3D printing has gone from niche hobby of the ultra-creative to breakthrough technology that is increasingly approachable, and is revolutionizing the design and production industries. At the helm of this revolution is Makerbot, which took home the award for “Best Emerging Tech” at CES 2012. And Makerbot is back – and bigger – this year. Despite the company’s massive growth and 3D printing prestige, the team is sticking to its roots.
Part of that mission will be accomplished by the Makerbot Replicator 2X, the company’s latest release. To offer a little perspective, Pettis says that while the Replicator 2 (the company’s previous release) is super accessible and user-friendly to anyone with product design dreams, the Replicator 2X is for the mad scientist types out there, ready to really dive into 3D printing.
The 2X uses ABS Filament, a plastic designers’ favorite, but is more difficult to work with than PLA (which the Replicator 2 uses). The X2 features a heat-capturing hood that makes sure that the plastic doesn’t curl or crack while its cooling. Other improvements include a re-engineered extruder that makes loading easier and the ABS-feeding process smoother, causing less wear and tear on the unit.
Also worth noting: the X2 allows you to load two different colors. Things just got real. The 2X will begin shipping in mid-March and cost $2,799 (the Replicator X costs $2,199, for comparison).
The 2X isn’t all that Makerbot brought to CES. A new addition to its Thingiverse platform, where people can share their creations or find things to make, is being opened up to the public. The brand is also unlocking its Thingiverse API to allow developers to create apps for the Makerbot ecosystem. “It’s a little Inception-like,” Pettis said. “We have an API for our platform that allows people to create applications to create things… and then we have the new Customizer App that allows users to customize those things.” For instance, if you want to create an iPhone case you see on Thingiverse, you can choose how thick the lines on the triangles you have patterning the case are. This is product personalization to the Nth degree.
So, to connect all those dots, Makerbot is allowing you to make things that help you make things that you can then make into very specifically customized things. And around and around we go.
As to the supposed hardware slump CES and the electronics industry is said to be in, Pettis says it’s all part of a cycle. “When things change, people freak out, and one of the things we’ve seen at CES in the last four years is that big players are losing touch with being able to connect with their customers and consumers. But you’re seeing all these small innovators coming out – this is the year of the entrepreneur at CES.”
“People want to kick off the next industrial revolution – but that won’t work unless you make it easy for people to change the world.”