3D printer manufacturer MakerBot has announced its latest piece of AM hardware for the professional market: the Method 3D printer. The machine, marketed as its “first performance 3D printer,” aims to bridge the desktop and industrial markets by offering professional quality printing at a more accessible price point.
The new Method 3D printer released by the Stratasys subsidiary integrates a number of notable features, including a circulated heated chamber, dual performance extruders, dry-sealed material bays and an “ultra-rigid” metal frame. The dual extrusion printer is compatible with PVA water soluble supports, making for easy support removal.
The 3D printer is also equipped with built-in sensors and automation features all aimed at improving the 3D printing workflow. Overall, the robust printer offers high precision prints with good reliability and a dimensional accuracy of ± 0.2 mm. MakerBot also emphasizes the Method’s vertical layer uniformity and cylindricity, which compete with industrial-grade machines—at one-third of the first-year cost of an entry-level industrial 3D printer.
Compared to desktop 3D printing systems, the company adds that the Method boasts up to 2x faster print speeds, and an overall faster, more seamless workflow. For ongoing upkeep, the printer comes with automated maintenance procedures and support.
“In an age of disruption, businesses are under pressure to innovate and bring products to market faster,” commented Nadav Goshen, CEO of MakerBot. “Current desktop 3D printers derive their DNA from hobbyist 3D printers and are insufficient for many applications in the professional segment. We believe that Method is the next step in helping organizations adopt 3D printing at a larger scale.”
“Method provides a breakthrough in 3D printing that enables industrial designers and mechanical engineers to innovate faster and become more agile,” he added. “It is built for professionals who need immediate access to a 3D printer that can deliver industrial performance to accelerate their design cycles. Method is developed to bring industrial technologies into an accessible platform, breaking the price-performance barrier and redefining rapid prototyping in the process.”
A closer look at the Method 3D printer
Here we’ll take a closer look at the Method’s aforementioned features, starting with the circulated heated chamber. This element of the 3D printer works to control the temperature of every printed layer, ensuring active heat immersion throughout the print process. Once a print is complete, the Method printer also allows materials to cool at a controlled rate, resulting in better dimensional accuracy, layer adhesion and part strength.
The printer’s advanced dual extrusion capabilities are owed to a dual-drive gear system with a powerful 19:1 gear ratio. This setup enables up to 3x the push force of standard desktop machines and ensures that the Method has a consistent material feed. The printer also features a thermal core up to 50% longer than other standard desktop hot ends, which allows for faster and smoother extrusion rates.
The 3D printer hardware is built upon a strong metal frame, that functions to offset flexing. This, in turn, promotes more consistent print quality and accuracy. The build platform, for its part, consists of a robust spring steel build plate that “provides true flatness for unyielding part accuracy” and offers easy part removal.
Turning to materials, the Method printer includes dry-sealed material bays, which keep filaments protected from moisture. This is reinforced with sensors that monitor humidity levels and keep users up-to-date with any changes in the filament environment. The sensor monitoring feature could prove especially useful when working with water-soluble supports, which are highly susceptible to moisture absorption.
MakerBot offers two categories of materials suitable for the Method 3D printer: its Precision and Specialty ranges. The former includes MakerBot Tough, MakerBot PLA and MakerBot PVA, while the latter includes only PETG (though more materials will be added).
The 3D printer also integrates a Smart Spool device with a built-in RFID chip, which provides users with information on material type and colour as well as how much filament is remaining.
User friendly features and availability
The new Method 3D printer also features an intuitive five inch capacitive touchscreen that enables users to view print updates and navigate operation menus. The printer is also equipped with a camera for remotely monitoring print progress from MakerBot Print Software or the MakerBot Mobile app.
The new 3D printer, announced by MakerBot today, has reportedly been tested for over 220,000 hours to ensure the best system reliability and print quality.
Presently, MakerBot is accepting pre-order requests for the new 3D printer, which is expected to ship starting in Q1 2019. The Method’s price starts at $6,499.