Apr 15 2016

Review: MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer Improves Speed and Mobile Integration

Enhanced extruder improves accuracy and speeds the print job.

The fifth generation of MakerBot’s Replicator Desktop 3D Printer marries ease of use with impressive printing accuracy to create extremely detailed 3D models within a reasonable time frame.

We tested the desktop 3D printer using 10 spools of plastic thread and the new MakerBot Smart Extruder+ nozzle. Boasting advanced sensors to streamline the printing process, the nozzle dispenses the filament in paper-thin layers precisely where it’s needed. All of our test designs emerged from the printer with smooth, accurate edges, eliminating the need for sanding or finishing processes that are required when working with less advanced 3D printers.

Markedly faster than previous versions, the Extruder+ shaves about 20 minutes off the time it takes to print designs, compared with older MakerBot models. However, the nozzle can only print one color at a time. That means there will be some downtime when users load the different filaments to print designs with multiple colors.

Optimized for the fifth-generation Replicator model, the MakerBot PLA Filament substrate is extremely sturdy. There was never a break or a jam when feeding the printer filament off the spools, and the resulting designs were about as rugged as you can get working with plastic.

MakerBot desktop and mobile management apps keep administrators and users in the loop about the progress of a print job, and the Replicator’s onboard camera provides a peek inside the machine. Administrators can configure the camera to take reference photos at different points in the printing process and send them to a cloud or physical library, which can be helpful in determining the cause of a failure of a previously untested design.

The Replicator Desktop 3D Printer is one of the most accurate machines available today, and it’s well suited to any organization that creates physical objects or models. Even better, it requires little to no training or experience to get started.

3D Printing on the Go

One problem inherent in 3D printing is that it can take a long time to create physical objects — hours, if not days, depending on the size and complexity of the design. The MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer MakerBot Mobile app can unchain users from having to position themselves nearby while the 3D print job completes.

Designed to provide full printer control, monitoring and updates, the mobile app is available for Android or iOS devices. We downloaded the app for Android and were surprised at how much control it provided. Far more than just a monitoring tool, the app enables complete control over the 3D printing workflow.

We were able to select a design and then optimize, scale and slice it as needed to fit the printer’s capabilities and output tray size. Assuming the printer is left loaded with the proper color filament, simply hitting ‘print’ will start the whole process. That way, the design can be ready and waiting for the user to return to the office the next morning.

The mobile app is also tied into the fifth generation MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer onboard camera, so users can check in to watch the process unfold. The app provides a countdown timer and can stream alerts to inform remote users about any potential problems, notifying them when the job is complete.

Clever users could also use tap the MakerBot Mobile app as a management tool to receive updates whenever someone uses the printer, which could potentially help to reduce unauthorized usage.

MakerBot printer interfaces have always been good, but the mobile app takes convenience to a whole new level. After using the app, we prefer it to the desktop interface and believe a lot of users will agree.


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