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CNET First Look
3D printing with MakerBot's ReplicatorMakerBot's Replicator 3D printer is the most polished, most powerful 3D printer for under $2,000. Just be sure to brace yourself for a learning curve.
Hi. I'm Rich Brown, Senior Editor for CNET. Today we're gonna take a look at the Makerbot Replicators 3D printer. So, this is the first 3d printer we reviewed here at CNET. Chances are, if you've heard 3d printing, you've also heard of Makerbot. Makerbot has been on the forefront on the sort of consumer serge that 3d printing is enjoying lately, Now, it's not to say this printer isn't necessarily cheap or that they're overly user friendly, that said, they're finally on the realm of affordability for the average consumer. So replicators probably one of the more expensive consumer oriented 3d printers. The reason is, because it has 2 different inputs here for the plastic that you use to actually print objects. That makes it unique. There's no other printer in this price range that incredibly has that ability. Now speaking of price for the dual excrution capability that replicate our cost, 1999. So it's certainly not cheap but that's not necessarily out of the real of what we expect from new technology. So the way 3d printing works is you start with a 3d design file. You can either design it yourself and something like Google sketch up or you can scan an object into a couple of different ways you can do that. Most of them are pretty DIY at this point though. Finally, you can go and download plans from other sources. Makerbot in particular owns a site called singer burst that holds over 15000 plans that are all freely available for you to download and print out objects from them on this printer. So once you have a plan and you load it on the file for. It tells the printer to print out plastic in a series of layers building gradually up until you get a finished solid object. So, just to show you what the plastic looks like. Here in the back, we've got white and black. Both of these are included with the Makerbot. Each of this is about 2 pounds of plastic. It runs up here to this plastic tube and into this scooter head we saw at front. So, it's great that the replicator material is that it can print with two different colors and you can add into that, the same time, one object can comprise of two different colors or it can print, say 1 object in white, one object in black or you can do those at the same time, depending on the file and the lay out and the various software settings that you have. Now this plastic here is called ABS. It stands for long chemical name which buried from right now. Now, the printer comes with black and white and you can actually buy all kinds of different colors and a couple of different materials from Makerbot and various other sources online. The full of this stuff cost about 50 bucks. So once you have your design and the plastic is loaded up, scooter head moves here along the x axis as well as the z axis and this build place moves up and down for the y axis. So it's actually pretty simple mechanic process the way this all works out. Although, as we found, printing is one these things and expecting to get exactly what you see on the design is a little bit tricky. Now the build place also warms up and has different port stays at a certain temperature in order to keep the object in place as it's printing. There's every work involved in order to get a print exactly how you want it and you probably have to spend a little bit of time. Especially if you wanna print something as complicated. There are other 3d printers out there aside form Makerbot and they're also some DIY kit you can make to build the 3d printer yourself. From what we've seen though, Makerbot seems to be the most polished product on the market, at least right now. Now part of that polish comes from sort of the technical advance you get from having 2 different colors but also it's inter-phase is pretty great. So over here, there's an LED stand and control panel and there's actually even an ST card input. So it lets you change setting on the printer and actually prints the printer without using a computer. Now in order for this printer yet has those features, at least that we've seen. Although, we're pretty sure that we'll see for the end of the year from others. What I would not recommend is buying 3d printers. You don't wanna put the time in to get your object to look right and that can take a lot of work. For now though, this appears to be the most capable 3d printer out there for under $2000. So, I'm Rich Brown. This is the Makerbot Replicator.