Meet Micro, the adorable, pint-sized 3D printer

By Nick Mediati (@dtnick) · Published April 08, 2014 at 1:54pm.

When he ran for president in 1928, Herbert Hoover campaigned for “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” These days, though, 3D printing enthusiasts might amend that to add “a 3D printer in every workshop.” So far it’s been slow going, but small, low-cost 3D printers like M3D’s Micro might help make that dream of 3D printing everywhere become a reality.

Measuring 7.3 inches per side, the Micro is a small, cube-shaped 3D printer currently in development that’ll fit on most any desk or tabletop. It uses a technology known as “fused deposition modeling” printer, which means it lays down thin layers of extruded plastic to form the objects you want to print (most other consumer-grade 3D printers also work in this way). You bring it home, hook it up to your computer with a USB cable, and you tell it what to print using the included M3D software.

The biggest draw, though, might be the price tag: At $200, the Micro will cost a good deal less than other consumer-grade 3D printers like the Solidoodle, which currently start at around $500.

Of course, you won’t be able to make anything too large with the Micro, but that’s part of the tradeoff of a super-compact, low-cost 3D printer.

Seeing as it hasn’t shipped yet, it’s hard to say how good it’ll be, but what’s striking about the Micro is that it actually looks like something you wouldn’t mind having on your desk. Most 3D printers currently look like something you’d rather keep in your toolshed, not your home. As superficial as that may seem, the friendlier look might be enough to get non-tinkerers to feel more comfortable with 3D printing.

The other factor, of course, is the software. Although it’s getting better with time, most software for use with 3D printers is still quite cumbersome and requires you to feel comfortable with the technical ins and outs of 3D printing. If M3D can nail the software and make it as easy to use as, say, a photo management app like Apple’s iPhoto, M3D might just be onto something.

That’ll all have to wait, though. For now, the Micro is still a Kickstarter project. And with 28 days to go, it’s raised over $1.2 million in pledges—far beyond M3D’s goal of $50,000. If this is any indication of the demand for an inexpensive, easy-to-use 3D printer, then maybe the time is right for a 3D printer for the masses.