Mk4 to Mk7: We’ve come a long way!

In the spring of 2010, Shapeways got a Cupcake CNC MakerBot with a MK4 extruder. The cupcake is an amazing machine that got 3000 people started in 3D printing, but the MakerBot MK4 Plastruder’s strong point was not printing small things like bunny ears. Shapeways printed out the Bowie Bunny by Rob Parthoens , which is one of their favorite prints and something that they use to compare machine types. It is a small model and stands about an inch tall from tip of the toes to top of the ears. As you can see in the image above, the MakerBot MK4 print of July 2010 left something to be desired.

At MakerBot, we live by the open source saying, “Release early and often!” and so we’ve been hard at work improving the technology since then. Fast forward a little more than a year and we’ve gone through the MK5, the MK6 and have just launched the MakerBot MK7 Plastruder. Look how much the MakerBot print has improved!

A few things that I noticed:

– When Shapeways printed the Bowie Bunny on their Cupcake CNC in 2010 the MK4 DC motor extruder had difficulty with the ears.  Back then printing tall thin parts on a Cupcake CNC required extremely careful calibration of a lot of arcane settings.  The Shapeways grey robust print from July of 2010 on their industrial commercial printer is clearly the superior print.

– In September 2011 the MakerBot print from a Thing-O-Matic with Generation 4 electronics and a MK7 stepper extruder with a 0.4mm nozzle was able to print Bowie Bunny at a layer height of 0.2mm – with stock settings right out of the box!  When shown side-by-side, the print from the Thing-O-Matic is comparable to the Shapeways commercial printer result.

– While there’s still a little ways to go to improving small features like the areas around the bunny’s ears, we’re looking forward to continuing to improve and develop our software so you can get professional quality results from your DIY printer right in your own home.

The difference from before is remarkable and I’m very proud of how far we’ve come in about a year! Thank you to everyone who has used a MakerBot and helped push it forward. We couldn’t have done this without the contributions of many people both internally who work at MakerBot and every MakerBot Operator in the community that’s given us support, feedback, or jumped in and been innovative. The future is bright. Full speed ahead!