As expected, Makerbot today is unveiling the new Replicator 2X Experimental 3D printer at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The new printer looks to be a souped up version of the recently released fourth generation Replicator 2.
Let’s hand over the introduction to Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot:
“If you are a MacGyver, a Doc Brown, or have a little mad scientist in you, and want to experiment with one of the fullest featured desktop 3D printers and see where it can take you, the MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental Desktop 3D Printer is for you. The MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer that we introduced this past September, is probably going to be one of the most successful 3D desktop printers of 2013, and we love its ease of use and reliability. The MakerBot Replicator 2 was optimized for PLA Filament, which has been proven to be a consistent-use filament. But there are many ABS Filament fans out there that want to keep using ABS, even though it can be a trickier and more challenging product to use. With the introduction of the MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental Desktop 3D Printer, we can meet the needs of all types of desktop 3D printer users.”
The Replicator 2X Experimental is touted as being designed for 3D printing experts working in R&D. It features experimental dual extrusion and uses the familiar petroleum-based thermoplastic MakerBot ABS Filament.
All we know so far is what’s in their pre-unveilng press release, so we’ll quote their press release here:
Designed for 3D printing experts working in R&D who want to blaze a trail into the future of 3D printing, the MakerBot Replicator 2X features experimental dual extrusion and uses the familiar petroleum-based thermoplastic MakerBot ABS Filament. The MakerBot Replicator 2X is an even more advanced extension of MakerBot’s most recent new product, the MakerBot Replicator 2.
The redesigned heated build platform and the heat-capturing enclosure of the MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental 3D Printer optimizes it for use with ABS Filament; and the reengineered extruder supports experimental dual extrusion for anyone who is ready for the challenge. One of the most significant changes made to the MakerBot Replicator 2X is the reengineered extruder. The extruder on the MakerBot Replicator 2X has been totally redesigned for easy-loading and low maintenance. The new design reduces stripping, skipping and jamming and the constant force filament feeding system means less wear on your machine. The MakerBot Replicator 2X has the ability to make large ABS prints more reliably than the original MakerBot Replicator did. This full-seal heat-trapping enclosure helps to stabilize the ABS cooling period so that you can spend less time worrying about shrinking or cracking. And the single-piece, thermal formed magnetic lid keeps heat in when you need it and releases it when you don’t. And the MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental Desktop 3D Printer offers beautiful 100- micron layer resolution.
The new release of MakerBot MakerWare will also make generating dual extrusion models easier than ever. A new drag and drop feature allows different models to be dropped onto the virtual build plate and viewed in the colors that you plan to print them.
So why is it called “Experimental?” First off, in my opinion, I’m not sure that’s a very good name, as far as marketing goes. It makes me think that the product itself is experimental, that will possibly work, and it possibly won’t — after all, it’s not a “final” product, just experimental. But, what I think it really means is that the (advanced) user is going to experiment with the printer. At least that’s what I’m getting from this quote from their press release: “if you have the courage and patience to face the inconsistencies of ABS and the difficulty of dual extrusion, if you’re willing to walk to the edge of what’s possible and push it farther, if you’ve taken apart a flamethrower and put together a trebuchet, then the MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental 3D Printer is for you.” Got the courage?
The new MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental 3D Printer is priced at $2,799 and will begin shipping in mid-March. It is available for sale beginning January 11, 2013, at www.makerbot.com/store.
Just as we published this, Makerbot came out with a blog post with more information. I’m sure Bre won’t mind me pasting in some of the highlights they posted about the new printer:
The most obvious, and by far the simplest, use of dual extruders is to enable two color printing. Although a single-color object could be painted, there are times when painting a particular object would require a great deal skill or be very time consuming. While printing a plastic sushi set for my daughter I used dualstrusion to add black plastic “soy sauce” to white plastic dishes. Sometimes, painting an object might even be impossible. Imagine an object such as a bottle, vase, or an egg where you want to have an image or design inside. While it might be impossible to paint inside such an object, the interior image could be printed inside the object as it is being created.
Dual extruders allow for printing with a dissolvable support material like PVA. Being able to print with a water soluable material means your robot could print entire mechanical devices complete with moving pieces.
With two extruders it would be possible to create an entirely solid plastic object with a customization density. This could be used to make trick dice, a balancing toy, a toy that can’t be knocked down, a toy that can’t be stood up, or maybe a boat that is difficult to sink.
Different extruded materials, such as ABS and PLA plastics, tend to have different physical and mechanical properties. ABS tends to be more flexible and PLA tends to be more rigid. A 3D printer with dualstrusion can combine the two plastics into a single object that is both flexible and rigid.
Simultaneous Dual Printing
One of the more exciting developments with dual extruder printing was a recent contribution by Thingiverse user thorstadg. Thorstadg created a method for operating both extruders simultaneously – allowing the printer to two objects, one with each extruder, at the same time.
Two extruders means you have two nozzles at your disposal. However, there is no particular reason for both extruders to have the same size nozzle aperture. With one very fine nozzle aperture and one relatively large nozzle aperture, a single object could be printed with quick printing course features and very high resolution features that take more time.