The da Vinci Mini is about the size and shape of a mini-fridge. All of the moving parts are exposed to the air, which makes it soothing and almost hypnotic to watch the printer render a figurine.

The three major components of the da Vinci Mini are the filament feeder, printer, and the stage. The raw materials for 3D printing filaments are different types and colors of plastics or resins. You can mount a roll of filament on the side of the Mini, feeding the starting end into the printer.

The Mini contains a small heating unit that warms the filament until it becomes malleable. The printer moves on a rail over the stage, which also moves, to ensure the heated filament can be laid down in many directions.

Despite the Mini's smaller size, the actual print area is the same size you'll find on bigger models in the da Vinci series, making it perfect for figurines. The printer only takes PLA filaments, which are non-toxic and biodegradable—and very safe for kids.

A discreet LED status light located near the base of the machine blinks green for "start/finish," orange for "pause/resume," and red for "error."

The entire package weighs just about 18 lbs, so you won’t break your back if you need to move it. You'll need to plug in the power cable, but data can be transmitted either wirelessly or via USB cable from your mobile device or computer.

Since this product is partially aimed at kids, the da Vinci Mini also comes with a shield that covers the moving parts of the printer. The reason for the shield is twofold: it protects the delicate inner workings from tiny fingers, and also protects tiny fingers from being squished by machinery or burned by hot filament.

The biggest hurdle to 3D printing is that the barrier to entry is higher than it is for most other toys and products on the market today. With the da Vinci Mini, that barrier is more easily hurdled.

In addition to the simple, straightforward set-up and instructional videos hosted on XYZprinting’s website, the product itself comes with an SD card that walks you through the printer setup and software installation.

XYZ also makes it easier to generate a computer model of the object you want to print. The XYZware 3D modeling program allows you to import a pre-made design from the XYZprinting website as a .stl file, then print away! This is ideal for first-time users or for people who don’t have a lot of experience with 3D computer design.

Alternatively, if you want to create your own design, you’ll need to use another program, like Tinkercad or Meshmixer. You can then export that .stl file into XYZware and transform your creation from the digital to the physical. Some 3D rendering apps are easier than others, so we suggest familiarizing yourself with the ins and outs of the process instead of jumping right in the deep end.

Once the model has been sent to the printer, the entire printing process takes about 5 minutes, not including a brief cool-down period. After your newly-printed object has cooled, you can remove it from the printing stage and it’s all ready to go. The PLA filament is extremely durable, so it can stand up to some wear and tear.

The da Vinci Mini ($269) and the replacement PLA filament rolls will be available for purchase later this year. In the meantime, think of all the cool things you can make with a 3D printer that fits on your desk.

Meet the testers

Julia MacDougall

Julia MacDougall

Senior Scientist

@reviewed

Julia is the Senior Scientist at Reviewed, which means that she oversees (and continually updates) the testing of products in Reviewed's core categories such as televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, and more. She also determines the testing methods and standards for Reviewed's "The Best Right Now" articles.

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