Low-cost desktop 3D printers may not have application in the home, but that does not mean they cannot be suitable elsewhere. The education market has been a successful one for these printers. And some professionals use them as well, especially in the early stages of design and prototyping.
MakerBot has supported the education market for some time now. The company announced new 3D printers focused on the needs of professionals and educators–MakerBot Replicator+ and the MakerBot Replicator Mini+. Key points from the press release are:
These printers are reported to give engineers and designers a faster and more effective way to develop ideas, and offer educators a better way to integrate 3D printing in the classroom to teach creativity and problem solving.
Along with the printers, the MakerBot Print and Mobile applications should make it easy to integrate MakerBot into their workflow. These applications help streamline the print preparation process to save time and produce higher quality prints.
MakerBot Print has native CAD Support, eliminating the need for STL files. It can also help reduce the number of files a user needs to manage. Users can organize 3D files and multiple build plates into projects and email project files as attachments to collaborate with others. Storing information as complete project files enables users to save the print settings and build plate layout of one or more designs as one file.
The new Auto Arrange feature automatically positions objects across multiple build plates to print them simultaneously or sequentially.
Dynamic Print Settings let users change settings like resolution or thickness for each individual model on the build plate, saving time by printing models with varying print settings simultaneously.
A new Print Preview option lets users review the Smart Extruder+’s path to make adjustments before printing a model. Users can either review each individual layer or play an animated video preview to see support material placement and validate that small features are printable.
The MakerBot Replicator+ and Replicator Mini+ have been re-engineered for better performance and with a bigger build volume. For both printers, the gantry and Z-stage have been improved through the use of stiffer materials and sturdier construction. The 3D printers went through more than 380,000 hours of testing across multiple facilities. During this process, MakerBot worked closely with Stratasys to implement new, consistent procedures for enhanced print quality, product lifetime testing, and for validating test results.
The 3D printers are faster and quieter than their predecessors and have a build volume large enough to handle more than one print at a time. The MakerBot Replicator+ is approximately 30% faster, has a 25% larger build volume, and is 27% quieter than the MakerBot Replicator 5th Generation Desktop 3D Printer.
The MakerBot Replicator Mini+ is approximately 10% faster, has a 28% larger build volume, and is 58% quieter than the MakerBot Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer. The MakerBot Replicator+ and Replicator Mini+ both come with the swappable MakerBot Smart Extruder+, which has been tested for performance.
The re-engineered hardware includes the gantry, Z-Stage, build plate, and extruder carriage (Replicator+ only). The printer also has new firmware and slicing engine.
The MakerBot Replicator+ features a flexible build plate for easier removal of prints– simply bend the plate. The new Grip Build Surface included on both printers ensures that prints adhere better without the use of blue tape. Redesigned rafts and supports break away more easily for a cleaner print surface of printed parts.
The new filament, MakerBot Slate Gray Tough PLA Filament Bundle, is for durable parts with high-impact strength. It is suitable for fixtures.
The new bundle consists of three spools of the filament with the MakerBot Tough PLA Smart Extruder+. MakerBot Tough PLA combines characteristics of PLA and ABS filament: It is as tough as ABS with similar tensile, compressive, and flexural strength and it prints as easily and reliably as PLA. It’s also designed to flex more before breaking, similar to ABS. The Slate Gray Tough PLA Filament Bundle has a MSRP of $379 and is available now.
“The new MakerBot Tough PLA is a workhorse for functional printing. We mainly use it for prototyping parts and jigs for product cycle testing,” said Mack Mor, Senior Product Engineer at OXO, who’s been testing MakerBot Tough PLA over the past months. “The flexibility is key for parts that don’t break, even with thin features that would normally be troublesome. The interlayer adhesion is strong, but the raft is still super easy to remove. The material also slides well so it is good for snap fits.”
For educators, MakerBot is launching Thingiverse Education to discover 3D printing classroom content created by other educators. This platform allows educators to connect with each other to learn 3D printing best practices and exchange knowledge, already offering more than 100 lesson plans created by other educators and vetted by MakerBot’s education and curriculum experts. Educators can filter lesson plans by subject or grade, and, in the spirit of Thingiverse, remix them to match specific learning goals.
“We believe that Implementing 3D printing in the classroom can only be successful if the technology complements a teacher’s goals for their students,” said Drew Lentz, MakerBot Learning Manager. “With a new section of Thingiverse dedicated to educational content, teachers can engage in a rich community of educators to find lesson plans, resources, and to find more ways to use 3D Printing in the classroom than ever before.” Thingiverse Education will be available in the coming days.
Said MakerBot CEO, Jonathan Jaglom, “We have gone through a cultural shift here at MakerBot over the past year, where listening and understanding the needs of our customers are cornerstones of our company. As a result, we’ve gained an in-depth understanding of the wider needs of professionals and educators that has informed our product development process. Our new solutions for professionals and educators are based on feedback addressing how we could accelerate and streamline the iterative design process and make teaching with a desktop 3D printer easier and more effective.”
The MakerBot Replicator+ has an MSRP of $2499 and the MakerBot Replicator Mini+ has a MSRP of $1299 and both are available now. MakerBot is offering the MakerBot Replicator+ at an introductory price of $1999 and the MakerBot Replicator Mini+ at $999 until October 31, 2016.