Lots of things can happen in 11 minutes. You can grill a nice steak, you can bake a pan of cookies, or you can raise over $400,000 to build an ultra-compact 3D printer that, for a brief period, cost a mere $199. Called the Micro, the printer smashed its Kickstarter goal of $50,000 and is now well on its way to becoming one of the most interesting projects on the site.
Created by a team in Bethesda, MD, the Micro originally sold for $199 for early birds and his since risen by $100. It’s a tiny printer, to be sure, with a 4.5 cubic-inch build volume and a special internal spool that holds the filament inside the printer’s case. It can build objects 4.5-inches high, which isn’t much but it’s enough to have a bit of fun.
Now, for the tough question: can M3D pull this off? The case for the printer itself should cost a little less than $20 and the extruder, pieced out separately, probably costs about $100 or so. A very simple extruder costs $65 retail, so you could reduce that price slightly. Shipping will cost a few dollars – probably $12-$20 – depending on where it’s manufactured, so the $199 model was definitely a loss leader. That said, $299 is an entirely feasible price for a mini 3D printer.
The founders, Michael Armani and David Jones, have done something quite intelligent: they’re building a very bare-bones printer with some very interesting software. If this image is any indication, you’ll be able to search for an open-source object and print it right from the app. The app resizes the object and prepares it for printing and the wee printer does the rest. It also has a self-leveling print bed, an amazing addition at the price.
I doubt this will be the last $199 printer we see – the price will soon fall precipitously and when HP gets into the mix things will really change – but even at $299 this seems like a nice little entry-level device. Caveat emptor, though, because if this campaign takes off I’ll be very curious to see when and how these guys are able to ship all of the printers they sell.