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Review: MakerBot Replicator+ 3D printer fixes some issues, but quality still lags

Lucas Mearian | Jan. 3, 2017
This 3D printer is 30% faster than its predecessor

The MakerBot Replicator+ is also limited to one type of filament, the popular and biodegradable polylactic acid (PLA). Other consumer and commercial 3D desktop printers offer the ability to print with two or more common materials, such as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or polyvinyl alcohol. It's simply a matter of allowing the extruder temperature to be adjusted for those other plastics.

Machine quality issues

I've encountered quality issues with MakerBot's Replicator desktop printers in the past. Their Smart Extruders seem to court problems, such as filament extruder jams. I've sent more than one head back to the company only to have another fail as well. This time, the print heads weren't a problem.

My first Replicator+ review unit, however, was still unable to print, even after troubleshooting it with MakerBot technicians over the telephone, so I ended up sending the machine back to the company. The problem turned out to be with the print head offset to the build plate; it kept positioning itself directly against the build plate, so it was unable to extrude filament. Instead, the print head scraped itself across the build plate, damaging it. (The print head must be positioned at the correct distance from the build plate or it won't work properly, if at all.)

MakerBot technicians discovered the machine I'd been using was missing its "Homing Pins" -- three small plastic cylinders that insert into the two front holes and a back center hole on the build plate. They're essential to calibrating the distance of the extruder to the surface, and without them some of the homing procedures may work, but printing will always be unsuccessful.

The issue, MakerBot stated in an email to Computerworld is known to affect "far less than 1%" of its printers, and the company thought it had already discovered and corrected the issue.

A few weeks later, I received a second review unit, which worked without problems.

Bottom line

Each time I receive a MakerBot 3D printer, I hold high hopes for its success. It's an expensive desktop machine that boasts a lot of thoughtful engineering and high-tech bells and whistles.

Unfortunately, in the two areas that count most -- print speed and quality -- I think this machine still falls short and MakerBot still has work to do to address this.

I have no doubt that the Replicator+ is a better quality machine with higher reliability than its predecessors. But if you're going to charge $2,500 for a desktop printer, I believe it had better produce some of the highest-quality print jobs around, and this machine simply doesn't.

Once again, I cannot recommend the MakerBot Replicator+. While it's nowhere near the bottom of the market in terms of quality, I believe it sits squarely in the middle -- and for the price, that's not a good place.

 

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