Review: The Malyan M150, a Wanhao Duplicator i3 lookalike!

It’s surprisingly good and surprisingly awful all at once.

The Malyan M150, a Wanhao Duplicator i3 lookalike!

Get one:
Hobbyking, as tested (affiliate link), Wanhao Model (affiliate link), Monoprice Model

What’s up everyone, Tom here, and you kept asking me for it, and now here it is: My review of one of the most popular, far-east 3D printers, the Wanhao Duplicator i3 (steel frame), or in my case the practically identical Malyan M150. The printer actually turned out better than i expected, but then again, i had pretty low expectations for this one.

So i usually don’t start out with the price of a machine, but in this case, it’s probably going to be the main reason why you’d consider buying it. Hobbyking sent me this one, and as far as i know, they are pretty much the cheapest seller for this sort of i3-ish printer. It retails for 300 to 350 Euros or US Dollars or whatever, depending on where you want it shipped from. I’d definitely recommend getting it shipped from a local warehouse to avoid having to deal with customs, and more on that entire topic in second. The one i have here is actually branded as a Maliwan M150, but it is practically identical to the older Wanhao duplicator i3 (steel frame). I don’t know if they’re actually made on the same assembly lines, but there are lot of indicators that they are, at the very least they are using the exact same parts, so I’d say we can basically treat them as the same thing. Now, the M150 is a Mendel-style full-size machine. It’s got a 200x200mm bed, or 8 by 8 inches, and prints 180-ish mm or 7 inches tall. It’s got a heated bed and a Makerbot “MK10”-style hotend and extruder, a very simple design, but with a severe flaw when it comes to filament guidance. As a frame, it’s using folded 1mm thick sheet metal steel, and what’s interesting here is that most of the electronics are in this separate box, also made from sheet metal. You can actually mount the spool holder to the frame itself or the electronics box, i decided to take it off the frame as not only were those threads in the frame completely stripped, but it also caused the frame to wobble as the spool was being unwound.

Unboxing and setup was quick and easy, once it was out of the box, it was only a matter of adding four screws to connect the Y-axis assembly to the rest of the machine, plugging in a few wires and drag chains and adding the part cooling fan. Also included are a power and USB cable, some hex wrenches that are too short to comfortably assemble the printer, a few replacement painter’s tape pieces as a bed adhesive and a 1GB MicroSD card that comes preloaded with the unboxing instructions and some basic manuals to get your first print out. Now, as you’d expect, these manuals aren’t great, but they do the job of providing at least a basic guideline of what you should be doing. To quote the end of the assembly manual: “Take a moment to relax and mentally prepare yourself for what lies ahead”.

On the SD card, you’ll also find three gcode files ready to print, a cat, a mouse, and a calibration cube, which i refuse to print. And after fiddling around with the bed for a bit, both the cat and the mouse came out ok. Since there is no auto-bed-calibration, you do have to adjust the bed manually with these thumbnuts on each corner. This was a bit more of a hassle than it should have been, since the combination of this flimsy 1.5mm aluminum plate as the lower bed plate and the comparatively soft springs meant that feeling that point where the nozzle just barely grabs your professional calibration paper was hit-and-miss. There’s also no adjustable Z-axis endstop, so to get the distance between the nozzle and the bed right for the first layer, you do actually have to adjust each bed corner individually again. But, once the bed was setup, it didn’t require and readjustment while i tested the printer, even after prying off stuck prints or just general rough handling. So that’s cool. But adding an inductive sensor would be trivial, since the bed surface is just the backside of the 3mm thick aluminum heater circuit board. There’s no glass or other nonsense on top there, except for this painter’s tape, which has the same issue i have with many tape-like bed toppings – your prints are going to stick to the tape, but the tape itself is going to peel off from the bed below it. So after failing to hold down this side panel of the Valiera Lamp from user Helder L. Santos on MyMiniFactory, awesome design, by the way, i ripped off the tape and applied some 3DEez. Unfortunately, the tape leaves some gunk on the bed, which you need to clean off with Acetone, and the 3DEez would probably have stuck a better if i slightly roughed up the aluminum surface before applying it.

So the entire frame is metal, and so is every other connector piece and bearing and nut, so, technically, you could trace a complete path without ever leaving a metal on metal contact all the way from the hotend to the bottom of the frame. The linear bearings are LM8UU in aluminum holders for the X and Y axis, and flange-type 8mm bearings for the Z-axis, and they all sound really rough, particularly the Y-axis. This might be in part due to the all-metal frame, which doesn’t dampen vibrations or noise at all, but the bearings also don’t feel particularly smooth. A few reviews on Hobbyking mention the Y-axis bearings biting the dust pretty early on, and the user replaced them with IGUS polymer bushings, which is probably something i’ll do as well just to make it a bit more reliable. And i hear you, oh IGUS bushings have so much play; well, so do these cheap LM8UUs, so really, it’s a straight-up upgrade.

On the topic of noise, the M150 is generally on the loud side as well, mostly from the always-on fan in the electronics box. Once printing, though, it’s not much louder than any other printer. This box is kinda unique to this series of printers, and on the printer itself, there’s only the bare minimum of components, so things like endstops, the hotend and extruder, heated bed and the motors. Which, by the way, are fairly small types for a NEMA17 motor. The electronics box then houses the mainboard, power supply and LCD interface. There’s no way to easily separate the box and the printer, which makes moving them quite tedious and, in combination, has them taking up more desk space than necessary. The LCD is your standard graphical display with a clickwheel, and as always the clickwheel is setup slightly wrong, so every fifth or sixth click won’t scroll the menu, and it has this atrocious dim green backlight, it’s mounted at an off angle, so it’s kinda hard to read, but the newer revision of the Wanhao Duplicator has actually already fixed that by installing the LCD at an angle. The 240W power supply in here is what looks like a genuine MeanWell type, which is surprising for a printer at this price point, so it might be a fake, i don’t know. The control board is a Melzi-derived type, it seems to be custom-made for the M150 as the silkscreen seems to indicate. It’s a really simple design, and while i don’t think these power connectors are rated for the full 10A the heated bed seems to draw, for now, it’s working, but i’m probably going to solder the wires directly to the board since i’m not a huge fan of that burnt plastic smell. While none of the cables going out of the box have any sort of ferrite beads or shielding or anything like that, they are labeled and nicely routed, which i appreciate. Also, the entire high-voltage section does look tidy and properly insulated, so that’s a thumbs up there.

Now on the topic of the control board and firmware and stuff, the standard Atmega1284 runs a standard version of Marlin with a custom splash screen, but otherwise thinking it’s a normal Prusa i3. There is one thing i noticed, which is unnecessary, dumb and dangerous, and that’s the fact that the firmware had some safety features disabled, particularly the MINTEMP feature, which is a simple and very effective way of preventing your hotend from melting down. Basically, it detects when the hotend’s thermistor loses contact, which the board reads as it reporting 0°C, and instead of just pumping more power into the heater to supposedly get it up to temperature again, this safety feature shuts off the printer entirely. If it doesn’t, it is going to easily melt the aluminum part of the hotend and potentially set some stuff on fire, so MINTEMP really is a safety feature that should never be disabled. The only reason i can think of why you’d turn it off would be that either some part of the thermistor cable has a loose connection, which would randomly trigger the MINTEMP feature and crash your print, but of course, in that case, you should probably fix the wiring and not just disable the symptoms; otherwise, if you disable it without really thinking about it, i’m going to call you completely incompetent and you shouldn’t be in a position of configuring the firmware for thousands of printers. And i have a feeling it might be the latter one. While this issue by itself might be brushed off with something like, oh, how often is that going to happen that your thermistor wire breaks, well, it does happen, people have had their printers burn down, and, you know, it’s a tiny insight into either the mindset of the people designing these printers, you know eschewing safety in order to fake a more reliable product, or into what their level of knowledge or quality control looks like.

This particular issue is trivial to fix, since the source files for the Malyan’s Marlin firmware are available on Github, but they haven’t uploaded anything else like sources for the modified Melzi board etc.

And while we’re on the topic of software, Malyan basically says hey, you can use any slicer, just tell it you have a Prusa i3. And that works surprisingly well. Malyan do provide a “custom” version of the new-generation Cura, but since Virustotal did find some (probably false positive) signatures in Malyan’s version that aren’t found in the official Cura release, i didn’t really feel like installing it on my main production PC, so i fired up a virtual machine with Windows 10, and after the super ghetto “installer” finished, which basically just copies a few files, Cura wouldn’t start, and there was no option to uninstall. Great. In a Windows 7 VM, it did start up, but only offered a profile for the Malyan M180, a Makerbot Replicator 2 clone. So that entire install process was a waste.. So i simply set up a Prusa i3 in the newest Cura 2.1.1, and that worked flawlessly.

Now, the prints you’ll get are slightly hit-and miss. The cat in natural PLA, actually, the second print, shows some severe spool pulling artifacts and what looks like Z-wobble, but if you look at the non-flexible coupler that connects the motor shaft and the trapezoid spindle, there is practically no wobble there, and after resituating the spool so that the filament wouldn’t pull up on the carriage, the prints started turning out much more consistent. There is a distinct lack of detail in the X and Y axes and you can see some low-frequency oscillations, which i blame on these “belt tensioners”; i don’t know who thought these were a good idea, but the only thing they do is to make the belt path softer, so when the motor wants to accelerate the bed or the carriage, it first stretches the belt loop and this tensioner before actually starting to move the carriage. Not a good design, these need to go, especially since there are proper tensioners in here anyways. The belt pulleys and idlers are plastic and you can feel their runout when simply moving an axis by hand. That could explain the need for the belt springs, but i’m definitely going to put some metal pulleys and a proper idler in here.

Overall, i was surprised how well this machine printed once the filament path was figured out. There should be a reverse bowden setup in here to have the spool pull against the frame and not the carriage, that would make all the difference in the world when it come to print quality. I tried PLA, which worked, PET, which looks like crap on this side since the print lifted from the bed, but that’s really not the printer’s fault, as well as ABS, which worked fine just as well. One thing to note is that the bed doesn’t really go much higher than 100°C, so larger ABS prints might prove a bit tricky. And the cables on the back of the heated bed have no strain relief at all, so expect them to fall off eventually.

One more thing i have to point out about this machine in general is that it boasts CE and ROHS conformity and a TÜV/GS and UL certification and a whole bunch of other certificates that i never heard of. CE is a mandatory declaration of conformity that needs to be included in paper form with certain products if you want to import and sell them inside Europe, similar to the FCC label, and it basically has the manufacturer guarantee that their product conforms to the applicable laws for this kind of thing. And that reaches all the way from electromagnetic compatibility to basic common sense when it comes to user safety. There’s the label on the box and on the machine, but no physical declaration was included, also it’s not a registered device with the WEEE, which regulates electronics waste, so in fact, it is very likely, unless i’m completely misinformed, that this machine shouldn’t have been allowed to be imported into or sold inside Europe. Somehow it made it here, because… China?

Also, that TÜV/GS label, which is an independent certification by the German TÜV, similar to the American UL, that label as well many of the other certifications, only applies to the Meanwell power supply, not to printer itself. And obviously, with things like MINTEMP disabled, i don’t think this printer would qualify for any sort of safety certificate in the first place. Malyan so far hasn’t been able to provide a CE declaration or any other certificate to me.

Ok, so i know some of you might be reckless enough to not care about that sort of legal and safety stuff, but that’s actually a huge part of why this printer can be sold so cheaply and why brand-name printers usually cost more than twice as much as their pure component costs. Plus, of course, service, customer support, warranty, taxes, all things that don’t really apply here. Now, while it has its flaws, i have to admit, at its core it’s a surprisingly good 3D printer. But even though it’s tempting, i wouldn’t recommend this one as a first 3D printer, it’s just a bit too ghetto for that, and by default, is just not set up for foolproof operation. If you’re an experienced user and just don’t have enough 3D printers, this might just be the cheapest way to expand your capacities if you can improve on its flaws and overall make it work for you.

Alright, so that’s enough rambling about this one, i’ll make a few mods and keep using it, if you feel brave enough to step into these waters, you can find affiliate links to the Malyan M150 and the equivalent Wanhao printer in the description. Otherwise, get subscribed, i’ve got an even cheaper printer review from Hobbyking coming up, share this or any other videos with your friends who might find them useful, and if you want to support me directly, Patreon is the best way to do that.

This video is licensed as Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike thanks to my supporters on patreon!

Models used:
Valeria Lamp by HELDER L. SANTOS
Make: Rook by Make Magazine, scaled to 51mm tall (as Formlabs sample)

Music is Unison – Translucent [NCS Release]

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