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Review: New Matter’s MOD-t 3D printer is ingeniously simple

Lucas Mearian | June 13, 2016
The MOD-t is slow but produces decent-quality models for a beginner-friendly price.

This is a relatively quiet machine -- not the quietest I've used, but certainly not a distraction even when you're sitting next to it. The only noise comes from the unit's fan, located in the printer head housing, and the print platform rolling across the gear rods.

There are no LCD screens or cursor pads on the MOD-t, as some other 3D printers offer. Instead, there's a single start/stop button that flashes when a job is ready to begin and can be pressed again to pause a print job or held down longer to stop it completely. That's it.

The printer comes with a small kit that includes a brass brush for cleaning the print head, a scraper for removing models from the build platform, a pair of snips for removing excess plastic from models and a replacement extruder head; including an additional extruder head is highly unusual for a $400 machine. The extruder head is also extremely simple to change out, requiring the removal of a single hex nut (the wrench for which is supplied).

A sub-$500 printer with a social network

While there are more and more sub-$500 3D printers appearing on the market today, what makes this printer really unusual is that it uses a browser-based interface to connect users to the company's 3D printing software and marketplace, where you can upload or share a printable object file as simply as sending a text message.

All the processing of STL or OBJ object files, from uploading to print commands to slicing and print generation, is performed on New Matter's online servers. The printable file then gets uploaded to the 3D printer on your desktop. You can also download your own STL files from any number of unrelated online sites and send them to the MOD-t printer from your computer.

The MOD-t does not have onboard storage in the sense that you cannot store files in its internal memory. What it does allow you to do is upload the file, begin the print job and then unplug it from your computer. Once you power off the MOD-t, however, it will forget the last design, and you will need to re-transfer the file to the printer.

A user community

MOD-t owners sign on to become part of an online community that allows users to upload and download STL files to New Matter's online marketplace, and even charge for designs. They can send messages to other users with links to print files; when the other users get notifications, they can chose to accept them (and print the objects), ignore them or reject them.

All of the objects uploaded to New Matter's servers are vetted to ensure they work well with the printer. In contrast, sometimes objects downloaded from other online marketplaces such as MakerBot's Thingiverse don't print well on all machines.


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