XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker review: extremely affordable, but highly limited desktop 3D printer that is best-suited for kids.
When it comes to choosing a desktop 3D printer, the consumer market is filled with a plethora of machines that come in various shapes, sizes, and of course, prices. While there are many companies vying to compete with one another, few have as many available options as the Taiwanese 3D printing company XYZprinting.
It seems like every other week, XYZprinting is tackling at another section of the market with a new type of printer. At the moment, the company is offering over 15 different 3D printers, scanners, and pens. All3DP recently took a test drive with the XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker, a $249 3D printer designed to introduce young minds the vast world of 3D printing.
(Warning: Although the printer is kid-friendly, XYZprinting advises the supervision of an adult for children under 14.)
Unlike most of the other FDM 3D printers that we’ve battled with in our workshop, the XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker is a child-proof printer, equipped with a protected nozzle, non-toxic filament, and a playful color scheme.
This printer is clearly targeted at children and young beginners, and even comes with software tools to help teach 3D design, STEM education, and the overall 3D printing process. Unfortunately, this potentially worthwhile package is deflated by lackluster print quality and other various limitations.
When we tested out the XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker in the All3DP workshop, we tried to do from the perspective of a student or child eager to print their first toy or project. In this regard, the XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker is a decent machine. It’s easy to set up and use out of the box, and is extremely safe as well.
However, at the same time, the printer greatly lacks in print quality and dependability, causing a fair amount of frustration throughout the testing process (more on this below).
All in all, this rambunctiously colorful 3D printer is an affordable and safe way to immerse the little ones into this marvelous technology for the first time. Overall, whether the XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker is a worthwhile investment is completely dependent on what you’re looking for in a 3D printer.
This printer should strictly be seen as the very first stepping stone in 3D printing education, as the low-end resolution and limited capabilities will soon have you looking for a more viable and functional machine.
Now that we’ve given you a brief introduction to the XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker, let’s take a closer look at the guts of this printer. With a wide range of 3D printing technology on the market, this machine sits on the low-end of the consumer spectrum.
Although XYZprinting has fully implemented a proprietary system around this printer, it sort of makes sense as an educational tool for children. Basically, the printer is extremely easy to use and setup, and it’s low price point makes it an appealing product for parents and teachers alike.
However, the accessibility of the XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker also leads to its own demise. Although the printer is easy to assemble and use, this simplicity makes its functionality extremely limited.
Additionally, the quality of prints were extremely volatile, sometimes coming out decently, other times not coming out at all. Although the XYZware slicer and proprietary filament (with chip sensor) makes the printing process easy to start, adjusting settings and experimentation is virtually impossible.
The bright yellow, green, blue, and red color scheme makes the XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker look more like a toy than anything else, and this was likely done intentionally. Just like any other FDM 3D printer, filament is fed through a tube into a heated nozzle, which extrudes the 3D object onto the print bed.
What sets the XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker apart from other low-end desktop printers is the focus on the safety. The heated nozzle is kept out of sight and mind, ensuring that children won’t endanger or burn themselves.
This machine is a compact, single extrusion machine, using a non-heated print bed that requires a layer of painters tape to allow the print to stick (XYZprinting supplies this tape with the printer).
There are a few plastic pieces that need to be removed from the printer in order to begin. One is where the filament spool holder is located, and another where the filament guide tube is located atop the printer.
Depending on your taste, this printer can definitely be seen as a monstrously colorful device. But since the targeted audience is children, we’ll give XYZprinting a pass for the overwhelmingly bright design.
The XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker is only usable when connected to a computer via USB 2.0. This means that users will need to have a spare PC or laptop on tap in order to use the printer.
Aside from this slight inconvenience, the printer has some impressive features for the low price point, such as auto-calibration and automatic filament feeding.
Some other notable specifications include:
One of biggest advantages that the XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker has to offer is the ease of use and assembly. In just five minutes after cracking open the box, we were already getting the first 3D model loaded on the XYZware slicer.
The documentation was a bit sparse, but the one-page assembly guide was enough to get this machine up and running. In fact, the only this that had to be done (aside from plugging in the A/C adapter and flipping the power switch on) was the installation of the filament spool.
After removing the plastic covers from the spool holder and automatic filament feeder mechanism, the filament guide tube had to be connected from the feeder to the print head. This guide tube ended up being the most debilitating part of our experience with the XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker, but more on that later.
For those who have difficulty with installing the filament guide tubing and feeding the filament into the nozzle, XYZprinting provides some pretty informative tutorials on its website.
After the printer is setup and ready to go, the user must switch to XYZware and input the right printer profile (which in this case, is the miniMaker). Once the filament spool is installed and fed through the printer, the chip mechanism shows you how much filament is used and what the standard print settings are.
All in all, the printer is easy to unbox, setup, and get running. The auto-calibration and automatic filament feeder are two extremely helpful features, especially for such a low priced printer.
For those who want to experiment with different filament types and brands, you might want to look elsewhere. The da Vinci miniMaker is compatible only with proprietary filament made by XYZprinting.
Each spool of proprietary filament and chip sensor prevents you from adequately experimenting with third party materials
The XYZprinting team supplied us with a clear PLA filament, which was the only material we used at first. The results with this filament were lackluster to say the least. When printing a 3DBenchy model, which is considered to be the benchmark object for printer testing, we received a print with poor layer adhesion and resolution.
Unsure of how much of this was attributed to the printer’s capabilities and how much was the quality of the filament, we decided to “hack” the printer by using a third party filament.
In order to do this, we had to leave the XYZprinting filament spool in and run the third-party filament above it. Without the proprietary filament’s chip, the printer would not recognize that a material was being used, and thus would not print.
Surprisingly, when using third-party filament to print another 3DBenchy, the results were noticeably improved. Although the resolution was still a bit low, the layer adhesion was much better.
Still, we weren’t able to experiment further with third-party filament because the chip sensor thought that the material being used was the proprietary filament. Therefore, even though it’s possible to “cheat the system” and run other filament through the da Vinci miniMaker, the chip sensor system will eventually catch up to you and spoil the fun.
The XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker is coupled with XYZware slicing software. Although this slicer doesn’t offer the functionality of popular alternatives like Simplify3D and Cura, it does make the printing process much easier for beginners.
XYZware makes it easy to rotate, resize, duplicate, and play around with your 3D models before sending them off to the printer. In this light, it’s the perfect tool for children and young students to get familiar with slicing software and why it’s so important to the overall process.
The software also allows you to put together your own geometric shapes, but this function is quite limited to just a handful of possibilities.
The XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker can be fully controlled from the slicer, showing you print progress, the amount of filament left, and other various controls. Once the print button was pressed, you’re able to choose settings like the print quality. However, in my opinion, for the most part, the difference between “good” and “excellent” seemed indistinguishable.
All in all, XYZprinting has pretty nice software and platform setup to help keep students engaged with the printing process. The printer itself, however, leaves much to be desired.
While ease of use and accessibility is certainly important for the functionality of a desktop 3D printer, the ability to print quality objects is what everyone is truly curious about.
Unfortunately, with the XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker, the print quality and dependability was very underwhelming, and even flat out frustrating at some points.
During the first few prints, the miniMaker was able to complete the job, but not with very high quality. Still, for a $249 printer, this was to be expected to some extent, although we personally had higher hopes.
But soon after, we found that the filament guide tube wouldn’t lock into the automatic filament feeder, which continuously led to failed prints and unpredictable results. In order to fix this, we had to tape the tube into place.
The need for painters tape on the print bed is also a frustrating aspect of the printing process. After about three prints, the tape started ripping off the bed, sometimes even sticking to the bottom of prints. This made the print bed a bit uneven, and required changing after just a few prints.
We also wanted to see how well the printer would handle support structures. After the disappointing results with initial prints, we were pleasantly surprised to see the supports came off of the print cleanly. Still, this positive was lost in the fact that many prints wouldn’t even make it off the bed completed.
At the end of the day, it’s tough to judge the XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker appropriately. On one hand, it’s extremely affordable, easy to use, and a safe introduction to 3D printing technology. On the other hand, we can’t help but feel the limitations of this printer may ultimately end up turning students off to the technology as a whole.
If you’re looking for a cheap and child-friendly 3D printer to start off the 3D printing journey, this printer may be worth looking into. But, if quality and reliability is important to you, the XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker will likely leave you begrudgingly disappointed.
License: The text of "XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker Review: Just A Toy" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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