The Monoprice Mini Delta V2 3D Printer scores high on most of the important factors for a 3D printer geared to beginners. It’s inexpensive (just $199.99), easy to set up and use (no calibration needed), and consistently delivers prints of at least passable quality. It’s also fast and supports a variety of filament types. Its build area is tiny and print quality is so-so, but its smooth and almost misprint-free operation make it a good introduction to 3D printing.
3D at a Touch
The Mini Delta V2 is an upgrade to the Monoprice Mini Delta 3D Printer, incorporating features such as an adaptive touch screen, advanced auto leveling, and an internal diagnostic system. The V2 will replace the Mini Delta in Monoprice’s line. We didn’t have a chance to review the original model, but can testify that the V2’s touch screen is responsive and a joy to use. Its leveling is truly automatic and required no adjustment, which is welcome—a poorly designed or onerous leveling system can make for a frustrating user experience, as we’ve found with several models such as the XYZprinting da Vinci 1.0 Pro.
A matte-black printer with a sturdy steel-and-anodized-aluminum frame, the V2 measures 17.5 by 11.8 by 11 inches (HWD) and weighs only 4 pounds. It is open on three sides, with the extruder assembly, held in place by three arms, suspended in the middle. From above, the printer’s form is an equilateral triangle with cut-off corners. A handle on top makes for easy carrying. The small but responsive touch screen is on one side at the bottom. The V2’s circular print bed is held in place by three clamps.
The printer’s maximum build area is 4.7 by 4.3 by 4.3 inches (HWD), which is one of the smallest we’ve encountered. The Polaroid PlaySmart 3D Printer has a build area of 4.7 by 4.7 by 4.7 inches, while the Monoprice Cadet‘s is even smaller than the V2’s at 4.1 by 3.9 by 3.9 inches.
One twist is that the Delta V2’s build area is not rectangular as with other fused filament fabrication (FFF) 3D printers—which use plastic filament as the print medium—we’ve reviewed. It is actually cylindrical, thanks to the device using the delta 3D printing architecture—I’ll discuss it in detail below—which is quite different from the Cartesian architecture found in the vast majority of FFF printers.
Setup is a cinch. You insert the included MicroSD card in its slot next to the touch screen, plug the cord for the external power supply into a socket and into the DC plug next to the power switch, turn the printer on, snap the filament spool holder into place, place the sample coil of filament on the spool holder, and feed it into the filament feeder. Then, using the touch screen, you complete the feeding process. When a strand of filament emerges from the extruder’s nozzle, you’re ready. From the touch screen, you can select one of the seven sample files stored on the MicroSD card and launch the print.
Monoprice includes only a small starter coil of polylactic acid (PLA) filament with the V2. The snap-on spool holder is short, only accommodating spools up to about four inches thick. The V2 also supports acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), and other filament types. Monoprice sells filament in a variety of colors and types, but offers no specific recommendations for the V2. Nor are you limited to Monoprice filament; the Delta V2 accepts filament from numerous third-party vendors. Just be sure that the spool is thin enough to fit on the holder, if you plan to use it.
The Delta Difference
All of the FFF 3D printers we’ve previously reviewed have been based on the Cartesian coordinate system, with three axes—X (right-left), Y (in-out), and Z (up-down)—perpendicular to one another. The carriages that control the extruder’s (and in some cases the build plate’s) motion extend along these axes, and the extruder’s motion is a combination of movements along them, especially the X and Y axes. During printing, in which an object is built from the print bed upwards, layer by layer, movement along the Z axis (height) increases very slowly.
By contrast, a delta 3D printer has an (equilateral) triangular frame, and the three carriages extend vertically 120 degrees apart and parallel to each other at the vertices. The extruder assembly is in the middle, connected to each of the carriages by a pair of arms, which slide up and down to trace out the printing pattern in accordance with the instructions coded in the object file you are printing.
One often-cited advantage of delta 3D printers is their superior speed. The extruder assembly and other movable components are considerably lighter than those of Cartesian 3D printers and can move faster. We don’t formally time 3D printers—differences in resolution, infill, and other factors would make such comparisons highly inexact—but I noticed that the Mini Delta V2 zipped through the 3DBenchy, one of our standard test objects that is in the form of a tiny boat, in much less time than many other printers I’ve used. Also, while Cartesian 3D printers tend to either be wide and rectangular—roughly the shape of a microwave or breadbox—or cubic, delta printers are tall and thin. As a rule, they do well in printing objects taller than they are wide. The Mini Delta V2’s small, cylindrical build area is just slightly higher than it is wide.
Cosmetic and Self-Resolving Problems
The Mini Delta V2 came to me a bit the worse for wear, with a large, taped-over rectangular gash in one side of the box. Other than an obvious scratch on the printer’s exterior, I didn’t notice any damage to the machine itself. Later, I encountered an issue that may have been related to whatever shipping mishap had damaged the box.
When you turn the Mini Delta on, it runs through a self-test routine to make sure that the extruder heats up and all three axes move freely. When I first ran the routine, I got an Axis B Failed message, and when I pressed the Help button on the touch screen I was instructed to check if any motor cables had come loose. They seemed to be in place, and there were no further steps listed. I figured I would need to contact Monoprice’s tech support, but first I tried moving the arms that control the extruder’s motion along their respective axes. Although two pairs of arms (representing the A and C axes) moved freely, the third would only move a short distance.
On closely examining the carriage along which the B axis moves, I determined that a thin, stiff sheet of plastic between the carriage and the printer frame had crimped, blocking the motion of the arms. Although I couldn’t un-crimp the sheet, using the point of a pair of scissors I was able to push it far enough out of the way that the carriage moved freely. Soon, though, the plastic was back in the arm fixture’s path, but this time the plastic was pulled so that it doubled over and dragged out of the way. It was an inelegant and accidental solution, but other than an occasional crinkling noise the plastic gave me no more trouble and the B axis arms moved freely from then on.
Software and Connectivity
For the Mini Delta V2, Monoprice provides a customized version of the open-source program Cura 4.3, which we’ve seen bundled with several other 3D printers. Within the app, you can select the Monoprice printer you’re using; the software produces a visual representation of its build area, within which it shows an object to be printed. The small size of the build area was apparent in this view, with some of our normal test objects extending outside the bounds of the build area. To print them, I would have had to rescale them to smaller dimensions.
In addition to scaling, moving, rotating, and several other manipulations, you can adjust several print settings including adhesion (adding a brim or raft to the bottom of the print), adding supports, controlling the percentage of infill, and layer height or resolution. There are six resolution settings, ranging from Coarse (400 microns) and Extra Fast (300 microns) to Draft (200 microns, the default setting), Normal (150 microns), Fine (100 microns), and Extra Fine (60 microns). These recommended settings are fairly basic, as befitting an entry-level machine like the V2, but more advanced users can click a Custom button and access an abundance of additional settings.
Once you are done tweaking your settings, you press the Slice button, and the software will prepare a GCODE file for printing. You can either save it to MicroSD or to your computer, or send it to the printer via USB or Wi-Fi. I did our test printing from files saved to the MicroSD card. Transferring files via card requires that your computer has a MicroSD card slot (only some laptops do) or that you use a USB card reader. Card readers are shaped like USB thumb drives and have slots for MicroSD and SD cards and sometimes other formats. A basic reader can be had for less than $10.
Testing the Mini Delta V2: Adequate Objects, Quickly
I printed more than a dozen test objects with the Mini Delta V2, and it consistently produced quality ranging from passable to good. (The only misprint came when the small filament coil that Monoprice includes came off the filament spool holder and got tangled—this would not have happened if I had reseated it on the filament holder.) I did one of the prints, a 3DBenchy test object, at Normal (150-micron) resolution and the rest—including a second 3DBenchy—in slightly coarser Draft mode (200-micron resolution). Quality differences between the two 3DBenchys were minimal.
A commonly cited downside of delta printers is relatively poor print quality—if you will, the price of their speed. Overall print quality for the Mini Delta V2 was mediocre. Although it generally did well in printing detail, layers on the tops of prints were often ropy and underhangs rather gnarly, often with a bit of loose filament hanging down from them. A couple of prints proved brittle, with intricate parts breaking off, although my using several third-party PLA filaments, each with slightly different qualities and characteristics, may have played some role in this. This was unavoidable, as the printer only ships with a small starter roll—only enough, in my case, to print three small objects.
Safety and Noise
As an open-frame 3D printer, the Mini Delta has no walls or doors on its three sides. This makes it easy to watch print jobs in progress, but it also presents a potential hazard to young children or anyone unaware of the danger of touching the hot extruder nozzle. It’s not an issue during a print job—when the nozzle is touching the build plate or the object being printed—but can still cause a burn while the printer is warming up or cooling down. So keep the Mini Delta out of the reach of young children, and educate any guests who could accidentally touch it.
You should always use the Mini Delta—and other 3D printers, especially open-frame ones—in a well-ventilated space, because the molten plastic filament used in 3D printing may emit fumes. While PLA is, in my experience, odorless, ABS often has an acrid, burnt-plastic smell during printing and is frequently cited as an irritant.
One thing you needn’t worry about is noise, which is a potential problem with open-frame 3D printers. As I type this, the Mini Delta V2 is printing about three feet away and is audible but quite soft. My keystrokes are at least as loud as the printer. Occasionally, it emits some high-pitched beeping, but I haven’t found this distracting.
Verdict: Here’s to Keeping It Simple
The Monoprice Mini Delta V2 is the first 3D printer based on delta architecture that we’ve reviewed, but it won’t be our last. I loved the easy, calibration-free setup and operation. In more than a dozen prints, I only experienced one misprint (due to a filament snag), and even that could have been avoided if I had monitored the printing more carefully. The V2 is also among the fastest 3D printers I have tested, and supports a variety of filament types. Beginners, though, should stick to PLA filament, at least in the early going.
The Mini Delta V2 lacks the superb print quality and relatively spacious build area of the Original Prusa Mini, our top pick among budget 3D printers, but the Prusa requires some assembly and initial calibration and costs more. For newcomers to 3D printing, the remarkably user-friendly Mini Delta V2 is a better choice. Just be sure to buy some filament in advance, as you’ll quickly exhaust the small sample roll, and don’t be surprised if before long you start yearning for a printer with a larger build area.