MakerBot at CES 2014
The queue to get into the MakerBot press conference today (January 6th) at International CES 2014, not to mention the electric atmosphere once you sat down under the indigo lights of the room, were good indicators as to the impact the consumer 3D printing giant's announcements would have.
Yes, as predicted, MakerBot unveiled the latest incarnation of its Replicator 3D printers. But not only that, but the Brooklyn-based business also revealed the Replicator Mini, a suite of apps and the gigantic Z18 - complete with heated build chamber.
As is the way with press conferences, there was a bit of preamble before MakerBot boss Bre Pettis launched the new machines hidden from view under black boxes until the time was right.
Pettis gambolled on stage to rapturous applause. "This is MakerBot's fifth year at CES," he said, "I've got a lot of announcements today. We've really been working on what I've got to show you today for years."
He continued: "We're an innovation company. We innovate so others can innovate. There's been so much excitement leading up to this moment because it's a new beginning, a new era ... It's not just about 3D printing, it’s about creating. We see a million MakerBots in the distance ... we've got our eyes set on a bright future."
Pettis reviewed how far MakerBot has come in the 12 months since the last CES, when it launched the Replicator 2. Since then ThingiVerse has been growing by hundreds of designs by the day with more than 218,000 digital designs on the site, the Robohand demonstrated how children can now have access to prosthetics from as little as $5.00, the company’s relationship with Lockheed Martin has grown and other interesting developments, including a new partnership with SoftKinetic to develop 3D sensors.
Moreover, MakerBot now has three stores, there's the Mulberry Street store in New York City, the Boston store and the store in Greenwich, Connecticut.
"First New York, Boston and Greenwich, then the world," Pettis stated.
This was when the MakerBot CEO lifted the lid on the first box, revealing the MakerBot Replicator Mini, based on the original MakerBot Cupcake 3D printer. The one-touch machine is fully connected and networked, allowing users to tap into it using their mobile device, while it is optimised for MakerBot's PLA filament - a renewable bioplasic for "no-guilt 3D printing".
"[This machine is] way more powerful than the Cupcake … You can get awesome things that get off the build plate and it's optimised for speed," Pettis said.
The machine has an on-board camera allowing users to snap their build progress and send it to their social media pages - something MakerBot is championing, particularly as it seeks to nurture the community aspect of its current and prospective customer base.
The second box to be unveiled to an oohing and ahing audience is the new Replicator, but Pettis was at pains to stress this is not called the Replicator 3, rather this new 3D printer will be the standard Replicator going forward, setting a fresh benchmark for the flagship machine.
The new Replicator is the new prosumer standard 3D printer that is "affordable for everybody" but still good enough for the professional.
"This is powerful stuff," said Pettis who went on to reveal the resolution can go from draft-level at 300-microns, to super high 100-microns.
Finally, Pettis lifted the final box to unveil the massive Z18. Standing next to the other new 3D printers, it was easy to gage the size of the machine because you could fit an entire Replicator Mini inside the X18 build chamber which, incidentally, is heated.
"If you have ideas and other machines aren’t big enough, the Z18 is like 'BAM' it's big," Pettis stated. The 12"x12"x18" chamber is heated and enclosed for stability, and the fact it is bigger means the opportunity to build multiples of larger objects is opened up for manufacturers in numerous spheres.
This was the biggest announcement of the 50-minute press conference, which wrapped up with the introduction of the new desktop and mobile MakerBot apps and the new suite of designs made by MakerBot.
Pettis made MakerBot's mission clear: "If you had an idea and wanted to get it out in the world, it used to be that you had to be a tycoon with a factory. Now you just need an idea."