Anker today launched a 3D printing brand named AnkerMake. Its first printer, the AnkerMake M5 just made its Kickstarter debut, with a $499 price tag. The diminutive price packs in a comprehensive feature set, including cameras that do AI-powered monitoring of your printing, enabling the printer to pause if it detects that something has gone awry.
For the past few years, Anker has been carving out a niche for itself as a company that makes a broad range of the type of products you can pick up for next to no money on Alibaba — battery packs, wireless charger docks and high-speed USB chargers for phones, laptops and what-have-you. The twist is that Anker actually has functioning quality control and impeccable customer support, which sets it apart from the “goodness, I hope this doesn’t catch fire the first time I plug it in” class of products.
Anker also has the home products brand Eufy, audio and smart wearables brand Soundcore, home projector brand Nebula and office brand AnkerWork. The new AnkerMake brand fits into this lineup of competitively priced but high-quality products — and adds some bells and whistles to the 3D printing world.
Home 3D printing has long been heralded as the future of… well, that’s the problem with the market; it never quite figured out what it wanted to be the future of, and as a result, it has been relegated to hobbyist labs, maker spaces and a toy. Entry-level printers have been excruciatingly, frustratingly unreliable, and for beginners, that puts a swift nail in the coffin. If two-thirds of your prints are failing after an hour, and it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out how to make it all work, a large number of printers are relegated to the graveyard of forgotten curiosities.
That’s where AnkerMake is trying to carve out its niche.
“3D printers help us imagine a world where ideas and creative concepts can be instantly transformed into physical form. However, the reality is 3D printing can be slow, cumbersome and difficult to figure out,” said Steven Yang, CEO of Anker Innovations. “AnkerMake is committed to removing these pain points so that artists, inventors, hobbyists and DIY enthusiasts can take advantage of a more practical tool to bring their creations to life.”
The M5 is designed to be set up quickly, and to use and keep it up and running. It includes 7×7 auto-leveling, PEI soft magnetic printing bed, auto-resume after power outage and printing notifications. It’s got a few high-speed tricks up its sleeves, too. AnkerMake M5 has a basic print speed of 250 mm/s, which can be used for printing jobs that require a smoother and more detailed finish. For faster print jobs — for prototyping and less detailed finishes, for example — the M5 can push itself to 10x the feed speed, which can drastically reduce print times.
The built-in camera keeps an eye on your print jobs, which stops the print if it detects an issue — a godsend, compared to either having to manually monitor the print or coming back to a printer with a giant spaghetti mess of filament. It saves time (you can either fix the issue or restart the print) and resources — no need to waste print materials. The camera means you can check out the live feed from the printer using a mobile app, and it also automatically generates a time-lapse video of the print at the end of the print job.
Personally, I’m getting a little bored of big, established companies running Kickstarter campaigns instead of just ramping up production and throwing the product into the marketplace, but I suppose from AnkerMake’s perspective this is a good way to drum up some support and get a gauge for how the market reacts. So far today, it’s sold $1.5 million worth of printers to 2,700 backers, so it’s probably safe to say that the market says “hey, just send us our printers, already”. There are 44 days left to go on the Kickstarter campaign.