Day 1 with a MakerBot Z18 3D printer: our review
Friday, 1 August 2014 | Sabina Gonzalez-George
The new MakerBot Replicator Z18 3D printer with its ultra-tall capacity arrived with us last week, so we had a play. Here’s our short guide on setting the printer up.
The MakerBot Z18 comes on a small pallet. You definitely need two people to lift it and unpack it. The printer is well packaged and we like how the box lifts off from the top, rather than having to dig down low to lift it out. Don’t forget to remove the protective outer sheet from the printer itself before progressing with set-up.
The MakerBot Z18 doesn’t come with a stand, that’s an optional extra (priced at £1,194.00 including VAT). A stand isn’t necessary, more a personal choice over storage and accessibility conveniences. The printer itself is a good-looking, sturdy machine.
Assisted levelling is different to the MakerBot Replicator 5th Generation 3D printer, in that you need the supplied Allen key to loosen 4 locking bolts underneath the print bed, and you also need to completely tighten up the thumbscrews before the printer can start the assisted levelling process.
If you aren’t too sure which the locking bolts are, there is a link provided on the Z18 screen. Unfortunately this link didn't work, but after a bit of investigation, we found the content: Levelling the Build Plate. We’re sure the link will be updated soon enough!
In general, the assisted levelling is very easy and the step-by-step instructions provided are clear and easy to understand.
The filament load procedure is straightforward. Using the red guide tube, simply feed the filament through. It progresses really easily up through the tube and then you just need to manually feed it into the top of the MakerBot Smart Extruder. Don't forget to use the filament feed tube guide in the top of the printer to make sure the feed tube stays in place throughout your print.
Final set-up & connection
Upon installing and opening the software MakerBot Desktop, the Z18 was automatically detected. Also, when connecting the MakerBot Z18 3D printer to our LAN (Local Area Network) we found it instantaneous. Authorisation of individual PCs to allow monitoring and control of the printer, simply requires a push of the dial on the 3D printer.
It is also worth noting that as the MakerBot Z18 is designed to print large parts, if you are printing a particularly small part, you may not necessarily be able to see its build progress via the camera, because of the angle of the camera. We think you would need to be printing a part around 10-12cm tall to really start to see it on the camera.
The build size of the MakerBot Z18 is fantastic, allowing some really big projects to be achieved. We think the purge bin in the rear of the print chamber is a great addition and keeps the build environment nice and clean.
Sometimes it can be a bit tricky removing much smaller parts off build plate, but on the other hand you need strong adhesion for when building large parts. To help remove smaller parts, it is worth removing the plastic top plate and flexing it slightly.
Just a little tip from us: it is worthwhile doing a firmware update before completing the initial set up.
Overall, MakerBot’s strength in its user-focused activation and operation of the printer is true to its word, with processes well prescribed and automated where possible.
Read the full technical specification for the MakerBot Z18.
MakerBot Z18 3D printer available in stock. Priced at £6,000.00 incl. VAT (£5,000.00 excl. VAT).