A year with a MakerBot Z18: Our Review
6 July 2015 | Sabina Gonzalez-George
A Year with MakerBot Replicator Z18 3D Printer: Our Review
The MakerBot Replicator Z18 3D Printer was released in the Summer of 2014 and we were lucky enough to get one of the first ones into the UK. Read our initial Day 1 with our MakerBot Z18 Review from last year.
We thought, that almost 12 months on from getting our Z18, it would be good to do a quick review to share our experiences and thoughts.
With the release of the new MakerBot 5th Generation range of 3D printers, MakerBot were pushing the boundaries and took a new approach by launching the Smart Extruder. This Smart Extruder was a key feature of the MakerBot Z18. It is a swappable extruder that has many advantages such as filament detection, pause function and it can also be switched out in the case of filament jams, to keep printing.
However, as with all new technology, nothing is faultless and the very first versions of the Smart Extruders had a couple of small teething issues with filament flow. But, MakerBot didn't leave it at that, they quickly took on board feedback from users and fine tuned the Smart Extruder over the following weeks.
The subsequent iterations of the Smart Extruder are truly allowing the advantages to shine through. Our MakerBot Z18 is the workhorse of our 3D printer farm. We run it 24/7, literally. In the last week alone we have completed a print of 2 hours, through to multiple prints lasting over 40 hours, all producing excellent results each time.
One of the MakerBot Z18's strengths, aside from it's generous build size (base and height), is it produces a great finish to the 3D printed parts, making it an ideal 3D printer for prototyping, particularly for aesthetic purposes. The other real benefit that this 3D printer brings is the Smart Extruder Auto Filament Detection. If filament runs out, all is not lost! The Z18 detects the absence of filament and pauses the print. You can then reload a new spool of filament. The printer will then resume from exactly where it left off to continue and finish the print.
We also really like the build plate lined with the build plate sheet and the enclosed chamber, both of which help to minimise the risk of warping. We are still using our original build plate and build plate sheet!
Overall, the MakerBot Z18 is an excellent large capacity desktop 3D printer, that produces a good standard of surface finish on your prints. It is really user-friendly with features such as Wi-Fi, on-board memory and built in web-cam, as well as the intuitive MakerBot Desktop software which has just under gone a big revamp. The Auto Filament Detection feature, with its pause and swap function is fantastic, especially for when producing large and lengthy prints.
The MakerBot Z18 definitely gets the Highly Recommended badge from us.