Saturday, December 29, 2012

Finally got the Makerbot Replicator 2 3D printer yesterday.

First impressions are very good, both software and hardware.

The ordering process.

I probably ordered at the worst possible time.  I ordered on 22nd of October 2012, just days before the big storm came through.  I sent a money order a few days later. It took 9 days for them to even get my check and then a few days to post it to my account.  By then over 2 weeks had passed.  When I first ordered it I should have gotten it by the beginning of Dec.  Instead, because of the delays in mail delivery and processing the order caused by Sandy, and my own request to send it a few days later, the order arrived on the 28th of December.

Support was very polite and responsive to me, when I wanted to make sure my money order got there, and when I needed the delivery date extended out a week so that it wouldn't arrive when I was travelling.

Overall I am very impressed with the service I received in the face of a new production line and horrible weather.

The hardware is a Replicator 2 from Makerbot.

The device itself is not much bigger than an older laser printer.  It is made very sturdily and the device is very professional and futuristic looking.  The build platform is lit up with LED's that can change color, turning redder and redder as the extruder gets up to temperature is a nice touch.

The small control panel is brightly back lit and the main button is a  lighted up M and is surrounded by 4 directional buttons to allow you to scroll, or return.  The buttons are very sensitive and have a rubber cover on them that seems sturdy.

After I got the delivery, I unboxed it, set it up, levelled the platform and was printing from the SD card in about 10 minutes after I got it.  I had read the manual again on Thursday in anticipation of the delivery on Friday. I printed out all 5 of the demos on the SD card just to demonstrate that everything worked right.  Everything printed out first try and the accuracy and precision of the machine is mind boggling.  I printed the comb and then realized that each tooth of the comb is a loop, not solid.  This makes each tooth amazingly flexible.  The fact that it printed out these single layer of plastic loops about 50 stacks high and it looks perfectly smooth is much better than I had even hoped to see in my wildest dream.

The software is Makerware.
Today I installed the Makerbot 3D printing software on my fastest machine, which is currently running windows.  I have been using this as my windows game box for about 5 years now.  The software currently runs better on the windows box than it did on a linux box I tried it on about a month ago. Installation was effortless, and after I installed the software I turned on the printer, and windows loaded the driver for Replicator.  I was able to load in an stl file, adjust the items scale, move it, and rotate it easily and look at it from any angle I wanted using the software.  Printing is as easy as pressing a button on screen and accepting some simple options.

The yoda head appears to be what all the cool kids are printing, so I printed one as well.   I printed out a scaled down yoda head in medium quality and am currently printing out the yoda head in high quaility.  At .270mm the layers are very visible.  At .100mm the layers are much less obvious.

Printed the one on the left at high resolution, the one on the right at low resolution. Took 45 minutes for low, an hour and 45 for high. It is very hard to see any lines at all in the high resolution print.
The next thing I am going to print is a planetary gear to demonstrate how accurately it can print parts that fit together with tight tolerances and that move against each other during uperation.  I will also try to print a few other things I downloaded from  After that I will try to design and print my own 3D object very soon.

The future.

This is the model T of 3D printers, and this is going to be a major workhorse in the coming few years.  As this technology becomes more mainstream there will be an arms race of features from different vendors.  I can easily see a printer that adds dye as the plastic is extruded in order to color the exterior and give you any color you want. Or one that prints using 5 strands of plastic to give white, black, and a mix of the 3 primary colors, advancing each strand on command to give the color you want at that point of the print. Printing in multiple kinds of plastic so that the support will easily dissolve away or you can print wire traces right into the plastic so you can print a circuit board would also allow so much more flexibility.   There will be advances that we cannot even image now.

Right now this is limited to just a few people, but I can see places like print shops adding a 3D printer that is ran by the staff to let you make a one off copy of something.  Eventually there will be 3D printers that operate almost like a vending machine, you put in your memory card, select which file you want printed, and it calculates the cost to print the item.  You pay, it prints and drops the item into a tray where you can retrieve the object. 


  1. Definitely want to see the gears.

  2. First few attempts at printing the planetary gears failed. Rereading the web page I got them from evidently there is something called a profile that I need to use to print them. Everything was just too tight to fit together and still move. Need to figure out how profiles work. Going to try to print a few more simple models tomorrow.