Producing New Printers like Smart Phones
Ahhh, the fall season is upon us! That means the holidays are just around the corner. With that comes thoughts of gifts and announcements-galore about new technology. This year, Prusa Research isn’t disappointing! Last year around this same time, they announced the release of their first resin-based printer, the SL1. On Oct 12th, CEO Joseph Prusa shared with the world another entry into the FDM/FFF market space, the Prusa MINI. Let’s break down the specs, discuss new features, and learn how getting smaller can grow your production.
The Nitty-Gritty; It’s all about the MINI’s Specs
Let’s talk footprint first. The Prusa MINI requires a very modest 350mm by 450mm by 380 mm total space to operate. Compared to its big brother, the MK3S, that’s nearly a 55% reduction in required real estate! Next up is print volume. Maximum print size is 180mm by 180mm by 180mm. Again, compared to the MK3S, that’s only a 28% loss in the X direction and just over 14% loss in Y and Z.
The print surface is the same that you have come to appreciate; utilising a magnetic spring steel sheet with PEI surface. Temperature ranges for the hot end and heated bed are slightly less than the MK3S (200C and 100C respectively, compared to 300C and 120C). Power is supplied through a 160W external adapter built by Mean Well or Delta, depending on the region, which accounts for the temperature capability difference.
Possibly, the most impressive spec is that the MINI comes with a 240×320 colour LCD screen to help guide you through your printing journey. It has the capability of displaying 65,000 separate colours. The supplied nozzle is 0.4mm, but other sizes are supported as long as they are E3D-style. Lastly, the MINI can accept PLA, ABS, PETG, ASA, and flexible materials in 1.75mm diameter.
So Feature-rich, the Prusa MINI Boggles the Mind
Aside from technical aspects, the Prusa MINI also boasts many of the hottest available features in the 3D printing industry. No doubt, the most impressive feature is that mainboard is 32-bit with Trinamic 2209 drivers. This allows for the elimination of homing sensors, saving cost and weight. The drivers are set for 256 micro-stepping. This provides four times the detail than an 8-bit board with standard A4988 drivers offers. The board also comes equipped with ethernet connectivity via an RJ45 port. The ability to upgrade to wireless connectivity via an ESP Wi-Fi module will be available at a future date.
The full-colour LCD screen offers something I’ve personally not seen in any other printer; the ability to see a preview of sliced models before you print. For me, this means no more needing to uniquely name my files before I copy them to an SD card. This brings up the fact that you no longer need SD cards! The Prusa MINI uses a USB port as the standard mode of communication for loading and printing files. I will now be able to find a better use for my USB stick than being a fancy key chain trinket.
But wait, Prusa MINI’s got more!
The extruder has been moved to the Z-Axis column to reduce weight, common among Bowden-style printers. What makes the MINI’s unique is a 3:1 ratio all-metal gearing, ensuring an appropriate amount of force on the filament and reducing layer and extruding inconsistencies. I like the 45deg offset angle of the extruder, which reduces stress on the travel path for the filament through the Bowden tube.
The Prusa MINI also comes standard with automatic, mesh bed levelling thanks to the same PINDA 2 probe used in the MK3S. This ensures you get that perfect first layer every time. Another convenience feature is “One-click” printing, where you can insert the USB drive, click the file you want to print, and the MINI does the rest for you. Assembly is a breeze with only three steps to get you up and printing out of the box within about 30 minutes.
How Prusa MINI Gets Big by Going Smaller
I sound like I’m pitching Marvel’s “AntMan”, right? The Prusa MINI is launching at a price of $349USD/$379EUR (VAT included). This means you can buy two MINIs for less than the price of one MK3S. If you factor in the specs mentioned earlier, you can produce more prints in less time. Lower initial cost plus lower power and time consumption equals higher production. All this equates to better profitability for manufacturing.
That should get you excited by itself! But in case that’s not enough, consider this: The Prusa MINI will also have an update in the future that turns on a built-in feature, called “Farm Mode”. “Farm Mode” will allow scaleable mass production, connecting multiple MINIs. Images of classic Science Fiction, like a “hive-mind” or completely automated factories, are instantly conjured in your imagination, no? Tying all these things together through Prusa’s quality guarantees and the open-source design and community means repeat-ability and reliability for your investment.
Final Thoughts and Other Ramblings
I’m excited that Prusa Research has entered the sub-$500 price point. I genuinely believe the MINI will help increase brand awareness and help them continue to stay an industry leader. Read more about Joseph Prusa’s own thoughts regarding the launch of the MINI at PrusaPrintersBlog. According to their website, shipping will begin mid-November. Can’t wait that long? Please consider reading another one of my articles about an industry disruptor, Eryone, and their Thinker S, which is already available in the UK and coming soon to the US later this month. All images sourced from prusa3d.com
Have a look at Thumwan Filament review and tell us how you feel about their filament.