The $199 MOD-T Printer May Not Amaze, But It Points Towards The Future Of Home 3D Printing

When netbook prices fell below $200 around 2010, it was a big deal. This milestone meant that the race to the bottom had started, but the resulting firestorm of popularity brought about the rise of the tablet ecosystem as well as the rise of slim, high-powered machines like the Macbook Air. The MOT-t, a new printer backed by Idealab, aims to repeat history with its $199 New Matter MOD-t printer.

The printer is quite attractive. Designed by Frog Design and featuring a Wi-Fi chip for easy model downloads, the printer is designed to work within an ecosystem of desktop and mobile apps. Users can share (and sell) models using the service and they include 3D design and printing software in the package, a major plus.

First off, understand that this printer isn’t quite as beefy as others in the space. First, it prints at a minimum layer height of .02 mm. That’s not bad but it’s not great, either. It’s also a bit slower than other machines. The videos show acceptable print quality but nothing amazing. Interestingly, the plate moves under the head, a design decision that reduces some of the complexity of the machine and it also only prints PLA, a starch-based plastic.

FDM printers like this one will end up even cheaper than this one in a few months and if HP gets into the act I could foresee a $100 printer with a replaceable $80 filament cartridges for a bit of “give away the razors to sell blades” action on the printer giant’s part. Will folks like Makerbot ever go down to $200? Perhaps, but at this price the margins quickly become razor thin.

This is not the first $200 printer. Makibox beat them to that punch a while ago and it’s possible to make your own RepRap unit for about that much – even less, if you’re handy. But at $149 for early bird units (plus $40 shipping) – thanks to Idealab’s backing and some intelligent sourcing – the MOD-t is just cheap enough for a the curious to pick up on a whim.

The printer has a large plastic casing, a hot end for extrusion, and uses standard filament spools that you can buy from New Matter. They will ship the printer in 2015.

Rest assured that this thing will get funded – and then some. The company has already hit $100,000 on a $375,000 and I could see this going into the millions. The idea of a cheap 3D printer is so compelling that many would forego high resolution for low price. Imagine these guys are Atari in 1980 and they’re coming out with their first cheap dot-matrix printer. Sure, the guys at work have a laser printer that they won’t let you use, but darned if you aren’t enjoying printing out banners and birthday cards on tractor-feed paper.

One annoyance? The $149/$199 doesn’t include shipping, which means you’ll probably have to go back and hand them $40 if you’ve already checked out. So your uber-cheap printer becomes $189, not $149.