3D printing with a Makerbot Replicator 2

MakerBot replicator II
MakerBot replicator II

I had the chance to print some stuff on a makerbot replicator 2, unfortunately is was not myne but the one of a friend of a friend… By-the-way it was my first and great experience of 3D printing.

This post is my feedback on this experiment

 

 

The MaketBot Replicator 2 is not the last one but one of the great and famous 3d printer of the famous MakerBot brand. This is a something like 2800€ 3d printer and I was expecting it to be like a Epson 2D printer, I mean something working well, working fast, working great printer …

So in term of hardware is a nice machine, with heavy steal and so on, strong materials. But the first thing surprising me was when my friend told me he has to redesign some component to make it working well, then I saw scotch on the bottom glass looking like some needed customization I do not catch why, but needed.

The second one is the keypad that is more playskool than high quality. By the way it works and you can change the led colors through it ! cool ! first best setting done.

After the first 30 minutes of discovering we start printing  some demo objects like a small shark my daughter love. We start understanding why some blue scotch is also needed over the glass otherwise the PLA does not adhere. We have made different tests and discovered the USB connection with a MacBook is not stable. It seems that the work is transmitted from the computer to the printer peace by peace during printing so after a while, sometime the print stops in the middle, and you just have your eyes to cry and you can restart. We have tried to upgrade the firmware, even if it was a success, this problem was still these. The best way to print is to put the 3d printer files on the smartcard and directly start the printing from the printer.

The printer works well, the quality of the print is nice, we had some issues with the machine but nor so much. The speed is slow as most of the machines, we had to print a box of 10x5x3 cm in two peace. Each peace is about 1H.

Even if long, watching this machine running still an hypnotic scene 🙂

In fact, the main issues we had were about our design, the 3d design to be printed has to be specific for a printer and even if it sounds crystal clear, it is only when you see a machine running you understand all of this ! Some like the printer can’t print a layer if nothing is under ! lol

The printing system is able to add supports to print on an empty part or is able to add a first layer to make the next one more stable. These helpers are interesting but you have to remove them manually at the end. Sometime it is easy, sometime not, it depends of your model. The best way to manage this is to use a two head printer and use PVA on one of the head to print the supports. This material is removed using water, the main issue is that it is expensive (60€ /kg) and you need two head.

So to conclude this experimentation :

  • Makerbot replicator 2 is a nice toy
  • Makerbot replicator 2 is a hacker toy more than any-people one
  • 3D design for printing is an interesting but specific area, so don’t think you can just design&print …
  • A 3D printer with 2 heads, using PVA more than 2 colors will greatly simplify any design

The next step to me was to buy a Tobeca 2 printer with 2 heads, this printer is cheap so I’ll be able to complete this feedback to tell you if Makerbot worst the 2000$ more than this one.

 

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