MakerBot is Going to Make Something
By Ryan Winters
Out of You
Product Marketing Manager
MakerBot Product Review3D printers were invented in the mid-80s, but this technology has taken a couple decades to go mainstream. Now with the addition of 3D scanners it dramatically opens up how this technology might be used in any number of practical ways.
MakerBot was founded in 2009, and in less than five years has achieved an impressive 25% market share of the overall 3D printer market. In 2013, Stratasys Inc., a manufacturer of large and advanced 3D printing equipment and materials, acquired MakerBot as a distinct brand to serve the consumer and desktop market segment. MakerBot sets the standard for reliable, affordable desktop 3D printing and scanning.
MakerBot has released their 5th Generation of 3D printers. The original MakerBot® Replicator® was a wooden-framed kit that required assembly. Fast forward to today, MakerBot offers five pre-assembled, metal framed units with acrylic windows to maintain consistent ambient temperatures for reliable prints. Features vary among current models, and the technology and abilities are constantly improving, but there is a printer for just about every budget.
The MakerBot® Replicator® Mini is a good entry level printer for those who are new to the art of 3D printing and don't anticipate printing large objects. It is also the least-expensive of the bunch. It offers a print volume of 3.9"L x 3.9"W x 4.9"H, 200-micron layer height and an acrylic print bed. You also get WiFi connectivity, an onboard camera to monitor your print jobs and share pictures of your 3D prints. You also get a high-tech upgrade found only on the more expensive models, the Smart Extruder. The Smart Extruder is easily swappable and can automatically pause your print and send a notification to the desktop or mobile app when it runs out of filament.
If you're the go big or go home type, the uber-model is the MakerBot® Replicator® Z18. This is for the serious 3D modeler who needs a large build volume for really tall industrial prototypes. It has an impressive 12"L x 12"W x 18"H build volume which is great for printing tall vases, a helmet or the Statue of Liberty. The Z18 tops the price chart but provides the best price to performance. You get precise 100-micron layer resolution that produces smooth-to-the-touch surfaces that don't need sanding or finishing. Unique to this model, the Z18 has a heated chamber which helps to prevent curling on larger prints. You get all the bells and whistles such as USB, Ethernet and WiFi connectivity as well as the ability to print files directly from your USB flash drive. You also get the smart extruder, built-in camera, and an LCD screen for computer-free access to printing menus, commands, and your cloud storage and library. And because a level surface is even more important with large volume projects, the Z18 has visual cues to make it easier to achieve a level print surface.
Maybe the Mini is too small, and the Z18 is too big, so you want a printer that is just right. You can get all of the benefits of the Z18, minus the heated chamber, with the 5th Generation MakerBot® Replicator®. It has a build volume of 9.9"L x 7.8"W x 5.9"H.
If you want to print the most unique objects, you will be thoroughly amazed with the MakerBot® Replicator® 2X Experimental 3D Printer. You would be partially correct to assume it's two printers in one, but it actually means dual extrusion! This model only has USB connectivity, but what it lacks in hardware, it more than makes up for with the ability to extrude two different filaments (color or type) in the same print. It has a heated aluminum print bed for printing with ABS. Another unique feature is it can print with MakerBot Dissolvable Filament which works wonders as a solid infill material when printing with ABS. The build volume is comparable too at 9.7"L x 6.0"W x 6.1"H.
MakerBot PLA Filament is all 1.75mm and is comprehensively tested to be the best and most consistent filament for your MakerBot 3D Printer. It is a bioplastic derived from corn and is made in the USA. There are five spool sizes, but the small spool is compatible with all MakerBot 3D Printers. As of today, there are 12 solid colors, 12 specialty neon or sparkly colors, and seven limited colors like Army Green or photochromatic colors that change when exposed to ultraviolet light. There is also flexible filament, ABS filament and dissolvable filament, but those flavors are not universally compatible with all printers. The small spool can even be found in your local Home Depot or Microsoft Store.
If you're not sure what to print, you can always visit their website, Thingiverse.com where you'll find over 200,000 free downloadable designs for printing and sharing. If you're already a designer, then you'll be happy to know their printers work with any CAD software. If you have an object, but lack the ability to model it in 3D, you will love the MakerBot® Digitizer®. The desktop 3D scanner with a rotating bed can scan objects up to 8" diameter x 8" tall. With just a couple clicks, you can generate watertight, 3D printable objects in 12 minutes or less.
MakerBot has been a pioneer in the 3D printing arena and is poised to grow further. Even First Generation printers are still running strong because of updates to firmware and software. With the MakerBot support forum, including their own MakerCare program and full support six days a week, you can be sure to get quick and up to date feedback. MakerBot will remain at the head of the pack in 3D printing technology and resources.
Check out the MakerBot Replicator Mini in action.
MakerBot Digitizer Scanning Products
Ryan Winters is a Product Marketing Manager at Jameco Electronics and a Bay Area, California native. He is mostly self-taught and his hobbies include working on cars and computers, fiddling with electronic gadgets and experimenting with robotics.