In a rather sudden but welcome announcement, MakerBot industries has revealed a brand new 3D printer model: The Thing-O-Matic. This device replaces their original model, the Cupcake. But what makes it so different from the Cupcake?
Sudden though the announcement was, the new device is evolutionary, and indeed elements of it were already appearing on the Cupcake as add-ons or upgrades. The Thing-O-Matic's plastruder is the MK5, available as replacement for the cranky MK4 version found on the default Cupcake model. The Automated Build Platform was also an upgrade for the Cupcake. But if these key upgrades were already available on the Cupcake, why come out with a whole new printer? The answer is simple: to address remaining concerns with the Cupcake, the major structural elements had to be redesigned. Here's the key concerns and how the Thing-O-Matic solves them:
- Persistently wobbly Z-Axis due to untrue rods: a new Z-axis mechanism is introduced that has fewer parts and much smoother operation and reliability.
- Naked electronics hanging off the side of the Cupcake pose various issues: Electronics in the Thing-O-Matic are buried in the base of the machine. No exposed wiring will scare people away ever again.
- Awkward operations requiring hands on and continual presence: USB-based printer connectivity brings the device much closer to the smooth integration found in today's 2D paper printers.
- Limited capabilities: Electronics are replaced by generation 4 versions, enabling the use of more advanced features, such as thermocouples.
The Thing-O-Matic is slightly more expensive than the Cupcake (USD$1225), and it should be given its significantly improved capabiities. What's the catch? It has a seven week delivery time, presumably to build up component inventories sufficiently to meet the likely huge demand. Curiously, there is no print material included, at least according to the "What You'll Get" section on their product page.
Speculation: could the sudden announcement have something to do with the recent release of PP2P's Up! pre-assembled 3D printer? While there are few Up!s in the wild, most reports indicate they produce wonderful models with little fuss and of course, no assembly worries. Perhaps MakerBot feels competitive pressure?
Interesting Observation: the Thing-O-Matic's visible front panel has a significant naming difference from its predecessor. The Cupcake says "Cupcake CNC", whereas the Thing-O-Matic says "Thing-O-Matic". No "CNC" present. This is 3D printing, baby!