At CES last year, Monoprice introduced a $200 3D printer. Initial expectations of this printer were middling. My curiosity got the best of me, and last summer I picked up one of these printers for a review. The Monoprice MP Select Mini is actually phenomenal, and not just ‘phenomenal for the price’. This machine showed the world how good one of the cheapest printers can be. The future is looking awesome.
You might think Monoprice wouldn’t be able to top the success of this great little machine. You would be wrong. This week, Monoprice announced a bevy of new and upgraded printers. Some are resin. Some are huge. One will sell for $150 USD.
The Little SLA
Last year, Monoprice announced a small, exceptionally cheap resin-based printer. It was never released, and for a good reason: it didn’t work very well. Monoprice went back to the drawing board and came up with a brand new design using a tiny 2k monitor and UV LEDs. The sample print quality was incredible, and this machine will work with Open resins, although Monoprice will be releasing their own line of inexpensive resins. The tiny SLA will be coming out in April, and it will be relatively inexpensive.
The Big SLA
The Monoprice ‘MP Maker Prism Professional SLA Resin 3D Printer’ — that’s its full name — is Monoprice’s answer to the Form 1 and other pro-level resin printers. Instead of DLP or LCDs, the big resin printer is using lasers and galvos. It’s big, has a huge build volume, and will be available next month for about $3500.
The Pro Filament Printer
If you jump over to Monoprice right now, you’ll notice they really have the ‘good, better, best’ market segmentation down with three printers that cost $200, $400, and $600. The huge SLA printer shows they’re ready to jump into the pro market, and for filament printers they’re offering the MP 3Series Commercial 3D Printer (or 3Mill, according to the engineers). It’s a printer that can print a 400mm cube, and it costs $800.
The Inexpensive Ones
The standout printer from last year was the MP Select Mini, and over the last few months it’s gotten a few upgrades. The next version of this $200 printer will feature support for an E3D hotend out of the box, an improved extruder motor and drive system, a much more enclosed filament path, better part cooling, and a lot of other improvements from the community. They also painted it black. The MP Select Mini V2 will be released in April.
But an improved $200 printer isn’t why you’re here, is it? You’re here for the $150 delta printer. Yes, it’s there, it works, the sample prints look great, and I wasn’t able to cause a big enough diversion to disassemble it in the Monoprice suite.
The little delta uses NEMA 17 motors that seem to be strong enough. The electronics are a slightly improved version of the board that shipped with the original MP Select Mini (32-bit ARM with WiFi), and the printer has auto bed leveling over at least a dozen points. How good can a $150 printer be? We’re going to find out in April.
What Monoprice Is Doing Here
For the last year or so, the 3D printing community has recognized Monoprice’s ability to ship a lot of really great, really expensive 3D printers. However, the complainers whine, anyone can do that if you’re just rebadging Chinese printers and sending containers of them across the Pacific. This doesn’t properly reflect what Monoprice is actually doing here.
I had a chance to talk with the guy in charge of the 3D printer offerings at Monoprice. While these machines are rebadged printers, they’re doing a lot more than buying printers from a company in China you’ve never heard of. Yes, the base model $200 printer looks like a Malyan M200, but the control board purportedly has a few tweaks of their own.
This, I think, is Monoprice’s entire business model: they take something that is already being manufactured, get the manufacturer to add a few special tweaks, and ship a container to the Port of LA. Using the Monoprice cable example, they would find a manufacturer of cables, ask them to add better strain relief or a braided wrap, and buy a bunch of them. Monoprice thus becomes the best place to pick up any sort of computer cable.
Is that manufacturing? I would argue it is, even though it’s extremely easy to write everything off as a rebadge. There’s some people who actually know a thing or two about 3D printing at Monoprice, and they’re using the tools and systems they have available to put some great printers out on the market.