Replicator Reflections

1 minute read 07 May 2012

By now you should have noticed that Makerbot has announced their new 3D printer, th Replicator, and over the past few months has started shipping them. Further of note, the Thingomatic(TOM) is now End of Life(EOL) though Makerbot is committed to supporting existing owners.

The major announcements on the Replicator design were dual MK7 nozzles, integrated interface kit, and a removal of the build platform. Sound familiar?

The big difference nobody saw coming seems to be a move towards the z axis being on the platform now and the nozzle being on the x/y, much like the Ultimaker. In the short term this will mean a slight speed increase as the platform won't wobble the print all around during prints. In the long run though, theres such legacy weight in the design that I don't see capability for massive speed increase without further improvements.

We made some fun of the new design as simple a TOM turned upside down and got some laughs on the forums, but in all honesty these are all great improvements. There are shiny new linear bearings ,injection molded parts, laser cut parts, and custom machined parts--all indicating a more mature product and, in addition to the extras, is a big reason why they've had to increase the price to $1749 with one extruder, $1999 with dual extrusion.

I got a chance to see one while in China at the Maker Carnival Beijing Seeed Studios booth and it was printing smooth as you'd expect. The print quality wasn't particularly superior to a TOM with MK7 nozzle, which isn't really surprising. I think we won't know how much better the machine is until we assemble, or rather disassemble one as they come assembled now. I think my hope, and Makerbot's, is that these machines will need less maintenance, and when they do it won't mean massive disassembly.