3D printer Kickstarter project aims for $US50,000, nets more than $US1m

Most pre-order models have already sold out

A 3D printer that can be bought for as little as $US199 has kicked up a storm of donations through the crowdsourcing site Kickstarter. Donations of $US249 and $US299, which also garners you a 3D printer, are all sold out. Even $US599 donations are almost gone.

M3D LLC., the creator of the Micro 3D printer project, was aiming for $US50,000. But with 29 days to go, it has already pulled in more than $US1 million.

The machine comes in one size and is being touted as the first truly consumer 3D printer that is the "most affordable," needs no assembly and works straight out of the box. While the printer comes with M3D's base software, the machine also supports and uses open-source software for more advanced users.

"You can unbox it, install the software, and print right away -- it's as quick and as simple as that," M3D said on its Kickstarter page.

The printer makes objects up to 4.6 inches high. The printing area is small -- only 2.9-in. x 3.5-in. x 3.3-in.

The Micro 3D printer.

Bethesda, Md.-based M3D expects to begin production of the Micro 3D printer between August and September and complete shipments of the machines to donators by March 2015.

The cube-shaped printer connects to Windows, Macs or Linux systems via USB and tilts the scales at a svelte 2.2 lbs. It is only 7.3-in. cubed in size and supports several thermoplastics, including the most popular ABS, PLA and nylon filaments. (See video below.)

The Micro printer comes in Silver, Black, Blue, Red, Orange, and Green.

The filament spools are sold for $US12 and come in half pound (225 gram) sizes -- enough material to make 45 small vases, the company said.

Something M3D calls "Micro Motion Technology" -- a sensor and feedback system built into the print head -- enables automatic leveling and calibration; typically, 3D printers must be calibrated before use. One drawback is that the printer platform, where the melted polymers are laid down, is not heated. That can lead to difficulty removing objects from the platform.

Another view of the Micro 3D printer.

"This means that every time you run the printer it works, even after thousands of hours of use!" M3D said on the Kickstarter site. "3D printer software should be as fun and futuristic as the printer itself. That's why we've designed the M3D software to be as interactive and enjoyable as a game, making sure it's fully touchscreen-capable with a minimalist and simple-to-use interface."

M3D said its software allows users to search for objects to print online and organize 3D models that have been downloaded into a library.

"Just pick a model, drag it into the printer, adjust the model if needed, and hit print," M3D stated.

The Micro 3D printer has a 50 to 350 micron layer resolution, which means it extrudes the melted polymer filament from a nozzle in layers that are no more than 1/64-in thick.

Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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