We waited nine months and guess what happens? It's another new 3D printer from MakerBot, their most awesome device yet: the Replicator 2.
Visually, the Rep2 appears structurally similar to its predecessor, the un-numbered Replicator. But there's a major difference: The Rep2 is made from "Industrial strength powder coated steel" painted a sleek black. This incredibly strong case increases the robustness needed for the high accuracy of this machine. And it looks very shiny, too.
What accuracy, you ask? This machine is designed to print at a resolution of 100 microns. That's 0.1 mm, about the thickness of a piece of paper. The result is very smooth and precise prints.
MakerBot has done something else interesting here: They've designed the Rep2 specifically to print PLA plastic instead of ABS. There are several reasons for this, but we believe the main reason is PLA's lack of warping and thus its ability to retain accurate shape when printed at super-high resolution. While PLA is somewhat more brittle than ABS, it certainly comes in much nicer colors.
What else has changed? Aside from general improvements to the extruder and its mechanism, the available print volume is quite a bit larger. The Rep2's build envelope is 11.2 x 6.0 x 6.1 inches (284 x 152 x 155 mm), said to be 37% larger than the predecessor "Rep". Publicity photos feature massive printed parts, undoubtably testing the Rep2's build envelope.
Usually we discount the importance of larger build envelopes as they imply monstrously longer print times, particularly when you choose high resolution options. However, MakerBot has sped up the Rep2 to extrude at 80mm/s and move at up to 150mm/s. This is significantly faster than the original CupCake, which often moved at less than half those speeds.
Another feature: fast startup. The Rep2 is said to be ready for printing in only two minutes flat. Likely this is achieved due to the lower melt temperature of PLA; the extruder doesn't need to heat up as much as when using ABS.
The Rep2 wasn't the only 3D printer announcement. A Replicator 2X "experimental" model was also announced, with the main difference being a second extruder, enabling what they say in MakerBotSpeech, a Dualstrusion. The second extruder could be used for ABS, two colors of PLA or even water-soluble PVA. The 2X is slated for delivery sometime in early 2013 at a cost of USD$2,799.
When can you get a Rep2? You can order one immediately for a cost of US$2,199, slightly more than the predecessor "Rep". However, you'll have to wait 4-6 weeks for delivery.
We think it's likely worth the wait.