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Review: The Da Vinci Mini leads as a low-cost 3D printer

Da Vinci Mini

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. We are talking about the Da Vinci Mini.

The 3D printer is usually paired with more expensive 3D printers, such as built-in Wi-Fi, which allows users to transfer object files from their computer to wireless networks. It has a database, which allows the manufacturer to download a machine-generated file via a USB cable and then remove it from the machine.

Unlike the next 3D printer installed on the XYZprinting Totem pole – the $ 349 Da Vinci Junior, the Da Vinci Mini does not have a built-in LCD or pressure-sensitive menu. Allows you to select features. Instead, all tasks are controlled by your computer, which is connected via USB or Wi-Fi using XYZWare, the company’s proprietary management software. The mini printing platform is outdoors and, unlike the company’s other machines, is not closed by a transparent door.

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 Da Vinci Mini 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.

One thing I really like about XYZ printing’s machines is they all have onboard memory, so once an object is downloaded to the Da Vinci Mini, you can unplug your computer and walk away. Other machines require you to keep your computer attached until the print job is completed. In my opinion, a tethering requirement is a non-starter.

Filament lock-in

The Mini can only use one type of filament: the popular polylactic acid (PLA) in a standard 1.75 mm diameter, which is fine for an entry-level machine. Spools of PLA aren’t terribly expensive — a 1.8-lb. spool costs about $23.

However, here is my biggest complaint with XYZ printing: Filament lock-in. XYZ printing requires the use of its filament spools and no others for its printers. The company locks users in by inserting a computer chip in filament spools that, while allowing users to monitor filament usage, also keeps them from refilling spools on their own.

You cannot reset the chip or operate the machine without a chipped filament spool. When you are out of filament, you must reorder another spool of filament and that spool will arrive with a new chip.

“We do this because … we make 3D printers for the average consumer, and we want to make it easy and accessible for people. If it was an open-source printer, beginners would be struggling to match the correct temperatures to the filament, and this can result in clogs.”

An XYZ printing representative stated.

PLA filament, which commonly comes in a 1.75mm diameter, melts at roughly the same temperature no matter who manufactures it, so I can’t agree with the explanation that users would somehow struggle to make other PLA brands work in their machines. I would even be more apt to buy into XYZ printing’s explanation for proprietary filaments if it wasn’t for the fact that its higher-end intermediate and professional models also use a chipped, sealed cartridge that cannot be refilled with third-party filaments.

That said, the Da Vinci Mini does boast impressive resolution with that PLA filament (resolution refers to the thickness of each layer of melted filament that it lays down). The resolution, which is the same as the more expensive Da Vinci Junior, can be adjusted from 0.1 mm (100 microns) through 0.4 mm (400 microns). The default setting is 0.2mm.

Da Vinci Mini Setup

Unboxing and setting up the Mini is a snap. The only hang-up I had was in initially pushing the thermoplastic filament through the feed mechanism. For some reason, there was a lot of resistance and it took me a good three to four minutes to force it all the way through a guide tube before it reached the heated printer extruder. Once the filament was loaded, however, the machine went about its business without a hiccup.

When it began to print, the first attribute of the Da Vinci Mini that struck me was how quiet it was. After having reviewed more than a dozen 3D printers, I can tell you some are intolerably loud and must be placed in a separate room with the door closed or you’ll be tempted to pull your hair out. Others are whisper-quiet, but they are usually more expensive or have enclosed printing areas. The Da Vinci Mini is open air and yet it is among the quietest I’ve ever used.

AT A GLANCE

Pros

  • Embedded Wi-Fi
  • On-board data storage
  • Low-cost but offers reasonably good results
  • Unusually quiet

Cons

  • Can only use the company’s filament spools
  • Software is basic compared to that from other companies

Check Stratasys V650 Flex – The Game Changer 3D printer!

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