Makergear M2 Initial Impressions

Beyond Wim Hof Method training, I also just received my new Makergear M2 3D printer.  I previously had a MBot Cube 2, which was an inexpensive Chinese version of the Makerbot Replicator.  It served me well, but had started to decline in performance and was lacking a few critical features I really wanted.  In particular, I needed a heated build platform (HBP) to handle more filament types, and the ability to upgrade to dual extruders so I can use dissolvable filaments as support materials.

m2_promo_image

Makergear M2 3D Printer

The M2 is a very efficient little machine:  it is about half the footprint of my MBot Cube 2, but build volume is almost the same since it can use nearly the entire build plate area.  It also received excellent reviews in terms of reliability and accuracy.

After receiving the device, I had some trouble getting it setup in Linux, particularly the M2 Quick Start app.  It turns out it’s a 32-bit app, and I needed to have some i386 packages installed on my 64-bit Linux distro:

$ sudo dpkg --add-architecture i386
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install ia32-libs-multiarch libc6:i386 libncurses5:i386 libstdc++6:i386 libglib2.0-0:i386 libsoup2.4-1:i386 libicu52:i386 libgtk2.0-0:i386

(In the latest Ubuntu, replace libicu52 with libicu55)

I also had to add my user to the “dialout” group so that I could connect to the printer over USB cable without being root:

$ sudo usermod -a -G dialout $USER

The only major hiccup I had was that I didn’t realize I needed to logout and login (or reboot) to have the group properly recognized with my user.  Once that was out of the way, the rest was a breeze.  Connecting to it through USB (/dev/ttyACM0), filament loading, and bed leveling only took about 20 minutes.

For converting 3D models to printer instructions (aka G-code) I broke down and purchased the Simplify3D software.  I have always used Makerware free software, but I had variety of annoyances with it that were advertised as non-issues in S3D.  Also S3D has a ton of printer settings & configurations pre-installed, including all versions of Makergear printers.

s3d_software_domtray

Simplify3D software configuring and printing my next object

After I completed the first test print, I moved onto something I’ve been waiting a few weeks to do:  print out a card organizer for the Prosperity expansion (Dominion, card game).  I have already done this for most of the other expansions and the resource tray, but the older printer was no longer capable of creating smooth slots for the cards.

So my first serious print print was a modification of my regular expansion design, but with the addition of dispenser slots for Colonies and Platinums.

prosper_tray_onbed

The print turned out wonderful considering that I did nothing to prepare the build plate.  It came with kapton tape pre-applied at the factory (which you have to replace yourself, occasionally).  Kapton tape is decent for getting prints to stick to the bed, but you usually need a put glue or hairspray on it to get things to stick really well.  Since I didn’t, I did get some corner peeling:

prosper_tray_artifacts

Printing artifacts:  Corner warping and some surface zits

If this was my old printer without the heated build plate, it would’ve popped off the plate about 1/3 of the way through and been ruined (I had some elaborate techniques to get adhesion on a cold plate).  One other thing to note is the bumps/zits on that one side.  This is usually the result of printer vibrations transferring to the print head, but I’m not sure what would’ve caused that here.  It only appears on that once side and only above a certain layer.   The back side doesn’t have it.

Regardless, the warping was small and did not affect the functionality.  I got out of it exactly what I wanted:  a nice compact way to store the Dominion Prosperity expansion:

prosper_expansion_box

Original box for Prosperity expansion

My solution is much better:

prosper_printed_compact

Efficient for storage and traveling, with Colony and Platinum dispensers!

Initial Impressions

Setup and operation so far has been smooth, besides the Linux hiccups for the M2 quick start app.   The build quality of the printer itself appears to be exceptional with its solid metal chassis and tight axes and belts.  And I’m very impressed with the Simplify3D integration and the control flow of the app.  However, the bumps/zits on my first major print are a bit concerning, and I will have to try to isolate it if I see it again.  On the other hand, it performed spectacularly on my printer calibration cubes:

calibration_cubs

Calibration cubes — the measured width is supposed to be 45mm

The maximum error I had in any dimension on any cube was 0.1mm, which is totally reasonable.  For the most part, I can print things without calibration constants in my models, and might only need to care if I’m printing parts that need to be mated tightly.  The corner curling of my first print was actually expected since I didn’t do any preparations.  It performed as expected.

It’s too early to say, but for the price this seems to be a solid printer.  I also think it is easy enough for someone new to 3D printing.   I can’t wait to get the dual-extruder upgrade and try doing some complex prints with dissolvable support materials.

 

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