Makerbot Replicator Fifth Generation in Test

The Makerbot Replicator is an easy-to-use 3D printer in the fifth generation. However, this has its price, as the test shows.

Makerbot has revised the Replicator Desktop 3D Printer. In the 5th generation, the 3D printer comes in a chic black case. It is largely plastic-clad, whereby metal frames and cables are hidden. Also the filament now has a separate shaft and no longer hangs freely on the back of the device.

Completely new is the design of the nozzle suspension, the MakerBot now called Smart extruder. It is attached with magnets and can be exchanged with a handle. Smart is this with regard to the printing material. Because he knows when the filament goes out and pauses then. In addition, the fast change should limit the changeover times to a minimum. The idea: If there is a problem with a clogged nozzle, the user simply changes the entire extruder. This assumes, however, that an extra Smart Extruder is at hand. It must be purchased separately and currently costs 179 euros.

The Makerbot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer has integrated a camera in the fifth generation. It is integrated in the housing frame and delivers a maximum resolution of 320 x 240 pixels. With it the printing process can be observed and intervening, something should be wrong. This requires some special features during the installation.

Hardware installation – everything via display

Once the 3D printer is placed on the table, the hardware installation is as usual: we hang the filament in the provided box and thread the plastic thread into the plastic guide. The construction platform is made of glass. We adhere it with the enclosed tape to increase the adhesion on the smooth surface. Then we place them on the lifting device. The display of the Makerbot Replicator supports us in the further setup process.

The setup process begins with the request to calibrate the building platform. The method is graphically displayed on the display. Even the direction in which we have to turn the screws under the platform shows us the screen. This is very handy and easy to understand even for beginners in 3D printing, even if the display language is English. The platform is set up in the first run at two points on the construction area. If the distance between nozzle and platform is optimal, a light is lit on the Smart Extruder. This is repeated in the second run, the Feintuning.

Only after the calibration we can load the filament. The reason: residues from the plastic thread can distort the distance to the platform. The calibration would be inaccurate. If we want to adjust the platform during the test, we first have to unload the filament. The Makerbot Replicator simply does not perform the process when there is still plastic in the Smart Extruder. When loading the filament we are again accompanied by the display.

Software installation – not without Cloud

As is common with all 3D printers, the latest version of the Makerbot Desktop software is available on the Makerbot website at www.makerbot.com/desktop. When the software is first started, the program prompts us to create an account. This is unusual. However, we do not miss it because otherwise we can not use Makerbot Desktop simply. This is a contradiction to any open-source idea. At the very latest, it is clear that Makerbot is relying on a completely closed system with the fifth-generation replicator.

As always with proprietary systems, the whole thing also has advantages: Because the 3D printer is WLAN-capable, it can be connected to the Makerbot account, which we created earlier. Via the built-in camera and the Makerbot app for iOS and Android, we can monitor and control any printing on the mobile device. Here, the MakerBot Replicator increases with the webcam on printing and sends the images to the cloud .From there we get a feed on the tablet or smartphone. Through the app, we can also intervene from afar if something goes wrong. The printing process can be stopped or stopped completely. In the test, however, it can be seen that on the sent pictures it is often impossible to see if something unusual happens. The light at the extruder along with the white filament used in the test made it very difficult if not impossible.
About the MakerBot account there from the print software and the printer itself to from access to the template database Thingiverse and on our own templates we our account in the cloud have to upload. This means that we can print out our objects on any fifth-generation Makerbot Replicator, provided it is connected to the Internet and we have logged on to our account.

Proprietary file format makerbot

However, the advantage of flexibility is also a disadvantage: with the new printer generation, Makerbot has also introduced a new file format – Makerbot. The former format X3G, in which older Makerbot models such as Makerbot Replicator 2 have stored the G code, no longer understands the current Makerbot printer generation. According to Makerbot Europe, conversion is not recommended, since it is only possible in several steps via different programs. This results in many error sources which impair the print quality since the original machine code is increasingly corrupted.

The Makerbot Replicator Fifth Generation understands the template formats STL, OBJ, Thing and even Makerbot. Before printing, we load the test template into the software Makerbot Desktop. Here it can be rotated, enlarged, viewed from all sides and prepared for printing. The resolutions are Low, Standard and High. In the specified printing profiles, the highest layer resolution is 0.1 mm. However, it can be increased to 0.01 millimeters by going to “Advanced Options”. The 3D printer works exclusively with PLA plastics with a thickness of 1.75 millimeters. The construction space has a maximum volume of 25 x 20 x 15 centimeters (width x depth x height).

high print quality

The MakerBot Replicator Fifth Generation can via USB , WLAN or LAN Print. For this purpose, it provides a USB host port next to the rotary pressure switch. In the test run, we use the USB connection to the computer for the quality tests. As always the cream head is used as the first test object. The 3D printer is available in the standard quality with 0.1 millimeters of layer thickness with a smooth surface. We do not recognize any misdirected layers or holes in the surface. The object is stable and does not need to be reworked. This is due, on the one hand, to the smooth construction area and, on the other, to pre-calibration during installation. In addition, the replicator checks the nozzle distance to the building surface before each printing operation. During the warming-up process of the pressure nozzle, he drives two points – one in the middle of the construction area, the other in the starting position of the extruder. If the distance between nozzle and platform is checked and adjusted, the Makerbot Replicator Fifth Generation will bring the heating process to the processing temperature of 215 degrees Celsius and start with the pressure.

Speed and consumption

The entire heating process, including testing the distance between the extruder and the construction platform, takes an average of 4:30 minutes. For our small test object, the Replicator, the Replicator needs 1:13 hours of standard resolution. Let’s go down with the resolution and use the print profile “Low”, the same item is finished in 49 minutes. In the highest quality that Makerbot pretends as a profile, the 3D printing takes 2:23 hours. These are huge time differences. Overall, the Makerbot Replicator Fifth Generation thus belongs to the more leisurely 3D printers, which we have tested so far.

At the same time, printing with the Makerbot Resplicator Fifth Generation is expensive when we use the original filament. Because a role PLA weighs 900 grams and is currently priced at MakerBot Europe 59,00 Euro. Our mini-test object with 10 gram weight thus comes to 66 cent – a high value in material consumption. Most 3D printers come out with about half. Only the fabbster G , which uses instead Rollenfilament sticks, exceeds the Replicator in consumption with 80 cents. In consumption, the Replicator Fifth generation thus pays nothing to the Replicator 2 .

However, the 3D printer is not really energy-hungry. Here Makerbot has the Replicator in the fifth generation on economical trimmed – at least, what the current consumption in the enterprise with an average 63.3 watts. We had already tested 3D printers, which during the object construction twice the power from the power line pulled. In standby, the device requires 15.1 watts. The fans are switched off, the display still active. In addition, the printer can be put into a power-off state, which switches it to 1.7 watts. If we press the power switch on the back of the Replicator, it goes to 0.3 watts – this is not a complete disconnection from the power supply and therefore an unnecessary energy consumption.

App Printshop – 3D printing templates for iOS

Do you have a iPad or iPhone, you can download with PrintShop another app from MakerBot from the App Store. With the small application, print templates can be created. This includes areas such as letters, necklaces, bracelets, vases or medals. Click in an area, you will get basic examples, which can be adapted to your taste. Individual width, height or lettering can be individually created. The finished object can be printed directly on the Replicator by WLAN or sent to the cloud. You can also find it under your “My Stuff” objects directly from the 3D printer.

For the European market, the application may be a bit too playful. On the other hand, the App gives you a creative tool that allows you to quickly and easily design 3D objects and output them to the 3D printer. If you click “Print”, you can make a few settings, such as printing with an auxiliary platform. In the test, our object is not completely flawless. They do not come around here.

Conclusion – a professional 3D printer in its own world

Opt for the MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer Fifth Generation, you enter a closed world – like we the of Apple know. This is the opposite of Open Source, which the makers have actually prescribed. If this contradiction does not interfere with the Replicator gets a versatile 3D printer. It can be controlled via USB, LAN and WLAN and monitored from the cloud. The price of the device, however, with 3210 euros at MakerBot Europe so high that a purely private use probably not worthwhile. In view of the print quality, the 3D printer fulfills the high demands in the professional application. However, from the point of view of consumption, it is very expensive, which is then reflected in the small series and prototypes produced.

product

Makerbot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer Fifth Generation

design type

finished product

Minimum thickness (in mm)

0.01

Filament thickness (in mm)

1.75

Diameter of the nozzle (in mm)

0.4

Dimensions ready for operation (W x D x H in mm)

529 x 442 x 411

dealer

Makerbot Europe

Print quality

Standard quality

Good

highest quality

Good

Pressure table adjustment

very accurate

Print quality with support

Good

speed

Test object in low quality (in hours)

0:48

Test object in the highest quality (in hours)

2:23

Heating to operating temperature (in minutes)

4:30

equipment

Max. Object size (W x D x H in mm)

250 x 200 x 150

supported printing materials

PLA: various colors, flexible, soluble filament

Building platform heatable

No

Display / memory card slot / USB host

Yes / no / yes

connections

USB 2.0, Ethernet, WLAN

LED lighting

Yes

Supported Operating Systems

Windows 7, 8, Mac OS, Linux

Community

Thingiverse

Weight printer ready for operation (in kg)

16.2

handling

software

Makerbot Desktop

evaluation software

Well, many setting options

file formats

STL, OBJ, THING, Makerbot

Display: language / menu structure

English / overview

Construction Printer: Installation / Material Assembly

Very simple / easy

Printing: Stability printer / unattended printing

Stable / yes

consumption

Power consumption (operation / rest / off)

63.3 / 15.1 / 0.3

Printing material (price per kg)

65.56 euros

Price test object (10 g)

0.66 euros

Extras

App Makerbot for Android and iOS, App Printershop for iOSApp Makerbot for Android and iOS, App Printershop for iOSApp Makerbot for Android and iOS, App Printershop for iOS

Price (printer)

3210 euros