My 3D Printer: Monoprice Maker Select V2

It all started with the blogs. Back when 3D printing first arrived in my awareness, it arrived through blogs. Soon I had found and subscribed to several; I especially recall pouring through back posts on Nophead’s blog and Ed Nisley’s blog (still a daily read). I loved the idea of a RepRap, a printer designed to print copies of itself. For a long time, I couldn’t justify the expense or the time investment. But I watched, and daydreamed. About a year ago, I visited a Microcenter about an hour from home, and watched a 3d Printer (a very nice, pricey Lulzbot Taz 6 I think) printing, in person, for the first time. It was mesmerizing, and I started to think seriously about getting one.

I’d seen some good writeups on the Monoprice Maker Select, a rebranded Wanhao Duplicator i3, as a solid, entry level printer, for someone who doesn’t mind having to (or who wants to) spend some time tweaking, experimenting, and printing upgrades. On June 14 last year, it was $384.99 on Amazon. Checking CamelCamelCamel, I saw that the price had fluctuated some, and had recently been under $350, so I set a price watch and prepared to wait. The very next day, I got an alert that the price had dropped to $288.63, and I jumped on it, cashing in a bunch of gift cards I’d been sitting on for the purpose (which covered about half). Glad I did, too, as the price shot up again the next day. Don’t know if it was a glitch or a test, but Amazon sent me the printer, and so it began.

The Maker Select, like the i3 it is based on, is a popular printer for upgrading, and there are plenty of resources. One of the biggest is the i3 page at 3printerwiki.info, and I studied it while planning my purchase. When I ordered the printer, I ordered a whole new build surface with it: a PEI build surface and 3M 468MP adhesive to mount it with (following these instructions from reprap.org), a sheet of Borosilicate glass to mount it on, and silicone heat transfer pads with which to affix it to the heated build plate (following these instruction from 3dprinterwiki.info, though I ended up using 2 pads cut to completely fill the space between with build plate and the glass). While many folks swear by painter’s tape or Aquanet hairspray to ensure proper adhesion of the print to the print surface, PEI is much better solution. Its unique properties make it hold on to a print when hot, and release it when cool – perfect for a heated build plate. Just give it a wipe with isopropyl alcohol to clean it before each print (I like the 91% stuff), and it just works.

Following lots of good advice on the internet (no, really!), my first print was a set of leveling thumbwheels to replace the stock wingnuts. They are still on my printer. Looking for something else easy and useful to print, I added an allen wrench holder to keep track of the set of little wrenches that come with the printer. I spent some time messing with various leveling feet, but never got anything I really liked, and dropped it. Eventually, I printed an added the mother of all Wi3/MMS mods, the Z Brace mod, which added a ton of rigidity to the whole setup, and greatly reduced the amount of bed leveling needed between prints. Everyone who was put this mod on their printer will tell you to do the same, and they are all correct.

A couple of months ago, I started noticing an issue. The glass plate started to lift off the build plate in one corner – a sure sign that the heated build plate was flexing. Of course this is a risk with the standard four-corner leveling method used on so many printers. A plane is defined by 3 points, so if you constrain 4 points you may have distortion. I ended up adding binder clips for a while to hold the glass to the build plate, but they were unsightly and could interfere with the print head on large prints. I could see the Y-axis carriage was flexing, so I looked for a replacement. The one I found on Amazon for the WanhaoI3/MMS was sold out, so I contacted the manufacturer; turns out they had pulled it while they redesigned the hole spacing to better fit the I3. The new version is now available, and I installed it a week ago. So far I’m very happy with it, and the binder clips are gone. My bed leveling has become even more stable. While I was upgrading the Y-axis carriage, I took the opportunity to install the Micro Swiss MK10 all-metal hotend so that I can try printing some PETG or Ninjaflex in the future – materials that need higher printing temps that could damage the stock hot end. It reduces the nozzle size from the stock 0.5mm to 0.4mm, which may allow slightly more detailed prints, but the jury is still out on that.

So that’s where it stands today, as shown below. Sitting on the build plate is a dice rolling tray made using printable terrain. There’s 9 tiles there, held together using printable clips, and it’s one of the larger things I’ve printed to date.

But I’m not done. Next up is the Diiicooler mod for better bridging performance; I just got the new fan from Amazon, so it’s time to print the shroud and install the upgrade. After that? I’m going to try to come up with an enclosure for better thermal management, so I can get into printing with ABS. This enclosure made from an $8 IKEA end table is pretty slick.

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