Prusa Unveils New Mini 3D Printer, Shakes Up The Competition

For the last couple of years, consumer desktop 3D printer choices in the under $1,000 USD range have fallen into two broad categories: everything bellow $500 USD, and the latest Prusa i3. There are plenty of respectable printers made by companies such as Monoprice and Creality to choose from on that lower end of the scale. It wasn’t a luxury everyone could justify, but if you had the budget to swing the $749 for Prusa’s i3 kit, the choice became obvious.

Of course, that was before the Prusa Mini. Available as a kit for just $349, it’s far and away the cheapest printer that Prusa Research has ever offered. But this isn’t just some rebranded hardware, and it doesn’t compromise on the ideals that have made the company’s flagship machine the de facto open source FDM printer. For less than half the cost of the i3 MK3S, you’re not only getting most of the larger printer’s best features and Prusa’s renowned customer support, but even capabilities that presumably won’t make it to the i3 line until the MK4 is released.

Josef Průša was on hand to officially unveil his latest printer at the 2019 East Coast Reprap Festival, where I got the chance to get up close and personal with the diminutive machine. While it might be awhile before we can do a full review on the Mini, it’s safe to say that this small printer is going to have a big impact on the entry-level market.

A Simplified Design

Considering the huge price drop, you might expect the Prusa Mini to have removed many of the features that made the recent entries into the i3 family so popular. But for the most part, the Mini should deliver more or less the same experience Prusa owners have come to expect.

The Prusa Mini uses a 3:1 geared Bowden extruder

That means automatic mesh bed leveling via inductive probe, a magnetic spring steel print bed (in both smooth and textured variants), near-silent operation thanks to the Trinamic stepper drivers, out of the box support in PrusaSlicer, and the self-checks and safety features that far too often are missing on lower-cost printers.

Of course, there has to be some cuts somewhere. For one, the Prusa Mini does away with the sensor (though it’s available as an option) that pauses the printer if it runs out of filament. This was one of the key upgrades made in the i3 MK3, and is undeniably a nice feature to have on long prints. But considering how few other printers even offer this capability, the fact that it doesn’t come standard on the Mini certainly doesn’t put it at a disadvantage. The fact that it’s even available as an official option and not something you have to hack together yourself is actually an improvement over other printers in this price range.

To reduce weight, the Prusa Mini also switches from a direct drive to a Bowden style extruder. Again, this is not particularly unusual at this price, and is very reminiscent of the arrangement used on the Monoprice Mini. But it will certainly be an adjustment for Prusa owners that are used to a direct drive extruder. For example, Bowden extruders tend to be somewhat more finicky and are notoriously difficult to get working with flexible filaments. Incidentally, the switch to a Bowden extruder also means the Prusa Mini is not compatible with the company’s Multi Material Upgrade (MMU).

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Prusa Mini forgoes an integrated power supply and instead uses a laptop-style “power brick”. While a somewhat unglamorous change, this isn’t likely to be a deal-breaker for anyone. But certainly something to consider when thinking of where you’ll put the machine, or when designing an enclosure for it.

Printrbot called, they want their power supplies back.

Now You’re Playing with Power

While the mechanical aspects of the Prusa Mini have been simplified compared to its larger predecessor, the electronics have gone in the opposite direction. At least in that respect, the new printer is actually quite a bit more advanced than the i3 MK3S. It stands to reason that the Mini will serve as something of a test bed for the electronics that will go into the next generation of Prusa printers, so prospective buyers would be wise to expect some growing pains.

The display is bright and easily visible from a distance.

The Mini features a completely revamped control board and accompanying user interface. The new 32-bit ARM STM32F407 equipped “Buddy” controller is vastly more powerful than the 8-bit board Prusa uses in the i3, and thanks to its onboard Ethernet and USB, can perform all the tasks you’d currently have to do with a Raspberry Pi running OctoPrint.

Or at least, it will in the future. Prusa says those more advanced features, including webcam support, are coming down the line as a software update. Speaking of which, the Buddy board is able to pull its own firmware updates down over the Internet; so no more plugging it into the computer to manually flash the latest hex file. With the DIY addition of an ESP module, it’ll even be able to do that over WiFi.

Increased computational capabilities in the controller also enable some relatively flashy graphics on the printer’s 2.8 inch LCD. Not only does the 320×240 screen look worlds better than the i3’s rather dated display during normal operation, but it allows for 3D rendered previews of the selected STL. Users will be able to visually confirm what they’re about to print, rather than having to remember the file name of a particular object.

Though for all the new capabilities of the Buddy board, there is at least one omission that long-time Prusa owners might find odd: there’s no support for SD cards. STLs are now loaded either over the network or from USB Mass Storage. Arguably this is an improvement, but still somewhat unexpected given that nearly every desktop 3D printer since the MakerBot Cupcake has had an SD slot.

A New Member of the Family

One thing made abundantly clear was that the Prusa Mini is not intended to compete with the i3 line, much less serve as a replacement for it. Josef Průša says that the i3 MK3S is still going strong, and will continue to be updated as time goes on. He also says the team is working on a new CoreXY printer codenamed “Prusa XL”, but that we’ll have to wait until next year before we see anything concrete on that one.

The Mini is envisioned as an ideal starter printer, or perhaps even as a secondary printer so you can start tackling big jobs in parallel. Prusa says its small size and integrated remote control capabilities also make it an ideal choice for print farms. Whatever people will be buying them for, at this price, we expect the Prusa Mini is going to be in high demand for the foreseeable future.

83 thoughts on “Prusa Unveils New Mini 3D Printer, Shakes Up The Competition

          1. Why to compare? It is to notify both major areas about their price. It’s built and shipped from EU so if you are within EU, you buy tax included and if you reside elsewhere, you have to pay the tax of your destination.
            But if you really want to compare, $422.29 VAT incl. and 313,22 € VAT excl.

          2. Not to mention that people who live elsewhere than Europe or USA would not be able to correctly calculate the price, example: 349 USD equals ~462 Canadian dollars.

  1. unfortunately my printrbot play is so well built it hasn’t failed yet. im actually thinking of upgrading the printrboard so i can use modern slicers instead of this old version of cura im stuck using.

    1. My Printrbot Simple Maker’s edition is surprisingly reliable too… The Y axis tend to dip due to the weight of the direct extruder, but the bed is easely adjusted to compensate. Now if I could motivate myself to finally finish up my prusa clone… ( Had access to a mill, made a frame out of steel… 2 years ago…)

    2. Frankly, you only think that because it’s all you have. I personally made the upgrade from a Printrbot Simple and Play to the i3 MK3 when PB went under, and honestly, the PB printers are like toys in comparison. Of course they seemed fine when they were all I had, but once you experience a next-generation printer like the Prusa, you’ll quickly realize what you’ve been missing.

      Even if you tricked out the PB with the gear head extruder and expanded PEI heated bed, it’s still nowhere near as fast/reliable/silent/capable as an out of the box Prusa.

    3. You don’t need to change the printrboard, just flash it with marlin 1.19 and you will get automatic bed levelling with bilinear rather than 3 points, linear advance and all the new stuff… I have a prusa mk2 but I’m currently updating my simple metal, and I got it to work with prusaslicer quite eqsily after the marlin upgrade… Search printrbot on github, there is a repo named like printrbotmodernmarlin.
      It has compiled binaries and sources for all printrbot. Then you flash it with atmel flip.
      I have printed something out of my printrbot, without tuning anything, sliced from prusaslicer and it worked well…
      I’ll add a filament runout sensor and an LCD control module later on.
      Printrbot are sturdy, have a good extruder, the metal hotend is correct, and the aluminium bed is a good surface for bilinear auto bed leveling, THE most important feature for me on my prusa mk2 since it enables reliable printing, and that is what was missing for me with the printrbot.

    1. How about you actually watch the included video so you don’t seem lazy/ignorant. The build volume is clearly stated within the scope of the article.

      1. Not everyone likes watching videos for everything instead of leisurely reading at their own pace, especially when the article itself actually mentioned almost everything else but somehow left out that crucial nugget of information.

          1. Not everyone has the luxury of reading these articles at leisure with no time constraints.
            Busy Lazy

            Also, for those of us who have the luxury of a moment to clear their head while at work, videos are not always acceptable.

        1. Yeah, I guess I’d like to reiterate this sentiment, because I’ve personally felt this way multiple times with several hackaday articles. I’ve felt that very basic, crucial information is left out of the summary article (I mean, “mini,” right? It’s in the title!), and only available in the video. It’s not ideal when you’re in news-reading mode and have to suddenly switch to a video. In other cases, crucial details are in the build details described, voice only, in a video, and that really becomes a bit of a pain.

  2. I think it’s only answer on Creality Ender (Pro) €170-€220+ Duet3D but Prusa Mini its still much more expensive than Ender/Ender Pro.
    But new controller platform with more SRAM and RTOS is quite good step forward (USB-host DMA-transfers hw-bootloader for upgrades)
    Prusa wants to have full-stack (controller/slicer/fillament) under own controll i think.
    but he is right if you print many small models you need farm configuration we have 4 printers and its not enought now.

      1. link goes to someone bitching about how ‘his’ ideas are followed by prusa implementing 6mo. later. then going about fixes to previous statements. not amusing.
        eventuality of some tech is obvious in course of use. I dont use a photo interruptor to determine filament absence. I use a microswitch for that and a spool float also on microswitch.

        1. If you are using low-cost microswitch and it is under long time presure it will fail in wrong moment.
          High quality microswitches like OMRON (for gaming mouses) are pretty good but optical or inductive sensors are much more better.
          I will use microswitch only if will be activated (pressed) only when fillament run out, but this is mechanical more complicated.

          about youtube video you should look at part1 – filament sensor and decide again who is using other ideas
          anyway man from video is using credits to all creators prusa not… (he is adopting all good ideas in own pruducts)
          What is Prusa doing good its helpdesk support and PR but look at construction Creality is much more solid construction and cheaper
          Ender Pro for example or Creality CR-10 (all are cheaper including in non KIT version – no long time assembly required.)

          1. Language barrier I suspect. Cheapo micro push buttons switches are just bad from any manufacturer. Dont suggest anyone use them for any reason. Unfortunately they are used in great number of consumer devices as keyboards or key entry. Damn tired of seeing them and replacing. Complete contempt for those devices.
            Anyway this is a microswitch:
            Dont see many inductive interruptors any more. Hall Effect , magnetic, photo and mechanical mostly. Some of the sensors sold as inductive really arent. They’re magnetic disruptive using a hall sensor and as non contact have a good resolution to a few centimeters. Quibbling and semantics i suppose. Filament itself isnt usually conductive or magnetic (ferrous) so wouldnt be ideal without adding a useless lever or something. You know like on a piece of filament thats fairly solid and would block the light path of photo interruptor without a lever? Then again Im not trying to patent it.
            I did watch the preceding video and most certainly did not change my opinion and in fact cemented my resolve. Fortunately the 3D printer revolution(evolution?) And the good people who have contributed to it dont suffer from pettiness though some of the manufacturing concerns and those wishing to profit from it do.

      2. Guy seems more than a little bitter with Prusa, as an early reprapper grinds me a bit to see such sour grapes about ‘copying’ optimization ideas, it’s been the name of the game since the original Darwin reprap. He gives little credit to Prusia for his innocations, especially in the early days, Prusa mendel style A frames vastly improved simplicity of 3D printer builds. His sucess is the result of sicking to the FOSS / open hardware business model and comitting to giving existing users an upgrade path to latest technology. Safety improvements are essential for 3D printing across the board, so this guy should be thanked for his contribution, by users and by Prusa if he’s the inspiration, but this video is overly bitter and undermines Prusas contribution to FOSS 3D printing.

    1. The “pitch” is that one of the printers is a high-quality open source machine that shares a lineage with what’s arguably the best (non-pro) desktop 3D printer in the world, and the other is a piece of Chinese garbage.

      If you don’t see any value in that and just want the cheapest possible option, this obviously isn’t for you.

      1. Funny, most people try to hide their ignorance. The truth is all these manufacturers are trying to bring a technology to the masses that has a long way to go. Personally, I have been using a Prusa Mk2 and an Ender3 for a couple of years and both have their significant issues. Jingoism is fine at political rallies but people look to this type of review for help in deciding on their first or next move. Try to be part of the solution rather than an aggitator.

        1. F-dat, Prusa 4 lyfe. I’ve been printing since 2012 and I’m sick of messing around with the other crap. Prusa’s work better, have better support, and Prusa actually works to support and drive the community. Worth the extra $$ IMO.

        2. Your information is outdated. You are using a Prusa that is now two revisions old. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Chinese clone could perform on par with a Mk2

          But there is nobody, probably not even a Ender employee, who would seriously try to claim these cheapo Chinese machines are even in the same league as the MK3 or MK3S. The new Prusa printers are on another level compared to anything else out there.

        3. come on. get real.
          if you actually have an mk2, first of all why not upgrade it to the mk2.5s? that would have been a good investment vs creality.

          Second, I just spent time tuning up my brothers ender 3 and Tevo tornado and the wanhao i3 I gave him when i got my mk3. the removable bed alone (which your mk2 lacks) is such an upgrade I wouldn’t even think of going back to a non prusa. plus how noisy are both of your printers? trinamic controlers = silence. your mk2 is way loud in comparison. the ender even worse.

          but by far the worst is bed levelling, you might enjoy spending 5 or 10 minutes to maybe get it back to level every print after you spend 10 minutes trying to get something to pop off the bed. I do not. levelling is a waste of time and pinda automatic is a world of difference.

          as with everything, there is a best and there are the rest. the ender is a great last generation printer. but it has nothing that compares with this. 180x180x180 with autolevelling and removable bed. a color screen and a 32bit controller, trinamic controllers. it’s like fred flintstone’s car vs a mcclaren.

          1. actually forgot a couple of things, sensorless homing, and error recovery. Let extruder on your ender hit the print just once and tell me what happens… kill the power to it… the mk3 can recover from both.

            right now looking at the fail stats I have:
            39 power failures (plenty of storms plus getting a backup generator installed)
            34 filament runouts (i would have guessed more)
            28 x crashes
            13 y crashes

            thats a lot of wasted plastic on any other printer

        4. You are the one providing false information. The Mk2 is so outdated that it can’t be compared to modern Prusa printers. It was good for it’s time, and spawned many of the cheap clones people have snapped up over the years.

          But when the MK3 came out it was a huge jump in capabilities. You are fooling yourself if you think your outdated Prusa is anywhere near as reliable as the latest versions

      2. It’s cheap and Chinese, I’ll grant you that. You can get four Ender 3 Pro’s for the price of a similar sized Prusa.

        About the only thing that *really* hurts it, which is a biggie, is the print bed, which isn’t flat most of the time. Add a glass build plate and that’s mostly sorted. Add a BLTouch and it’s perfect prints every time (barring slicing goofs).

        If you’re invested in a brand you’ve spent a lot of money on, and aren’t interested in trying affordable alternatives, this obviously isn’t for you.

        1. So just to be clear here…you acknowledge that you should replace the bed and add an aftermarket auto-leveling system on the Ender 3, but still can’t seem to understand why it’s not held in as high regard as the Prusa?

          Have you ever heard the phrase “You get what you pay for”?

          1. Oh one can hear that one plenty of times, basically always from folks trying to justify to themselves spending far more than was actually necessary for the same thing. You might want to check out some oxygen-free gilded copper ultra-hifi audio cables too – meanwhile, I’ll just stick with the best bang for my buck and Prusa never was and never will be it.

          2. @max you do realize that without prusa there would be no i3 printers and therefore no ender, which is simply a poor copy of the original prusa.

            I was rocking a wahao duplicator i3 before my wife kindly bought me the mk3 for an anniversary present. It was a revelation in comparison. And in case you don’t think i know about the ender or anet or whatever you paid so little for, I got to play with an ender3 and adjusting the rollers in the slot rails to keep the bed from binding and get a print out of that, a tevo tornado (dangerous junk) and my old wanhao for my brother since he couldn’t get any of them to work and the only thing to do with a cheap printer is to replace it. I got to experience prying prints off a fixed surface, the enjoyment of 10 minutes to get a bed level between prints, garbage electronics and design. If that’s how you want to spend your day good on you.

            Today I printed a mount for a pathlight, another mount for a google home mini and some other miscellaneous geocaching containers and had my printer running from around 13 hours today. so quiet i could sit right next to it and take a phone call, I’ve printed 20 -25 spools of PLA/ABS/PETG/PC this year so far so going cheap would eliminate half of what i could print since cheap printers don’t have all metal hotends. I like not being limited by my cheapness.

          3. I can understand perfectly well why the Prusa is held in higher regard. But the idea that it’s a “piece of garbage” is risible.

            The upgrades I mentioned are, at the most expensive, €70. Meaning you’re still only looking at €240-270 for a full size printer with great print quality.

    2. You can’t compare the experience from Creality with the Prusa. It’s not all about build volume. You get tuned settings out of the box, quality control beyond whatever Creality does and actual tech support. For those people who don’t want to mod their printer and just want it to work, it’s great value for money.

    3. Having used both (I agree the ender 3 pro is a good bang for it’s buck), you are not the target audience. I work in education and cannot confidently recommend printers like the ender 3 to teachers due to the level of skill and troubleshooting time needed to keep them operating at a respectable performance level. Prusa’s support, out-of-box experience, and ongoing support are what make them competitive. I can hit print on my prusa confident I can walk away and come back to a near perfect print. I cannot say the same for others. If you have the time to learn and work with a printer the Chinese printers are cheaper and in greater variety, but for small businesses and schools who have to value skilled time at a higher rate Prusa is the obvious choice, and the Mini is a welcome addition.

      1. Thanks for your point of view.

        The value of convenience is a great thing. An Ender 3 prints very well, and reliably, but you do have to keep checking the bed, for example. Modding it can alleviate that, but I appreciate that in some settings this isn’t an attractive option.

        I had no idea Prusa’s were so well tuned. Do they come standard with auto-bed-levelling?

        1. Yes. 7×7 mesh leveling is great. Haven’t had to adjust it in months. The first layers aren’t always perfect, but they always stick great and pop free after cooling without much effort. No blobs, loose perimeters, or rumpled lines either.

  3. Always a little suspicious of firmware updates since I’ve been burned before… I’d love to have a device with a baked-in fallback firmware, or a safe-mode that can be reverted to if a firmware update goes bad, like most spacecraft have.

    1. The stm 32 can get this ability quite easily by including an external SPi Flash for backup if you don’t have access to the net but you don’t really need that . I assume that they just have a bootloader partition in the stm which contacts their servers and grabs the latest firmware and flashes its available partition. You can also implement a fallback to the bootloader if the main firmware fails which will reflash it from a new copy of the hex file. We have quite a few stm products behaving that way with off site over the air updates, and we have had flash fails, but never had a failiure to fallback and reflash (knock on wood)

    2. Since it’s an STM32 micro, if it’s ever bricked AND Prusa isn’t around anymore to fix it for you, there are tons of videos online on how to flash it with a 3$ ST-Link V2 dongle widely available.

  4. Why do people not like power bricks? The power supply is often the least reliable part of a device. It often generates the most heat.

    And AC power cords are almost invariably thick and stiff, sometimes even springy enough to move things around annoyingly.

    I don’t want any AC cords I don’t need. I want power bricks that I can Velcro to something out of sight.

    And for a DIYer, DC power means you can run on batteries with much simpler equipment.

    Integrated power supplies are just awful.

    1. Barrel jacks are always a point of failure on these bricks, I hope that at least they use laptop grade ones (round dell or rectangle lenovo for example) and not flimsy 5.1mm barrel jack ones.

      1. I almost never see a barrel jack fail, aside from a few crap-to-begin-with ones(Like those screw terminal adapters that supposedly caught fire in one Amazon review), and of course actual laptops that are exposed to lots of wear because of being portable devices.

        For something mostly stationary-ish, barrels seem pretty good.

  5. Don’t need one, want one. Hiding wallet from my self is hard. :D I have a MK3 and it’s ace. Have had older non prusa prints as well as one I have designed and built myself. But the MK3 is very good. I can leave it for two weeks, turn it on and just print. And quaility is very good. Currently running a 0.6mm nozzle for speed. One of these would be good for the high detail prints. Had considered getting another Mk3 so don’t have to change the nozzle. Maybe I should just wait till I really need one. :)

  6. Pff, I wish this was available 1,5 years ago when i got the Anycubic Mega. It would have been a better choice. Now I will probably get a mini mk2, some years from now when the Anycubic fails, but so far it is going strong.

    1. Pretty much agree, though I think I’ll replace my AnyCubic Mega with a Prusa Mini. I also have a large delta printer (AnyCubic Predator) that I’m happy with and handles my larger/multiple item jobs. The Mini will fit in nicely for printing smaller items.

      I think that Prusa’s strategy for large, medium, and small printers makes a lot of sense, especially for schools and farms.

  7. How the heck did they get that finish on the LCD display case? I can tell its 3D printed because of the print lines along the sides but the face of that part is perfectly textured and there are no perimeter lines in site…what gives?

    1. they have 2 print surfaces that you can get. one is a smooth PEI and the other is a powdercoated textured sheet. Both are double sided flex plates held on my magnets in the heated bed. to remove a print you take the plate off and flex it and parts pop off. The texture looks really nice. I haven’t printed on my smooth sheet in so long I am not entirely sure where it is.

      here’s a couple of printed items turned over to see the texture

      thats comparing an aftermarket (theking) vs a prusa.

      1. Wow, that looks really nice! I guess the squashed first layer sort of hides in the texture then. I have a PEI bed that I intended to stick down on my aluminum build plate but I never got around to it. I never considered how nice the finish comes out.

        1. the PEI sheets are really smooth. they do not have the texture. I have one of those as well, but i never use it. The texture also helps some with elephant foot since uneven surface gives you a little bit of extra space to expand without going outwards and more surface area to hold the print so you need a brim less

  8. I kept waiting for them to release a version without the y bed defect…they kept putting band-aids on the problem and making the same crummy basic design. It got to the point that I figured the idea was to make the clones look bad because any slight decrease in quality (or even a different slicer) would cause issues with the y bed; like the ender 3; same basic design but slightly more friction due to cost cutting so it has terrible issues because of the y bed. Of course just having the machine get old also causes those issues…but hey, repeat customers! Here’s another Prusa with a y bed…at least this one can justify it by only costing a bit more than a decent linear delta…then again, the main advantage an i3 has over a $300 delta is the direct extruder…and they removed that! Looking forward to the Core XY they keep promising. They should have it mostly sorted about 3-5 years after release, and then it might be worth their asking price…then again, you can already get a delta that’s better than a $750 i3 for $500…and prusa’s contributions to the scene are pretty meaningless to those that don’t need their band-aids, so why would you wait 5 years to pay more for a lesser printer?

    1. what issue with the y are you talking about? I’ve had my i3 mk3 (now s) for 2 years and have printed round the clock before (10 days straight is my longest) and the one thing i have never messed with is the y. actually come to think of it, 2 print fans, 1 pinda, 1 v6 extruder, a power supply (24 hrs non stop printing PC and ABS) I haven’t done anything to x y or z. So I am truly puzzled what you are talking about.

      1. My guess is that they are talking about the increased mass when moving the bed. Since the bed requires 2d constraining it is a bit more complex and needs better bearings and cleaner travel. CoreXY shows the issue less due to the gantry being able to flex and adjust a little more (more forgiving), so it sometimes shows improvement. Delta gets around the issue completely but requires ball-socket joints and better motion control to approximate planar movement, so it has its own set of issues. All have their uses, but Cartesian printers like the Prusa are simplest and therefore were the first to be developed by the community. I agree that there is no real flaw with the y-axis. It simply is the unique component with the most complex and sensitive structure.

    1. It’s got wifi via esp, ether, and mass storage… plus they’re going to release the farm software which will be way more advanced than octoprint. Since I got my mk3 in dec of 2017. I haven’t printed anything with my octopi, I just use the webcam to let me know when i need to go start another print. I have a flashair card so i can send the files wirelessly to the printer and the printer menus are faster than the pi so there isn’t any point in using my pi,

      And the mk3 is dumber with the pi connnected. The mini with a 32bit board from go is even better it will be super fast.

  9. “the Prusa Mini is not compatible with the company’s Multi Material Upgrade”… well, that’s not surprising… the i3 Mk3s is not compatible with the MMU either. In fact… I don’t think there IS a Prusa that’s compatible with the MMU2 or MMU2s

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