Sometimes (most times) my job is pretty fantastic. I get to play with some amazing toys and tech as a part of the investments we make. But few get me as excited as when a new model from Makerbot arrives in our office. Yesterday was one of these magical days.
Enter the Replicator 2. If you’ve followed me in the past you know that we first built a Thing-o-matic and then moved to the Replicator (that came pre-built). Now the Replicator 2 – not only is it fully assembled but it looks fantastic. It looks like something you’d walk down to BestBuy right now and plunk down $2k for. It is, finally, a real product. Gone is the wooden hobbyist look, replaced by nice plastics and black metals. Makerbot has gone big time.
Unboxing couldn’t be easier. When you open the top you are presented with 2 handles to help you lift the machine out of the box (pretty sweet they used a new-style grocery bag for this, something I plan on reusing). It’s as simple as taking the machine out, cutting off the stabilizers (smartly those are printed on other bots back at HQ), connecting power and beginning the initial setup. That setup entails you adjusting the build platform height to get it level relative to the extruder (print) head. While this isn’t a hard task I did have trouble with it as our platform simply wouldn’t go low enough to pass the tests. As we had little options we pushed forward and began our first print.
As with the original Replicator there is a small panel on the front so you can control the bot without having to be connected to your PC (speeding your time to first print). I selected the shark print (as I’d done one on the previous machine to compare) and let it go. It’s noticeable quieter than the previous model and seems to heat up quicker too. Print times felt on par with the previous device as well.
Next up – let’s print from the PC. Enter the new MakerWare application. I could write an entire post on it alone – it is a HUGE improvement over the open source app they were using before (I’m not sure this app is open source, but given their mantra I hope so). I loaded in a Vase I downloaded from Thingiverse, adjusted it’s size and hit Make. This time I was prompted for quality settings (a new feature this time around) so I choose highest quality. This took a long time. No, I mean a LONG time. When I went home it had been printing for almost 4 hours and I had little confidence that this morning when I arrived I’d have a finished product (as on the old machine long prints like that would almost always fail). I was shocked to find a fantastic looking vase sitting on the bot when I arrived. It is by far the highest quality thing I’ve ever printed – I was stunned by the quality.
It’s rare that I get an opportunity to play with the products from our companies in such a deep way, and for such a long time. It’s been really impressive to see what Makerbot and their team have built over the past few years. Thinking back to the first box of parts we received (and spent 40 hours building) seeing this product arrive at my desk really shows how far these guys have been able to come in a relatively short time. They want to be the Laserjet of 3D printing – in my opinion they are there. This is the future.
If you want to see it being created stop by anytime. Warning, I’ll talk about it almost as long as I do about cars…