Small businesses are about to have the opportunity to enter the world of 3D printing with the launch of the MakerBot Replicator 2. The desktop 3D printer costs a little over $2,000 with an additional $50 for ABS or PLA plastic 1kg spools, making the device far more affordable and convenient than previous generations. With faster software and finer layer resolution, the newest MakerBot may soon become as ubiquitous in households and offices as personal computers or scanners.
A new and improved version of the original Replicator, the Replicator 2 introduces the idea of “prosumer” printing, a concept that combines professional quality with made-to-order consumption. The printer features 100-micron layer resolution (as fine as a piece of printer paper), improving nearly 3 times upon the previous model’s refinement. Replicator 2 has a 410-cubic-inch volume to handle large builds, allowing entire projects to be completed on one plate. The steel frame is powder coated and sturdy to withstand high print speeds, temperature and humidity, and oil-infused bearings and pop-up acrylic plates add to the efficiency of the design. Using PLA biofilament as its source, the corn-derived plastic requires 32% less power from the printer while retaining strength and stability.
Replicator 2 operates on the MakerWare software, developed by the MakerBot team. Users are now able to open multiple STL or OBJ files at once, even if totally unrelated. Individual pieces are able to be scaled together or separately, an items are able to be saved together in a new format called a “THING” file. Print settings are able to be adjusted for low, medium, or high quality. MakerWare also includes the slicing engine Miracle Grue, created by the MakerBot engineers which establishes models a full 20 times faster than Skeinforge and facilitates a more integrated printing experience with less overall starts and stops.
Replicator 2 owners will have access to the Thingverse, a community that offers over 28,000 free and open project specifications for almost every printing need. The MakerBot Replicator 2 costs $2,199, and can be purchased through the company’s website.