It’s been quite a while since M3D succeeded in an overwhelming fashion with the Kickstarter campaign for their micro-sized desktop 3D printer, the M3D Micro, which raised an unbelievable $3,401,361 overall since launching back in April 2014. Not only did M3D deliver on their campaign for the M3D Micro 3D printer, they’ve also expanded into one of the most popular desktop 3D printer manufacturers around. Since the success of their Kickstarter, 3D Printing Industry had the opportunity to review the M3D Micro, while we’ve also covered them continuously as they’ve become more and more capable of handling a higher capacity of production. What makes this printer so unique, besides it small, yet efficient size, is the extremely low price point of $349.
While I was strutting around the exhibition hall at Inside 3D Printing New York earlier this month, I noticed quite a few attendees carrying around their newly purchased M3D Micro 3D printers. To get an idea about all the big buzz behind such a small 3D printer, I stopped by the expo table to speak with M3D’s CEO Michael Armani, where we discussed their smashing success on Kickstarter, newly develop materials, and a faster future for the next line of M3D printers. We started our interview off by addressing the Kickstarter model, which many find to be a controversial way to get your product launched. Armani, however, was a firm advocate for the crowdfunding platform.
“We’ve seen a lot of people we’ve seen before at past events,” Armani started. “Distributers and customers are coming back and telling us they’ve gotten one about eight months ago, it’s a workhorse, it works 25 hours a day. It’s a big change since we’ve been on Kickstarter, a lot of companies deviated greatly, a lot of companies which looked promising, made money, and were waiting and waiting. I think Kickstarter should be most commended, they get a lot flack these days. But the reality is it’s kind of like stock investing without the stock, you’re putting your money in a company that you need to check out, and there’s a real risk they could flunk. There might be a couple people that take advantage of the system, but there are over 200,000 projects on there, eventually some will snowball, and some of them fail.”
For M3D, they were able to maintain their post-Kickstarter success by keeping their 3D printer available at a low price point. Luckily, the massive amount of crowdfunding gave the Maryland-based startup the ability of manufacture these printers at a high capacity, enabling them to quickly deliver their product to their Kickstarter backers. “The good news is that companies like us are examples who are not late delivering their Kickstarter rewards,” Armani continued. “One thing I’m very proud of is that we said we’d do $200-300 price point in Kickstarter and only bring it up a little bit, that’s exactly what we did. A lot of companies start at $300 and all of a sudden they’re at $900 and they’re out of business. You put two and two together and realize they didn’t really think their product through.”
Another aspect that Armani was extremely proud of was the fact that their printer is completely manufactured within the United States, which could be a testament to the durability and quality of this affordable desktop 3D printer. “We’re one of the only companies left that manufacture everything in the USA, based out of Maryland. What happens there is engineering, design, prototyping, assembly, production, all management and customer support, shipping, and packaging all under one roof,” Armani said. “That gives us an unbelievable amount of leverage, control, and responsiveness if there’s ever an issue, compared to a company who makes their product overseas would have to figure out how to communicate it, travel there, wait a month for the change, wait two months for it to ship over. The net result for us is that we kept cost in control, and we succeeded in building our product and increase quality continuously.”
Armani continuously related back to reliability when discussing the development of the M3D Micro, focused on creating a 3D printer that works every time, all the time. There are some areas in which their 3D printer lacks, such as speed, which Armani and M3D plan to address with their next line of 3D printers. “At this point, our company fundamentals are better looking then any product that’s out there in terms of price point. Recently we were named number one in the consumer printing industry for printers under $500. The reason for that is very straight forward, it’s not only affordable, sleek, and minimalist, it also has a low foot print, a lot of printers with the same volume are double the size. But the big thing is reliability, it’s become on the most reliable printers, once you get it up and running, every time you print you get a consistent print and great quality printer. The only thing you’re sacrificing is a little bit on speed, it’s definitely not a speed demon, but we’ll go a bit faster in the future.”
Armani then went on to breakdown the latest material developments by M3D, which included extremely tough and flexible filaments engineered specially for the M3D Micro. Their filaments range in a multitude of colors, and come with some truly distinct properties. The Tough filament, for instance, allows uses to control the flexibility of the material through the geometry of the 3D model. “Our Tough filament is something that is really starting to take over,” Armani said. “It’s a material that, based on the geometry, you can control the properties. So in one dimension, it’s hard as a rock, and in another dimension, it’s completely flexible. Another thing it does is that it bonds the Z-layer stronger then it bonds in the plane. People have been playing with it the entire show and we had one challenge where we had two people pull on it almost all day long until it finally started to break. Tough also lets engineers play with this stuff, it has just enough give that everything fits together you, you don’t have to keep reprinting or redesigning, yet it still has enough quality to do things like that.”
Lastly, we discussed their reimagined ABS material, ABS-R, which provides makers with ABS- strength quality, but without the warpage or odor that comes alongside the classic material. Armani finished, “The last innovation is our ABS-R, R stands for replacement. Why do people want ABS? It’s a legacy from engineering, engineers want to injection mold ABS, it’s designer for that. It’s not however designed to be continuously layered on top of itself while it’s shrinking and building up oxidation and odor. Engineers kind of have an ingrained idea that ABS is a good material, and it is when it’s molded. On the 3D printing side, you can get really good ABS prints if you know exactly what you’re doing, but there’s a lot of limitations to it, the biggest of which are warp and odor. So we created an alternative, with the same slight give and rigidity that people want, so this is really good for fitting parts together and snapping things, the place where you don’t want the brittleness of PLA.”