A Replicator 2 still in use [Source: Fabbaloo]
I’ve just realized that MakerBot seems to have put the final nail in the coffin for their famous Replicator 2 desktop 3D printer.
The Replicator 2 was introduced way back in 2012 by then-CEO Bre Pettis. There weren’t a lot of desktop 3D printers available at the time and the field was pretty open for anyone who could succeed in providing a competent device.
Importance of Replicator 2
That device turned out to be the Replicator 2, which was notable because it was perhaps the first such 3D printer that worked relatively reliably and provided “good enough” output. Having played with a few other machines at that time, I know that it was sometimes a miracle when a 3D printer actually succeeded in a print job.
The Replicator 2 was the device that matched MakerBot’s extensive hype at that time. While other companies boasted of their machines, the Replicator 2 actually delivered. It was largely on the reputation of this machine that the company grew.
Of course, its place in the spectrum of 3D printers was supplanted by bigger, better and cheaper devices over time, but even today there are many people who still use the machine. I owned one myself for a time, but now it’s been placed in a very good home where it prints regularly.
After the Replicator 2 was replaced in MakerBot’s product line, the company still supported the device by providing spare parts and software upgrades. This enabled the population of Replicator 2’s across the world to continue operating.
Replicator 2 End Of Life
But then, this appeared in a recent release of MakerBot Print, their current software system for managing and operating MakerBot 3D printers:
“End of life printers and hardware:
Replicator 2, Replicator 2X, and Mini (not Mini+) will no longer be supported on future versions of MakerBot Print.
SmartExtruders will no longer be supported on future versions of MakerBot Print.
A final version of MakerBot Print with support for the above printers and hardware can be found here.”
I’m personally not surprised at this in the slightest, as the company is utterly different from the one that announced the Replicator 2 in 2012. Today the company has largely departed from its original market of DIY makers, and now focuses on the much more profitable education and industrial markets.
MakerBot Market Shift
In a way, the Replicator 2 caused all this to happen: its success in the market attracted investors to MakerBot. Those investors required returns on their investments, which eventually led to the sale of MakerBot to Stratasys in 2013. The success of the machine generated waves of clone devices from Asia which caused MakerBot to close the machine design and refocus the company on new markets.
While this is totally unsurprising, it is a bit of a milestone in 3D printing, as the Replicator 2 was one of the most influential devices in the history of the technology.
Using a MakerBot Replicator 2
Are the few remaining Replicator 2 operators out of luck? Not really. Even though MakerBot is ceasing new development of software for the device, you can still use older versions of their software. You can also use third party software such as Cura or Simplify3D to prepare 3D prints for Replicator 2s.
Goodbye, Replicator 2, it was a good ride!