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Mod-t 3D Printer Has Classroom Appeal

LAS VEGAS — If 2015 was the year New Matter produced its first Mod-t 3D printers to meet the demand from a successful crowdfunding campaign, then 2016 looks to be the year the company brings its $399 3D printer to a wider audience.

New Matter launched its crowdfunding campaign for the Mod-t in 2014. It spent most of last year producing enough printers to meet "the vast majority of preorders," CEO Steve Schell said. Now, the company has moved to send sales to new customers; you can now buy a Mod-t from New Matter's website and have it shipped directly to you in short order.

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As befits a 3D printer with a sub-$500 price tag, a lot about the Mod-t emphasizes simplicity. The printer comes largely assembled. "We wanted to make it approachable and accessible," Schell told me, as I removed a Mod-T from its shipping box as New Matter set up its CES 2016 exhibit booth. Schell says in about 15 minutes after you take the printer out of the box, you should be ready to run your first test print.

New Matter took a lot of the guesswork out of the printing process as well. The company's website features an online store, where you can download designs, eliminating the need to be well-versed in CAD or 3D design before you can use the printer. When it's time to print, the Mod-T takes care of the bed leveling to ensure that the build platform is properly calibrated with the printer's nozzle; the user doesn't have to make any adjustments.

It may be a budget 3D printer, but the Mod-t still has some sophisticated parts. The bottom of the build platform features geared teeth that rest on two intersection pinion rods, creating a two-axis motion system. The plastic surface of the build platform also pops out when its time to remove a finished print; you just flex the plastic surface to get the print off like you would an ice cube tray.

I was also struck by how quiet the Mod-t was. The printer uses servo motors, so that all you hear is fan noise when the Mod-t is producing a print. That, coupled with the $399 price tag, makes the Mod-t attractive in classrooms.

New Matter is embracing the educational appeal of its printer. At CES, the company announced a grant program where it will give away a set of three Mod-t printers along with filament supplies to 100 schools, roughly $200,000 worth of printers and supplies. Schools can apply for the grant at New Matter's website through Feb. 5.

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.