Review: MakerBot Replicator+

  • Ease of Setup 90
    90%
  • Ease of Use 89
    89%
  • Print Quality 69
    69%
  • Print Speed 68
    68%
  • Value for Money 64
    64%

Summary

For the home user there are better and cheaper alternatives available. For business users that need reliable and consistent productivity the Replicator+ could be what you’re looking for.

Overall
76%
76%
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Makerbot Replicator+ Delivers Accuracy and Reliability for Business Users

At the end of last year, Makerbot officially announced their intention to move away from the consumer market and focus instead on business and education customers. So I will keep that in mind when reviewing this, their latest model.

Replicator+ is Makerbot’s latest addition to the popular Replicator range of PLA only printers.  Compared to the previous Replicator this model is 30% faster to print and has a 25% larger build volume at 11.6 x 7.6 x 6.5 inches, this is a large printer! It also has mechanical improvements for better accuracy and reliability.

The Z-axis has been completely re-designed and is now a very solid single piece of aluminum. The main chassis is much tougher and sound dampening is attached to the large metal surfaces. All of which makes this model significantly quieter than the previous non plus model.

Out of the box, this is an impressive looking printer. It has a very sturdy, well-engineered appearance and feel.

The LCD screen and backlit control knob look very nice.

Features

Flexible Bed

Like the new Sindoh DP201, the Replicator+ has a flexible build surface that has a grippy surface. This helps first layer adhesion and makes it easier to remove a completed print. I was hopeful this might mean an end to the use of a palette knife to ease the print off but I’ve still found it to be necessary. Worse, because I don’t want to damage the nice surface I’m still using painters tape!

A nice feature is that the print bed is very easy to remove from the printer as it simply slides out. This allows you to perform the tricky part removal safely away from the delicate insides of the printer.

Smart Extruder

The business end of the printer is now called a ‘Smart Extruder+’ which Makerbot claim to be more reliable. It features automatic jam detection and auto calibration. This has the ability to be easily swapped out with a replacement if necessary. This is a useful feature if you’re using your printer for a business where you cannot afford you printer to have any downtime.

The downside to the Smart Extruder+ is that all this additional tech means it costs around $199 for a replacement or backup which is significantly more than on other 3D printers. It’s also virtually impossible for the average home user to service it themselves. Of course, if MakerBot are right and the extruder is reliable the cost won’t be of any consequence.

Connectivity

The Replicator+ has numerous connectivity options, the usual SD card, and USB but also ethernet, wifi, and a smartphone app.

Webcam

A camera is fitted inside the build area that you can access through the app on your PC or phone to keep a check on the current build progress. It’s a little gimmicky but I think ultimately it can be quite useful to have the ability to go off into another room and still be able to check build progress throughout the day.

In use

This is a genuine setup free printer. No bed leveling, no calibrations just plug in and go. The large color LCD screen and navigation wheel look very cool and are super easy to use.

The reported accuracy of the printer is exceptionally good with XY precision of 11 microns and Z axis precision of 2.5 microns.

I found the printer to leave quite a lot of ‘whiskers’ and signs of over extrusion. I found nothing that was seriously detrimental to print quality I just had to do a little more cleaning up than I would have liked. This could easily be dialled out with retraction settings in the slicer software.

When printing I found the Replicator+ to still be a little noisier than other models. I noticed that it doesn’t have any kind of rubber feet to insulate the sound from the surface it’s sat on. I think this makes the motor sounds resonate through my desk and seem louder. It is however significantly quieter than the previous model.

Verdict

For the home user, this is an expensive 3D printer that offers good reliability and very easy setup. But this comes at a price that makes it hard to compete with equally capable alternatives like the BCN3D Sigma or Sindoh DP201.

For business users, however, the Replicator+ has some worthwhile benefits over other 3D printers. If you buy an additional print bed and a pack of grip surfaces then you can get a near constantly running production line going. The software can support multiple printers so you could have two or three running at once. Given the exceptionally well-engineered mechanism and chassis, I have no doubt the Replicator+ is capable of running for thousands of hours without a hitch. Have a backup Smart Extruder on standby and you’ll never have to worry about not being able to fulfill an order.

If you’re a small business owner then the Replicator+ makes a lot of sense.

-Dylan

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