With the release of their fifth-generation Replicator personal 3D printer, we noticed a feature that may portend a future move to proprietary filament.
There are two kinds of personal 3D printers on the market today: those that insist on purchasing expensive, proprietary plastic filament and those that permit use of any generic plastic filament.
MakerBot has long been a member of the latter. You could (and people often do) attach any kind of filament to their MakerBot machines. You’d simply drop the generic filament spool onto the holder at the back of the machine.
But MakerBot’s most recent machine, the fifth-generation Replicator, the spool is stored inside the machine at the back in a precisely-sized cavity. This makes for a very tidy looking machine without stray spools visible and might keep contaminating dust down a bit. Of course, MakerBot’s own spools fit perfectly.
But generic spools may not.
Unless the generic spool somehow fits into the MakerBot cavity, you’d be faced with re-spooling filament from generic to MakerBot spools. (This is a fun exercise, two-person exercise we’ve done with clamps and a hand drill.)
So, no, MakerBot is not and has not moved to proprietary spools. But they have erected a minor barrier to generics that a portion of their customers may not wish to jump. Will they make more dramatic moves in the future, considering they’re now owned by Stratasys?
Meanwhile, MakerBot’s excellent filament isn’t that much more expensive anyway.