have a roll of tape ready to replace it as and when you need to.

The next quirk is that the AC power adapter on our unit died within 12 hours of use. This was *incredibly* annoying, but relatively easy to replace with a generic power adapter for around 30 bucks or so. Something to be aware of in case it happens to you…

6

Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer Review Build Quality & Design

One of the most appealing things about the Monoprice Select Mini is the build quality; it’s sturdy and robust, with a folded sheet metal enclosure housing the electronics. It’s built like a tank, but also compact and portable, so you won’t be concerned about damaging it in transport.

This is a Cartesian style fused filament fabrication (FFF) printer, with a one-sided arm holding the print head in the style of a Printrbot Simple (at Amazon). The printer only has a single fan for cooling the nozzle, however, which may limit your options for exotic filaments.

At the top of the main pillar is a spring-loaded “quick-release” extruder with a steel gear. It’s a nice design, and it feeds the filament to the hotend using a Bowden cable setup. Again, this may limit your options, especially if you were hoping to print with flexible filaments.

The Monoprice Select Mini hotend has an extruder diameter of 0.4 mm and can reach temperatures of 230°C. We weren’t able to ascertain how easy it would be to replace the nozzle, and this is an important factor in the long-term. Nozzles are prone to degrade over time and will need replacing.

Some more quirks we noticed; the print head has an auto-leveling probe attached, so in theory it should have intelligent positioning feedback. The extruder will know when it’s hit the build plate, in other words, and can adjust itself accordingly to make calibration more simple.

In practice, however, the probe only checks one corner of the build plate, as opposed to all four. On that basis, the auto-leveling doesn’t seem all that intelligent!

UPDATE 25/08: We’ve been told in the comments that this isn’t actually an auto-leveling probe, but a Z-home microswitch that lets the printer know when to stop lowering the head so it doesn’t crash into the build plate. Apologies for the confusion!

The next quirk is that the control interface tells us that wi-fi has been deactivated, and there’s no way to switch it on. It appears that wireless connectivity is an available feature of the Monoprice Select Mini, but Monoprice have chosen to deactivate it in the firmware.

8

Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer Review Hackability

Some notes about the upgrade options for the Monoprice Select Mini. Officially, there aren’t any! But a great many makers are excited about the possibilities of hacking this printer to improve performance. ALL3DP will be investigating these in due course.

Hackaday has listed some of the best fixes to date, including adding an adaptor for an E3D V6 hotend — widely considered the industry standard for desktop 3D printing.

To our mind, perhaps the most critical is implementing a fix for the temperature control. Hackaday has detailed instructions for tuning the proportional–integral–derivative (PID) controller for more consistent behavior.

You can also activate the wireless connectivity by downloading the original Malyan M200 firmware and installing it, but proceed with caution. There is the risk of bricking your machine entirely (at worst), or voiding your warranty (at best).

9

Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer Review Wrapping Up

Image of Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer Review: Wrapping Up

After testing the Monoprice Select Mini for the past few weeks, we can say with confidence this is the best 3D printer you can buy for under $200.

But it’s very important to understand that this machine most definitely cannot compete for print quality with the likes of an Ultimaker 2+ or a BCN3D Sigma.

If you’re looking for a versatile desktop 3D printer for use in a small business or studio environment, you should continue looking. The small build volume and catalog of strange quirks in the Monoprice Select Mini will make you wish you’d purchased something more advanced.

But if you’re a beginner looking for a low-cost and low-risk way to explore the wonderful world 3D printing, this is the perfect choice.

There are the flaws we’ve discussed, but for just $199 this printer will provide plenty of entertainment and education. It’s very easy to use and is capable of print quality to easily rival 3D printers costing three times as much.

This makes the Monoprice Select Mini an ideal choice for beginners, students and teachers looking for an easy way to learn the fundamentals of 3D modeling and 3D printing.

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