3D Printing Companies – Maker Bot Review

The Maker Bot Replicator 2X has become the standard by which other consumer level 3D printers are measured. Learn its features, the pros, cons, ease of use and if it is worth the money.

The MakerBot Replicator 2X is a dual extruder 3D printer that’s capable of printing three dimensional plastic objects in two colors. Once confined to industrial applications, 3D printers have become more affordable and are finding their way into many households, and this device is leading the way for many reasons.

makerbotFeatures

The official website has a comprehensive list of the Replicator 2X features, and one of the things that will strike you is the chassis, as it is made of solid metal with transparent windows, sides and doors. Dimensions wise the Replicator measures 14.7 by 19.1 by 12.8 inches (HWD) minus the filament spools and the hood.

In the box you’ll see the build platform, measuring 6.1 by 9.7 by 6.4 inches (HWD), and three resolution settings are available: low (300 microns), medium (200 microns) and high (100 microns). With these you should be able to produce models that will match any lenticular output from other printers.

There’s also a monochrome LCD panel near the door and a 4-way toggle button in the middle. With the display and the controller, you’ll be able to unload and load filaments off each extruder, and you also use the controller for build plate leveling, to print from an SD card and more.

Setup

Setting up the Replicator 2X isn’t that hard. The first thing you need to do is install the enclosure door handle and add the spool holders and filament guide tubes. Next you connect the filament spool to a holder, hook up the power supply and turn on the printer. While there are a lot of 3D printer companies, they still haven’t matched the Replicator 2X in terms of simplicity.

The next step is leveling the plate, which you do by tightening the plate screws so when you insert a sheet, it will fit perfectly between the plate and the extruder on all points. Make sure to check the alignment and re-level it if necessary. From there it’s simply a matter of putting the filament in place and following the other instructions on the LCD.

You also need to wait for the extruder to attain the proper temperature, and the printer will beep to notify you. When you hear the beep put the filament in the tube at the extruder’s top. You’ll know the filament is in place when the motor grabs and pulls it in. When some filament string comes out of the extruder, you are ready to print.

The Software

The company’s YouTube channel provides a lot of information about the product, but one that should be pointed out here is that the software included, MakerWare, is very user friendly, easy to use and yet surprisingly powerful. You can use the program on Windows, Mac or Linux, and you can work several projects simultaneously.

The main interface shows the printer’s build platform, and there are Save, Make and Add buttons above. You can create objects, or you can download any of the free objects at Thingverse.com. These are built by members of the Replicator community and the models number in the hundreds of thousands, so it’s a good place to start. Of course if you want to make one, just press the Make button and follow the instructions.

Output Quality

Once you’ve made an object, Replicator 2X will begin slicing the file and set the resolution you specify. When it’s set, the printer will heat the extruder and print. The output is very good, and you can even print flexible objects like bracelets that will fit your wrists. The printer also does a good job separating the colors, and it has no trouble printing objects with fitting sections.

makerbot_setupThe Replicator 2X also lets you print off an SD card using its built in slot, a USB cable or any computer that’s using MakerWare. The printer actually comes with an SD card and has files for several objects ready. You can also save the objects you create on MakerWare to the card, and to print just select “Print from SD Card” on the control panel. Next, choose  the file you want to print, press enter, and the printer will print. If you make a 3D printing comparison based on output quality, the Replicator 2X is ahead of its competitors.

The unit it should be noted, comes with acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic filament which is designed for the printer. One of the things you need to be aware of though is that the output quality will depend on the material you use. Also note that some ABS objects, particularly the edges and corners, can curl up.

That’s long been a problem with 3D printers, but the Replicator 2X has addressed many of those issues with its built-in heated build plate as it eliminates a lot of these curling issues. Even so, some curling cannot be avoided especially when you’re trying it out for the first time. However, instances of this occurring on the Replicator 2X will be much less compared to those of other 3D printers because the plate is covered with Kapton tape, which plays a huge role in reducing curls.

Pros

  • Full featured
  • Offers the biggest platform in its category
  • Very good output
  • Straightforward setup

Cons

  • Takes some time to learn
  • Familiarity with 3D software required

Conclusion

If you’re an advanced user, the adventurous type and in search of high quality 3D printing, the Replicator 2X will not disappoint. In terms of features,  capabilities and ease of use, the Replicator 2X is more than a match for other extruder 3D printing machines, and it is right up there.

There are a lot of 3D printing companies churning out 3D printers for consumers, but the Makerbot Replicator 2X remains ahead of the pack. It’s got some rough edges and could have been easier to use, but that’s understandable considering the fact that 3D printing is still in its infancy.