MakerBot announced that it’s Replicator Z18 3D printer is ready to order and will ship in the spring. The company asserts that this printer’s build table is massive, at 12.0 L x 12.0 W x 18.0 H in. (30.5 L x 30.5 W x 45.7 H cm). Actually, that’s about average for units engineers use, but large for consumer units. However, few of this size are available for $6,499 (USD).
But it is the largest sized printer that MakerBot has offered. Noted Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot, “We consider its ability to bring professional-quality 3D printing to the user comparable to industrial 3D printers that are tens of thousands of dollars more. We view it as the 3D printer for large industrial models, engine prototypes, movie special effect models and the next generation spacecraft. We are using it in our own factory to make prototypes, jigs and fixtures.”
Among the range of 3D printers available, this one falls in the newly emerging mid-range size of printers—decent built size, less than $10,000 price, decent accuracy and resolution, targeted at individual prototyping before you go to the professional systems for a more professional prototype.
Layer resolution is 100 microns. Build material is MakerBot PLA. To handle larger jobs, the company also offers a Filament Case that holds XL or XXL spools of MakerBot PLA Filament.
This printer has a smart extruder, which looks, to me, to be similar to the Mojo extruder head. All you need to do is swap out this head to replace it—a nice touch. It will detect the absence of filament and pause the printing process. And it communicates operation status to the MakerBot Desktop and MakerBot Mobile apps. There is also a camera, for print monitoring or sharing, as well as to take reference pictures.
It’s clear that there is a nice synergy emerging between MakerBot and Stratasys, with MakerBot benefiting from some of Stratasys’s technology and unexpired patents.