Anker's M5 Could Finally Bring 3D Printers to the Masses

As fast and relatable as using a microwave

  • Anker’s M5 is five times faster than other home 3D printers.
  • It works perfectly out of the box; no setup required.
  • 3D printing could go mainstream if we can figure out what to print.
Anker's M5 3D printer an object

Anker

3D printing is awesome but slow. Anker's new M5 printer aims to fix that by printing five times faster than the competition.

That's five times faster out of the box, using the default settings, with no fancy setup. The M5 also has a built-in webcam to watch progress or record time-lapse videos of your work-in-progress, and can pause and warn you when things go awry. It's also a very affordable $500 on Kickstarter, with a possible final price of around $760, which is still pretty good. In short, this is an amazing step forward for 3D printing enthusiasts and may even send 3D printing mainstream. 

"My students have been building $500 3D printers that could match those printing speeds for years, albeit those were finely tuned machines made by engineering students," Joshua M. Pearce, Ph.D. of the John M. Thompson Chair in Information Technology and Innovation at Canada's Western University told Lifewire via email. "That said, any developments that make 3D printing easier to use, faster, and less costly will help accelerate their adoption as a general household appliance."

The Anker Factor

If you’re not into 3D printing, then names like Prusa or Reality’s Ender 3D printer may mean nothing to you. But if you’re reading a tech news article, then you’ve probably heard of Anker, and you may even have an Anker charger, battery pack, or cable. Anker is a trusted accessory brand and ships high-quality, reliable gear. 

Anker’s M5 might be a Kickstarter campaign right now, but that’s a common marketing trick for big brands these days. Make no mistake—the Anker stamp of approval on 3D printing is a big deal. Regular folks like you and me will eventually be able to buy a unit from Amazon, plug in a couple of USB-C cables, and get to printing. 

Isometric view of the Anker M5 3D printer

Anker

Anker's presence alone in this market is a big deal, but the fact that it seems to have cracked a major downside of 3D printing is just amazing. A huge improvement in speed sends 3D printing into the realm of the practical for the regular home tinkerer.

"I know lots of people are over 3D printing because it's just a hobbyist thing—but it's still a really cool and even occasionally useful tool to have in the mix. This Anker entry into the space could be really good," says tech journalist and Gizmodo founding editor Joel Johnson on Twitter

Home Help

Anker's M5 is aimed dead center at the home user. Pro- and enthusiast-level users are already served by more complicated, but very capable, options. So, could Anker usher in a new era of home printing?

"It is clear that the economics is pushing us in that direction. We did a study 5 years ago that showed 3D printing one product a week would earn consumers a return of investment of over 100% in five years for low cost items," says Pearce. "Everything is better now—the printers are lower cost, higher performance, the materials are better, and there are millions of free open source 3D printable designs of real, high-quality products."

Anker M5 3D printer

Anker

We won't be spitting out boarding passes and other paperwork, of course. For many people, the hard part of 3D printing with easy home-use printers will be finding stuff to print. DIY and home-tinkering enthusiasts can come up with all kinds of parts to build, from home-spun tools to a custom stand for other devices. 

But if home printing proliferates, then it enables new business models. Instead of ordering a new plastic collar to repair your Baratza coffee grinder, for example, you'll be able to download the design and print it yourself, meaning you can make coffee this morning, not in a few days' time. 

This can go hand in hand with education, too.

"There is still a technical barrier related to education—3D printers are both easy to use and easy to mess up," says Pearce. "The relatively common access to 3D printers in schools, I think, will help consumers become more educated over time and more able to use them at home. More work is needed to bring 3D printers up to the same level of reliability of household appliances like the microwave."

Anker's M5 might be the model that does just that.

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