Each time a consumer-grade 3D printer crosses my desktop, I mentally cross my fingers, hoping it will be a really top-notch machine despite its relatively low cost. I honestly root for the technology because I understand how revolutionary it is.
Unfortunately, I'm nearly always let down.
Until now, XYZprinting's machines were no different. The company, which has made its reputation on producing some of the industry's least expensive 3D printers, has struggled with quality. But last month, when the company announced the da Vinci Mini 3D printer, I was hopeful that this time the printer would live up to its promise.
This time, it has.
For less than $300 -- about $290 (vendor price) or $270 (Amazon price) -- a beginner hobbyist, school teacher or small business product development team will get a no-frills machine that's intuitive to use and able to produce mostly accurate, good-quality objects -- even multiple builds at the same time.
The new da Vinci Mini comes with several features that are often associated with much more expensive 3D printers, such as embedded Wi-Fi, which allows users to transmit object files from their computers to the machine over wireless networks. It also has onboard data storage, which allows a maker to upload an object build file to the machine via a USB cable and then unplug and walk away as the machine constructs it.
Unlike the next 3D printer up on XYZprinting's totem pole -- the $349 da Vinci Junior, which I also reviewed -- the da Vinci Mini has no onboard LCD or pressure-sensitive menu that lets you select functionality. Instead, all functions are controlled from your USB- or Wi-Fi-connected computer using XYZWare, the company's proprietary management software. The Mini's print platform is also open-air and not enclosed with a transparent door like the company's other machines.
The da Vinci Mini is 30% smaller than its predecessor; it weighs just 24.25 lbs. and measures 15.75 x 13.23 x 14.25-in., so it is easy to transport and doesn't hog much desktop space. Its print build area is the same as the da Vinci Junior at 5.9 in. cubed.
The machine is compatible with computers running Windows 7 and later, and Mac OS 10.8 and later. Computers can connect via USB 2.0 or a home wireless network.
The Mini can print using three formats: .STL, .3W (XYZ's format) and .3MF.
While the da Vinci Mini has no LCD screen, it does have a bar that can be pushed to pause a print job and an LED that indicates printing conditions through various colors. For example, green means that the machine is in standby mode while red means the machine has experienced some sort of printing error.
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