While MakerBot has certainly experienced some major and well-publicized challenges in the area of the Smart Extruder, it can’t be denied that they’ve certainly persisted in working to get it right, as well as continuing in their dedication to providing accessibility to their community of users.
With parent company Stratasys as support, the MakerBot team has an unusual depth of resources and cumulative experience behind them when it comes to creating–and refining–new products and releases. This should be apparent in the release of the new MakerBot Smart Extruder+ as the two teams worked closely in product and performance testing, allowing for a product meant to be swappable for the Fifth Generation MakerBot 3D printer, and offering better performance over a longer period of time.
As capability and accessibility have indeed been expanding rapidly for desktop 3D printing users, new demands are placed on their hardware and software just as quickly, especially with a global community sharing constant new ideas for innovation. The idea behind the Smart Extruder has always been to allow users to explore other materials and processes, without having to purchase a whole new printer.
Making good use of Stratasys’ 25 years in the industry, the MakerBot team worked closely with their parent company in development of the new extruder, resulting in a stunning 160,000 hours of printing time (this would amount to about 18 years of use). With 5,800 prints completed in total by the MakerBot and Stratasys teams, they were able to report consistent, reliable, and verified performance with improvement in the areas of connectivity, homing, clogging, and filament jams.
“In these tests, the Smart Extruder+ performed consistently and reliably for over 700 hours on a MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer, which equals 1.44 miles of MakerBot PLA Filament,” states MakerBot in their latest press release. “In fact, over 90 percent of test units were still printing successfully at 1,200+ hours of print time.”
Although wear and tear on extruders can be produced through a range of variables from type of usage to settings, MakerBot feels so confident about the MakerBot Smart Extruder+ that they are doubling its warranty, with no limit to the amount of MakerBot PLA used. This means that MakerBot users are able to print any quantity with confidence, inside the warranty time.
“The advances we made with the MakerBot Smart Extruder+ are a big step forward and set a new benchmark in 3D printing,” said Jonathan Jaglom, CEO of MakerBot. “The extruder is the most critical part of a 3D printer and it is a part that wears out after a certain period of time and needs to be replaced. We engineered and tested the Smart Extruder+ to enhance its reliability, provide better performance, and extend its lifetime. And we stand behind it by doubling our warranty to six months. Because it is swappable, the Smart Extruder+ can also reduce downtime when it’s time to replace it.”
Improved components include:
- A better thermal management system
- Extended PTFE tube to feed the filament into the nozzle
- Faster print start up
- Refined build plate leveling and calibration
The enhanced smart sensors are a big part of the story here though in that they allow for better speed, along with savings on the bottom line too, keeping users informed about print status from beginning to end, whether from the PC or mobile app. If filament runs out, for instance, users are notified and the print is automatically paused.
Today, there are MakerBot 3D printers in over 5,000 US schools, with the MakerBot 3D Ecosystem also providing a range of resources to be found on the MakerBot Education Resource Center. In line with MakerBot’s dedication to the educational arena, they see this new product as being very beneficial in the classroom.
“The reliability and ease of use is huge for us; it provides more students access to our MakerBot Desktop 3D Printer,” said Nicholas Provenzano, a teacher at Grosse Pointe Public Schools in Michigan, who has been using the MakerBot Smart Extruder+ for several weeks. “Our students print all day in our library and I can’t always be there to assist them. The MakerBot 3D Ecosystem, and especially the Smart Extruder+, makes it easy for our students to turn their ideas into physical objects. It lets them focus on the design process, which is most beneficial for their education.”
The Smart Extruder+ retails at $199, and is available for pre-order now, with shipping expected to begin on January 18, 2016. Current MakerBot customers can look forward to the special price of $99 for their first MakerBot Smart Extruder+. This discount is also available for new customers with the purchase of a MakerBot Fifth Generation 3D Printer. Have you tried out this new extruder yet? Let us know in the MakerBot Smart Extruder+ forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out more details about the Smart Extruder+ in the videos below: