After more than a little troubleshooting, research, and experimentation, I've finally gotten the printer to start turning out consistent prints. It took a three part solution to really resolve and while not every print is coming out perfectly, most of them are coming out reasonably well.
- No more ABS - There's a few exceptions to this, but for the most part I'm finding ABS too much of a pain in the arse to use. It damages the print bed just about everytime I use it (because the printer cranks the extruder up to 275C) and between the peeling and shifting it's far too unreliable.
- Using Cura as a slicer - M3D advertises (still) that their printer can be used with any open source software. However the reality is that prints need to be sent to the printer through their propriety software. That software causes a heap of problems. Aside from being clunky and cumbersome to use, it has an annoying tendency to produce errors in the prints. Fortunately some creative fellows somewhere have figured out a small hack that all allows the models to be sliced in Cura (an Open Source application) and then piped directly into the printer's spool. It's a little click-intensive and requires some monitoring (twice I've had the printer try to inject molten filament -into- the print ped) but it works.
- Eliminating all tension on the filament - On any (or at least most) 3D printers there's a gear which feeds filament into the extruder. On the M3D that gear is part of the print head, directly above the extruder. This probably has some advantages but it also means that even the smallest bit of tension on the filament can cause an entire print to fail. Even hanging the spool off the side of the printer causes too much tension as the filament is pulled over the top of the chassis. My solution was to jury-rig a quick and dirty spool holder above the printer. I can probably pretty it up a bit but so far this has been the biggest help.