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A fully assembled consumer friendly 3D printer is now within your grasp: at the time of the original Kickstarter, a $350 3D printer was basically unheard of, even with DIY kits. That’s why in 2014 they surpassed their funding goal of $50,000 in 11 minutes. We’ve finally got our hands on one, and it’s actually pretty good.

Fancy owning your own 3D printer? At the end of this review we’ll be giving away our M3D Micro test unit to one lucky reader!

Design and Specs

The Micro part of the name isn’t kidding: this thing is tiny. Here’s a banana for scale.

M3D Micro - comapred to banana

  • Print Quality: from 50 to 350 microns layer thickness
  • Build Area: 109mm x 113mm at the base, but reduced to 91mm x 84mm above a height of 74mm, up to a total of 116mm. 
  • Printer Size: 185mm cube.

Despite the overall small print size, I found it impressive how little space the printer took up on top of that – it’s built to make the most effective use of the space as possible, even down to a discreetly hidden area under the print bed for a filament spool to be seated.

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M3D Micro - filament holder underneath

My First Print

Although there is that space under the print bed with a tube connecting it to the extruder, it’s actually recommended you use the external feed port. There’s no spool holder when used externally, but M3D do provide a 3D model of one that you can print out. In curious way, this was actually quite satisfying. The excitement of having a 3D printer can sometimes extinguish quickly as you’re overwhelmed by a catalogue of 3D printables from the Thingiverse or similar repositories. With the Micro, you know exactly what you need to print first, and it feels like quite the achievement to have printed a spool holder – something useful that you can point at and justify your extravagant purchase. Even if one should have been included anyway.

M3D Micro - overview

The software is incredibly easy to use, walking you through ink change procedures and reducing the complicated processing of sliding models into a simple case of click a button to load a 3D model, resize or rotate as you wish, then hit print and choose the quality.

m3d

Print Quality – ABS and PLA

Like the Cubify I reviewed last year Cubify Cube 3D Printer Review and Giveaway Cubify Cube 3D Printer Review and Giveaway Most affordable 3D printers are sold as self-assembly kits, but the Cubify Cube promises to be plug-and-plug with minimal fuss. Does it live up to that promise? Read More , the Micro doesn’t come with a heated print bed, which results in ABS prints cooling rapidly and warping upwards before the print is finished – you can see an example of this in the video. This ends in a sticky mess of 3D printed spaghetti, and the Micro is no different – I was unable to print anything large or small directly onto the print bed. When used with a BuildTak surface applied, I did have some success on smaller ABS prints, but if you’re looking specifically to print in ABS I would advise you look elsewhere.

M3D Micro - print head

PLA is a different matter, and can be printed just fine onto non-heated print beds. Anecdotally, the detail on the PLA prints rivals that of the $1000 Cubify 3D, and that’s a great achievement for something one-third of the price (and without the hassle of DRM’ed print cartridges). Both small and large PLA prints came out well, though again, I would still suggest a BuildTak surface anyway for easier removal and to prevent damage to the print bed.
M3D Micro - print quality

The low poly dinosaur you see above was printed on high quality with a medium fill, and took approximately 8 hours to complete. The most intricate print I managed to get out the M3D was this stereographic projection sphere, which also happens to demonstrate perfectly the amount of plastic waste you’ll create due to the various support rafts that are needed for a model like this. I really hope they have a way of recycling this stuff soon.

m3d print example and waste

“Ink”

The Micro takes any standard 1.75mm ABs or PLA filament. It’s mildly frustrating that M3D have decided to call filament “3D ink”, but there you go. Branded spools cost $13 for 225g. The upside to purchasing their branded filaments is a “cheat code” on every spool, which the software will use to derive the optimal print settings from – temperature, material type, etc. If you do decide to load in third party filament, you’ll need to figure that out yourself, or source something similar. That’s not to imply this would be a difficult task to find out those details, but merely that a 3 letter code is definitely easier and it’s one less worry.

M3D Micro - branded filament cheat code

Setup Woes

Anyone who’s experienced a 3D printer will tell you that it’s not all roses: half the time will be spent re-calibrating, sorting out nozzle jams, or filament feed issues. Such is the nature of 3D printing by heated plastic filament extrusion. As new 3D printing techniques are refined (or rather, pulled down to a consumer level of affordability), these problems will likely be replaced by others – but for now, this is the playing field you choose. Even a $2000 MakerBot Replicator isn’t immune to nozzle jams. I will say this for the M3D Micro though: not once did I experience a nozzle jam. This may have just been luck, but it probably also down to rapid improvement in the core technologies used in the extruder and heating nozzle.

M3D Micro - printing

What wasn’t so obvious was the calibration. Attempting to auto-calibrate fires up a warning message about damaging the printer if you don’t use a BuildTak. I had no idea what that was, and one isn’t included. It turns out they’re basically a layer of flexible plastic you place onto the build bed to provide better adhesion for print. Each one costs around $10 and is reusable a number of times, so after purchasing one I finally managed calibration. The BuildTak sheet itself comes with instructions to raise the height of your base layer a few hundredths of a millimeter higher – but upon doing so, whatever auto-calibration had occurred was apparently lost, and the next print saw the hot nozzle plummet directly into the BuildTak sheet, burning a hole directly through it and into the print bed. I’ll have a replacement sent to the winner, I promise. It turns out only the auto-calibration is necessary, but no worries – it works fine with a new sheet of the BuildTak applied.

M3D Micro - extruder hole

Alternatives

A year earlier, the Pirate3D Buccaneer had made a similar claim, offering a $300 3D printer and gathering over a $1.3 million on Kickstarter. Today they’re deluged in a torrent of refund requests and lawsuits on a product they ultimately couldn’t deliver. They’ve moved on to peddling their device for closer to $1000, so it’s no longer a competitor to the Micro and may not even exist at all.

It’s also worth mentioning HobbyKing has launched that a similar form factor fully assembled 3D printer called the Mini Fabrikator, for only $180.

For those more technically inclined who think they could handle constructing a 3D printer in kit form, you might want to look at an open source kit instead, such as this Kossel DLT-180 delta-style printer for $300 including delivery from China. The build area is larger and supposedly the print quality is better, plus there’s a vibrant community out there to aid with any problems and a multitude of upgrade options.

Is This The 3D Printer You’re Looking For?

Even facing stiff competition from open source 3D printer kits, the M3D Micro is an affordable way to take your first steps into 3D printing – and surprisingly produces prints that are on par or better than the $1000 “budget” Cubify printer we looked at last year. The Micro comes fully assembled, so if you’re looking for the cheapest 3D printer around that comes packaged and ready for consumer use, I see no reason to grab one now before the price increases (I say that because the website implies it might, though who knows). The only sacrifice is the small build area, though while testing the printer I didn’t come across many objects that required a larger area, or that couldn’t be suitably scaled down. If you need specifically to print in ABS, or anything over the size of a 10cm cube, then look elsewhere.

M3D Micro - inside clseup

Our verdict of the M3D Micro:
The M3D Micro is the most affordable consumer-ready 3D printer we’ve seen yet. There are cheaper open source kits out there if the small build area is too limiting for you, but if you just want to get started without spending thousands of dollars, we see no reason not to grab an M3D Micro now!
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M3D Micro 3D Printer Giveaway

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact James Bruce for further details.

  1. Marcel Verton
    November 29, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    I have had nothing but bad luck with my M3D printer. I've had it just over 3 months and I no longer can successfully print anything. The prints always fail 1/2 way through. I've tried different filaments, slicers, Octoprint, checked humidity levels, temperatures, etc. Nothing!!

    I paid $25 for M3D sent me a new print head. I installed it. Now that print head doesn't work.

    There's a reason why this printer only has a 3 month warranty: it's a cheap piece of garbage!!

  2. Fernando
    June 9, 2016 at 1:31 am

    Unfortunately to me also I bought this printer, never works well just prints air, contacting support services, same story like the rest of comments =(, better put your money to the trash can.

  3. Eeeezy
    April 8, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    Don't buy this!!! My wife got me one to play around with while I get ready and recover from surgery. First one came apart and took customer service 3 weeks to "allow" for a replacement. Got my second printer and took me a couple days to use it because I finally got surgery. Well was able to print one item and then after that the whole axis was off. The hot end even melted a part of the base. Well M3D takes 2 more weeks to get back with me. After two weeks they tell me to print out a form that takes 1 week to finally allow for a refund. But the refund requires me to pay for shipping and they clame its not under warranty and that I have to pay a 20% restocking fee.

    The worst part is that my wife was so happy to get if for me and this happened. It's horrible to have to explain to your wife why you love what she did for you but hate the companies product and customer service. Don't ruin your families joy by buying this. Get something else.

  4. Mike Carter
    March 20, 2016 at 2:45 am

    I've had mine for about a month and so far it's been great. No major problems and it didn't take long at all to make some really nice prints from complex models. I use a $2700 Makerbot Replicator 2X at work and frankly have more trouble with that one. I think people don't realize that there is a learning curve with ANY 3D printer, and it takes some time to dial it in by doing a good calibration, finding the right temperature and using the right settings.

  5. Sage Wheeler
    March 18, 2016 at 6:25 am

    I purchased this printer for my son's 12th birthday and it was a huge mistake. The first one we got did two prints then the filament got jammed and, after some very unhelpful advice from their terrible customer service we had to send it back. We just got the second one and it also failed after two prints. I asked for a refund this time and they said it had been too long. So...if I would have asked for a refund the very second the first one failed I would have got a refund. Right? NO! They also said I wasn't eligible for a refund because my unit was refurbished. That's news to me because I ordered a mine brand spankin new! So basically they just admitted to defrauding their customers by selling refurbished units as new. Absolutely do not purchase this terrible product from these terrible people.

  6. Annonymous
    January 30, 2016 at 7:06 am

    I purchased this turd late in 2015. I have maybe achieved three to four successful prints in the four months I have owned this thing. The customer service is absolutely atrocious and forget ever trying to get a refund. I can honestly say I have never used or encountered a more frustrating, useless POS. Being from north of the border I paid a ridiculous $618 after exchange and shipping. The printer 90% of the time will not complete a print. My god its slow. I really enjoy waiting 14 - 20 hours to see a print fail... awesome. It absolutely loves to print air... ie... no material, just pretending. The feed tube in the nozzle kept pulling away when it reversed the filament and jamming in the feed gear. It took M3D weeks of not responding to emails to finally decide to send a replacement to attempt a repair.... now the nozze wont even come near the print bed no matter how I manually adjust the print bed settings. And what do you know... its back to printing air... I could not even finish one complete set of prints. Please, for the love of god dont waste your money on this thing. I wouldnt wish the frustration and bull on my worst enemy...Since I cant get a straight answer from the company and cant get any sort of return Ill be filing with the BBB.
    Good luck to those who have magically gotten this thing to work.

  7. John
    January 13, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    I bought the M3D and had serious issues printing anything. There were a lot of software issues. There support is terrible and they often will not respond to customers. I finally returned my printer for a refund and after promising to send me my money back in 3-5 days, I'm still waiting with no information (that was back on December 14, 2015). I will be reporting them to the Better Business Bureau.

  8. joheben
    December 26, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Welll... I got the printer 9 month later than expected (silver color, in Europe), and after 3 more months I have not even managed to successfully print the external spool holder.

    Some major problems encountered (major for any 3D printing noob) are:

    - The Z-dimension drive belt broke after two prints - they sent a new one (the cost of which is apparently 50 cents). Lucky I amnot completely off on technical matters, so I managed to replace it and level the four Z-holders.

    - The PLA filament strongly tends to clog in the print head, requiring to fiddle with manual feeding up/down and to pull very hard to get it out - that is why one should only use external filament feeding.

    - At first I used the internal spool bay, because there were no explicit instructions telling me otherwise, and I could not fathom that I was supposed to use the not-yet-printed external spool holder. I now use a very ugly temporary spool holder contraption.

    - PVC printing ... they did not tell me that this would be likely failure - but I did manage to print the first part of the spool folder (alas I did not choose full fill, so it broke immediately). Second try to print in PVC was the same with full fill - first just a mess and burning through the print bed, then a spaghetti result. I guess I try to print in PLA only and forget about the PVC spools that I bought.

    Lesser issues:

    - It should explain that the print bed has BuildTak on it when delivered (support told me this when I was perplexed that I needed this mysterious material, but I am actually not sure if I have it!)

    - Their PLA filament tends to break at multiple points, even when just sitting there inserted into the external port.

    - Their software should analyse the loaded model and make some intelligent recommendations about use of rafts,fill level and possible print quality. Why not include the possibility to give feedback after each print, increasing overall knowledge of what works with the printer?

    I will have another go with their support, but after that I think I put it on the shelf until it has serious improvements in guiding users to successful prints.

  9. M3D Printer News!
    November 24, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    If you want a bit of discount on the M3D printer use code M3DSA5% on checkout

  10. Riley
    November 21, 2015 at 5:17 am

    Do NOT get this printer, they sent me a broken one, I tried to contact them multiple times and they won't respond. Funny thing is when I secretly sent them a question regarding purchasing one they respond within hours. Apparently I'm not the only one. Save your time and money and go with an actual proper company!

  11. Sheldon Tracey
    November 20, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    I have had one for about 4 months. I tried to calibrate it because I couldn't get a decent print out of it. I contacted their support and found out I needed to update the firmware. That didn't help. Then I found out I needed to update the software. Then it needed to be calibrate it again. Well it is on the shelf. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone! It is a piece of crap. Go back to the drawing board M3D! Don't sell it until you get it right!

  12. Samer Rustom
    October 22, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    What is the full name or the picture of the winner please?

    • James Bruce
      October 22, 2015 at 10:12 pm

      I won't divulge personal information like that, and they did not provide us with a picture.

  13. Samer Rustom
    October 21, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Dear all,

    Who is the winner of 3D Printing on a Budget: M3D Micro Review and Giveaway?

    • James Bruce
      October 22, 2015 at 7:34 am

      A user called Sam R.

  14. Joan Majewski
    September 22, 2015 at 11:07 am

    The Micro is currently available at the special price of $349, but a new price point will soon be offered as we expand into retail stores. If you know anybody who is interested in The Micro, please encourage them to order soon. This way, they can take advantage of the $349 price before it goes up! To order go to http://www.printm3d.com/#_l_jz

  15. Livia Costa
    August 25, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    who's the winner?

  16. unknown2070270179
    August 18, 2015 at 3:19 am

    One day i'm going to have to get one.

  17. Jens Ken Lundstrom
    August 15, 2015 at 6:55 am

    Great review!
    looks really interesting and useful!
    Thank you for sharing.

  18. Reinhard “Barmonster” Mitschang
    August 14, 2015 at 11:15 am

    actually it DOES come with a sheet of BuildTak installed on the printbed, but still it's a consumable, so you need to buy spares sooner or later.
    There is also a 3rd party heated printbed for the Micro looking for funds on kickstarter right now, so maybe you can print ABS in the near future too ;-)
    After all the Micro is a nice little key to open the door to the world of 3D printing. But still it is a cheap product, made of cheap parts and if you read through the forums, you will see a lot of people with broken fans, heaters or similar. I'm waiting on a spare fan myself right now.

    • James Bruce
      August 14, 2015 at 11:52 am

      Hah, I see it now. Looks like I've installed a BuildTak over a BuildTak then ;)

  19. Robert Lamaster
    August 12, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    The M3D Micro looks to be a good entry into 3D printing. Sure, it's small, but I'd love to have one of these to start this hobby I've been ready to get into. Thanks for the review. It really helps us who are new to the concepts. Please consider me for your giveaway!

  20. Bonnie Taylor
    August 12, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Would love to use this to create a maker space at my school

  21. alfred chan
    August 11, 2015 at 3:15 am

    Wow, what a Great giveaway.

  22. Alan Trinder
    August 11, 2015 at 3:04 am

    what fun

  23. Laurie Brager
    August 10, 2015 at 3:52 am

    Wow looking at these since inception. Joined a group to make prosthetics. Too many others jumped on board too quickly, then design for simple afforable homes which some are doing with big bucks, now interested in making my 2D designs into 3d and i have many many many, water containers for communities that have none, etc, etc, etc, ideas for next kickstarter

  24. Edmond Leung
    August 9, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Wow, prize 3D printer is fab. & splendid. 2 fingers snap. It is tight, fly & off the chain. Thank you for the awesomeness, the contest, and generosity. :) Pick me, pick me! Dear Santa: I’ve been nice. My X-Mas wish this year is to win this contest. Starving artist here desperately needs the printer to work and eat. A life changing exp.

  25. Debrah Bassett
    August 9, 2015 at 7:23 am

    fantastic giveaway

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