3D Printing is a cool technology that’s hard not to get excited about. After all, how great would it be to be able to print your own nicnacs and toys?
However, to date the technology has been a costly affair, making it the preserve of businesses needing a means of fast prototyping. Even the most basic of 3D printers generally costs £500-plus. Add to this the price of refills and the tech makes an even bigger dent in your wallet and you could be looking at a £1,000-a-year hobby – even with moderate use.
The Da Vinci Mini is a XYZ’s attempt to end this trend and bring 3D printing to the masses. With prices “expected” to start at $269, it may well do just that.
The Da Vinci Mini is a smaller, cheaper version of XYZ’s $500 Da Vinci Junior. XYZ claims it’s designed for the enthusiast home market and has designed it to fit on most regular desks. The demo unit I looked at on the showroom floor took up about 1.5ft of space, which is roughly 30% smaller than the 2015 Da Vinci Junior.
It may sound big, but compared to competing home 3D printers like the UP Mini 2, or Formlabs Form 2, the dimensions are tiny. This is one of the few 3D printers I’ve seen that could neatly slot into most houses. Though I’d still say it’s on the large side for small flats.
Despite being small, the printer still features reasonable connectivity, with Wi-Fi as well as USB ports.
Loading the plastic material used to print objects also appeared reasonably simple, with the printer being fed from a side-facing wheel.
The Da Vinci Mini uses the common, cheaper FDM (fused deposition modelling) type of 3D printing, as opposed to the more futuristic, expensive and messy SLA (stereolithography) variety.
This means the Da Vinci Mini creates 3D objects by squirting layers of hot plastic. SLA printers, by comparison, shoot lasers at liquid resin to create prints – which, let's face it, is way cooler.
Interestingly, despite being smaller, the Da Vinci Mini has the same 5.9 x 5.9 x 5.9-inch maximum print sizes as its 2015 sibline, the Da Vinci Junior.
The demo I saw printed a variety of different objects. These ranged from basic heart-shaped badges, to complex woven Wicker Man dolls and inches-high textured cups.
Print quality wasn’t on a par with more expensive units, such as the outstanding Formlabs Form 2, but for a sub-$300 device I was impressed. I didn’t notice any density disparities or noticeable blemishes in items printed on the Da Vinci Mini during my demo.
I didn’t get a chance to firmly check print speeds, but it didn't seem overly fast, which is to be expected when you consider the price.
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The Da Vinci Mini is set to be one of the cheapest 3D printers on the market. While I only got to check out its printing chops briefly during my demo, it did impress me. Objects printed on the Da Vinci Mini appear to be of a decent quality and its tiny dimensions make it one a select few home friendly 3D printers on the market.
However, its chances of success will be deeply impacted by two key factors I didn’t get to check during my demo – how easy it is to set up and the consistency of its results.
Hopefully these questions will be answered in the near future and the Da Vinci Mini will make good on its promise of being the world’s first truly affordable 3D printer when it’s released at an unspecified point later this year.