New Matter Mod-t 3D Printer Review
The New Matter MOD-t comes at a modest price compared to most 3D printers. It does relatively well as a starter 3D printer, particularly with regards to print quality. It generally produces good quality prints when dealing with simple designs but experiences occasional misprints with intricate designs.
The setup process is relatively simple. It doesn’t take up much space and offers Wi-Fi connectivity and a decent build volume. Its aesthetics and hardware simplicity are equally appealing. Its main drawback is that you’re limited to only one type of filament. The printing speed is also slow, and there’s little flexibility in terms of the slicing software you can use.
- Print quality is good for simple designs
- The build area can accommodate most designs
- Prints usually stick well to the print bed
- It’s fairly easy to set up with a self-leveling print bed
- It’s compact, quiet, and has a clean, attractive design
- The filament cartridges come at an affordable price
- Fails most in printing complex and tall objects
- Tends to leave strings of plastic on prints
- Printing speed is slower than other similar printers
- The interface isn’t that simple to figure out
- You don’t have much control over the designs
- It only prints when there’s an active internet connection
- It can only print with the standard 1.75mm PLA filaments
- Extruder Number: single extruder
- Max Extruder Temperature: 320 – 428°F (160 – 220°C)
- Layer Resolution: 50 – 400 microns
- Extruder Nozzle Diameter: 0.4mm
- Printing Speed: 30 – 80 mm/s
- Build Area: 6 x 4 x 5 inches
- Filament Diameter: 1.75mm
- Supported Filaments: PLA
- Connectivity: USB Cable, Wi-Fi
- Weight: 22 pounds
- Dimension: 15.1 x 13.4 x 11.6 inches
The Mod-t is a futuristic printer that seems to break away from the standard hard mechanical look common with most 3D printers. Its unique contemporary look is courtesy of Frog Design, which is an international technology product design firm that New Matter enlisted to design it.
The exterior comprises a white base, which is topped by a transparent, rectangular glass hood that encloses the print space. The interior features a seemingly floating printer bed and a print head that’s hidden in a wedge of white plastic, which accentuates the overall look of the printer.
There are no wires, cables, and belts hanging around. All these are hidden in the white base for a clean, ordered look. It’s generally an elegant minimalist design that’s not only attractive but would easily blend into any place.
The transparent glass cover/hood offers almost 360 degrees of visibility. You get a clear view of all the angles of the models as they get printed. It as well protects the prints from the elements and users from touching the hot parts. The white base also helps cover the hot plate, hence it can’t be touched accidentally.
The print bed on most 3D printers is usually firmly attached to either a drive belt or some other motors that can move it around. However, on the MOD-t, the print bed sits on two gear rods unattached to anything. The bed is grooved on the bottom such that it fits the gear rods it sits on (which are equally grooved) and rides on them during a build.
The rods move the bed left-right (X-axis direction), and forward-back (Y-axis direction) as motors rotate them while the extruder assembly/print head moves vertically.
It’s a very different and unique drive system where the print bed is moved in the X and Y directions rather than along the Z-axis, and the extruder doesn’t move horizontally. It seems to work surprisingly well, though, and you can lift out the bed and remove it once a print is done since it’s not fixed to anything.
You can also remove the plastic cover on the print bed, and it’s flexible – you can bend it to pop off the prints, which is useful particularly when printing large objects. You can just flex the print bed to remove the prints instead of trying to scrape them out.
Although the unique drive system is great, it has several downsides, and one of them is that the print bed is held in place only by friction.
It can eventually slide a little during printing and end up ruining the print being built. There were reports of a few ruined prints where the layers become misaligned as the build plate slips. You have to tape it into place at the edges (it still can move, though) or print the bed clips yourself, which fix it for good once installed.
The print head is a block of aluminum comprising a nozzle and a melt chamber. It utilizes a heater cartridge and features a temperature sensor, which helps it keep a specific temperature.
The unit is relatively compact (15.1 x 13.4 x 11.6 inches) – it has a smaller footprint than other similar printers like the Flashforge Finder (16.5 x 16.5 x 16.5 inches). You can place it almost anywhere without it taking up much space – it’s suitable for use in the office, classroom, or at home. It’s a bit heavy (22 pounds), though. You may not find it easy to move around.
The print head features a 0.4mm nozzle with a layer resolution range of 50 to 400 microns and a heating temperature range of 160 – 220°C, ideal for filaments that don’t need a very high temperature to melt properly, such as PLA.
Quality-wise, the MOD-t produced good-looking prints – they came out clean, smooth, and with decent details in most of the tests.
Our initial print was a chess piece, the “Pokemon queen,” and the quality was good. Next, we printed a hippo figurine, and again, the quality was good. We also tested a 3D scan of Rodin’s Thinker and a set of gears, and the MOD-t handled them both well without major issues.
The printer also works great on larger prints when you use a set of support arms, and it’s capable of printing multiple objects simultaneously like two chess rooks. However, you have to upload the pieces in sets since you can’t manipulate where on the print bed an object prints.
It fails most when printing complex objects like a geometric sculpture that features a lot of overhanging edges. The print failed most of the time because some parts like the sculpture’s pointy arms couldn’t hold together as they were being printed – a part would stick to another part or fall, hence ruining the overall print.
Another intricate object it couldn’t handle is the Eiffel Tower. It was unable to reproduce the object accurately, particularly the intricate scaffolding. It went almost off track halfway through the build, leaving behind a spaghetti mess of filament.
This wasn’t a surprise, though, as only the higher-end desktop 3D printers (over $1000) can properly recreate the Eiffel Tower’s complex latticework. Tall, thin prints also experienced some buckling around the top part, but there’s no buckling when you print them with added supports.
A few other notable other quirks were several occasional stringing – the printer sometimes leaves filaments hanging off the objects/prints as the print head bridges from one part of the prints to another. It stretches out the printing material leaving behind strings that you have to clean off with a knife.
We equally noted more issues when utilizing the lower resolution – some layers were offset on several prints like the print bed had slipped between layers without the printer itself realizing. This, though, didn’t happen on the medium or high-resolution settings. You get quality prints at a higher or moderate layer resolution, such as 50 microns.
The print speed is specified to reach 80 mm/s, but many found it to be slower than many other similar 3D printers. A 4-inch print of a Thinker model at lower resolution (high-speed setting – 400 microns) can take around 4 hours and 16 minutes, while on the higher resolution setting (100 microns), it takes up to 14 hours 28 minutes to get completed.
The two chess pieces (each is 2 inches in diameter and about 5 inches tall) took 4 hours to print, which is remarkably slow. The “Pokemon queen” piece (1-inch diameter, 4 inches tall) took 2 hours to print despite being relatively small.
These numbers basically put the MOD-t’s print speed on the lower end of the pack as they’re certainly not comparable to the other printers in the same price range.
For instance, a slightly cheaper printer like the XYZ da Vinci Mini printed the same Thinker model in less than 4 hours using the low-resolution setting and slightly more than 12 hours at high resolution. So, if speed is of priority to you, you are likely to get disappointed since your print projects may take much longer to finish.
The Build Area
You get a medium-sized build area with this New Matter printer. Its build dimensions are 6 x 4 x 5 inches, which is almost the same size as that of the Flashforge Finder (5.5 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches).
It’s neither large nor small. It’s just a decent amount of space that can accommodate most designs. If it’s larger projects, you’ll need to print them in pieces and then reassemble them into one unit.
The print bed isn’t heated, but we found that most PLA prints stuck well to it without problems. Still, a few users reported having occasional adhesion issues where they had to use a blue painter’s tape on the bed for prints to stick to it.
Scratching up the bed with a brass brush can also help make prints stick, but the plastic scraper tool provided with the printer is inadequate – it’s not enough to scrape some of the prints off the bed. There were also reports of the print bed warping over time hence becoming useless.
The MOD-t doesn’t have a heated bed, and as such, it only prints with the standard 1.75mm PLA filaments. You can’t print with ABS or other filaments that are sensitive to temperature changes.
If you print with ABS, the corners tend to curl upward due to the unheated print bed. However, PLA is simpler to work with than ABS, which is good for a beginner, but still, there are other printers within the same range, such as the BIBO 3D printer, that offer better versatility.
The good thing is that New Matter’s proprietary PLA filaments come at a competitive price and are available in a variety of colors (13 different colors). The filament spools for this MOD-t model go for $19.99 per 0.5Kg reel and $29.99 per 1kg speel, which are very reasonable prices for PLA considering that Flashforge sells their 680g spools for $34.
Some of the company’s filaments, like the pink one, do jam frequently, though. Even so, you are not limited to only New Matter’s proprietary filament. The printer can use third-party 1.75mm PLA filament cartridges.
However, we noted from the forums that certain third-party filament colors like white, grey and black filaments tend to glob up when used with the printer—red, blue, green, e.t.c work fine.
Usability and Connectivity
There’s no control pad, LCD screen, or touchscreen on the MOD-t, which most other 3D printers offer. The only method of interacting with it is through a single power button and New Matter’s web-based printer interface/portal. That’s it.
The power button features a LED ring that’s either solid or blinks (slowly or fast) based on what state the printer is in. The button can be pressed to achieve a specific function; a single click starts the printing process when files are ready, and another click will pause the print while pressing it again will continue the print. You can also hold the button down longer to cancel the print/stop it completely.
All the main controls of the printer and the print, including all the processing of the object files like uploading, print commands, slicing, and print generation, are only accessible and performed online via the New Matter’s web interface. The interface offers a reasonable number of features that users need to control things, which we’ve discussed in detail in the next segment.
Figuring out the New Matter’s interface isn’t that simple, though, as some of the icons/functions (like uploading a model file) aren’t obvious and lack labels. For an entry-level machine, most of the functions or settings should be obvious – if you are a beginner, it will take some time and a bit of experimenting with the settings before you get things right.
Connectivity between the printer and the computer is via Wi-Fi or USB cable, and you can disconnect either of them once the printing files are sent to the printer.
The MOD-t, however, doesn’t have onboard storage – there’s no internal memory where you can store files. What it allows you to do instead is to upload a file, start the print job and unplug it from the computer. Once you power it off, the downside is that it forgets the last design, so you have to re-transfer the file again to the printer and start the printing.
Unlike most 3D printers, the MOD-t isn’t controlled through a standalone program running on a computer. Instead, everything is exclusively managed via the New Matter’s web interface. You have to go to their website, set up a free account that’s password-protected, and log in to download the driver as well as the print utility.
Once this setup is done and the printer is registered successfully, you can control the printer and start printing right through the web interface without running any software on the computer or app on a mobile device.
To print a file, you have to select it from the Library associated with your account. It contains files (either free or paid) that you’ve selected from the MOD-t store, as well as those that you’ve uploaded.
When the file is selected, you are taken to another screen where you can make adjustments such as choosing a layer resolution/print quality (100, 200, and 400 microns), temperature (160 – 220°C), and print speed (from 10 – 80 mm/s).
The interface also offers a menu that allows you to perform certain actions such as rotate a design, scale it, move it and view it from all angles on your computer. You can as well add and remove supports and control the infill. Once the model is ready, you just click print, and the file is transferred to the printer, where you click the button for printing to begin.
The major downside of this web-based approach is that you don’t have much control over the designs. It doesn’t offer a lot of advanced features to allow you to adjust or manipulate them. You can’t adjust their positioning on the print bed or inspect them layer by layer before printing.
Besides that, printing from the web-based interface is often not reliable. You must have an active internet connection to launch/initiate a print regardless of the method you use to connect to the printer (Wi-Fi or USB cable).
The printer can’t receive the print files directly from the computer – you have to transfer them from the Library in the web interface. If you have a poor internet connection or experiences frequent outages, you can’t print anything at all.
Several users also reported occasional failures when uploading the print files from the computer to the Library. Others found the interface to be often slow to start print jobs, especially when using the USB cable – it can take several minutes to recognize that the computer is connected to the printer.
The other downside is that the printer gets assigned to a specific New Matter account. You can only have one account at a time, which means if someone else wants to use the printer, then they’ll need your login information.
However, you can use a third-party slicing software like CURA to edit and create the print file, but you still have to import it into the online system to print. The printer supports only.STL, .gcode, and.OBJ file types and it’s compatible with both Windows 7+ and Mac OS X 10.7+ operating systems. It doesn’t support Linux.
Unboxing of the MOD-t was great for most users. New Matter managed to organize everything in a small package neatly. There were no reports of damaged or broken parts.
Setting up the whole unit is a relatively simple process since it comes almost fully pre-assembled. You just need to set the build plate into place (seating on the pinion rods), snap the print surface onto it, install the filament spool onto its holder, and then feed the filament material into the extruder through the guide tube.
What makes it even easier to set up is that you don’t need to level the print bed because the printer does it automatically. Both X and Y rods come pre-leveled from the factory. No adjustments required from the user end to keep the bed leveled.
You don’t have to worry about setting the “Z start height” either, as it’s all done by the printer. It does an auto-calibration depending on the “Force feedback” of the motors.
You just place the build plate in any corner on the printer to ensure it’s completely straight on both the X and Y rods. From there, the system adjusts the extruder up/down until it detects the right amount of drag in order to set the right ‘Z start height.’ Other printers require you to fiddle with settings in order to figure out this.
There’s a problem with the unit’s Z-axis, though. The print head frequently gets stuck at the top, particularly during the loading of the filament. The motor that feeds the filament sometimes just gets stuck – you have to spin a plastic gear wheel located at the back to fix it. This often happens when it’s feeding 1kg rolls.
The filament tube also sometimes pops off the top, messing up the print such that you have to start all over. You must replace it snugly each time you load the filament. There’s no filament detection feature as well, so if the filament breaks during a print job, the system will still keep printing.
The major issue is that replacement parts are usually not in stock. It can take weeks for them to be available, which is highly inconvenient when something breaks. The warranty period is equally very short (only 3 months), but the customer support are always quick to respond and ready to answer queries through phone, email, or chat, even after the warranty expires.
There’s an active user community and support forums where you can access other users’ advice and solutions to many common and advanced problems related to the MOD-t 3D printer model.
Another nice thing is that the printer hardly makes noise while running. It makes a gentle grinding noise while printing, and the only other noise you hear is from the fan and the print platform as it rolls across the gear rods. The plastic cover muffles much of the noise very well – it certainly won’t be a distraction when sitting or sleeping in the same room with it.