Makerbot Replicator Mini in Test

As the smallest 3D printer from Makerbot, the Replicator Mini goes into the ring. In the test, however, he shows clear weaknesses.

The smallest 3D printer from Makerbot is the Replicator Mini. It brings it to a construction area of 10 x 10 x 12.5 centimeters (width x depth x height). Not only the construction area, but also the housing is significantly smaller than the rest of the Replicator series. On the side, the 3D printer is equipped with Plexiglas, the housing is open at the top. Like its big brother – the Replicator Desktop 3D Printer Fifth Generation, we have screened already at the test center – the mini version is equipped with a camera that brings a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels. In addition, the Replicator Mini has a WLAN module installed to integrate the 3D printer into the home network. This allows the printing progress via App MakerBot Mobile Watch, if you do not sit next to the printer.

Installation – simple and fast in operation

It is easy to use the Makerbot Replicator Mini. The accompanying setup poster is also helpful. It is in English, but graphically maps every step. Let’s start with the Smart Extruder, which we already know from the test of the Makerbot Replicator Fifth Generation. Thanks to its magnets, it can be attached to the fixture quickly and easily.Then we place the enclosed filament in the shaft provided for this purpose. It is a much smaller role than we have been accustomed to from the 3D printers. In the after-sale, about 220 grams of filament should be rolled up. The plastic guide for the Smart Extruder is included separately. We thread the plastic thread in and clamp the guide on the side of the filament shaft.

After that, we adhere to the construction platform with the enclosed foil to increase the adhesion of the 3D objects. Usually, the construction platform at Makerbot is made of glass or Plexiglas, while the Mini is made of plastic. The manufacturer offers acrylic as a material. It can be attached to the lifting device via rails and engages. Now we connect the Replicator Mini via USB to the computer before we provide it with power. More handles are not necessary for the hardware installation.

Installation – software, account and animation

In the normal sequence we now have the printing software MakerBot Desktop from the manufacturer’s website to download. But since we have just tested the Replicator Fifth Generation, the program is still on the test calculator. After the USB connection, the drivers for the Mini have automatically played up and start the setup routine on the connected computer. First, we are prompted to update the firmware of the 3D printer.After the printer restart, the next step is to activate the WLAN module, to attach it to the wireless network, and to log on to the Makerbot account. If you do not have an account with Makerbot, you can create it at this point.

This is followed by some videos for the hardware installation – including loading the filament. To do this, the printer heats up the nozzle. Once finished, the plastic wire is fed into the Smart Extruder. Calibration of the construction platform is not provided in the routine. If the filament is loaded, we shall carry out a first sample print.

Mini-calibration before printing

As with the Replicator of the fifth generation, the Mini also performs a small calibration of the construction platform before each pressure. To do so, check the distance first at the left corner of the construction platform. It is clad with metal. After that, he starts a point on the building surface. Interestingly, there is one of the three fastening screws of the construction area. The 3D printer uses this location to control the distance between the nozzle and the platform. When this is done, the Replicator Mini moves to the starting position, heats up the nozzle and starts printing the object.

Equipment – without display

The Makerbot Replicator Mini is not only much smaller than the rest of the Makerbot series, it is also a stripped-down version. It can only be controlled via a computer or a mobile device. Printing in stand-alone mode is not provided. So there is no display and no rotary pressure regulator as with the other Makerbot models. A printing from a memory card or a USB flash drive is not possible. All you have to do is check your computer via the USB connection or WLAN to watch the mini with your smartphone and tablet.

Therefore, the small camera, which is installed within the framework of the Makerbot Replicator Mini, and the monitor function via the printing software Makerbot Desktop is of greater importance than, for example, the replicator of the Fifth Generation. Because of the program, you now also control the filament change and intervene when something does not work with the pressure.

Not everything matured on the Replicator Mini

Problems arise with the plastic roller in the test. It is plugged into a shaft at the rear of the enclosure. During our test runs, she sits at regular intervals. This results in a tension in the filament, which can become so large that the material is jammed or the Smart Extruder is released from the magnet holder. At this moment, the print program reports either “Filament Jam” or “Extruder Error”. The pressure stops automatically.

We loosen the roller and either unload and reload the material, or snap the extruder back onto the magnets. The Mini will resume printing after resolving the problem by clicking “Resume”. On the print object there are uncleanings as the first plastic threads accumulate as drops.

We also see every new approach, since the 3D printer does not continue to print exactly where it left off. This is at the expense of the printing quality, since the printing errors can only be eliminated by post-processing. Due to these experiences, we can not recommend that the Replicator Mini be completely unattended. He stops in our pressure without our intervention. However, he can not solve the problem alone. The device is then in the worst case overnight in the standby, until you hand yourself.

We achieve an improvement in the material guidance by exchanging the Smart Extruder. The replacement comes in the additional purchase at an extra 179 euros – a priceless price. However, its magnets have more force to keep the roll in motion. The bottom line, however, remains susceptible, because who knows whether the magnets will not weaken with time.

In principle, however, we also do not want to exclude the fact that the role itself has an imbalance and therefore känttet. The shaft in which she is plugged has sharp edges. If the role is only slightly wrong, it will hang from time to time. Grinding or covering could help. The error also occurs only if the extruder has to go a further distance during printing. Perhaps at that moment he pulls too fast at the filament so that the roll comes from the ideal position in the shaft.

The matter of dissolution

A second phenomenon occurs with the Replicator Mini: It has only one resolution stage. All of our test objects are output in standard mode. In the plain text: Better than with 0.2 millimeters of layer thickness he can not print. This is too crude in the case of prototypes and precise templates. Conversely, we can not start any faster printing in the lowest resolution “Low” to get a first impression of an object.

The determined resolution brings the Makerbot Replicator Mini naturally prints in print quality. The reason: the single layer remains too much visible and leaves the surface somewhat rough. Also the fact that he prints exclusively with Raft – an auxiliary platform – is not exactly for a 3D printer of this price class.

The criticisms are also reflected in the speed rating. Our small test object – the Sahnetkopf – takes 1:17 hours. The prognosis of the printing program gives a printing time that is only one minute faster, so it is the same. Here, however, the times that we need to repair the material guide and the extruder are already deducted. However, they actually lengthen the time effort considerably. The length of time that the Replicator Mini needs to warm up is comparable: As the fifth-generation replicator, we stop here 4:30 minutes. The process is similar to that of the big brother.

Conclusion – not fully mature 3D printer

So crispy Makerbot the Replicator Mini has succeeded in appearance, so the 3D printer proves to be very reliable. Only after replacing the Smart Extruder the device runs more stably and does not interrupt constantly due to material jam or magnetic problems with the Smart Extruder. In addition, a resolution level for a 3D printer, which comes at € 1599 at Makerbot Europe, is simply too lean. Also probably not everyone can only print with Raft and after the printing the auxiliary platform manually remove. This is the advantage of the actually smooth building platform.

At the same time, the device proves to be expensive to maintain. Since only the special small rollers fit into the shaft of the Mini, we get a kilo price for the PLA filament of 104 euros. Since the device only prints with Raft, it also consumes more material. Our eleven grams of light cream cake costs 1.15 euros – a salted price, which is even above that of other versions of the Replicator series, which are also not known for cheap material costs. Overall, Makerbot has to improve here. After all, the Replicator Mini is to inspire the entry into 3D printing. At the moment, he is only conditionally.

Further tests 3D printer from MakerBot: Replicator 2 , Replicator Fifth Generation

product

Makerbot Replicator Mini

design type

finished product

Minimum thickness (in mm)

0.2

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)

298 x 311 x 381

dealer

Makerbot Europe

Print quality

Standard quality

sufficient

highest quality

As only standard is possible

Pressure table adjustment

exactly

Print quality with support

Not applicable

speed

Test object in low quality (in hours)

1:17 – only resolution “standard” possible

Test object in the highest quality (in hours)

not applicable

Heating to operating temperature (in minutes)

4:30

equipment

Max. Object size (W x D x H in mm)

100 x 100 x 125

supported printing materials

PLA

Building platform heatable

No

Display / memory card slot / USB host

no no no

connections

USB 2.0, WLAN

LED lighting

Yes

Supported Operating Systems

Windows 7, 8, Mac OS, Linux

Community

Thingiverse

Weight printer ready for operation (in kg)

8.9

handling

software

Makerbot Desktop

Ratingsoftware

Well, many setting options

file formats

STL, OBJ, THING, Makerbot

Display: language / menu structure

English / overview

Construction Printer: Installation / Material Assembly

easy easy

Printing: Stability printer / unattended printing

Still stable / conditional

consumption

Power consumption (operation / rest / off)

68.9 / 14.3 / 0.3

Printing material (price per kg)

104,09 euros

Price test object (11 g)

1.15 euros

Extras

App Makerbot for Android and iOS, App Printershop for iOS

Price (printer)

1599 euros