MakerBot stakes its claim to 3D printing supremacy for the masses

MakerBot is using CES to launch a new 3D printing platform and ecosystem. This includes new software, app and digital store products, new strategic partnerships, and its fifth generation of 3D printers. It’s 3D printing as home entertainment.

MakerBot CEO, Bre Prettis, will be giving a keynote on Tuesday at CES. You should try and catch it here because, 3D printing is here to stay, and MakerBot seems to be leading the charge into mainstream adoption of its technologies and processes.

In the meantime, the company announced its new three pronged approach to ubiquitous 3D printing. The combiantion of new, more efficient and affordable printers, applications for web and mobile, and a store that sells pre-approved 3D designs is meant to make it easier for people who may not even have any design experience or backgrounds to take advantage of the 3D prtinting revolution.

The printers are the Replicator Desktop 3D Printer, the Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer, and the Replicator Z18 3D Printer. 

MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer:  a professional quality desktop 3D printer that has an 11 percent larger build volume than the previous MakerBot generation with a build volume of 25.2 L x 19.9 W x 15.0 H cm (9.9 L x 7.8 W x 5.9 H in) and faster print times that accelerate rapid prototyping and model making.  Offers 100-micron layer resolution, and is cloud enabled, offers USB, ethernet and available Wi-Fi connectivity; has an on-board camera for monitoring and sharing, assisted build-plate leveling; and features a new MakerBot Replicator Smart Extruder that is easy to swap or replace and detects filament absence and automatically pauses a print, as well as being optimized for MakerBot PLA Filament.  The new MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer will retail for $2,899.  

MakerBot Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer:  an easy-to-use compact 3D printer for the general consumer.  The Replicator Mini is designed for smaller spaces like classrooms, or inside the home.  It has a maximum build volume of 10.0 L x 10. W x 12.5 H cm (3.9 L x 3.9 W x 4.9 H in) and offers plug-and-play features.  It produces a default 200-micron layer resolution in prints.  The expected retail price will be $1,375 with planned availability spring 2014.  

MakerBot Replicator Z18 3D Printer:  targeted at massive build volume and MakerBot claims it has the best price/performance in its category.  The Z18, named after its 18-inch height capability, will 3D print extra-large industrial prototypes, models, and products and will print multiple models at once.  It has a 30.5 L x 30.5 W x 45.7 H cm (12.0 L x 12.0 W x 18.0 H in) build volume.  The enclosed and heated build chamber and super flat build plate enable printing of large models. The expected price of the Replicator Z18 will be $6,499 and orders are expected to be taken beginning in spring 2014.  

“We believe that the MakerBot 3D Ecosystem we are presenting to the world fulfills the vision of a 3D printer for everyone,” noted Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot.  

MakerBot is also announcing the new apps, MakerBot Desktop and MakerBot Mobile, to drive 3D printing solutions to manage and share 3D prints – from a computer or a mobile device. Access is via a personal MakerBot Cloud Library, which allows users to explore Thingiverse, prepare files for printing, and remotely monitor and control a Replicator 3D Printer. MakerBot Desktop is expected to be available February 2014, while MakerBot Mobile is expected to be available on iOS spring 2014, and then on Android in an undefined period in 2014.

In addition, to wrap up its triple whammy, the company announced MakerBot PrintShop and the MakerBot Digital Store.  These two new model and collection-based offerings provide an entry into 3D printing models that can be used for personal use, collecting and giving. MakerBot PrintShop is a tablet-based way to create and 3D print unique signs, jewelry and much more.  No 3D design skills are needed.  

Users can create and 3D print without a learning curve that often comes with developing 3D design skills. PrintShop users can also explore and print MakerBot Verified Files — ready-to-print files from MakerBot Thingiverse. PrintShop is free to all MakerBot users and is expected to be available spring 2014. Available on iOS at launch and then on Android in an undefined period in 2014.

The MakerBot Digital Store will provide a place for digital content directly available to the end user.  The Digital Store is only available for the MakerBot fifth generation desktop 3D printers and the MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer (fourth generation).  In the MakerBot Digital Store, visitors can purchase digital 3D models and collections.  The models are MakerBot Verified to successfully print on its accepted printers.  

MakerBot thinks its Digital Store will turn 3D printing an in-home entertainment device and essentially provide free access to reusable 3D designs for all. MakerBot has created the models so they do not require supports or glue.  Pricing is based on individual digital 3D file (.x3g and .makerbot) or by the collection.  Models can be printed as many times as you want.  Prices start at $0.99 per file or $9.99 for a collection and are only available through the Digital Store.