The MakerBot family just got three new siblings, and one of them promises gargantuan prints.
Announced on stage at CES 2014, the machines share many new technological capabilities, including MakerBot’s new swappable “smart” extruder, onboard build-platform monitoring camera, LCD control panels, auto-leveling beds, Wi-Fi connectivity and more. But perhaps more interesting is the self-contained heated chamber used on the largest of the three printers, a patented technology owned by Stratasys, the industrial 3D-printing giant who acquired MakerBot last June.
That printer, the Replicator Z18, boasts an 18-inch build height and 12-inch by 12-inch width and depth, large enough to create the helmet that Pettis donned at the start of the presentation in one piece. At such a size, the heated chamber becomes an important component — thermoplastics like ABS need the consistent temperature to maintain shape and not warp during marathon print sessions. And with its size, this machine will undoubtedly require some very long durations. It boasts 100-micron resolution, same as their current Replicator 2 printers, and is listed at $6499.
The new mid-size printer, simply named the Replicator (a move that might confuse with owners of the original MakerBot Replicator), doesn’t include the heated chamber, but does increase the build size capabilities by 11 percent. The $2899 printer also claims faster print speeds over the previous generation Replicator 2.
The MakerBot Replicator Mini Compact is reminiscent of the now-vintage MakerBot Cupcake with a similar footprint and palm-sized print capability. The touted one-touch and self-leveling bed additions bring it to up to date, while the $1399 price point puts it closer to some of the more affordable machines that have become popular over the last couple years. It still stands behind some of those machines with its default 200-micron resolution, however.
All three machines have planned availability this Spring. We’ll be visiting with MakerBot this week at CES for a hands-on tour and will report with more details.