Our Makerbot Replicator 2X arrived a few weeks ago and we have been printing with this addition to our makerbot fleet every week. In roughly half an hour the 2x was in place, configured, and ready to print. After another 20 minutes we had turned a cord of ABS plastic into a comb.
Since then, we’ve printed iphone cases, shift knobs, turntable components, and a lake fuel injector prototype. With these prints, we’ve experience a huge drop in the instances of warping and cracking compared to our previous two makerbots. The 2x comes with a plastic enclosure, preventing drafts, which cause plastic to cool unevenly and warp. Additionally, the build platform is evenly heated — also preventing uneven cooling, cracking, and warping. This is a significant improvement, but like the 2x’s ancestors, you have to be intelligent with how you layout the print and configure the print settings. The longer you have a small footprint of material without layers above, the the risk of that footprint peeling upward from an edge increases. So, it is still a good idea to try and mitigate these issues. You can reorient the print to start with a larger face/footprint, speed up the print to stack layers faster, or print on a raft (unavailable for dual extrusion prints) to provide an even foundation. So far, we haven’t had any serious issues that required in-depth troubleshooting, even though we’ve printed some objects that would have curled and warped like crazy on the first replicator.
To showcase these new features, we constructed our logo in 3d for printing. We used the lines of our logo, which were created in illustrator, to create a grouping of polygons in autocad. Next, we imported that dwg into 3ds max to create a connected 2d mesh that was then extruded to give the logo thickness. With a light in the scene, the vertices that defined the top of the mesh were pushed and pulled along the Z axis to create a shading that matched the orange tonal variation in our logo. The vertices unseen from the top view (logo view) were shaped to create a base for the 3d logo. Lastly the deprocess characters were raised 2 mm from the mass’ top-view faces. The resulting mass had canted walls, crisp edges, and two objects (white word and orange base), which proved to be a decent dual extrusion test for the 2x.
The massing was split into the characters and mass. This allowed us to export each as separate stl files. With the new printing software, Makerware, we simply added each stl, assigned a nozzle to each object, centered them, clicked make, selected high quality, and clicked “Make It!”
There were a few issues that we resolved by troubleshooting the build platform’s leveling process, but it wasn’t terribly long before we had the logo printing with each nozzle. Like most of the 2x’s processes, the digital display provides step-by-step instructions for leveling the build platform. The platform is supported by three springs in tension around bolts; after initiating the leveling process, the extruder moves to various locations on the platform as you’re instructed to adjust the bolts. You repeat the adjustments on each bolt to allow just a piece of paper to slide between extruder and plate. The original replicator had more points and more bolts to adjust.
You can see the infill method in the photos (yellow and blue lines). When you click “Make It!”, Makerware creates a series of slices roughly equal to the object’s height in mm divided by the layer height in mm (usually 0.1mm to 0.27mm). For each slice, Makerware identifies exterior edges and interior fill; edges are thickened to create a shell that is then filled by a grid. The latest filling calculations with Makerware actually use a hexagon pattern instead of the regular grid. This shell/fill information is translated into pathing instructions for the extruder. Shells, fills, platform lowers, repeats.
Dual extrusion prints can be pretty tricky. First the right nozzle creates its layer then the extruder slowly aligns itself with the starting point of the left nozzle’s layer. I can see this possibly causing early warping issues due to long waits between layers. We didn’t have any issues with the logo print — perhaps because the white nozzle didn’t join the fray until much later in the print.
Lastly, you can some of the options you have before printing. In this print, we actually used a 0.10 mm layer height. This made the print take much longer; I believe it took close to seven hours. However, that small layer height provides a higher fidelity print. This can help you with sides that angle away from the base. The detail shot shows the top gap between the E and P. The quality you can get out of this printer is quite impressive if you ask us.
The MakerBot Replicator 2X is currently listed at $2,799 on their website. It ships assembled and requires little effort and time to setup.
The maintenance required on the printer is fairly minimal. 2 spools of abs filament, 3 tape sheets, an sd card, usb cord, hex wrenches, and ptfe-based grease are shipped with the 2X. The manual is pretty straight forward with troubleshooting, when to reapply the grease, and how to reapply the tape sheets to the build platform (must read before attempting). If you run into any problems, their support staff is extremely helpful and full of information. Buying new spools of filament is relatively cheap ($50ish) and quick to purchase from makerbot.com. They have many colors to choose. Loading filament, leveling the build platform, changing LED color, aligning the nozzles, disassembling the fan/heat-sink/extruder sandwich, and other tasks are very simple. If the digital display doesn’t guide you through the process, the manual is pretty clear. There is also a collection of videos that can guide you.
Explore their site. Ask us questions. Get one of these guys on your desk. Print something you can’t make out of basswood or paper in 30 minutes.