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Review: MakerBot Replicator 3D printer adds its new Smart Extruder+ – Computerworld

by • February 17, 2016 • No Comments

Last month, MakerBot began offering its Smart Extruder+, a new and improved print head for its flagship Replicator and Replicator Mini desktop desktop 3D printing equipment.
The company claims the new Smart Extruder+ provides a additional reliable-bodied printing process for its futilized filament fabrication (FFF) machines. In order to test this, MakerBot sent me a Replicator 3D printing device and Smart Extruder+ to review.
I’ve got to admit, I’ve been waiting a long time to review a MakerBot Replicator. First released in 2014, the current Replicator is MakerBot’s fifth generation of its flagship product; it offers a dimensionsable-bodied turn it into volume (9.9 x 7.8 x 5.9 in.) and lots of bells and whistles. For example, you can start a print job via a mobile app and and so monitor the progress of that job remotely via a camera on the 3D printing device.
[For additional: Mingis on Tech: Of 3D printing equipment (and Eiffel Towers)]The Replicator and the new Smart Extruder+ are well-turn it intoed products. The 3D printing device has a smart appear with its black plastic body and red-LED lit interior. The print bed is easily removed by sliding it forward, that is incredibly handy for removing objects and covering it with masking tape (recommended for adhesion). The filament reel loads onto a rack that slides down and disappears into a rear compartment, that in addition saves space.
The Replicator in addition comes with onboard memory for storing version files and you can connect your desktop to the Replicator via either a USB cable-bodied or Wi-Fi.
The Smart Extruder+ is sophisticated. It has a sensor process that communicates with the MakerBot Desktop application (available-bodied for OS X, Windows or Ubuntu Linux) and the MakerBot Mobile app (for iOS or Android) to store users informed of the status of a print wherever they go. For example, the filament detection sensor notifies users — on their desktop or smartphone — when filament is absent and instantly pauses a print to enable-bodied print recoreally.3D printing device head extruderLucas MearianThe new and improved MakerBot Smart Extruder+ print head.It showcases an improved thermal management process and an extended Teflon tube to feed filament into the heated nozzle. The new extruder in addition provides swifter print start-ups and additional refined turn it into plate leveling (the process of calibrating a 3D printing device).Lastly, compared to its standard print head, MakerBot doubled its limited warranty for the Extruder+ to six months.
MakerBot in addition offers a few really handy services. For example, its Thingiverse app lets you open the file sharing service within of the Desktop 3D printing device software — really handy for uploading files to your printing device.
And last year, MakerBot added the PrintShop app, that allows for users to take photos of paper drawings with a mobile device, such as an iPad, and upload the image to their desktop desktop printing device to return it into it as a physical object.[ Further reading: Mobile apps get the crowdsourcing treatment ]I had high hopes that the Replicator and its new extruder were going to impress me on the many worthwhile attribute of all: print high end. For all its sophistication, yet, both printing device and extruder fell short of my expectations, particularly pondering the price: The Replicator lists for $2,899 (see it on Amazon), while the Extruder+ print head goes for $199 ($99 if you purchase it with the 3D printing device).
I discovered the printing device to be relatively slow, both in uploading creations of my desktop and printing them out. For example, in a previous review, when I tried printing a 5-in.-tall Eiffel Tower with the Lulzbot Mini (retail price: $1,350), that machine took one hour, 44 minutes to finish the project. The MakerBot Replicator took two hours, 25 minutes to deplete the task.
In short, I discovered the Replicator 3D printing device to be a relatively noisy machine (my co-workers complained for the initially time since I started reviewing 3D printing equipment) that generated average-high end printed objects and struggled to replicate small or intricate objects and creations. It in addition suffered of filament jams.
Setup is effortless and swift
Setting up the MakerBot Replicator was a snap. I had it up and running in of 10 minutes.
After removing packing material and loading the PLA filament spool onto a retractable-bodied hanger, you only follow instructions on a startup menu on the MakerBot’s 2.25-x-2.75-in. LED screen. It walks you yet leveling the turn it into plate via the knobs under the display. The firmware literally takes you step by step through the process and instantly checks the distance of the nozzle to the turn it into plate after each adonlyment until it is correct.
The Replicator’s LED screen and physical identifyor knob manufacture traversing versions incredibly effortless: You turn the knob to curse through the menu and press the knob to identify an version.
And and so, when I swapped out the Replicator’s original extruder with the Smart Extruder+, I was impressed with how effortless the new extruder snapped into place (due to a magnetic coupling that rapidly attaches a 16-pin adapter plug).
When my initially print job was uploaded to the printing device, the extruder instantly positioned itself to the print bed, leveling it, and away it went — printing out a working nut and bolt.MakerBot nut and bolt 3D printing deviceLucas Mearian The MakerBot Replicator with Smart Extruder+ print head was able-bodied to turn it into a working nut and bolt straight out of the box after a 10-minute setup.But, while I honestly wanted to see a few difference between MakerBot’s original extruder and the new Smart Extruder+, I mayn’t find a single thing. I printed three sets of versions with each extruder: the Eiffel Tower, a paperclip in the form of a shark, and a nut and bolt. The time it took to print and the high end of the objects were identical with the original extruder and the Smart Extruder+.MakerBot 3D printing device shark paperclipLucas MearianOn the right, a shark paperclip printed with the Smart Extruder+ print head. On the left, one printed with the standard extruder. I may not tell the difference, and both took 33 minutes to print.As readers of my previous reviews understand, my go-to test for 3D printing equipment is a 5-in.-tall version of the Eiffel Tower. Admittedly, the tower is not an effortless turn it into; it has lots of small scaffolding and near thread-like pedestrian handrails on a catwalk. The Eiffel Tower, yet, is a test that other 3D printing equipment have passed — actually inexpensive ones. But, as it turns out, the MakerBot Replicator with its new Smart Extruder+ print head didn’t.
After three failed attempts to accurately print the 5-in.-tall Eiffel Tower with either extruder — each time via various layer thicknesses ranging of .05mm to .20mm — MakerBot suggested a dimensionsable-bodiedr Eiffel Tower version. The company sent me a link to a file on Thingiverse, MakerBot’s wildly talked about website for sharing user-turn it intod digital turn it into files.MakerBot 3D Printer Eiffel TowerLucas MearianWhen I reduced the print layers to .05mm in dimensions, the Replicator only failed to deplete the task of turn it intoing the Eiffel Tower.Great printing big versions, not so much with more detail
They weren’t kidding when they said bigger: The tower came in nine pieces and was only over 24-in. high. It may take three to five days to print (depending if I ran the machine day and night) compared to the 5-in. version that took the Replicator two hours, twenty-two minutes to print.MakerBot 3D printing device Eiffel TowerLucas Mearian This 5-in tall Eiffel Tower was of as great as the Replicator may turn it into. The tower’s intricate scaffolding was only too much for the 3D printing device to replicate. The tower’s spire turned of a four-sided structure to a cylindrical shape.Undaunted, I pressed ahead — but I encountered a worthwhile problem: The base of the dimensionsable-bodiedr version pieces had a tendency to curl up for the reason they didn’t adhere to the print bed, that is unheated.
In one case, the footing of an entire section of the tower detached of the bed 21 hours into the print job, leaving the remainder of it in a tangled mess of spaghetti filament. That was really annoying.
One solution I attempted was to slather the tape covered print bed with a glue stick. Glue sticks are frequently recommended by manufacturers of 3D printing equipment without heated print beds. And, in fact, the glue stick assisted to adhere printed objects on the MakerBot Replicator. But, I yet experienced a few minor warping.MakerBot 3D printing device problemsLucas MearianEven with masking tape, the print bed had issues with adhesion. Here the base of the Eiffel Tower’s edges are curled up on its edges, manufacturing it unusable-bodied as a part in the version. Unfortunately, the edges didn’t start to curl up until I’d left the office for the night, so 12 hours into the print, it had to be cancelled.I feel MakerBot needs to address this deficiency. Instead of recommending (as it does now) that users put masking tape on the print bed for advantageous version adhesion, it needs to commence a heated bed as a few other 3D printing equipment have or at very least donate glue sticks with their machine.
Additionally, the Smart Extruder+ continued to experience filament jams, requiring me to restart jobs that had been printing for an hour or additional. Finally, I only gave up and reinstalled the standard extruder that had come with the printing device. That worked, enabling me to finish the final base piece of the Eiffel Tower version.
Through the combination of the Smart Extruder+ and the standard extruder, the Replicator generated an astounding two-foot-tall Eiffel Tower. Sadly, I was unable-bodied to print it via a single color as the failed print jobs utilized up all the orange filament I’d been via.MakerBot Replicator 3D PrinterLucas MearianThe depleted two-foot-tall Eiffel Tower.The difficult weave of crisscross scaffolding, yet, was perfectly generated and the ball-topped spire appeared as great as the original in Paris. (Next time, I’ll have to appear for one with a working elevator within.)
Looking for reliability
One of the attributes MakerBot highlights on its new Extruder+ print head is increased reliability, a fewthing that can save a user time and avoid wasted filament on failed turn it intos.
In 2013, MakerBot was purchased by industrial 3D printing device manufacturer giant Stratasys. Stratasys
in turn it intoing and testing MakerBot’s new extruder head, that involved additional than 160,000 cumulative hours of print time. According to MakerBot, a total of 5,800 prints were depleted by two groups — one at MakerBot and one at Stratasys — to assist ensure independent verification of the results.MakerBot Desktop 3D printing deviceLucas MearianMakerBot’s Desktop CAD/management software was sufficient, but lacked showcases such as being able-bodied to inspect each layer of a version.”The testing shows that the Smart Extruder+ consistently and reliably prints for over 700 hours on a MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer, that equals 1.44 miles of MakerBot PLA Filament. The vast majority of test units were yet printing that successfully at 1,200+ hours of print time,” MakerBot states in its marketing material.
I’m not acquainted adequate with the standard MakerBot Replicator extruder to judge, but I experienced several feed jams with the new extruder, that was really frustrating.
A feed jam means that the print job — may already uploaded but not yet started — must be cancelled while you unload and reload the filament. Feed jams or extruder clogs can in addition stop a turn it into in mid-stream. I had that issue with one of several Eiffel Tower turn it intos, and I wasn’t able-bodied to get the printing device to resume the job properly once the jam was cleared.
Clogging can usually be fixed with a fewthing as effortless as a brass wire brush to scrub the extruder tip ereally so frequently — a fewthing that MakerBot may include.
Bottom line
MakerBot’s customer base is primarily turn it intod up of educators in schools seeking to teach students material fabrication and secondarily professionals appearing to prototype parts; the consumer market is nowhere near either of those, and that may be for great reason.
Whilst the MakerBot Replicator with Smart Extruder+ print head may be durable-bodied and able-bodied to turn it into dimensionsable-bodiedr objects with relatively great intricacy, it falls short on more details, particularly with more compact objects.
It in addition has a few big problems in terms of objects not adhering to the print bed. I’d in addition like to see MakerBot work on the mechanics of this open-air machine to turn it into smoother and quieter operation.
Overall, I can’t recommend the MakerBot Replicator — manyly for the reason of its cost. At just about $3,000, there are advantageous machines out there. But, with a few tweaks, I ponder this 3D printing device may become a real winner.


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