MakerBot Rolls out New Line of Printers for Professionals and Educators
Andrew Wheeler posted on September 22, 2016 |
MakerBot releases new “Tough PLA” Filament, Replicator Plus, Replicator Mini Plus, Mobile Print and ...

Navigating your way to MakerBot’s headquarters can be a little tricky, as there are police barricades and J.P. Morgan bankers strewn all over the MetroTech Center area in Brooklyn, New York.

But the recent conference was the opposite of confusing. MakerBot CEO Jonathan Jaglom set out unambiguous expectations and a clear direction for what MakerBot has been working on over the last 18 months. Consumer 3D printing is on hold and the company is utilizing its tether to industrial 3D printing company Stratasys to create reliable 3D printers for professionals and educators.

The news, however, was not just about new 3D printing hardware from MakerBot. There are new features in Thingiverse, the company’s online 3D model file repository, as well as improvements in remote monitoring and job distribution over distributed, non-contiguous sets of printers everywhere in the world.

Honestly though, MakerBot is known for making 3D printers, so let’s just get right down to it. We have two new printers as well as a new extruder and material bundle that are available as of Sept. 20, 2016. We won’t forget the software improvements, though.

MakerBot Replicator+ ($2,499)

Improving on the fifth-generation MakerBot Replicator desktop 3D printer, the MakerBot Replicator+ has a 25-percent larger build volume, is 30 percent faster and is 27 percent quieter than its predecessors, according to the company. The gantry went through a significant engineering process and is now designed to reinforce movement along the Y-axis, which had issues with wobbliness. Up close, the gantry and Z-stage look to be an order of magnitude sturdier, which should improve the reliability and constancy of prints. 

The MakerBot Replicator+ also features upgraded firmware, a new slicing engine and a flexible build plate, making it easy to remove larger prints by simply bending the plate (no more blue tape). (Image courtesy of MakerBot.)
The MakerBot Replicator+ also features upgraded firmware, a new slicing engine and a flexible build plate, making it easy to remove larger prints by simply bending the plate (no more blue tape). (Image courtesy of MakerBot.)

The company also spent time incorporating user feedback to create rafts and supports that break off cleaner and smoother, and leave users with a smoother print surface of printed parts. But again, we will be testing this for ourselves when we get the review system.

Flexible Build Plate: A new build plate allows you to kiss the blue tape goodbye for sure, so the company claims. There’s nothing wrong with waiting to see how great it actually is in practice.

Adios blue tape! (Image courtesy of MakerBot.)
Adios blue tape! (Image courtesy of MakerBot.)

 

MakerBot Replicator Mini+ ($999)

The MakerBot Replicator Mini+ evolved from the MakerBot Replicator Mini Compact 3D printer to be 10 percent speedier with a 28-percent larger build volume and is a whopping 58 percent quieter (if you’ve been around the Replicator Mini Compact 3D printer, you’ll know why this margin of improvement is so huge).

The MakerBot Replicator Mini+ prints up to 4 in x 5 in x 5 in and is factory leveled, so no more fussing with card calibration. (Image courtesy of MakerBot.)
The MakerBot Replicator Mini+ prints up to 4 in x 5 in x 5 in and is factory leveled, so no more fussing with card calibration. (Image courtesy of MakerBot.)

MakerBot Smart Extruder+

The MakerBot Replicator+ and Replicator Mini+ are both equipped with MakerBot Smart Extruder+, which was designed to keep prints accurate and consistent over time. Engineers, designers and product teams are concerned with print quality and precision: everyone hates warping, layering, surface bubbles and any quirks that cause prints to stop and have to be reprinted.

Canary Flex
Also present at the event was the industrial design team at Canary. If you haven’t heard about this fast-growing home security start-up, it creates unique equipment to guard homes and most recently released the Canary Flex.

Canary was represented at the event because it used MakerBot desktop 3D printers to prototype and iterate the design of this product. It had a chance to use the MakerBot Replicator+ to test the claims of a faster workflow for a while and recently had a chance to test MakerBot’s new solutions for professionals. (Image courtesy of MakerBot.)
Canary was represented at the event because it used MakerBot desktop 3D printers to prototype and iterate the design of this product. It had a chance to use the MakerBot Replicator+ to test the claims of a faster workflow for a while and recently had a chance to test MakerBot’s new solutions for professionals. (Image courtesy of MakerBot.)

According to James Krause, director of industrial design at Canary, "Using a MakerBot desktop 3D printer helped us accelerate the development of the new Canary Flex by allowing us to prototype quickly and go through multiple iterations of the design. We were enthusiastic to test the new MakerBot Replicator+ and right away we noticed the faster workflow, as well as huge improvements to print quality and speed."

Prototyping with MakerBot Replicator+: a profusion of evidence at MakerBot headquarters.
Prototyping with MakerBot Replicator+: a profusion of evidence at MakerBot headquarters.

Introductory Price

MakerBot is offering the MakerBot Replicator+ at an introductory price of $1,999 and the MakerBot Replicator Mini+ at $999 until Oct. 31, 2016.

MakerBot Print and Mobile

For people who are beginners and newcomers to 3D printing in the education and professional sectors, a company streamlining setup procedures is a useful and fruitful endeavor. MakerBot Mobile has a Guided Setup feature that walks you through setup one direction at a time.

MakerBot Mobile allows users to step away from their 3D printers and check up on prints through a live camera feed. (Image courtesy of MakerBot.)
MakerBot Mobile allows users to step away from their 3D printers and check up on prints through a live camera feed. (Image courtesy of MakerBot.)

MakerBot Print Now Has Native CAD Support

Native CAD Support is available for up to 20 common CAD file types. This means that you can import CAD files and whole assemblies without having to change the format to STL files.

And here’s the list of file types:

·       .MAKERBOT

·       .STL

·       .IPT

·       .IAM

·       .SLDPRT

·       .SLDASM

·       .IGES

·       .IGS

·       .STEP

·       .STP

·       .CARPART

·       .CATPRODUCT

·       .OBJ

·        .PRT

·       .PAR

·       .ASM

·       .WRL

·       .XT

·       .XB

Send 3D Files to Multiple Build Plates

You can bundle 3D files with multiple printers into projects, attach them to emails and send files to others to collaborate on them. This means that users can save particular print settings and customize plate layouts as one design file instead of grouping together a bunch of 3D models or STL files using different collaborative software. This enables you to stay in the MakerBot zone through the whole design-to-prototype lifecycle.

You can make small iterations on whole batch prints and/or change the properties of each individual object in a batch print on a local or global network of MakerBot+ printers. (Image courtesy of MakerBot.)
You can make small iterations on whole batch prints and/or change the properties of each individual object in a batch print on a local or global network of MakerBot+ printers. (Image courtesy of MakerBot.)

A More Efficient Print Preparation Process

Efficiency is key for batch prints and prototypes. There is an Auto Arrange feature that positions 3D models over multiple build plates for sequential printing. Or you can use this feature to produce prints simultaneously in large batch prints.

Dynamic Print Settings Feature

This handy feature allows you to review and change the print setting on each individual print of a batch print, in case you want to prototype and test a bunch of minor or major changes to either one or multiple 3D models.

Review the Extruder’s Path Like a CNC Machine

This is a professional development that reminds me of checking the path on a computer numerical controlled (CNC) router after you input a drawing/GCode to see if you can notice whether anything off about clearance paths or other things of that nature. Print Preview gives users the ability to check the path of the Smart Extruder+ prior to printing. You can check out each layer individually or watch an animated video to intuit and analyze the position of support materials and check that your overhangs and other potentially precarious features will print well.

Slate Gray Tough PLA

This was the perhaps the most interesting development at the press event. A filament that has the material properties of ABS, but the reduced fussiness and reliability of PLA filament? It sounds too good to be true. But I suppose this is where having resources from Stratasys really pays off. The Tough PLA is a response to MakerBot users reporting that they generally move their printer into a back office or copy room due to unpleasant plastic particulate matter disrupting the natural wonder of overly air-conditioned indoor air. 

MakerBot unveiled its Slate Gray Tough PLA, which combines the best qualities of PLA and ABS while addressing plastic fume smell and noise that encourage people to remove their 3D printers and put them in a closet or copy room in the office. (Image courtesy of MakerBot.)
MakerBot unveiled its Slate Gray Tough PLA, which combines the best qualities of PLA and ABS while addressing plastic fume smell and noise that encourage people to remove their 3D printers and put them in a closet or copy room in the office. (Image courtesy of MakerBot.)

All joking aside, without proper ventilation, 3D printing can noticeably taint the oxygen. But MakerBot wants its printers to truly be desktop printers, so part of the venture to create Tough PLA was to alleviate some of this odorous unpleasantness.

PLA prints faster than ABS but does not have the high quality properties of ABS thermoplastic. It is much more brittle. So in order to combine the best of both worlds and give product design teams, architects, engineers and other users the ability to create fixtures and prototypes, the proprietary Tough PLA was engineered. It does need its own modified Smart Extruder, which you swap out, and the firmware recognizes and recalibrates settings for Tough PLA action.

At the event, MakerBot had a small ball-bearing display for comparative testing of PLA and Tough PLA. There were two ball bearings for each type and a little 3D-printed arm joint to attach to each one. I tested the PLA arm joint on its respective ball and it snapped. I tested the Tough PLA joint on its separate ball as well and it fit like a charm. Then I got suspicious that it was some kind of carnival trick, where the ball for regular PLA was slightly larger in order to break the joint I was slipping on it and that the Tough PLA bearing was slightly smaller to ensure a snug fit.

I switched them and the same exact thing happened, so that helped quell my suspicions.

Now I’m thinking that this is going to cost a large amount of money per spool—and when you add in the cost of a separate Smart Extruder+ just for Tough PLA, it would definitely be flat-out cost-prohibitive. This turned out to be an imagined dilemma on my part as well, because for $379, you get three spools of Slate Gray MakerBot Tough PLA filament and the modified Smart Extruder+. I honestly wasn’t expecting that.

MakerBot on its Tough Gray PLA: “It is as tough as ABS with similar tensile, compressive and flexural strength and it prints as easily and reliably as PLA. It's also designed to flex more before breaking, similar to ABS. These qualities make it especially suitable for functional prototypes and prototyping jigs and fixtures with threaded and snap fits.”

MakerBot is also interested in helping professionals like engineers and product designers up their prototyping game by putting together logical step-by-step guides that walk users through gluing, vacuum forming, brass inserts, silicon molding and sanding techniques.



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