3D printing can be a time-consuming and expensive hobby, even if you try to do it cheaply. I feel like I adjusted, replaced, or upgraded half of the parts on my Ender 3 Pro. It was fun, but never easy.
What if a truly consumer-ready 3D printer changed that? We may be about to find out. Trusted phone charger company Anker is officially expanding beyond its Eufy smart home devices, Soundcore audio, Nebula projectors and Roav car accessories into 3D printing this year – and not in a small measure. The just-unveiled AnkerMake M5 looks like it could give major brands a serious run for their money.
Launching on Kickstarter later today for an early bird price of $429 (although Anker suggests it will retail for $759 or more), the AnkerMake M5 will come standard with nifty features you will often need to switch to competing printers – like a webcam that lets you watch prints remotely, record time-lapse videos of your creations, and automatically pause a print job and alert you if the printer is producing a mess of melted plastic instead of a useful part.
But its hallmark feature is something far more fundamental: Anker claims it prints five times faster than the competition. And I don’t mean “theoretically you can tune it to print really really fast if you calibrate it carefully”. I mean Anker claims you can take the two halves of the printer out of the box, connect them with eight screws, plug in two USB-C cables and a power adapter, and it will automatically print at 250mm/sec because c ‘is his fault setting. “That’s our base for this,” Anker spokesman Eric Villines tells me.
250mm/s is indeed five times faster than my Ender 3 Pro’s default speed, and over five times faster than the main Prusa MK3S+ quality setting, and I don’t think I can overstate how much it could be important for the hobby if true. 3D printing can be an incredibly slow process, but Anker suggests it can slash that from a day to hours, or hours to less than an hour, with a printer that lets you build parts from the same size (maximum 235 x 235 x 250 mm) as the most popular options on the market.
It’s unclear what secret sauce is preventing your parts from being jerked straight off the printer at this speed, but it looks like it could be a lot of things. Anker claims that it moves the Y-axis build plate using a sophisticated stepper motor with “high subdivision drivers” and two belts instead of one. The gantry is raised and lowered on two lead screws instead of one for stability. It has a removable textured build surface, similar to Creality’s printers, which I found excellent for keeping prints stuck to the plate. They gave the printer a die-cast aluminum alloy base to keep it stable. And Anker claims “advanced algorithms that align your impression with your action plan.”
I will believe 250mm/sec when I see it, but I want to believe it.
For me personally, speed is not my biggest frustration with 3D printing. I’m happy to leave a print overnight in the garage, as long as I’m reasonably sure it will be finished. But I’m so, so tempted to upgrade to a 49 point automatic bed leveling system (bed leveling is the root of so much 3D printing issues), broken filament detection (another issue is that filament can dry out and break in the middle of a print), and a nifty one-button feature that automatically heats and ejects filament so you can replace it with another while avoiding jams.
Villines tells me that Anker enters new product categories when it thinks it can solve the problems that keep people away, and that was the time. “I think 3D printers are right at this point where they could become, if not mainstream, then definitely more of a niche.”
The vision here is a printer where you can download a design from the internet, send it directly to the printer’s 8GB of internal storage via Wi-Fi or even remotely via the cloud, and it’ll take care of the rest for you. No need to find a slicer app to translate it into printer code, or worry about many of the other most common points of failure, and when you’re done, an entire timelapse video is ready and waiting for you to watch. share on social media.
But Anker has a lot to prove, and its spokesperson said the company may not have it all figured out yet. While Villines says Anker will make the printer regardless of how it performs during the Kickstarter campaign (it’s more marketing than anything and Anker has a good track record there) there’s a reason it’s not shipping before September – software features like smart print failure detection, promised voice assistant compatibility and, well, most of the software hasn’t been built yet. “I like to say hardware is 75% and software is 2%,” he tells me, admitting that the company expects many customer service calls to shift to a heavy new category like l 3D printing.
It’s also unclear how much of an ecosystem the new printer will have, which is what today’s 3D printing enthusiasts tend to expect in return for their investment. It accepts GCode like other printers, uses standard nozzles (although longer than the more common type) and the company intends to offer spare parts, but it’s not yet clear what might be interchangeable between AnkerMake and other products in the market. .
I would like to see it in action before I buy one, but this could absolutely be my next – and the first 3D printer I could actually recommend – if Anker is successful.
Update, 3:30 a.m. ET: Anker Kickstarter Page Doesn’t seem to be live yet, but I’ve been told the expected release window for the printer is September 2022.