The MakerBot Replicator 2X was the Best in its Class
I fell in love with 3D printing with the MakerBot Replicator 2X. It was the first 3D printer I ever got to use and I was immediately hooked from day one. I love it so much I managed to convince my boss to let me hang on to the old Rep 2 sitting in the office.
But the MakerBot brand has had its ups and downs over the past 6 to 8 years. In my opinion, the original MakerBot machines were the first 3D printers to hit the consumer market with any major success. Compared to the competition the quality was great, it was very reliable by the standards of the time, and the price was manageable, especially for a company that wanted to experiment with 3D Printing.
My issue with the Smart Extruder + and the Generation 5 Replicator
Stratasys acquired MakerBot in June of 2013 in a $600 million dollar merger deal, which caused the formerly open source driven company to switch gears overnight. The initial reaction from most was probably that MakerBot would take off with the experience and technological prowess of Stratasys behind them, but it never really came.
In 2014 MakerBot launched the 5th Generation Replicator as well as its brand new Smart Extruder. The Smart Extruder disappointed many in the consumer market because it jammed constantly and was very expensive to constantly replace. MakerBot relaunched a new model of the Replicator and released a revised Smart Extruder +, but the company’s reputation had taken a major hit.
MakerBot’s Educational Courses and Thingiverse Was a Great Move
To the surprise of many in the consumer market, MakerBot very rapidly changed its focus from at-home 3D printers to the educational market. At the time it seemed like a big 180 for the company.
MakerBot made incremental improvements to their printers; Their educational courses and Thingiverse became very successful. The company was back on a positive path but it still wasn’t what it was.
MakerBot Method Opens their Doors to New Markets
In December of 2018, MakerBot changed again with the launch of the MakerBot Method. This machine was very different than those prior. For starters, the target audience now became Industry, focusing on engineering offices and design centers.
But most importantly, and finally, Stratasys stepped in and clearly left its mark on this machine. Many of the mechanical features on the Stratasys F123 Series printers are in the new machine.
On top of the mechanical improvement, the support services program got an industry focused overhaul. Small businesses don’t have time to deal with a down printer, so a 3-year coverage program that includes hot-swap service if your machine goes down, for me, is the #1 feature that makes this printer industry-friendly.
It’s not a perfect machine but it’s a major advancement from the existing equipment as well as what many of us back in 2013 thought MakerBot machines would become.
Stratasys separates itself from other 3D printers for a few reasons but by far reliability is #1. If MakerBot can continue to work with Stratasys to put out reliable machines with the capabilities required by small businesses, this household name can return to its former glory.