3D Printer Review: Up Mini 2 – the best 3D printer for schools?

At Makers Empire, we have tried many different 3D printers over the years. Given that our 3D printing app and software is designed for schools works, all our testing has been focused on finding the answer to this question: what is the best 3D printer for elementary/primary/middle schools?

With this in mind, here’s our review of the Up Mini 2.

Summary of Features

The Great:

  • Auto-leveling – no more calibration with a piece of paper!
  • Enclosed – great for safety as well as helping keep ABS prints flat (passively heated chamber)
  • LCD – easier to control
  • Air filter – important for K-8 schools where proper exhaust may not be available
  • PLA – recommended for schools
  • Temperature control – a big problem with earlier Up’s was the lack of temperature control which led to all sorts of mods and hacks by those wanting to use non-proprietary filament
  • On-board memory – saves last few prints (although firmware appears buggy at the moment)
  • The price ~$599 USD or ~$900 AUD
  • Design feels good and solid
  • Wireless – I initially didn’t think this would be that great, and i’m still a little skeptical in a managed/school environment where corporate wifi policies can be a pain. That being said, sending prints directly from the program to the printer (no cloud etc) has been quite good and I really like being able to check to see if a print has finished without leaving my chair!

The Bad:

  • Perforated board – annoying and dangerous (you need to remove prints with what amounts to a sharpened paint scraper)
  • New UPStudio software feels reasonably buggy and doesn’t always ‘sync’ with the LCD properly. This feels like a problem that will be fixed with new software/firmware.
  • No SD card

The Meh:

  • Enclosed heated chamber – would have been nice if it was actively heated!
  • No camera on board to monitor prints
  • The spool holder – seems unnecessary would have preferred a simple ‘turntable’ and cheaper price. Ours was broken in the first two weeks and I’m not sure I can be bothered getting it fixed.
  • Would have been nice if the bottom of the printer was easy to clean out (see the Cubicon Single)
  • Quite a lot of ‘Chinglish’ in the app
  • The front top cover of the printer comes off so you can get to the extruder better – this feels a little ‘plasticky’ and unfinished

Detailed Review

The Hardware:

The Up Mini 2 feels solid and looks great. It is a step in the right direction from the Up Box/Afinia H800 which felt a little ‘plasticky’ – this feels a little more like a BMW.

What’s in the Box?:

  • Up Mini 2
  • Filament caddy
  • Tools

The Software:

The software has been upgraded from the 90s looking old Up software. It is an improvement and looks similar to the Zortrax software.

Good features:

  • Online accounts
  • Convert photo to lithograph print
  • Monitor printer wireless
  • Change printer temperature
UpStudio software

UpStudio Software – Ability to view printer status

UpStudio software - lithograph functionality, showing Makers Empire software

UpStudio software – lithograph functionality

Filament Caddy:

Filament caddy in the background – actual filament on a simple turntable that we find much easier to use.

filament-caddy-vs-turntable

Bench:

Decent quality.

benchy-3

benchy-2

benchy-1

benchy-4

The Verdict

So what’s our verdict?

The short answer:

Whilst not perfect, we believe that the Up Mini 2 is currently as good as it gets. This 3D printer represents great value and performance for schools looking for a “plug ‘n’ play” experience. It’s our expert opinion that it would be almost impossible to have a bad experience with this printer. Put simply, you can’t go wrong.

The longer answer:

One of our favorite 3D printers over the years has been the Up (also known as Afinia) range of 3D printers – they have been around for years now and are well known for their durability and reliability. We have literally carried an Up Plus 2 / Afinia H480 around the world in a shopping bag as we meet with clients and watched it perform admirably and consistently.

The Up Mini 2, which is Up’s cheapest printer, represents a significant upgrade to their older models. It has more features than its ‘big brother’, the Up Box.

Please note that the print quality is not that much different from earlier Up/Afinia printers – the improvements we’ve noted are mainly around its ease of use and safety features. Anyone who has used an older Up/Afinia printer will know that they are capable of excellent quality prints.

Other resources:

If you’re looking for a video review / unboxing, Luke has a great one on YouTube here.

Official website of Tiertime, makers of the Up Mini 2.

In Australia, you can buy Up printers from The 3D Printer (who has broad experience with different printers in schools).

In the USA, you can buy Up printers from Octave.

Makers Empire 3D Learning Program provides everything you need (software, hardware, curriculum, Teacher’s Dashboard, professional development) to start 3D printing in your K-8 classroom today. Learn more here.

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