Both printers also feature MakerWare, new software for driving the Replicator printer. Touted for its simple GUI and ability to load multiple STL or OBJ files simultaneously, MakerBot officials said it's easier to get more models printed faster, while also simplifying the process of choosing print settings and moving, rotating, and scaling models as they are readied for printing. In addition, MakerWare's new slicing engine is up to 20 times faster than its predecessor -- another capability officials said will facilitate the output of 3D models.
Besides the new printers, MakerBot launched an interesting twist in its marketing and distribution strategy -- one it hopes will help make the consumer case for 3D printing. The company opened a flagship retail location in Manhattan, where it will not only sell 3D printers, but also 3D printed gifts and accessory, in addition to providing demonstrations and packaging up what it calls "the full MakerBot experience" as a way to get more people introduced to the ins and outs of 3D printing.
And MakerBot isn't alone is trying to mimic Apple's wildly successful retail strategy and put 3D printing on the map for a wider audience. Diego Porqueras, the maker of the Bukobot open-source 3D printer, just opened the doors to Deezmaker, a retail store in Pasadena, Calif. Deezmaker, set in a local strip mall, will sell the Bukobot and potentially other 3D printers along with parts and other 3D printing-related products. Porqueras is hoping that his location, within walking distance from CalTech and a short drive from NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, will do a lot to help his 3D printing cause.
Beth, I notice that the Replicator 2 uses bioplastic PLA, not ABS. This appears to be an emerging trend in additive manufacturing, at least at the higher end. Do you know of any other 3D printers that use bioplastics?
Gosh, Ann – That article is less than encouraging as an endorsement for PLA. It actually says it is best used as the support-structure for the primary material being ABS; that the PLA will degrade away, leaving the host ABS in place. The article is about 2 years old. I'm hoping that if MakerBot has invested their product line on this material as the primary building block, that it has rugged, stable material characteristics. Guess the Jury's still out.
Jim, I noticed the same things about the article. I included the link as an example of what's out there. If you Google "PLA and 3D printing", you''ll come up with a lot of other sources, some of which have a very different take. Beth's article says "PLA was chosen because of its strength and ability to make very large prints without cracking or warping."
I did some googling on my own to see what others are saying about PLA and come up with this long, but interesting video on Youtube where an engineer and maker of a printer kit is talking about the tradeoffs of PLA vs. ABS and why he sees PLA as the next big thing in home printing. For what it's worth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wF-w3eT0CdY
Thanks, Beth, for that video. I got about half way through it. The guy being interviewed, who designed a 3D printer kit, says PLA vs ABS is easier to print with, harder to drill, and doesn't take the high temps that ABS does. Also, that ABS's smell is really bad. He says PLA is great for prototypes, then prints the final part in ABS.
Beth, thanks for finding that candid discussion on YouTube – I watched the entire thing, and now have very little faith in PLA, from what the guys were saying. In a Nutshell, its less heat tolerant, less process capable, less robust, so why would they use it-? Only because it doesn't smell as bad as ABS during processing. To me, that's a pretty weak reason for choosing a material. I've been in Injection-mold production press rooms running ABS, and while the odor there is strong, its not intolerable. Maybe the MakerBot apparatus really brings the 'Stink" out of it!
Based on what was said in that video, it is a bit surprising. I found a wiki page on Makerbot's site that provides some insight into their choice of PLA and provides some hands-on perspective from Makerbot users. http://wiki.makerbot.com/pla
If PLA is supposedly so difficult to use, I wonder why it's so common in lower-end 3D printing? As Beth's article states, "PLA was chosen because of its strength and ability to make very large prints without cracking or warping." I also suspect some people are a lot more sensitive to the smell than others.
I've been working on a feature on 3D printing and 3D content creation tools (stayed tuned in November) and I've been talking to a lot of engineers who use the lower end 3D printers either on the job or increasingly in their home, for hobbyist/side business purposes. Consistently, most talk about some of the messiness of traditional 3D printers (I hadn't heard about the smell) and perhaps the choice of PLA is better suited to home/hobbyist use as opposed to an office or shop floor environment. What are others experience with 3D printers on the lower end? They look like office printers, but they don't seem quite as packaged. Let us know.
Here's an example of PLA being used for large-scale 3D printing of architectural structures: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/design-architecture/in-amsterdam-worlds-first-mobile-3d-printing-pavilion/8736
While I do agree that it does not use ABS, I still marvel at the price point of this 3D printer and the ever decreasing cost of this technology. I remember when the lowest price 3D printers were still well into 6-figures. I look forward to continuous technology and material improvements with these types of printers in the near future.
Vapors of most heated plastics are very toxic! Check with any chemist who does not work for the plastics or pesticide industries. Treat this process with the same respect you would auto exhaust or petroleum-based solvents, since that is essentially what these materials are. Good ventilation is a must!
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.