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November 22nd, 2012
04:01 pm


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Open letter to Makerbot
I've just cancelled my order (and place near the front of the UK delivery queue) for a Makerbot Replicator 2 (a 3D printer).

This was partly because the R2 is PLA plastic only, rather than ABS. This gives a better print quality, but it's not without drawbacks. Secondly, (UK at least) the R2 is now becoming available but the PLA plastic isn't!

So here's the body of a letter that has just gone back to Makerbot, explaining why Ive cancelled:

* This is a marginal purchase. It's a pile of money, so I need it to be useful. It's not the cheapest printer around, but I'm concerned that it's not the best either.

* I'm concerned about PLA. The stuff biodegrades, which rules it out for some uses. The PLA I've played with so far was mechanically unimpressive, compared to printed ABS. Many things I'm interested in making would be printed as semi-finished blanks, then drilled or tapped for attachment. I really want ABS - or both! I can afford multiple heads. I can afford to down the machine for manual head swaps. A PLA-only machine though is too much of a risk.

* This machine is already delayed. There's a new machine on the way. So why not wait?

* I just don't trust the 3D print industry. Makerbot is better than the rest, but there are still awful promises being made and broken in this industry. Launching a machine though without the PLA sourcing being sorted is 'unimpressive', to say the least. I can't afford this machine without _some_ hope of it being commercially viable. I can't put business money into this machine if I think I won't be able to get the PLA to run it.

If PLA _was_ available, I'd have bought as planned.

* There's one simple way to make me buy this machine today, but Makerbot haven't addressed it (Why?). Tell me what the upgrade path is from this machine to the next machine! If I can buy a new head and convert my 2 to a 2X, then I'll be delighted to buy a 2 today and a new 2X head in the future.

And as they say in their own copy, I'm the sort of chap who already has a trebuchet.


(6 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:November 22nd, 2012 04:08 pm (UTC)
You might want to have a chat to some of the 3dprinterati at the Hackspace, They seem to have plentiful supplies of PLA and ABS.

And, incidentally, there's a promising-looking Rostok coming together there as well, which I find a tempting idea.
[User Picture]
Date:November 22nd, 2012 06:09 pm (UTC)
Rostok is certainly a promising idea, but it's surely a whole world of faffing to make it work right. The Replicator is at least off the shelf as a working design,
[User Picture]
Date:November 22nd, 2012 10:57 pm (UTC)
I don't know how true this is, since boingboing is increasingly an unreliable narrator, but they said yesterday:

"Many of the key patents in 3D printing start expiring in 2013, and will continue to lapse through '14 and '15. Expect a big bang of 3D printer innovation, and massive price-drops, in the years to come."
[User Picture]
Date:November 22nd, 2012 11:22 pm (UTC)
Boing is turning into the physical world version of Slashdot, with a similar crop of idiocy. Like the Daily Wail, it's certainly a mistake to read the user comments.

I think this "great unleashing of patents" is overblown, at least as far as the Maker-level machines go. I know of no significant patents that are opening up around the fused filament machines, it's all about the polymerisation and powder sintering processes. So those might open up a bit, bring a few new machines into production at the tens of thousands level, but I still can't see hobbyist polymerisation becoming popular with the price of the resins. At most I think we're going to see more and smaller Shapeways appearing. Maybe me!
[User Picture]
Date:November 23rd, 2012 08:35 am (UTC)
If this works out as planned (obviously a big if) SLA may get a lot cheaper:


They are predicting resin at $150/l, which I think is cheap enough to engage hobbyists.
[User Picture]
Date:November 23rd, 2012 09:47 pm (UTC)
Hobbyist 3D print SLA is still a tiny fraction of resin volume, and there's a nice fat profit on those resins at present.

So in who's interest is it to disrupt this?

Formlabs is now its own problem anyway.
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