On the consumer end, there’s one feature that no 3D filament printer currently offers: 100% reliability. Prints can fail for a variety of reasons that are usually impossible to predict, and while Anker’s first 3D printer makes no promises of perfect reliability, it at least saves users from hours of wasted print time with a built-in AI-powered camera designed to spot problems and failures early in the process.
Anker is currently a brand best known for its affordable charging products, including everything from durable cables, to high-powered wall warts, to batteries that keep your devices powered on the go. But it’s also a brand that has been experimenting in many other consumer electronics categories, like wireless earbuds and compact projectors. Its latest non-power product is the AnkerMake M5 and it looks like it’s trying to finally make 3D printers consumer-friendly—or at least consumer-friendlier.
The AnkerMake M5's most appealing feature is that Anker promises it’s easy to assemble and can go from unboxing to ready to print in roughly 15 minutes. A 49-point auto-leveling system is also used for the print bed which should make a process that’s absolutely critical for successful prints much easier for those with no experience in battling finicky 3D printers.
But a print bed that’s not perfectly level is just one problem in a long list of things that can potentially go wrong during a 3D print. Depending on what’s being printed, these machines can take countless hours to do their thing, and unless a part is mission-critical for another project, no one has the time or patience to babysit a 3D printer until it’s done. There’s nothing more frustrating than leaving a 3D printer to run overnight only to find out the next morning that five minutes after you walked away things went completely awry.
Anker can’t guarantee that will never happen with the AnkerMake M5, but out of the box it features an integrated webcam that not only allows timelapse recording of prints to be captured and shared on social media, it also allows the user to sporadically monitor the printer’s progress remotely through a smartphone. The AnkerMake M5 also goes one step further by upgrading its camera with AI smarts that can automatically detect issues with a print, and send alerts to the user that they’ll need to intervene, potentially allowing a failed print to be saved before it becomes a giant mess of extruded plastic.
Anker’s boldest claim about its new 3D printer is its speed. Out of the box and post-assembly Anker claims the AnkerMake M5 can print at 250 mm/s at its default speed for those wanting to create a high-fidelity model with a relatively smooth finish. That’s already much faster than the highest print speed on other popular 3D printers available today, but for those who don’t need as much detail and are simply looking to quickly churn out rough iterative prototypes, the AnkerMake M5 also offers an accelerated mode that boosts print speeds up to 2,500 mm/s², reducing print times by up to 70 percent.
These are some lofty claims by Anker because the old saying, ‘haste makes waste’ especially applies to 3D printing where taking a slower approach can often greatly improve the chances of a successful print. Unfortunately, it will be some time before the AnkerMake M5's capabilities can be tested because Anker is bringing it to market through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign launching sometime today.
The earliest backers can pre-order the printer for $429 which is much less than the eventual retail pricing which is expected to be well north of $750, Anker told The Verge. Delivery is expected as soon as September, but you’ll want to take that with a grain of salt. Anker is obviously a company that’s successfully brought countless consumer electronics devices to market, but it’s facing the same supply chain issues as every other company on Earth. There’s little doubt the AnkerMake M5's crowdfunding campaign will be a success, but as with 3D printers, a heaping helping of patience is recommended if you choose to back this one.