MakerBot issued a mysterious tease today that could suggest they’re about to announce a new 3D printer.
The company was one of the original producers of inexpensive desktop 3D printers in 2009, and those who followed them became the leaders of today’s huge desktop 3D printing industry. Their brand, “Replicator”, became synonymous with the notion of 3D printing in the public eye.
However, the company was not without troubles, as there seemed to be a slowdown in development of new equipment once they were acquired by Stratasys in 2013. My understanding is that Stratasys leadership made considerable changes throughout the company to make them more efficient and effective, and this took several years to complete. In that time MakerBot’s competitors caught up with new products.
Since the takeover MakerBot has announced only one new machine, the Replicator+, in 2017, as up until then MakerBot continued to market equipment developed by the previous management. We reviewed this machine and found it to be quite a decent machine that would fit well into any workshop requiring quick prototypes.
That’s quite a long time between machine announcements, particular in the current environment of massive competition. Today there are dozens of desktop 3D printers able to produce results similar to the current MakerBot offerings. Recently I’ve been wondering when the company would finally announce something new.
Now, it seems that they may be about to do so. A mysterious teaser email was sent to the public, containing only the image at top and the provocative words:
“Arriving Dec. 11 2018”
What could this be? Given the very obscure image provided, it’s quite hard to tell. However, it appears to be the corner of a machine. Some speculation:
The image shows what might be a tall and thin device. This is quite different from the typical boxy 3D printers currently available. Does this suggest that MakerBot has produced something radically different? Perhaps it has a new 3D printing process?
On the other hand, if you look at the image from a different perspective it may be a very tight shot on a corner of a boxy device, suggesting they may be using existing 3D printing processes in this new machine.
One big gap on their current product line is the materials choice. The machines today print only PLA or PLA-like materials, and they do that quite well. However, professionals have increasingly demanded the ability to 3D print in a variety of engineering materials, such as ABS, PETG, PEEK, PAEK, ASA, ULTEM, etc. Could this new machine bridge the gap by enabling use of more types of materials? It seems likely.
If we look at the image again, it could be that the top of the machine is angled upwards. This could suggest that the machine includes an enclosed chamber, and that space is created at the top by means of that angled roof to allow for the movement of feed tubes for extruders. This would be similar to the approach they used on the old Replicator 2X years ago, which introduced the ability to print unusual materials.
MakerBot also released this brief teaser video:
More than likely the new machine – if it is a new 3D printer – would naturally include all of MakerBot’s existing cloud service hookups, which have proven quite practical and efficient in our testing.
But again, this is entirely speculation. We’ll have to wait until the 11th to see what this is really about.