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XYZprinting da Vinci miniMaker – A great introduction to 3D printing for your kids
XYZPrinting da Vinci miniMaker
- Compact and productive: The da Vinci mini is 30％ smaller than da Vinci Jr. 1.0 and has a 5.9" X 5.9" X 5.9" Aluminum printer bed for larger and finer prints
- Connect wirelessly to your home network for easy 3D printing
- The Da Vinci mini filaments are made using PLA plastics derived from corn starch, making them environmental and non-toxic
- The Da Vinci mini streamlines its printing function through a single-button printer design as well as providing different colored LEDs to indicate printing Conditions
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- Age Group: 14+ (8+ with adult supervision) and adult will need to unpack it, set it up and remove completed parts and clean it after each use.
- Filament Type: PLA (non-toxic)
- Resolution: 0.1mm – 0.4mm
- Build Size: 5.9 x 5.9 x 5.9 inches
Colorful!! As you can see from the photos it has a very kindergarten primary color look. I think this is great for younger kids to make them see it more as a toy than a boring educational tool but I’m pretty sure older kids will not think this is cool! There’s a very similar model called just the Da Vinci Mini which is a more subdued orange color but costs about $30 more because it comes with Wifi, I’d recommend it if you think your kids might be put off by the childish colors but I wouldn’t pay the extra just for wifi.
The build quality is really good, it feels very sturdy and is a very compact size (15.75 x 13.23 x 14.25-in) so you shouldn’t have too much problem finding a home for it.
I don’t think I’ve ever been able to set up a 3D printer quicker than I could with the Da Vinci miniMaker! You plug in some USB and power cables like you have to with any computer hardware, snap in the print head, feed the filament tube into the printhead and… that’s it!
The filament auto-feeds, and there’s no calibration required. The instructions that came in the box were kind of lo-fi black and white printouts. They looked like a last minute ‘oops we forgot to include instructions let’s chuck something in the box’ decision but they do the job as the setup is so simple you don’t need anything fancier.
I suggest looking at these videos on XYZ’s website before attempting to set it up with the paper instructions alone.
The miniMaker doesn’t use the industry standard G-code and so your only option is to use the supplied XYZware software. This is quite a limitation for curious young minds that learn quickly but is what makes it such a guaranteed out of the box success.
The included XYZware software is fairly straightforward to use, it’s just lacking a bit of feedback, so you are left wondering whether you need to click again or move on to the next step. It also managed to make all the models I tested face the wrong way when printing! This is easily changed but please keep it in mind as it’s much more fun to see the front of your model as it’s being built especially if you want to take photos or time lapse videos.
Useful information is displayed such as how much filament your model is going to use and how much time it will take to build. We all know how impatient little ones can be so it’s good to be able to give them an estimate of how long they will have to wait.
The XYZ software does a good job of automatically preparing the models for printing but there’s no option for adding your own supports so this is an area of 3D printing that kids wouldn’t get to learn about with this machine.
There are some models included with the XYZ software which serve well as test pieces but I suggest heading over to Thingiverse to download some more exciting parts. I tested these Pokémon characters and had good results, the parts are very well detailed, in fact, I’m really impressed for such a cheap machine.
In use the miniMaker is really quiet especially for an open sided machine, you can easily maintain a conversation when sat next to it. You might just find it a bit annoying if you have it in your living room competing with the TV.
There’s one negative point to say about the miniMaker and that’s the fact you can only use XYZ branded filament.
This is annoying because the branded filament is more expensive than other makes and there may be times when you want to print a color that is not in the XYZ range.
I can see why the manufacturer has done this, as an entry level printer it completely avoids the possibility of someone trying to use the wrong type of filament and messing up the machine, it just feels a little bit too ‘Big Brother’ for my liking.
The machine keeps checks on the filament type being used by incorporating a chip in the filament reel that records how much filament is being used, so if you refill with a different brand the machine will report there is no filament and won’t work.
There aren’t really any ways around this without some fairly complex replacement of the main circuit board so you should keep this in mind when buying the miniMaker.
None of these points should put you off too much as you will soon see it takes a long time to empty one of these filament reels, just consider it the downside of being able to buy a very competent machine for under $300.
The XYZ miniMaker is great 3D Printer for younger kids and non-tech savvy parents. It pretty much prints successfully out of the box with little fuss. The downside to this simplicity is your kids could grow out of it fairly quickly especially if they are in their teens, when more complicated models and fine-tuning of setup are not possible.