The 3D Printer That’s Mini by Name Only
I finally got my hands on a CR-10 Mini! It’s the latest model in the popular CR-10 family, and as you can guess from the name, it’s the smallest option. Although this is by no means a small 3D printer.
In terms of size, the CR-10 Mini sits between small budget printers like the Monoprice Select Mini and much larger printers like the standard CR-10.
The Print volume is 300 x 220 x 300mm which is very generous and suitable for most applications. You should only consider something bigger if you have a specific application in mind like 3D printing cosplay costumes.
Where to Buy?
Large print volume – Despite being called ‘mini,’ it’s only small in comparison to the rest of its CR-10 family which are renowned for being huge! In fact, it’s significantly bigger than the Monoprice Select Mini and the Original Prusa i3.
Removable Glass Heated bed – Important for being able to print a range of materials that will stick to the bed nicely and avoid deformation. The glass sheet simply clips in so it can be easily removed for unsticking your prints and cleaning.
Auto Power Outage Resume – If you lose power during a print the CR-10 Mini will remember where it got to and re-start when power is resumed.
Improved Part Quality – Compared to the original CR-10 models the Mini uses several new, improved parts.
- Build Volume: 300 x 220 x 300mm
- Layer Resolution: 0.1-0.4mm
- Connectivity: SD Card
- Heated Bed: Yes
- Print Speed: 80-200mm/s
- Supported Filament Materials: PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, special filaments
- Extruder Max Temp: 250C
- Bed Max Temp: 100C
- Printer Dimensions: 4190 x 420 x 500mm
Sitting on my workbench, it clearly dwarfs other smaller printers like the Monoprice Select Mini. Compared to its bigger brother the CR-10, the CR-10 Mini has 80mm x 100mm shaved off its bed. This means it still offers a sizeable rectangular build volume of X300mm x Y220mm x Z300mm which is more than adequate for most applications and significantly more than many printers in this price bracket.
The CR-10 Mini’s older brother, the CR-10 has quickly become one of the most highly regarded budget 3D printers. Unlike many of its competitors, it has no issues that require fixing before use. In fact, out of the box, it’s one of the most reliable and dependable budget 3D printers available. I’m excited to see if the CR-10 Mini maintains that quality. Let’s find out…!
The best news about the CR-10 Mini is that it keeps all the excellent features of the larger CR-10 models. The sturdy extruded aluminum chassis and well-designed mechanisms are all the same.
However, the Mini version of the CR-10 is not only a slightly smaller version of the standard CR-10 model. It also has a few welcome improvements built in that are only seen on the premium CR-10S model.
Firstly, there’s a resume after power loss function. This means if you get a temporary power outage, the CR-10 Mini will remember where it finished and allow you to resume printing.
This is a useful feature that solves what can be a very frustrating problem. It’s also a feature that until now I’ve only seen on premium printers.
The next upgrade is that more of the wiring loom is pre-assembled. All of the electrical connections to the extruder are already plugged-in. All of the other motor and heated bed wires are pre-connected into the control box.
All of this preassembly of the wiring means that assembly is a much less daunting task, with all of the cables labeled it’s a reasonably simple task.
Other than these upgrades and the size difference, the CR-10 Mini is identical to its more expensive sibling the CR-10.
My CR-10 Mini arrived in a plain brown cardboard box, with no indication of the goodies inside. Everything is very well protected surrounded by custom shaped foam inserts that could clearly protect the contents from a significant drop.
One layer holds the printer bed, horizontal chassis, and the freebie filament spool. While the second layer has a vertical frame, control box, and a cardboard box full of accessories and tools.
I was quite surprised to see we’re given a free print removal tool and side cutters! You usually only get these with more expensive models. Along with these extras, you also get a free reel of masking tape, a USB cable, and some really useful spare parts.
The spare parts include an extra limit switch as well as some extra bolts and chassis fixings. This is great to see on a budget model and gives me an excellent impression of the manufacturer.
There are so many moving parts on a 3D printer it can be quite common for something as simple as a missing bolt or malfunctioning switch to put your 3D printer out of action for a few days until a spare can be delivered. Including spares like these is a great way to ensure your 3D printer is up and running successfully straight away.
Assembly and Setup
Although the CR-10 Mini is classified as a ‘kit,’ there’s really very little to do in the way of assembly as most of the components such as the motors and switches are already attached to the chassis.
If you’re able to assemble basic IKEA furniture or Meccano, then you’ll have no problems with this. There’s nothing complicated or skilled like soldering to do.
The printer itself is split into three main components; the horizontal chassis, vertical chassis, and control unit.
The first step in assembly is to bolt the two chassis components together. This is actually the hardest step because you need access to the underneath of the horizontal chassis to tighten the bolts while holding the vertical frame on top.
As you can see from my photos, I found a simple way to make this easy by just resting the chassis on a pile of books. This allows you to align the vertical frame correctly and give enough room to fit a hex key underneath to tighten the bolts.
Compared to the standard CR-10, the CR-10 Mini control unit already has all the motors and heated bed wired into the control box. This just makes the setup that little bit easier.
You just have to plug in the small connectors to the motors and switches. Each connector has a letter label, so you just need to match this to the corresponding letter on the printer.
Finally, a critical step is to check the power supply voltage is correct for your country. Don’t assume it’s preset correctly! You can reach into the switch with the end of a hex key or a screwdriver if you need to change it.
It’s a good idea to go around checking all the bolts are fully tightened, even the ones that are pre-assembled, as it’s easy for things to come loose during transit. This could save you several hours of fault-finding later.
Even being extra careful and checking everything twice, assembly won’t take you more than a couple of hours at most.
Finally, you can turn the printer on, let it reach operating temperature, and level the bed.
Bed leveling is a simple process of sliding a sheet of paper between the nozzle tip and the bed to check it’s the correct distance.
To do this, you have to navigate the menu system to send the extruder to ‘home’ and then select the option to disengage the motors. This allows you to manually move the bed by pushing it to check that each of the four corners is the correct distance from the nozzle tip.
To adjust the height, there’s a plastic wheel under each corner that moves the bed up or down depending on which way you turn it.
Although this is a simple process, one of the most popular mods people make to the CR-10 is to print new bed-leveling wheels that are much larger than the stock ones. This makes it even easier to adjust as you don’t have to reach underneath the bed, and the larger diameter makes it easier for you to make fine adjustments.
After the test print cat, the adjustment wheels were the first thing I printed!
The first step now your CR-10 Mini is assembled is to load the filament. You’re given a 500g spool of PLA to get you going. Mine was white, which is fine by me as it’s a useful color, but it’s potluck which color you get.
The complimentary filament shouldn’t be trusted on important prints as it’s rare that you’re given anything of good quality. However, I always use it for my first test prints on a new 3D printer rather than risk wasting something more expensive from my collection.
The CR-10 family of printers ship with a test file on the included SD-card of a Japanese lucky cat (Maneki-Neko) which I like to think is the main reason that CR-10s are so reliable!
The easiest way to get your test print on to the CR-10 Mini is using the built-in SD-Card slot, although you can also use the included USB cable to plug it into your PC.
I like to use the SD-card method as it’s the most reliable and it allows me to use my 3D printer entirely independently of my PC, so I don’t have to worry about an unexpected Windows update ruining my print!
Navigating the CR-10 Mini’s menu system is done with a single control knob that you turn to highlight and press to select.
The control knob has an excellent quality feel to it, but in a world of touchscreens, it does seem a little old fashioned. Fortunately, the menu system is laid out logically, and there aren’t that many settings you’ll need to access anyway, so it doesn’t really spoil your experience.
I wanted to give my first print the best possible chance, so I applied a good layer of Elmer’s glue to the glass print bed to help the all-important first layer stick.
Once the g-code is loaded on to the printer, you just need to press print, and your CR-10 will begin pre-heating the bed and nozzle. The nozzle heating is rapid, and the bed heating lags behind a little taking around five minutes to reach 60C, so nothing to be concerned about.
When it’s printing the CR-10 Mini is not too noisy to distract me from working next to it in my office. The loudest noise is the high-pitched stepper motors that sound like R2D2.
If you’re concerned by the volume, you can quickly and cheaply add some rubber dampers to each stepper motor. Many CR-10 owners do this and report a significant reduction in noise levels and no reduction in part quality.
My test print lucky cat started without a problem, and after ten or so layers I could see there were no fundamental issues with bed leveling or extrusion, so I left it alone to finish. After about an hour it completed successfully!
For an out of the box print I couldn’t be more impressed by the result I had with my CR-10 Mini.
As you can see from the photo, the quality of my test print is very impressive. The details of the cat’s fur are exceptionally well replicated showing just how fine a feature you can achieve.
On my print, there are no blemishes or imperfections at all.
You have to keep in mind that the test print is from g-code so all the print settings will have been optimized by the manufacturer. But that still means that you can achieve this same level of quality by using the same or similar settings.
For the price, it’s very harsh to say the CR-10 Mini has any limitations, but for the sake of completeness, I can say that you will not find it easy to print flexible materials. I haven’t tried this myself yet (update to follow when I do…), but as it uses a Bowden extruder, it’s unlikely to be able to cope with anything but the stiffer flexibles.
There’s a commonly reported problem that the glass bed the CR-10 family of printers ship with may not be completely flat. This can cause various issues. Usually, it makes it hard to get your first few layers to stick to the bed.
In most cases, you can fix this by making your own shims using aluminum foil until the correct height is reached. Or you can just buy a new glass bed, lots of people have had success using a cheap mirror tile from Home Depot or similar, or you can buy Borosilicate glass cut to whatever size you need online.
The final limitation of the CR-10 Mini is, of course, its size. But it’s the biggest 3D printer with ‘Mini’ in its name! Ultimately if you want a bigger 3D printer, the CR-10 family offers plenty of other options that could be classed as huge!
CR-10 Mini Tips
Print new leveling knobs. The stock ones are tiny, and therefore they are awkward to get to under the print bed making it difficult to make fine adjustments. New knobs just press over the stock ones and work great.
Some people find the glass print bed is not perfectly flat. You can tell if yours is flat by laying a steel rule on it and seeing if it wobbles or if you can see the light between it and the bed. If your bed is only slightly out of flatness, you can try adding a small square of aluminum foil between the glass and the metal part at the lowest point.
If your glass is very not flat, you can buy a replacement sheet of borosilicate glass online or at Lowes.
FAQ’s About The CR-10 Mini
Q. What is the footprint of the CR-10 Mini?
The overall dimensions are 490 x 420 x 500mm
Q. Can you print TPU or other flexible filaments?
The CR-10 Mini uses a Bowden feed to the extruder which isn’t ideal for flexible filaments as it means the filament is pushed into the extruder and is likely to bend. However, it is definitely possible. To help your chances of success, you should print an improved extruder guide and use TPU filament that is as rigid as possible.
Q. What are Popular CR-10 Mini Mods?
Q. Should I buy a CR-10 Mini or an Ender 3?
The CR-10 Mini has brought the highly regarded CR10 family of 3D printers to a new audience who wanted a printer more useful and more reliable than a Monoprice Select Mini but without the expense and inconvenience of the larger CR10s.
Thankfully, rather than stripping away the great features of the original CR10 to lower costs, Creality has kept everything that made the bigger models so good and has just shrunk them down into a smaller, more convenient package. In fact, they’ve even added functionality in the form of power outage protection and resume.
At this price, there is little else that can compete with the Mini.