Print Huge Stuff With The Makerbot Replicator

The folks at MakerBot Industries are introducing their new 3D printer at CES this week. It’s called the MakerBot Replicator and features dual heads for 2-color prints and a huge build envelope for huge objects

From [Bre Pettis]’ introduction video (available after the break), the build area is about 9x6x6 inches, compared to the about four-inch cube-sized volume for the MakerBot Cupcake and Thing-O-Matic. The Replicator also features optional dual Makerbot Mk. 8 extruders for two-colored printing. We’ve seen valiant attempts at printing multicolored objects with one extruder, and if you’d ever want to print with two filaments dual extruders are the way to go.

The replicator also features a nice control panel (which includes a Snake game), something that’s relatively rare on the 3D printers we’ve seen. The single extruder model will set you back $1750, while the dual extruder adds another $250 to the price. We really want one of these, but don’t take our word – check out [Bre]’s intro.


71 thoughts on “Print Huge Stuff With The Makerbot Replicator

    1. Commercial SLA and Polyjet machines generally START at about 12″ x 12″ x 7″ and go up and up and up from there. Some are meters by meters resolution. Granted, they don’t cost $2000 though.

    2. Speaking of small and huge, no matter how big the printer of this type is, there is always a limit in how big produce can be made on it. I wonder if it is possible to make a 3D “turtle plotter” (if you remember those, you are at least as old as I am), a thing (a robot) that builds in open space using the same technology and some kind of triangulation with prepositioned “beacons” (e.g. nailed to the ceiling of the shop, or raised on masts in the open build area) to control the position and orientation of its business end. Then you could swarm them, like termites building a nest, to add material(s) in multiple spots concurrently. For instance, perhaps you could let them onto a ragged car to patch the rust holes and coat the panels with an uniform layer of plastic, or to build complete missing ones from scratch. Also, you could use as many colors as there are members of the swarm.

      1. well the idea becomes immensely easier in space as then there is no gravity and no therefore suports are needed.

        also 3d metal printing with a electron beam is feasible in a vacuum (which also takes care of that annoying oxidation problem)

        at the moment though I’d still prefer a ultimaker to this contraption it’s bigger and faster etc.

      2. @Salec: nanites have been doing exactly that in American sci-fi cartoons since 1995 or earlier.(Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Gargoyles come to mind.)

        @robin: I’ve been mulling over exactly that since the Ultimaker print showcase was posted here. Best I came up with was printing a gantry along with the print and feeding it along rollers instead of a build platform, but that has its own logistical complications.

  1. That’s 15x15cm bottom print. Sorry, that’s still smaller then the Ultimaker. And the Ultimaker is a smaller machine.

    What’s REALLY the selling point for this machine is the dual head. It’s the first kit with dual head.

    1. Epic, if it’s pre-assembled and fairly easy to use, it will actually attract the kind of business that makes companies into big players.

      And I’ll bet the hacks for it will be even better.

    1. I’m in the same boat – just finished mine – started getting it dialed in and then this thing comes out. Wonderful. I would have gone with this for the small incremental cost. Also keep in mind that it also comes pre-assembled which adds somewhat to the cost.

      I wonder if the new build platform can be adapted to the ToM – looks pretty slick. I also like the “ultimaker” style gantry on that one versus moving the work around. Bet it has a faster feedrate than the ToM too.

      1. Well, don’t feel too bad. They’re only taking pre-orders at this point, and if history is any indication, you might have needed to wait a very long time to get the Replicator. You can still buy it when it comes out, and sell your operational, fully-tuned Thingomatic for bank.

  2. I have one of the cupcake models, you know, the original version. Now, yes, this thing is nice, and shiny, and I’m drooling over it a bit, but the one thing that gets me is that it comes pre-assembled. To me, half the fun is assembling the thing, learning how the parts worked and where they were. Made troubleshooting easy because I understood how the parts fit together. This comes in a DIY kit, I would seriously think about getting one. Until then, I’ll wait on the printrbot kit to come in the mail.

  3. Too bad it’s still way too expensive.

    I would love to get one.

    I already have a cnc mill for way bigger are than this so I can’t understand what makes the cost so high, especially when the frame is not metal.

    1. The majority of the cost is in the extruder and the electronics. The MK8 extruder costs so much because of the custom-machined parts it uses + the labor cost of carefully assembling it. The electronics also cost a lot–MakerBot electronics usually run between $450 and $600 (if you include the motors). The rest of the cost is the laser-cut wood, custom parts, and assembly. On top of all that, they have to turn a profit.

      On the other hand, a RepRap can cost $600 if you don’t order any wrong parts when sourcing. Even then, most of the cost is in the electronics and the extruder.

      1. @Me
        Calm down, its in development. It will be $500. He was just saying you should have a look at it. Yes we all know prices can change, but $500 is reasonable given the design.

      2. @Me if you’d been here about a month ago like me, you could have.(jumped when they announced the Printrbot+) For now you’ll probably have to wait about 3 months to order while they get the factory and shop set up.

  4. For all the complaints, I wouldn’t worry (unless you are totally in love with MakerBot.) Other companies and projects are emerging to fill the gaps, and honestly, MakerBot seems aimed at companies/people/schools/etc that *really want* to open the box, turn it on, and start printing. Kits will probably be available later, but for now, they’ve got customers who will buy it assembled (for more money) waiting in line.

  5. I think the pre-built thing is just a matter of scale. When you’re small and just beginning, it’s faster and easier to ship kits. Kits will have a higher support burden though, so once you’ve sold a lot you might have a serious problem having to support all of those people (and your market is far more limited). When you sell enough, you can afford to have skilled technicians build and test the machines, and your quality can go up/be-more-uniform. Also, your market gets about 100X larger.

    Also, unless your hobby is building 3D printers, rather than, you know, *actually* 3D printing, I don’t know how you can say *half* of the fun is building the machine. I spent a weekend assemblying my ToM, and probably about 80 hours printing with it in the two months since then. Designing and printing things for projects is far more rewarding than bolting together a kit.

    1. cf, I am considering the troubleshooting and fine tuning on the printer as time invested in building it. Yes, it makes sense with the huge amount of funding MBI got that they can ramp production up to fully built kits to save on the support and get more of the less technically inclined into the 3d printing.

      It’s true that there are lots of choices now when choosing a 3d printer, and I consider that a good thing, but from what I remember, makerbot was the one that got the masses involved in the hobby by making it easily available as a kit and getting the press time to expose it to the public. I only remember seeing stuff on the reprap project on tech sites like this one.

    1. Looks like both extruders are on the same toolhead, so you won’t get a speed benefit from using the same filament in both extruders. It’s still using the one toolhead to move around the same distance, whichever side is extruding.

  6. I built my Reprap for under $300, including electronics and motors. And it scales as large as the motors can lift.

    As nice as the pre-assembled printers are, you really pay a premium for them.

    1. I think you had some hidden cost that you forgot. Did you include all the shipping costs for the parts?
      4 step motors, sets you back 20$ each. Add drivers 10$ each (pololu drivers). Everything for a hotend 75$.
      Then you have about 100$ left for shipping, rest of the electronics, nuts&bolts, threaded rods and bearings.

      1. Bill, with that theory the whole 3D printer is free! Just salvage a junk 3D printer!
        (Also, normal printer steppers, found in common HP deskjets are not up to it strength wise for the extruder drive)

  7. but they’re getting cheaper the pre-assembled thing-o-matic cost a over $2100 compared to $1750-2000 for the replicator, and the printrbot kickstarter was offering pre-made printrbots as rewards for a $750 pledge.

    I personally am holding out for the printrbot jr.(sub-$200) or equivalent clone

  8. Meh.

    That’s barely bigger than the Prusa’s build area (~ 205x205x150mm) in one dimension and much smaller than the MendelMax’s 215x235x190mm build area. (See

    Dual extrusion is neat. Not sure I would use it often though. I wonder what print speeds are like with that heavy extruder.

    1. My printer is 360x360x100mm…granted, I haven’t made anything near that large yet. What would it take, a couple weeks? I built it from a scrap Sony CAST Pro robot and a MakerGear extruder. I think the Mendel90 has the most promise right now, though. Easy to build, stable, cheap.

      1. Mendel90 looks interesting but it’s quite massive relative to it’s build area. I like a nice tidy bot that takes up only as much room as needed in my house. Also I suspect if you’re drills are off you could end up with a subpar bot. Extrusions are a lot more friendly to work with and scale pretty well.

  9. We’ve got a Dimension 768 (5+yrs) 3d printer at work, and one thing that always shocks me is how messy the prints look on diy machines. The prints rarely look really clean with the head leaving long thin strands at the end of each layer.
    I like that you can get a printer for 1/10 the price, and the consumables are much cheaper too (but as work pays for it I’m not too fussed).
    The Dimension has two printheads but rather than having two colours, it uses the second head to lay down a support structure.

    I know there are bound to be differences between industry kit and hobbiest kit, but I’m waiting for hobby kit to progress to the level that you could show a print to your boss as well as your mates.

      1. when our printer breaks down I think we’ll go over to a photopolymer one.
        Or if I can convince them, we’l get a photopolymer one and a DIY kit.
        That way we’ve got the best of both worlds – something low cost but a little “unfinished”, and something high cost but polished.

      2. @Daid,

        I didnt say shitty quality (and I was expecting that response) – I said messy.

        On that wordpress post (which I’ve read before and been amazed at the detail), if you look at the second yoda, the rabbit, the OK hand, for example. Not something I would take straight from the printer to the customer

      3. The stringing seen there is an effect of the bowden tube connecting the extruder drive to the hotend. This puts a more “springy” pressure on the hotend, making the end result more likely to have strings. Other printers put the drive on top of the extruder, which as good as solves this problem.

        However, because the extruder is on the top of the hotend, you cannot move the hotend as fast as in the ultimaker. So you have to spend a little time cleaning up the model printed in the ultimaker, however, you save a lot of time because of the faster printing. Also, the latested temperature controlled PID (which is not a real PID, because it also accounts for the extruder pushing in more filament, causing more cooling) makes the temperature more stable then in prints, removing the effect even more.

      4. @Daid,

        Im just used to leaving the thing running overnight, and popping the print off the support structure in the morning.
        I guess as a hobbiest on a shared machine you have to allocate time differently.

        Just like to reiterate that I am impressed with the speed and quality that the makerbot/ultimater etc etc can achieve (esp at the really low price). As much as I brought up commercial machines, Im not one of those people that says “why make it yourself when you can spend 10k on someone building it for you”

      5. Yeah, running over night is not an option for everyone. Which is why I went with the Ultimaker. I even had to add a few extra panels to keep my cat out when it’s printing with me next to it.

        I also just don’t like to wait, my longest print was 3 hours :P

        I’m also impressed with the small amount of tweaking and tuning it requires. I’ve seen horrible RepRap prints. But once I got the only mechanical problem solved in my printer, I printed this: a few days later I tuned down the temperature to remove the strings, and printed this:

        I never printed a single calibration item. And I build the kit in 8 hours. Add another max of 8 hours for tuning an calibrating and you have a very good machine. Which is not bad for the price.

        I should be able to report on how the PrintrBot fairs against it in a few months, as a friend of mine ordered one of those.

    1. A lot of people who wear glasses all the time don’t like to be seen (photographed) without them. It just changes their look too much. I would suppose he took the glass out to avoid reflections while on camera. You can see in the intro that he has the lenses in and it causes some bad reflections.

      Now whether he needs them in the first place is a different story.

  10. I’m curious: What, really, is the advantage of the SD slot and control panel? Surely, if you’re the type who is going to blow a couple grand on a 3D printer, you aren’t going to find it inconvenient to plop your laptop down and plug in a USB cable. Right?

    1. From a commercial standpoint they are looking at energy use and progressing towards an all inclusive unit. If you can remove the controller computer you remove that computer’s power supply and raise the general effeciency of the machine. Additionally, the machines have on board chips that do all the real processing, so your computer is not doing anything but feeding in lines from the storage anyway.

      The control panel is kind of dumb now, but I think it is the evolution of the machine towards an onboard file system, where you can select previous prints and make “copies” etc. Right now the LCD display is cheaper, but when they start pairing cheap touchscreens and ARM processers it will look like a little cell phone on the side.

    2. and shackle myself during prime printing hours? Just before leaving for work or a party with friends is the perfect time to line up a couple of hours on a 3D printer. Start the print, leave, come back to a new toy.

      “Don’t wait up for me, honey.”
      -Tony Stark

  11. To all the people commenting that the ‘large’ build area is not that large, as soon as you add two extruders, your build area is reduced because you have to ensure that both extruders can reach the extremes of the build area. Thats why it isn’t any bigger at the moment as you would need to have quite a bulky machine otherwise.

    1. Ultimaker and Prinntrbot+ both have 8″ cube build areas. The second print head reduces the space by 2x the distance between the print heads, and only in that dimension, so at 2″, that would give us a 4x8x8 vertical slab for the Ultimaker, and, if done right… an 8″ cube for the Printrbot+(the build platform moves. Give it the extra space of movement and mount the second head along the axis the platform takes and you lose nothing.)

      Replicator’s longest dimension is the one impeded by the second head, and the heads are mounted along the axis that the build platform moves in. The second head is in no way reducing the available build volume.

    2. Sorry, not buying that. The Ultimaker has room for a 2nd extruder. It would limit your build space in 1 direction a bit, but I think that’s just a cm of 3~4. On a 20.5mm x 20.5mm build area

  12. No doubt a similar comment has been made, but I’m not going to read through 70 comments first. The next generation will allow Bre to print out the universe, I’m pretty sure that’s as big as thing get :) Bre could have printed the Sun, but that would have been an uninteresting blob of Yellow, even if he included sunspots, and coronal mass ejections. One second thought a print out of the Sun could be made interesting. Oh well I probably will never see a 3D printer in action real time, much less have the opportunity to use one.

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