You may have heard something about it, but what exactly is the “MakerBot Innovation Center”?
You might think it’s some type of educational campus, where mysterious 3D printing stuff occurs. That’s not exactly it, although it may end up like that.
MakerBot Innovation Center is actually a comprehensive set of software and services to enable effective use of a large collection of MakerBot gear. While many MakerBot customers own a single machine, there are major issues (and opportunities) when managing a fleet of 3D printers. MakerBot Innovation Center attempts to address those concerns.
It’s targeted at institutions wishing to set up a “3D printer lab” and includes these components:
A quantity of MakerBot Replicators with “attractive chrome racks” on which to install them
Specialized software capable of managing clusters of Replicators
Service, supplies and support programs to install and maintain the lab
The benefit of such a program is to enable educational or manufacturing businesses to very quickly establish a reliable, large scale 3D printing capability. With a cluster of machines, reliability is far greater as print jobs can be routed to working machines loaded with appropriate materials instantly. The goal is to make the most efficient use of the equipment.
The MakerBot Innovation Center software can control clusters of MakerBot gear, such as a group of Z18’s or standard Replicators. It can also manage MakerBot’s Digitizer for 3D scanning capability. The software makes it possible to drastically lower the labor cost of managing a large collection of 3D printers.
There are some interesting scenarios possible with this setup. For example, a single 3D model could be dispatched to dozens of Replicators in a single operation, thus creating a kind of “parallel printing” environment. This can dramatically speed up the printing of any collection of objects. Imagine all the parts of an assembly being printed simultaneously, or being able to receive all 78 copies of a print in an hour.
These capabilities allow MakerBot to sell their equipment and services directly to larger organizations, who otherwise may have been intimidated by the challenges of managing clusters of 3D printers. These organizations then can present a relatively easy-to-use internal 3D printing service to their members, creating the possibility of unleashing their imaginations in ways not previously available.
The cost of a MakerBot Innovation Center? Well, that depends on many factors, not the least of which is the number and type of printers involved in the specific installation. MakerBot says their “most popular” installation involves 50 Replicators, but they can do more, even more than 100 units. It gets more complex when the varying use by different organizations is factored in. Thus, this pricing is customized for each MakerBot client.
How many Innovation Centers have been installed? It’s not clear, but some searching indicates there are quite a few. One of which, pictured above, is Florida Polytechnic University’s makerspace.
We are not aware of any other personal 3D printer manufacturer that offers this type of program, so we expect MakerBot to make quite a few large sales with this strategy.