Tech Breakdown: MakerGear's M3 3D Printers
The pros at MatterHackers take a closer look at the sturdy and reliable MakerGear M3 3D printer.
The MakerGear M3 is the latest 3D printer being offered from MakerGear, a manufacturer of industrial grade 3D printers and equipment located in Beachwood, Ohio. The former software engineer and chief visionary, Rick Pollack, founded the company in 2009 with a primary purpose: to make a well fabricated and precise extruder.
MakerGear M3 3D printers are made to the highest degree of precision. With their solid steel and machined aluminum framing, MakerGear M3's are quick and easy to calibrate - once they are dialed in, you won't have to calibrate again. Their simple and compact design does not sacrifice build volume, and with both single and dual extrusion options, plus an all-metal hotend that reaches 300°C, you can print with nearly every material available.
So why did Rick Pollack give up all things software and make a swing for the hardware fences? He was just trying to alleviate the pain associated with stock 3D printing kit extruders. Kit extruders were of poor quality and temperamental, even on the best of printers. As a result, Rick fabricated his first extruder from a discarded micro-lathe. This, in turn, set the foundation for MakerGear becoming a 3D printing equipment manufacturer with the goal of creating machines that set the precedent for precision and durability. This MakerGear M3 is not your kid’s play toy. This is a serious industrial machine targeted for engineers and low-rate production shops.
The MakerGear M3 is the 3D printer of choice for those searching for a sturdy, well-built 3D printer at a reasonable price. This 3D printer may be used by hobbyists, but intended use is more for fabricators that need components for end products. The list of features include the following.
Fabricated Steel Frame and Steel Components
All the components for this the MakerGear M3 3D printer that cannot be bought off-the-shelf are made out of high-quality steel. No components are 3D printed. This is readily apparent by the weight of the machine that tops out at 12 kg (26.5 lbs). This is a 3D printer that has portability, but stays in place once set.
MakerGear 3D printers come in two different configurations. The MakerGear M3 comes standard with heated build plate, wireless connectivity, and a 0.35mm nozzle. The MakerGear M3 Independent Dual Extruder 3D Printer also comes standard with heated build plate, and wireless connectivity - in addition, it has two direct drive tool heads, each with an independent moving hot end, and extruder combination. This allows for two-color prints and prints with independent support material.
The MakerGear M3 comes equipped with True Leveling calibration. This is different from most other calibration methods that use software to guide the user through a series of calibration steps. Each step shows three pictures of how the offset distance looks between the nozzle and the bed. The user then makes a selection of a picture that mimics what is actually seen. These steps are repeated until the selected picture and the actual offset are optimal. This lets the user know that the offset is properly calibrated.
MakerGear has WiFi or Ethernet capability that can be established through any standard browser at setup.makergear.com. This sets up the printer to be controlled through the SaaS tool OctoPrint for MakerGear. This also provides the capability to load .STL or OBJ files, slice and then send the finished g-code directly to the printer.
Many 3D printer manufacturers offer a hybrid or closely aligned cooling system for both the hot end and for the filament. With the MakerGear M3, the cooling fans are configured directly for their intended use with no ambient “bleed over”. The filament cooling fan aims directly down and is parallel to the top of the print bed. The hot end cooling fan aims directly at the heat sink and the gearing mechanism for the extruder. This coupled with the heat break between the heat sink and the heater block ensures that there is no excessive heat creep and that the heat block and nozzle stay hot during use.
Precision Linear Motion
MakerGear 3D printers utilize profiled rails in lieu of the standard round rods. These rails are located on both the x-axis and y-axis and result in excellent dimensional accuracy in the x-y plane. Tests have shown the accuracy may be as good as 20 microns on some moves. The profiled rails eliminate the opportunity for yaw resulting in part iterations that are nearly identical
V4 Hot End
This hot end is exclusive to MakerGear printers and is unique in size and configuration. The round heater “block” is compact and allows uniform heating of the filament along the z-direction. This results in consistent deposition of the filament over time. The stock nozzle for the hot end is .35mm, but this size may be augmented by brass and stainless steel nozzles with widths varying from .25mm to .75mm. The most unique feature of the V4 nozzle is the way the nozzle is threaded. V4 nozzles have “female” threads versus “male” threads. This gives the user the flexibility to do a cold temperature nozzle change without damaging the heater block or breaking off the “male” threads in the heater block.
The MakerGear M3 comes standard with a 12-month warranty. Accessories include a toolkit with an M3 driver, hex keys, tweezers, filament guide tube, feeler gauge, brush and four extra bed fastening clips
Getting Started with the MakerGear M3
In general, the setup and use of the MakerGear M3 is relatively straightforward. The printer boasts exceptional print quality and the printer’s craftsmanship sets a high bar for all other 3D printer manufacturers.
The MakerGear M3 User Guide takes one step by step from unpacking to your first print. The MakerGear M3 utilizes Bonjour Print services for WiFi connectivity and comes complete with a version of OctoPrint (with a SaaS/browser interface) as the default slicer and controller for the printer. WiFi setup is fairly simple, but once it is set up on your network, it may be a challenge to connect the printer to a different network if the printer is moved to a new location.
Changing nozzles on the V4 hot end is different than most other printers. The hot end is completely removed and the nozzle is changed with a custom tool while the hot end is still cold. This is facilitated by the female threading configuration which does not allow the nozzle to be inserted directly into the heater block. This results in a reduction in nozzle and heater block damage and installation errors.
An interesting feature is the way in which the hot end is calibrated and the correct offset between the nozzle and the bed surface is achieved. It follows a process of like profile picture selection and the elimination of results that do not coincide with the actual appearance of the hot end. This may seem strange at first, but is fairly easy to achieve without having to use auto-calibration or slips of paper during a manual process.
Another nice feature of the OctoPrint slicer is the way in which small geometry on the top of the model is printed. The software pauses the hot end between print layers when small surfaces are being printed. This allows for curing of the material between layers to prevent blobs from occurring. The end result is a top surface without blemishes made from uncured filament.
Technical Specifications for the MakerGear M3 3D Printer
Printer and Printing Properties
- Technology: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
- Extrusion: Single Extrusion
- Build Volume: 203 X 254 X 203 mm
- Filament diameter: 1.75 mm
- Layer resolution: 0.020 - 0.350 mm (20 - 350 µ)
- Movement resolution: 0.001 mm (1 µ) per micro-step
- Print head travel speed range: 30 - 450 mm/s
- Build speed: 0.35 mm nozzle: up to 18 mm³/s
- Build plate: Borosilicate glass plate with polyimide film
- Build plate temperature: 20 - 130 °C (enclosed), 20 - 120 °C (not enclosed)
- Assisted leveling: Yes
- Assisted leveling method: True-Level™ calibration
- Printable materials: ABS, HIPS, Nylon, PET-G, PET-T, PLA, polycarbonate, PVA, , TPE, TPU, metal composites, wood composites, carbon fiber composites, and more
- Nozzle Type & Diameter: Brass 0.35 mm standard, .25 - 0.75 available. Stainless steel 0.35 - 0.5 mm available
- Nozzle Temperature: 180 - 300 °C
- Nozzle heat up time: < 2 minutes (220 °C)
- Build plate heat up time: < 4 minutes (70 °C)
- Operating Sound: < 65 dBA
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, LAN, USB
- Monitoring: Remote Monitoring Upgrade Kit (coming soon)
- Dimensions with spool and full range of motion: 533 mm (21") x 610 mm (24") x 420 mm (16.5")
- Unit weight: 12 kg (26.5 lbs)
- Shipping weight: 19 kg (42 lbs)
- Shipping box dimensions: 535 mm (21") x 535 mm (21") x 535 mm (21")
- AC Input: 100 - 120 V (4 A)/220 - 240 V (2 A), 47 - 63 Hz100 - 120 V (4 A)/220 - 240 V (2 A), 47 - 63 Hz
- Power requirements / consumption: 24 V DC @ 15 A / 360 W maximum
- Supplied software: OctoPrint for MakerGear / M3 QuickStart
- Compatible Software: A wide variety of free/commercial modeling, slicing and hosting software programs. MacOS, Windows, Linux
- Supported OS File types: STL, OBJ
Final Takeaway on the MakerGear M3 3D Printer
The MakerGear M3 is a top-notch printer that translates easily from the home workshop to the manufacturing environment. However, it is in prototyping and manufacturing where this printer truly excels. The MakerGear M3 is an excellent choice for those in search of precision and quality. Try a MakerGear 3D printer today.