The new MakerBot Labs Experimental Extruder opens up the MakerBot Replicator+ 3D printer to third party filaments and experimental settings.
In a surprise move, 3D printer manufacturer MakerBot appears to be returning to their open source roots. MakerBot Labs is a new initiative that allows the 3D printing community to tinker with parts of the printer that were previously inaccessible.
MakerBot describes the new platform as a place for creators who want to experiment with 3D printing, but still have the option to safely switch back to the reliable settings of the standard production environment.
In addition the company is launching new hardware, the MakerBot Labs Experimental Extruder. Already tested by Dutch filament manufacturer colorFabb, the new add-on opens up the MakerBot Replicator+ to third party filaments and new settings.
A quick recap of 3D printing history; the original MakerBot machines were launched in 2009 in Brooklyn, New York. They sprang out of the RepRap project, an open source movement that allows anyone to build and develop a desktop 3D printer.
In 2012, MakerBot controversially elected to close their hardware and software platforms. The justification was to better develop a 3D printing ecosystem that anyone could use. This is most critical for the education market.
So is this latest development a pivot back towards open source? According to MakerBot CEO Nadav Goshen, it’s a tentative beginning.
“We’re taking a step towards openness by offering an experimental platform that allows developers and engineers to interact with our technology,” he says in a statement.
“It’s definitely in the spirit of… a collaborative platform that allows the community to improve on.”
The MakerBot Labs Experimental Extruder has four swappable nozzles of varying diameter. These include 0.4 MM Brass, 0.6 MM Brass, 0.6 MM Stainless Steel, 0.8 MM Brass.
The idea is that makers can adapt the extruder for specific needs, whether it’s faster print times or different materials. Major filament manufacturer colorFabb has already been extensively testing the new extruder. They shared some of their results with ALL3DP over email.
“As a leader in the 3D printing materials space, we at colorFabb were excited to work with MakerBot on this endeavour,” said a company spokesman.
“Over the course of several months, we participated in a beta-test program that included a select group of MakerBot’s Thingiverse power users. During this time the new Experimental Extruder was tested using a range of colorFabb specialty materials – including the corkFill, copperFill, bronzeFill, and woodFill.”
“We’re taking a step towards openness by offering an experimental platform that allows developers and engineers to interact with our technology.”
Interesting to note is that the standard colorFabb spools will not fit the Makerbot Replicator+ machines. This means users will need to find a solution to top mount their spools; models to address this are plentiful on Thingiverse.
Another point is that when printing woodFill and corkFill; they found that applying blue painters tape to the surface of the Replicator+ platform improves adhesion. It also results in less warping.
So, that’s the news from MakerBot and colorFabb. What do you think about this latest development in the 3D printing industry saga? Let us know in the comments below.
License: The text of "What is the MakerBot Labs Experimental Extruder?" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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