How to print 3D review: Makerbot Replicator

Price

In 2012, the price for a Makerbot Replicator was $1999. The cause for this relatively high price is that the Makerbot Replicator comes with two extrusion heads. Two extrusion heads means that you’ll be able two print two-colored objects. You can get a Makerbot Replicator with a single extrusion head for $1799, but why do that when there are cheaper single extrusion 3d printers like the $500 Solidoodle? MakerBot’s construction has different materials than other 3D printers. One can assume that it’s a way to keep costs down. One example of this is that the Makerbot Replicator comes with a laser-cut plywood body. Looks really charming but has the disadvantage that the body may warp due to changing humidity. Luckily, the printer comes with instructions how deal with this problem but it’s still one thing to keep in mind.

The Good

* With Makerbot Replicator, you can print big objects (8.9×5.7×5.9 inches or 20.3×14,5x15cm). This is currently market-leading for hobby-level 3D printers.
* Print in two different colours or materials.
* Room for two spools of filament on the printer reduces time to load/unload spools.
* A LED screen control panel on the 3D printer lets you control certain settings directly on the printer.
* A built in SD-card slot lets you print 3D objects without having the 3D printer connected to a computer.

The Bad

* The price. Almost $2000 for a hobby printer makes a greater hole in the wallet than the cheaper single extrusion-head 3d printers available on the market.
* The software. You’ll need to install three software programs, and understand two of them. One for modelling, one for generating gcode and one for interpreting. None of them are really easy and one is clearly pretty hard to understand (if you’re not an engineer!).
* You can’t pause the printing without leacing the hot extrusion heads on. This means hours of guarding the machine when printing large objects.
* No time-winning with double extrusion heads. The don’t work simultaneously. Great thing with double colours though!

Size

The Makerbot Replicator lets you create 8.9×5.7×5.9 inches (20.3×14,5x15cm) big 3D models. This is impressive for a hobby 3D printer. Using two extrusion heads won’t make the building process faster (it doesn’t use them simultaneously) but with two spools you at lest won have to change filament as often. On thing to have in mind is that big objects can have problems with uneven cooling reactions. This can cause the created object to crack if you are unlucky. It doesn’t always happen though.

Software

Take a deep breath. Focus. Ok, the Makerbot Replicator need three software programs to work. I’ll try to explain.

1. ReplicatorG (for modelling). This one is rather intuitive.
2. Skeinforge (for creating “gcode”, a code that tells the printer what to do.). This program “works in the background” and isn’t easy. If you are really nerdy (and have some kind of engineer education!), you can change settings for the printer in Skeinforge (like changing temperature and 100 other things).
3. Python. This program is needed to make RelicatorG and Skeinforge communicate with each other.

Assembly, replication

Unlike Makerbot’s earlier 3D printers, the Makerbot Replicator isn’t a build-it-yourself kit. You’ll have to assembly some cables and body parts before starting to print. Included in the package there is are easy assembling instructions. This 3D printer isn’t intended to be replicated. When you look at it, you’ll see that most of it parts are electronics, metallic or plywood.
Printing material

The Makerbot Replicator uses two plastic spools. The plastic filament is 1,75 or 3mm.

Extrusion heads, print time

This 3D printer uses double extrusion heads, letting you use two different colour or materials. Sadly, two extrusion heads doesn’t mean shortened printing time as the two extrusion heads don’t work simultaneously. On other cool thing with the Makerbot Replicator is that you can load a SD card with printing files and put the SD card directly into the Makerbot Replicator. This means that you can print 3D objects without having you PC connected to the 3D printer. On the market, we are now seeing new 3D printers with wi-fi options but the SD solution a more hands-on alternative.

Miscellaneous

Summary

Think of the Makerbot Replicator as a nice Macbook computer. It costs rather much, comes (almost) fully assembled and you don’t need to think of much more than of how to use it to make nice colourful things. Quite nice metaphor I’d say…
When it comes to the software, thing of the Makerbot Replicator as an old PC. If you don’t have an engineer education, look forward of hours of learning the two different software programs and searching forums for learning how to use this beautiful and expensive machine.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Saturninus September 8, 2012 at 13:01

hey what is your fb page

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admin September 9, 2012 at 00:37

I’m actually a non-fb-person. I only exist in reality and here at howtoprint3d.com.

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