CREAT3D 3D printing tips: Makerbot Smart Extruder Plus
Tuesday, 21 June 2016 | Sabina Gonzalez-George
New MakerBot Smart Extruder Plus
MakerBot have recently released new the Smart Extruder Plus for their MakerBot 5th Generation 3D printers, covering the MakerBot Replicator 5th Generation, MakerBot Mini & MakerBot Replicator Z18.
There are 2 versions available:
What's the background to these Smart Extruders?
MakerBot challenged the existing desktop 3D printing status quo when they released their 5th Generation models back in 2014, using a detachable Smart Extruder rather than a regular integrated nozzle / extruder block. The swappable extruder has many advantages such as filament detection, pause function and it can also be switched out quickly 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 well documented issues. But, MakerBot quickly took on board feedback from users and fine tuned the Smart Extruder over the following weeks & months to improve reliability, and to now, where they have refined and released the new Smart Extruder+.
What's new with the plus version?
MakerBot have taken their time to develop the new Smart Extruder+ with 160,000 hours worth of vigorous testing and customer feedback. Here's the key feature upgrades...
1: Filament loading & unloading
The process of loading & unloading has been streamlined and improvements have been made to quicken the process and reduce the chance of clogging.
2: The encoder wheel
The encoder wheel is designed to measure small increments of movement in the filament. In the new Extruder+ the wheel has been over-moulded to prevent under-extrusion and reduce episodes of false filament detection error. If the wheel stops spinning, the filament jam sensor will pause the print and send an alert.
3: The hot end
The hot end has been upgraded with an extended PTFE tube to drastically reduce clogging and also make the process of filament loading / unloading easier.
In the testing of the Smart Extruder+, a total of 5,800 prints were completed, with the standard test print lasting over 24 hours. It was also tested by two groups in separate locations across both MakerBot and Stratasys, using a different build and production lot.
So what does this mean in usage terms?
In our experience, it does what it says on the tin, and consistently.
We've been using the new Smart Extruder+ on our MakerBot Z18 for lengthy prints and have been seeing excellent results. The quality of the print has been consistently good and using the new Extruder+ has been an easy process. What's more, of all the prints we have completed using our Smart Extruder Plus+, we haven't experienced any filament flow issues.
CREAT3D tips for using the MakerBot Smart Extruder+
The MakerBot Desktop software has been updated to include use of the new Smart Extruder+.
Don't forget to change the settings (Settings > Extruder Type > Smart Extruder +) when you are using your new extruder, otherwise the printer won't be able to process the print file.
You will also need to re-process any old .makerbot files you have stored in the on-board memories of your printer to ensure the file is processed under the new Extruder+.
The MakerBot Smart Extruder+ is available to order now, priced at £139.00 excl. VAT with free next working day delivery. It also comes with a 6 month manufacturer warranty (increased from 3 months over the previous models).