When you start shopping for a high-end 3D printer, it’s easy to get confused. There are so many different specifications to compare, and it’s not always clear which ones are important. Don’t worry, though – we’re here to help.
Today we’ll be reviewing the Makerbot Replicator 2 – a premium 3D printer whose fans include the US Army, MIT, and NASA. We’ll identify its strong points, the things that set it apart from the crowd, and of course, the areas that could use some work. Is this the right printer for you? Read on to find out.
|Connectivity||USB, SD Card|
|Build Volume||11.2 x 6 x 6.1”|
This is a nice, compact printer that’ll fit easily on top of your desk. It boasts a fairly large, enclosed build area, as well as a simplistic user interface. Better still, it comes already assembled, so once it arrives, you can start printing as soon as you’ve configured it.
All in all, it’s a pretty sturdy device. The frame is made from powder-coated steel, and even the bearings are wear-resistant. We’ve seen cases where printers struggle to start in cooler climates, but that’s not a problem for the Replicator 2 – as long as your room is 0-32°, you’ll be able to print just fine.
You can import models either directly from your PC, or with a USB stick or SD card. There’s a small LCD screen that can be used to control the unit, although obviously, the functionality here is fairly limited. Still, it’s a nice option to have, and it looks great if nothing else.
This printer comes with three print quality options. We found that at its highest resolution, models came out quite well. The edges could be a little sharper, but overall, they were clean enough for most applications. The Replicator 2 excels at creating complex internal structures, and there’s minimal stepping even on sharp curves.
There is one fairly major issue, though. The Replicator 2 can only print with PLA. When you consider that even the cheapest printers tend to support ABS at least, this is a bit of a disappointment. If you’d like to create the same object over and over again, this isn’t a problem but hobbyists might find this limitation more than a little restrictive.
Also, while Makerbot boast about the Replicator 2’s speed, it’s nothing to write home about. In fact, we’ve seen considerably faster 3D printers that cost a lot less. However, it’s important to remember that faster printers usually lack the print quality that this model provides.
This printer has one particularly unusual feature: it allows you to add several different models at the same time, so you can effectively queue prints for when you’re away. Admittedly, this would be more useful with a second extruder but it’s still a unique and welcome addition to the printer’s arsenal.
Makerbot claims that the Replicator 2 can prepare models for printing up to twenty times faster than its rivals, thanks to its Makerware program. This is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux systems, and comes with several handy options such as saving multi-part models into a single file.
Let’s not forget the three-point levelling system. The print bed is locked in place with screws, meaning it’s less likely to wobble or shift. Unfortunately, the bed isn’t heated, though. This is something you really expect from a premium printer, and while one can be added by an experienced modder, it’s a little strange that this wasn’t included as standard.
Retailing for around $2500, this is far from the cheapest printer around. If you’d like to buy one, you’ll have to find a third-party supplier since Makerbot continually replace their older models and remove them from the store. The new version, the Replicator+, costs about the same price, so unless you’re a die-hard enthusiast, there’s no incentive to choose the Replicator 2.
On the other hand, PLA is among the least expensive materials to buy. You are limited to Makerbot filament, however. As you might expect, this costs a little more than usual, at around $18 for a small 200g spool. There are bulk deals on offer, though, which is something.
Obviously, this printer isn’t intended to be your first 3D printer. Its price range puts it outside of the budget for most people. However, it works wonderfully and its price is reasonable enough for small-scale commercial applications.
Although it’s no longer available on the store, Makerbot have extensive technical support for the Replicator 2. There’s everything from tutorials to maintenance guides here, and you can even search for a specific error code if need be.
Even if you buy from a third-party, once you register the printer, you become eligible for a 60-day support service called MakerCare. This provides faster response times, additional support methods, and premium plans last for up to three years. You can’t order online, though – all MakerCare enquiries have to be made over the phone.
If you’re not covered by MakerCare, you can expect to wait about three days before hearing back about any issues. You should note that the warranty only lasts six months, after which point, you’re on your own. This is shorter than we’d have liked, especially considering the high initial investment this printer requires.
Are you looking for another Makerbot product? Check our review about the Makerbot Replicator 5th Generation, this might the one for you.
Makerbot Replicator 2 Review
Overall - 7.5/10
The Makerbot Replicator 2 is a strong choice for those looking to mass-produce very specific items. However, for hobbyists or casual printers, it’s simply too expensive.
After spending his youth hanging out at his local hardware shop, it was no wonder Justin decided to become a computer engineer. When he’s not working, he enjoys riding his Honda across the picturesque Montana farmlands.