Ideas in the Making: MakerBot Introduces Two New 3D Printers, Software & Material Solutions for Professional & Educational Users

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This morning in Brooklyn, I had the opportunity to sit at the MakerBot HQ where members from their team, as well as users who had been helping MakerBot get these new ideas off the ground, introduced the next chapters in MakerBot’s story. While I had been anticipating a big launch event — I don’t usually fly out for small announcements — I had not necessarily been prepared for the utter scope of MakerBot’s latest. The morning’s events started off with a presentation from several members of the MakerBot team, and while we started off with a brief retrospective of the company’s history, it quickly became clear that MakerBot has really honed in on two primary audiences: professional and educational users.

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In short, the company has today launched — with immediate availability — two new 3D printers, as well as new software and materials, geared toward users in these two categories. Stay tuned for more details, as I’m traveling back shortly from New York City; I wanted to share with our readers as soon as possible following this morning’s announcement, and will have more information to you soon! Michael Parker, one of our writers, lives in Brooklyn and attended the event as well, and will be sharing with you all more information about the educational opportunities, as well as some of the use cases presented.

Today’s announcements included:

Hardware

Announced, and available, today, September 20th, are two new 3D printers. Geared toward the professional market is the MakerBot Replicator+, with the MakerBot Replicator Mini+ targeting educational users.

mbotThe Replicator+ has a familiar look, but enhanced features; the team stressed repeatedly that the machine had been reengineered from the ground up. Compared to the Replicator, the new machine offers a 25% larger build volume (at 165 x 295 x 195 mm) while taking up the same physical footprint on the desktop; a 30% faster print speed; and a 27% reduction in noise, operating at 58.6 decibels (quieter, they noted, than normal conversations). The Replicator+ ships standard with the Smart Extruder+, which the team was quick to point out has garnered an 87% user satisfaction rating (much higher than that for the troubled initial introduction, before the + version came about).

Also new to the Replicator+ is an enhanced leveling process so well engineered that after the initial factory leveling, a user does not need to re-level. The Replicator+ additionally features an all new build plate set to make removing prints easier than ever before — and eliminating blue tape. The Flex Build Plate, with a Grip Surface, can be removed from the printer and flexed to pop the print right off — even easier too since the team created a new rafting process and improved breakaway supports. Today through October 31, 2016, the Replicator+ is available at a promotional introductory price of $1,999, after which time the MSRP will go up to the standard $2,499.

20160920_114011The Replicator Mini+ again looks like a machine we’re familiar with, but has also been wholly reenginered to offer more to users. By listening to teachers and students, the MakerBot team sought to make the machine usable out of the box, ready to quickly deliver student projects in any classroom. The Mini+ offers a 28% larger build volume than its predecessor (at 126 x 126 x 101 mm) in, again, the same footprint, as well as 10% faster print speeds and a dramatic 58% noise reduction. This 3D printer, the team stated, can now “hum along in the back of the classroom without distracting students.” Today through October 31, 2016, the Replicator Mini+ is available at a promotional introductory price of $999, after which time the MSRP will go up to the standard $1,299.

Software

20160920_122413New in the software realm at MakerBot is the just-introduced MakerBot Print, a free software that supports over 20 native CAD formats. Additionally, MakerBot Mobile has been “reenginered from the ground up” to offer optimized print control and monitoring. The software introductions are MakerBot’s way of saying they understand what designers need and are looking for, responding to the needs of both professionals and educators. From design to final print, MakerBot Print is ready to ensure that users have the opportunity to optimize their designs “before laying down an inch of plastic” through greatly improved slicing capabilities as well as the ability to divvy up a print job among multiple build plates — including on different printers in different locations.

The focus on education expands as well over to Thingiverse, where Thingiverse Education will now offer complete lesson plans made by teachers for teachers, starting with more than 100 available right off the bat. Included in each available design will be grading rubrics, handouts, quizzes, and discussion questions along with design files.

Below is our writer, Michael Parker, trying out a 3D printed Archimedes Screw, available on Thingiverse:

Materials

Two plastics rule in desktop 3D printing: PLA and ABS. Both offer strengths and weaknesses, long known to many desktop users, but PLA lacks the strength of ABS while ABS lacks the low toxicity and ease of printing of PLA. MakerBot’s new Tough PLA is designed to offer the best of both worlds.

“Users want engineering-grade materials, similar to ABS, but ABS is difficult on desktop machines (plus toxicity and odor, important in the office). We really want them to put it right on their desk, set about to develop material with qualities of ABS and ease-of-use of PLA,” said the MakerBot team.

Because of the specific capabilities of this material, modifications have to be made in both software and hardware, and MakerBot sets out to make this as easy as possible for users. The dedicated Tough PLA Smart Extruder+ is intended to ease the printing process with this material, and installing this extruder automatically adjusts software settings to be optimized to print the Tough PLA. A Tough PLA Bundle is available now, with an MSRP of $379, including three spools of slate grey Tough PLA and a Tough PLA Smart Extruder+.

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To show, more than tell, you about the new offerings, below is a video of MakerBot’s Shiann Yamin describing to me the new products:

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