We believe MakerBot’s next 3D printer could be significantly different from previous Replicators. Why? Because there will be huge synergies between the two companies technologies, as both use plastic extrusion processes.
Extruded plastic 3D printing was invented by Stratasys years ago and they’ve not only built a large business on it, but also have discovered many methods to do it reliably and effectively. They even own the trademark, “Fused Deposition Modeling”, or FDM. MakerBot began its business because certain Stratasys patents were expiring, giving them an opening. However, the expired patents were only for the basic approach; Stratasys still holds many patents for improvements to the process.
One obvious improvement will no doubt be a truly heated build chamber. MakerBot’s most recent machine, the Replicator 2X, included an enclosed – but not heated – chamber. With the alignment with Stratasys, the next Replicator will likely include a heated chamber. Patents are no longer a barrier.
Other improvements to the next Replicator will be more subtle. Stratasys has expertise (and patents) in many detail areas, such as plastic chemistry, platform adhesion, temperature management, slicing optimization and mechanical reliability to name a few. Any or all of these could show up in a new Replicator.
This sounds terrific for Replicator owners, but when can we expect this to happen? We suspect it may take as long as a year. MakerBot likely already has a new machine in the pipeline, designed pre-acquisition. Look for big changes after that.