Sunday, August 12, 2018

Monoprice Mini Delta 3D Printer

I recently bought my first personal 3D printer. I have been involved in DIY and hobbyist 3D printing for many years through the Dayton Diode hackerspace I co-founded. This Monoprice Mini Delta is the first printer of my very own. The price point is amazing (less than $160!), and things just work right out of the box. What a hugely different experience than building that first printrbot kit (RIP printrbot). The Printrbot story is actually a piece of the Innovator's Dilemma playing out in this market niche. Printrbot disrupted a higher-cost competitor (Makerbot) who retreated up-market towards higher-end machines, and was then in-turn disrupted by foreign suppliers like Monoprice. This caused Printrbot to reatreat unsuccessfully up-market themselves towards $1000 machines. Who will disrupt Monoprice? I can't wait for my voice controlled, artificially intelligent, $20 printer... In the meantime, this post is about my experience with this little desktop FDM machine you can buy today.

The printer has a small build volume, and because it is a delta style printer the volume is roughly cylindrical.
Mini Delta Profile on Cura
The product page lists the build volume as 110 mm in diameter, and 120 mm tall. I have always like the user-friendly, yet powerful, open source slicing software Cura. There are profiles available from the wiki to load all the machine parameters and settings to get you started slicing your own design files.

The first thing I printed was the little cat that comes loaded on the micro SD card with the printer. It came out great. My daughter thought it was amazing. Part of the reason I got this little desktop printer was so that she would be exposed to the possibilities these technologies represent at an early age. I also hoped to print some things that would be useful around the house. I thought it would be towel hooks or racks or brackets, but the first useful thing I printed was a little template for my wife so she could slice small pizzas evenly into thirds. A totally unexpected use case, but that's sort of the point of personal desktop fabrication.

My overall experience with this printer has been great, but I have had some issues. The printbed is heated, which is required for printing ABS, and is helpful for PLA, but the build volume is not enclosed. I have noticed that if I don't protect the printer from drafts I can get warping and poor layer adhesion. The thing that I've found works pretty well is setting up two tri-fold foam boards around the printer to create a bit of a torturous path for air circulation. It's not a full enclosure, but it's a simple expedient that's enough to help improve print quality and repeatability. The other problem I have had to deal with is nozzle clogs. I have found that you can use a small guitar string to ream out the nozzle from time-to-time to clear these clogs out.

For bed adhesion with PLA I recommend using plenty of raft, and I like the "Touching Buildplate" support option. There are also lots of infill patterns to experiment with in Cura. I have been primarily using the Octet infill pattern with good results.

Video of the first print:

Close up of the first print in progress:

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