We anticipated some announcement action this week coinciding with the annual Consumer Electronics show and we were definitely not disappointed. Today we find 3D printer manufacturer MakerBot has announced a brand-new personal 3D printer: The Replicator!
The replicator appears to be much more capable but also strongly based upon its predecessor the venerable Thing-O-Matic. This is MakerBot's normal process: deliver a great machine and then perform experiments to make it better. Then bundle up all those improvements into an optimized new model. That's what we see today: a machine incorporating a variety of such improvements.
The Replicator prints in ABS or PLA, like its predecessors, but here are the highlights from our view:
- It's Waaaaaay bigger! The new device's build envelope is a whopping 3 times bigger (by volume) than the Thing-O-Matic and brings MakerBot in line with many recently announced RepRap derivatives. You can now build up to 225x145x150mm or 8.9x5.7x5.9 inches
- A dual extruder option is available for (the still experimental) multicolor or support material printing
- Replicator includes the new MakerBot Stepstruder™ MK8, which uses 1.75mm filament
- It's fully assembled - and we see no evidence for a kit option, at least at this time
- A new control panel on the front of the machine lets you know exactly what's happening without requiring an attached computer - great for those very long prints
- Linear ball bearing mechanicals for smoother, more accurate operation
- It includes a buzzer, likely for notification of print completion - very handy!
- LED lighting is included, something most 3D printers eventually gain as an add-on since everyone loves to watch 3D printing action
- You can initiate a print from your computer via USB or from an SD card using the new front panel
The pricing is higher than the Thing-O-Matic kit, but less than the assembled Thing-O-Matic: USD$1749 for the single extruder version and USD$1999 for a dual extruder model. Which one should you get? We don't know your budget, but we'd strongly recommend the dual extruder since it permits printing support material - and especially using a different plastic for your raft. Regardless, you'll wait at least six weeks for yours to arrive as that's the current lead time. Expect this to grow as orders flood in.
One more thought: does this assembled-only version signify that MakerBot is switching market focus, from hobby kit-makers to more of the general public who can't handle complex machine assembly?