MakerBot Replicator (5th Generation) Review.
User Verdict: Not Ready for Market yet.

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In this review I write about my 3-month experience with the MakerBot Replicator 5th Generation Desktop 3D Printer that eventually ended returning the printer after having both the Smart Extruder and the 3D printer itself replaced multiple times.

I wrote this review partially because I always learn a lot from summarizing my experiences in writing, but also because there are very few comprehensive reviews about the MakerBot Replicator 5th Generation Desktop 3D Printer at this point. I’ve read some written by tech journalists that probably got to test the printer for a week. Most notably I just couldn’t believe that the Wall Street Journalist that wrote this review was still positive after he had experienced two clogged extruders on this MakerBot Replicator Mini (which uses the same Smart Extruder) within the reviewing period.


As a professional 3D designer I’ve been doing many animation and visual effects projects over the past 10 years. I’ve been interested in 3D printing ever since I saw the early plywood MakerBot and Ultimaker models. Because I’m a designer first and maker second, I didn’t want to spend my weekends on building a 3D printer myself. That’s why my interest was re-triggered when 3D printer manufacturers like those above introduced pre-assembled machines. So a year ago I started to seriously orient myself towards investing my first 3D printer. In the end the shortlist was down to the MakerBot Replicator 2 and the Ultimaker 2.

3d-print-magazine

But then MakerBot unvealed their line of 5th Generation 3D printers. As I’m always following the latest tech industry news so I knew that MakerBot Industries had been aquired by industrial 3D printing giant Stratasys. I was also aware that because of this the 5th Gen printers would be closed source. I assumed that that meant that the end user wasn’t allowed to tinker with the hardware and firmware anymore and in return get better warranty and support. That was no problem for me, because for me a 3D printer would be just as much a tool in the box as my Apple Macbook Pro and my Wacom tablet are: premium-priced, but well-build professional products that last for years. As opposed to hobbyists, those are criteria most professionals seek and are willing to invest in. The concept of a replacable Smart Extruder, printing via USB or network and mobile print-monitoring won me over. And the fact that this is a 5th generation product mattered to me as well, because this means that a company has had the time to itterate and improve the product based on experiences with earlier generations.

FifthGeneration

So in april I ordered my very own MakerBot when it was just out and received it a week later. When the big box arrived at our studio I was very delighted and this was the first I felt the exitement of unboxing ever since buying my first iPhone in 2007. That’s the second time I mention Apple in this article and that’s obviously what MakerBot wants to become: the Apple of 3D printing. And the unboxing experience was up to par with that mission: the packaging is designed well and all the separate parts like the Smart Extruder, power and USB calbe, build plate and a spool of Filament are neatly presented in a flat box that greets you with a warm welcome when you flap it open.

 

unpack
looseprinthead

 

Removing the printer itself from the box however, was a different experience in my case. When I got the heavy machine out of the box and put it on my desktop, I noticed something was hanging from the printhead by only a few wires. It was already friday afternoon, so the idea of my weekend alone with this printer (girlfriend was convieniently away for the weekend) was getting unlikely. But after inspecting the loose-hanging parts I realized that it was a simple assembly containing a cooling fan and a small circuit board with an LED which could be snapped onto the print head. It must have come of during transport and MakerBot Support later told me that this happens once in a while. For a printer costing more than 3000 euros, this felt a bit flimsy: even a €29 Canon inkjet printer comes with a few pieces of blue tape stuck on moving parts to protect them during transport. But I could fix it, so I moved on with the installation.

The initial setup was iMac-like: plug it in and press the big button. The other installation steps are displayed on the big 4 inch color display with a very sleek user interface. First up was the firmware update, that is a one button-press procedure when the printer is connected to an ethernet cable. While it was updated, I stuck one of the included blue tape sheets on the glass of the removable build plate. Then it was time to attach the Smart Extruder – the innovative heart of this line of printers. It magnetically latches onto the print head. The next step is what MakerBot calls Assisted Leveling: assuring that the nozzle has the same distance from the complete surface of the plate, also called tramming. The procedure is presented in a fool-proof way: after the buildplate has moved up to touch the nozzle at different points the display instructs the user to turn one of the two dials under the buildplate in the indicated direction until the LED on the print head lights up. After this it instructs you how to load the Filament, which is as easy as letting the extruder heat up, guiding the Filament from the internal storage through a tube and into the top of the extruder where it gets pulled in by gears until a stream of melting plastic comes out of the hot nozzle. Final step is making the first print by choosing on of the examples from the inernal storage and watching – and hearing because the printer makes quite a lot of noise – your first print be made.

 

 

So far so good. I used the printer on a daily base while I was learning the MakerBot Desktop software and made a dozen of small testprints from Thingiverse downloads to test de diffrences between the Standard (0,2mm layer height) and High (0,1mm) settings. I also started testing prints without a raft, because I wanted to print some iPhone casings with a smoother back surface. All went well until the extruder started making a few clicking noises while printing and prints started to have holes in them. After removing the Filament, re-leveing the build plate and doing some small test prints, everything seemed fine again until it started clicking again while doing a larger print job. I unloaded the filament and re-leveled, but when I wanted to re-load the filament it would only be pulled into the extruder untill a certain point and no plastic was coming out of the nozzle any more.

After calling the reseller I learned that I had a clogged extruder and that this was a know problem that many users had. Clogging – I learned – was appearently something that happens with other 3D printers too every once in a while – just like every inkjet printer can have a paper jam. In this case the problem was that molten PLA plastic had moved up insted of down and entered the un-heated part of the extruder, above the thermal barrier. There it solidifies and blocks the Filament passage. The extra problem was that neither I nor the reseller was allowed to remove the clog, because the MakerBot’s warranty doesn’t allow the close-source extruder to be opened. This means that in the case of a clog like this, or any other problem with the extruder, it has to be replaced. In my case this was within the warranty period en replacement was done within a week, which wasn’t nice but not a dissaster since I was just in my testing phase.

Update September 17th: MakerBot announced the – steep – price for a replacement Smart Extruder. Read my thoughts about it in this new post.

extruders

While waiting for the new extruder I spend a lot of time reading posts on the MakerBot Google Group, which is a completely unordered, chaotic stream of posts and comments. But when taking time to dig through it, it’s the most helpful resource MakerBot owners will ever have. Especially since many users noted that MakerBot’s e-mail Support stopped replying at all since the 5th generation was released. I must say that I was lucky to have bought the printer through the Dutch reseller, who have been very helpfull every time I called – which was often.

The following paragraphs are crucial to this story, but relatively short because it contains a repeating pattern. You’ll recognize this pattern in the next sentence. After a week with the second Smart Extruder, it too clogged. At this time it happened while swapping filament colors. When unloading the filament is retracted upwards by gears. At that time the filament never came as a thick clean piece of plastic, but usually ended in a thin string of plastic with one or more thicker parts along it – almost like beads. The problem with this is that the extruder is very high in length an the filament path very long. One of the beads can easily get stuck beind the gears and then it takes very little force to break the thin thread, leaving the broken-of filament in the extruder which – as mentioned before – may not be opened by the user. The third replacement extruder I received didn’t get recognized by the printer. It just kept instructing me to attach one that was allready in place. The fourth extruder clogged within a week…

redesignedextruderMeanwhile some users on the Google Group uploaded photos of their (2nd, 3rd, 4th) replacement extruders. There was appearently a slight difference in the design. On the outside two differences stood out: the tube on the top of the extruder got a little smaller and – more importantly – the thermal barrier now had six cooling fins instead of four. On top of this, new firmwareupdates started presenting themselves on a regular base. Although neither the redesigned extruder nor the firmware updates where combined with any information from MakerBot (they don’t do changelogs), this gave me hope because it seemed MakerBot was silently, though actively, developing their new printer.

Allthough I had my printer for just two months, I was delighted that my 5th replacement extruder was the redesigned one. This would probably solve all my problems and I dared to take our 3D print service live and started accepting the first small orders. But then – as you might have guessed by know – it started making clicking noises again. By now I always waited until the printer did a few successful layers before leaving it alone to print, so I quickly made a video and cancelled the print. I had learned by now that one of the reasons for the clogging is that the nozzle starts printing the first layer too close to the build plate. This doesn’t leave enough room for the filament to come out and instead forces it back up, coliding with the down-going motion of new filament and making the gears skip. This is the – now infamous – clicking sound that has been dubbed the clicking of death by some users.

It’s good to mention that this last failing print was being made with a brand new spool of MakerBot PLA, staight from the sealed pack. I say this because I leaned that PLA has a tendency to absorp moisture from the air when not stored dry, making the string thicker than the small hole it needs to go through. I store mine in a sealed box with many packs of silica gel on the bottom. Anyway, I wanted to do yet another assisted leveling procedure to make sure the build plate distace was even everywhere. Because the procedure uses the tip of the nozzle to measure the plate distance, it instructs you to take the Filament out instead. Problem was that mine was stuck in there. It seemed like this time the thicker part of the filament was bigger than the hole on top of the extruder and impossible to get out. At this point I was losing my patience, mainly because I had print jobs for myself and clients that had to be finished in the same week. I called the reseller and they offered to send me a completely new printer so I could make sure it wasn’t anything other than extruder issues. Though I must say most of the Errors I’ve seen contained the word extruder:

erro2
error1

 

I had decided to give it one more try. Maybe I just had a bad printer. These things can happen to even the best brands especially with the first batch of a new product. I’ve had problems with the first batch of aliminum Apple iMac and the first batch of Apple Macbook Pro Retina in the past. I guess to some extend this might be something that just belongs in today’s electonics market. Products are still beging tested when they’re released and small hardware and software fixed will be released in the months after it. By now the MakerBot Replicator was out for about 4 months, so I had good faith in the new printer being better. It came with the redesigned smart extruder, so it cleary was a recent batch.

I got the printer on a friday and made a promise with myself (and people around me that hadn’t seen me out of the print room for months) that I would be testing the new printer over the weekend and next week and drawing my conclusion. Another Firmware Update had presented itself and the MakerBot Desktop software also got an update, so I made sure everything was set up to perfection. The first testprints where – again – giving me hope. This printer seemed a little more stable and even made a little less noise that the one I had before. By the way, this is still not something you will actually put on a “Desktop” if you want to keep your partner or colleauges from hating you. What I did notice was that the first small print results where very “stringy”. Stringing is what happens if the extruder has to move to another part of the print before extruding again and leaves a very thing string of filament in the process. This is usually compensated by the extruder retracting the filament up a little so it can’t leak while doing traveling moves. I guess MakerBot reduced the amount of retracting to prevent clogging, instead making things stringy. Stringy prints require a lot of clean up work.

Another thing I noticed with this new printer is that the LED on the print head was hitting the plastic edge of the build plate when printing things close to the front. This is the only printer I’ve seen so far that has a removable plastic build plate with a glass inlay. It has quite a large upstanding plastic edge on every side to make the removal possible. Of course it should be impossible for something to hit this edge, because it can move or wiggle the build plate. I guess this might have been easy to adjust, so I made a note of it and started trying larger prints. Then history started to repeat: the nozzle was too close to the plate on some parts and the clicking started again. I decided I printed a leveling calibration model from Thingiverse and clearly noticed that the plate wasn’t level. So – again – I removed the filament (at this point every filament swap is scary by the way and I’m not an anxious person) and started the Assisted Leveling procedure. The nozzle measured the center, front and back of the plate, told me that they where fine, but I knew they wheren’t because the clicking increased when the nozzle tried to print on the back part. Then it started to measure the left-to-right levels. For the first time I noticed that this took really, really long. I’m talking 15 minutes here and the extruder kept measuring left, right, left, right, left, right untill it finally gave up and presented me with: Leveling Error, the extruder might be stuck.

levelerror

I knew from earlier experiences that the Smart Extruder’s nozzle is indeed a loose part. It needs to be because it’s also used for measurements. The reseller advised me with on an earlier occasion that it usually helped to give the nozzle a little wiggle with pliers to get it to center better and then trying again. This had solved some earlier Homing Erros but at this point didn’t solve anything. I even moved the printer to onother table to be sure that wasn’t affecting anything. But it kept doing leveling measurements for minutes and giving me Leveling Erros. I the end it didn’t even go into it’s leveling routing but instead got stuck in the Homing routine before that and bumping the build plate against the nozzle endlessly with loud noises.

This had cost me half my sunday and half my monday without being able to print anything. Meanwhile potential customers called and e-mailed me to ask for information about delivery times. I was also getting more and more messages through the 3D Hubs platform, which by the way is an excellent platform with great customer service! This led me to make the inevitable business-driven decission: this printer had to go. The first printer hadn’t even been picked up yet and the next was already giving me errors that prevented me from actual printing. On top of that I had discovered that MakerBot only allows the use of MakerBot-branded PLA Filament within it’s warranty coverage. That was allready a bit more expensive than other brands, but it’s good quality. But with the 5th Generation and it’s special-sized spools they went from 1KG

I realized that the actual USP of this 5th Generation MakerBot Replicator – taking the hassle out of 3D printing – had taken all my spare time and was also eating time away from my professional time in running our Animation Marketing studio. My girlfriend started using the word obsession and my business partner has switched to full 2D design and animation so he can’t be dragged into the 3D printing abyss. As I write this the two huge boxes containing the MakerBot Replicators just got picked up. I finally have time for other things now, so I used it to write this story.


Updates

Update September 10th 2014: I’ve made a curated List of  MakerBot 5th Gen Alternatives, some of which I will review very soon!
Update September 17th 2014: MakerBot announced the – steep – price for a replacement Smart Extruder. Read my thoughts about it in this new post. 
Update December 10th 2014:  If you do own a MakerBot 5th Gen, it’s good to know that it’s now supported in Simplify3D – a commercial 3D Print preparation and slicing software that has some very interesting advantages over MakerBot Desktop. I’ve compared and reviewed the two applications in a This Post. 

You can follow me on Twitter or Subscribe to my Newsletter if you want to receive updates on my posts about 3D Printing for Creative Professionals.


boxes

Nick Lievendag

Entrepreneur at the intersection of Creativity × Technology — 3D Expert.

56 thoughts to “MakerBot Replicator (5th Generation) Review.
User Verdict: Not Ready for Market yet.”

    1. The 5th generation Makerbot printers are pieces of junk! I have about 1,500 hours of build time on the 4th Gen Replicator 2, and though we had to replace some parts, it is by and far better than this new generation. To make things worse we spent a ton of money (compared to the Replicator 2) on the Z18, expecting a decent print quality to at least match our old Replicator 2. We experienced problem after problem and dealt with a support staff that has no clue how to address the 5th gen. problems. That coupled with being on hold for an average of half an hour each time we called has driven us crazy. The Makerbot support people also rarely ever respond to emails or if you leave a call back number. We are in the process of returning the Z18 and will replace it with a brand having better reviews!!!

      1. Hi Nick (is our name cursed?),

        Sad to hear that the MakerBot Replicator Z18 has the same disappointments in a bigger casing! I was lucky that my support went through the very helpful guys at the Dutch reseller. They picked up directly every time and helped me out to the best of their power. But since MakerBot just announced they have settled in Europe to do business directly, I think European 5th Gen Owners are also screwed!

        Keep an eye out for my Leapfrog Creatr and Creatr HS reviews. I’m not jumping to conclusions but I’ll update my site as much as possible to give everyone an in-depth look into these printers. They also sell the Creatr XL if you want to replace your Z18, but I guess they will update that one with the HS’ updated and faster hardware as well in the near future.

        Cheers,

        Nick

        1. I am sure the folks at Makerbot will get all of the bugs out…(otherwise the company won’t last another year). It is a shame that they are continuing to ship a clearly defective design. I am looking for another printer with a larger format build volume. In the interim we might get another 4th gen Replicator 2, as I know how to fix the problems we might have with it!

          I wish I had seen your review before purchasing the Z18. We pre-ordered it as we thought a 5th gen printer version would have few problems…didn’t know we would be getting a 1st gen printer design at a higher price than the 4th gen.

    2. Well, sorry to say I received my new Z18 and have already suffered almost all of what was listed in the article. clogging, homing errors, click of death, new extruders… all of it.

      I bought the Z18 to replace my replicator 2 and had such high hopes. I am now starting to regret my decision as I sit here and wait for my new extruder to arrive. I am sure the new extruder will solve all my problems!

      1. “Click of Death” gives me a disturbingly nostalgic memory of failing IBM Desk Star – a.k.a. Death Star – hard drives 10 years ago took many creative projects away from me! *shivers*

    3. Hi Nick,
      I am in Australia and received my makerbot Z18 two weeks ago.

      I have been printing for 20 hours a day, well I should say I am extruding PLA through a nozzle for 20 hours a day. I have not had a successful print. I returned my Z18 yesterday for a full refund over here around 10K.

      I learnt a lot, and also sufferred a lot with pressure from my directors and customers to fulfill hype.

      Fortunately I was able to pick up at UM2 today, and already delivered 2 projects, for end use in machinery – for 1/3 the price.

      I might buy 2 more …..

      best of luck

      Pete

      1. I can imagine that the 5th Gen problems are exaggerated on the Z18, both because of the size and price.

        But I find your switch interesting, since the Z18 is obviously a big & tall printer and the Ultimaker 2 would almost fit inside it. Why did you originally go for such a tall printer like the Z18?

        I’m particularly interested in that because I’m currently writing a new post about tall 3D printers and will be reviewing one very soon. I’m trying to imagine what the benefits would be beyond being able to print tall things at once. I can only imagine that a 3D printer must be 100% reliable for such tall 48+ hour prints and that many tall designs can be split up vertically to reduce risk.

        Cheers,

        Nick

    4. My Wanhou Duplicator works. Twice in 2 years I have had a nozzle plug. Removing the nozzle and roasting it on the stove, then scrape out with sewing needle corrects the plug.

      It uses Makerware to slice and print.

    5. The 5th Gen is a steaming pile of JUNK!

      Makerbot leadership should be fired, then sued, then face jail time. They have defrauded us and continue to defraud tens of thousands of users. Worse, they refuse to issue a recall or do the right thing and replace the extruders free of charge. Or better yet, send us a new printer that actually works.

  1. Nick, thanks for such an in-depth review on the Makerbot 5th Generation – very helpful in explaining exactly what the current problems are with it. Looking forward to your next 3D printer review!

    1. Thanks Steve! I’m now reviewing the Leapfrog Creatr of which Part 1 is published (read it here) and Part 2 is in the making. I’ll start reviewing the Creatr HS when it arrives in the first week of September.

  2. Hey Nick, how did you return the MakeBot after 3 months? Is it because you have a website? I bought my mini and the extruder is clogged (again)(again) and (again). I emailed Makerbot and even have the MakerCare plan but it seemed they don’t want to reply because a reply would mean another extruder sent to me. I guess their MakerCare Plan is worthless.

    Their return/warranty policy is worthless too.
    “We will provide parts or service on items that prove to be defective from the time of manufacture, and we’ll work with you to get your product running again. “… No one is on the line to replace my defected extruder. I don’t mind if they fix the problem a year from now and send to me a working unit, but to totally ignore customers… sad.

    1. Hi Brian,

      I didn’t have this website at the time of returning the MakerBot.

      I do know that there’s a big difference on warranty policies (in general, but also specifically for MakerBot) depending on if you live in the US or EU.

      I ordered my Replicator through a reseller and they where honest and friendly. The offered very good service and support and picked up the phone personally every time I called. So I’ve no experience with dealing directly with MakerBot, except for the two times I submitted an online support ticket of which one was never replied to and the other was replied to a month after I’d sent back the printer.

      I’ve actually never heard of the MakerCare plan and it was never offered to me. That sounds like AppleCare which might be appropriate to get any service in the US beyond the “limited warranty”, but most EU countries have a 2 year warranty on consumer products by law. I’ve even read that some EU countries – like Italy – ban such warranty programs.

      But since I’ve no background in law I would get some solid advice from someone who does in your country if you really want to know your rights when it comes to dysfunctional electronics and what you can do about it.

      Good Luck!

      1. Thanks for replying, Nick. Over here in the USA most stores have a 1 month return policy. You got lucky with a really good reseller who allow returns after three months. Resellers usually have an agreement to return defective unit back to manufacturer. I order mine straight from Makerbot. I believe that if the 5th generation didn’t have the extruder clogging problem, Makerbot would stand by the warranty and Makercare plan. I believe right now they know they can’t fix it other than to replace the extruder with a new extruder that might last another two weeks and that right now they are bracing for a huge inventory return of at least the mini which could possibly wipe them out. Unless they have the cash, they probably will need to pay a visit to their sugar daddies for more money.

        Well, I am going to box it up and toss it in the garage. Makerbot owes me big time for not demanding return and not honoring both the warranty and Makercare plan. I am still happy because i was able to save a lot of money prototyping.

        1. If you’re tossing your Replicator in the garage, why not experiment with taking apart the extruder then? You void warranty but might get your printer working again. There’s an article on how to take it apart on intentional3D.com. I never tried but it doesn’t seem that hard.

          Looks nice that FlashForce printer. Never heard of it but that’s no surprise with the current market of 1000 manufacturers. I will be testing more 3D printers in the very near future. I currently have an agreement with 3 different manufacturers. Will be announced soon! Maybe I’ll send FlashForce an e-mail too!

          1. Hi Nick,

            Actually, I can get replacement extruder real simple. I heard the 5th generation are being sold at retailer nearby, but I am not that evil. I am good at taking stuff apart, but after seeing the instructions, it is not worth the time.

            Ooops, I let out the name of another company. If possible, could you remove the name of the 3d printer company from the last sentence of my previous post? I don’t want to sound like someone working for a company and bashing a competitor. People won’t take what was said seriously if they think that.

            Thanks

            1. Good to hear replacements are easy. I wouldn’t advice voiding warranty to anyone. I do hope for you that MakerBot will keep replacing your extruders when warranty runs out.

              I’ve removed the company name from your previous post on your request.

  3. I am glad I am not the only one having issues with the 5th Gen. I have never had any clogging however I did go through an extruder, new filament, and even in the advanced settings and all of the prints are just crap. Same with the customer support. Their support and ethics are almost comparable to comcast which is saying something. I am returning mine right away after they give me a full refund of course.

  4. Hello, I have the MakerBot Z18 printer as well, I was on the verge of finishing a model and the extruder started started printing very thinly and in the air after loading and printing 2 minutes later. I reloaded several times with the same results. I even changed spools, same results, it will extrude normally for about 2 minutes then it becomes thin and then just prints in the air. any suggestions? thanks.

  5. Thanks for that wonderful and truthful review about makerbot replicator.It is a very big help for beginner in 3D printing technology like me. This will let me aware of the possible problems and solutions I might encounter in the future.

  6. I unfortunately purchased the Makerbot Z18. This machine has been nothing but problems, and I still have not gotten a single decent print out of it. I have purchased replacement smart extruders (took over a month to arrive) with still no luck. One of the extuders was bad out of the box (sag errors). I recommend that anyone that buys more then one (They are selling 3 packs) test them all because Makerbot warranty only covers 90 days after they ship them to you, and I don’t think they test them. I had high hopes for this machine. I have over 7000 hours on my Replicator 1 still using the original extuder. I have not gotten any prints of comparable quality out of the Z18. I am not going to pay another $750 for crappy tech support. I have little hope for this machine, and I get angry just looking at it. Maybe Makerbot thought the new extruders would be a smart way to make $$$ but they are just ruining the good name they had.

    1. I think it’s good to realize that Makerbot is not a company anymore. Stratasys just bought the brand and the recognition it has to expand their market to consumers/prosumers. The days of open source and Bre Pettis proudly showing of the Replicator 2 are long gone. They wanted to become the Apple of 3D Printing, but instead of sitting it out and staying an innovative independent company, they chose the easy path of making a lot of money quickly through a corporate acquisition, like many start-ups do.

      Luckily there are many great contenders to fill the gap!

  7. Thanks for your review,I was thinking of buying the 5th generation 3d printer but after reading these reviews I’ve now changed my mined,I’ll go a get the Wanhao 4x as that seems to have a good review and no problems with the extruders ,Cheers

  8. Thanks for your site and to all who commented. Kept me from buying a 5th Gen device (5th Generation! – you’d-a think the kinks were worked-out by now!). Seems like these units are really-expensive boat-anchors. Looking around, I see many much lower-cost alternatives out there.

  9. Hi guys,

    I’m from Brazil and have a 5th Gen Makerbot.. Replacing the extruder here is a pain in the ass (weeks waiting, completely aleatory customs duties and delays…). Frquently the detected Z axis have an error, and the printing process starts with extruder too close to table (even damaging the blue tape) and with no plastic coming out… The quick fix is to manually move a bit down the z axis imediately before the printing of rafts begins…

    Today I had a clogging in the extruder, and decide do disassembly it and remove the clogging with a neddle, a small torch and a dremel with 1 mm drill bit.. It was easy to remove the clogging, and I’m happy for not payng more for the lack of quality of Makerbot products…

    1. Great that that works out for you. I wan’t even willing to try tuning a 3K consumer product, but I can imagine you have little choice!

      I did notice that MakerBot has released new firmware and software. Hopefully these ease the pain a bit, but I’m still convinced that no software can fix badly-designed hardware.

      Cheers!

  10. Hi Nick,
    We had the same clicking problem.
    Despite Makerbot sending a replacement extruder and Z-Table – the clicking remains.

    Since I have a second extruder I thought I’d take the plunge and buy some non Makerbot PLA filament – it’s cheaper buying locally than importing from the US.
    The filament arrived yesterday and I have made several prints all without a single click! so I changed back to Makerbot filament and guess what …the clicking returned. Immediately changed back to the new filament and re an the print – no clicking.
    The thought came to mind about the possibility of the PLA absorbing moisture – however I’ve used 4 different Makerbot reels – different colours and even used a new unopened reel straight from the pack – all had clicking problems. Also if it is a moisture issue, one would expect the clicking to worsen overtime as more moisture is absorbed, however then clicking appears random, and there’s been no change in the pattern.
    I’m sticking with the new non Makerbot filament and am going on a printing binge – to print as much as I can while the clicking has abated…. hopefully it will stay away!!

    1. Hi There Guys,

      I’m sorry to say I fell into this trap too.

      I have only one print that came out “OK” the rest stop half way through with one error or another. I’ve had one replacement Extruder so far, and cannot be bothered dealing with makerbot anymore. Horrible Customer service.

      I was wondering which Filament you switched to? I also had this idea. either that or find a way to heat the extruder a little more.

      If you could let me know which filament worked best for you I would be very appreciative.

      Thanks

  11. I had ordered the Makerbot Z18 with hi hopes. I wish I had read this review first. This has been such a horrible experience. The Makerbot 5th gen is absolute junk. Total waste of $6500 and then some on replacement extruders, filament and etc. I have had only a couple useable parts made from this thing after spending hundreds of hours trying to get it working properly. The “clicking sound of death” is the cause of most of my issues. This thing is clearly a defective design. To anyone out there DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT!

  12. Chris,
    I’d look to buy any other filament than from Makerbot – I got mine from http://diamondage.co.nz/ but I’m down here in NZ. I’ve logged 50+ hours with non Makerbot filament – haven’t had a problem. Tried using both extruders – no problem. So much for there “high quality” filament production !

  13. MAKERBOT REPLICATOR 5th GENERATION
    I had purchased the MakerBot 5th generation for $3700 from the MakerBot industries.
    It is now in the garbage dump.
    Not happy.
    All kinds of trouble over a period of a year and a half, with extruder clogs. ended up buying another extruder $480, still clogs.
    Software updates continuously (never improved anything) or made things worse.
    Tried everything with suggestions from other users, Support was good at the start like the first month, then started to slack off then none.
    Anybody wanting to buy a 3D printer should look at all reviews from users who have actually used 3d printers for a year, not just from reviews that have a few prints.
    These cost money and you would be wise to look at reviews from actual users of at least a year.

    Every time there was a software update there would be more issues.
    Overall, the MakerBot 5th Generation is a piece of crap, looks nice, but beware.
    This is only an opinion from an actual 3d printer owner, user.
    I don’t believe these 3D printers are ready for the market yet. Seems the market is experimenting with 3D printers at our expense.

  14. Have you heard of anyone having problems with the filament reel sticking. I ran a number of trials on my Mini, and there things went relatively smoothly. Then I ordered the 10-pack of MakerBot filament reels in different colours. I’ve tried both the white and blue reels, and the reel gets stuck during every print. Of course, that stops the filament from being pulled into the extruder, and so the piece is only partially finished. However, the Mini doesn’t know this, and faithfully pretends its printing the rest of the model.

    I can’t see any obvious reason why the reels are sticking. Is this a known problem? And is there an easy fix for this?

    1. Regarding the sticking reel, I had the same issue with my Rep 2 and traced it to strands of filament being overlapped in the original process of being wound onto the reel. Nothing you can do but babysit it, which is realistically impossible given the print times. I gave up on my MakerBot last winter because of the clogging, and would like to get back into 3D printing once I start seeing some positive reviews. And thanks Nick for your work here – I’m sure it’s saving people a lot of time, money, and frustration.

  15. Thank you for writing this review. I am looking into printers and thought about this one but not anymore. My school has an Ultimaker 2 and it works great. It has only clogged once but it can easily be unclogged with the help of a youtube video. I think I am going to wait until the price of 3d printers go down. Also I’ll be better off waiting until the experimental phase of 3d printing is over.

    -Ben

  16. A colleague at my school purchased a MakerBot Replicator Mini last summer. (2014) It sat idle most of the school year (seriously perhaps 5 or 6 small prints were made with it) until recently when I could incorporate it into my Tech Ed classes. Now that it is getting regular use, I am highly frustrated with the amount of time required to monitor and clean the Smart Extruder and I would not likely recommend the MakerBot 5th Gen products.

    Ours leaks PLA on the inside of the “sealed” Smart Extruder. I only know because I couldn’t really justify the $175 replacement cost for an extruder that had such minimal use and was not able to wait for the 2 to 3 weeks in order to get a replacement one. The PLA had leaked and hardened inside and underneath the insulation on the heating block, which I gather then defeated the insulation value. Then PLA would leak into the threaded barrel and on the outside of the extruder nozzle. I saw a few videos on the web on how to open the extruder (yes, voiding the warranty) and clean the parts but it is very time consuming.

    This is the first 3D Printer I have used, but based my experience and many poor reviews about the Smart Extruder and MakerBot’s responses, even on user comments at their own website: http://www.makerbot.com/blog/2014/09/29/makerbot-replicator-smart-extruder-designed-future-mind/ it easy to see why I am interested in a different one for me and my students.

    1. The joints leak once someone has opened the nozzles. PTFE tape is your friend when putting back together around all threads and joints. This tape has an upper temp of 370c where as usual print temps are around 215. Hope this helps

  17. Very nice writeup Nick, your experience is very similar to ours. Except that we are Makerbot resellers and as such have some sort of inside connection to the company, even if on a limited basis. BTW, we did our own review and a head to head comparison with the older Rep 2 here:

    5th Gen Review and Head to Head with the Rep 2

    We are also resellers for 3D System’s Cube line, Z-Morph, Type A Machines and Lulzbot. In addition to selling the printers, we use what we sell and sell what we use. As a result, we refuse to try to sell a 5th Gen to our customers because our credibility would be shot.

    The fundamental problem with the 5th Gens is the design approach for the smart extruder. They are trying to sense contact with the build plate from the movement of the nozzle within the enclosure by the movement of a fixed magnet near a hall effect sensor. Hall effect sensors are simply not precise enough for this application, so what you get are variations of where it thinks Z home is. This simply can not be fixed with firmware, software or even hardware because it is simply a faulty design approach.

    In addition, corporate has gone “all-in” with this design and instead of scrapping the design and fixing it, this year all they are working on is selling services (for however many hundreds of dollars per person, they’ll fly in an instructor or two to teach your group about 3D printing), alternative materials (bronze filament, etc.), and selling smart extruders and service. Yes, if you don’t buy Makercare for hundreds of dollars when you buy your 5th Gen, it now costs $100 USD to get factory tech support. Furthermore, they won’t give you ANY telephone support unless you buy Makercare or are a reseller like us.

    I was at an open house at our local Stratasys reseller and my Stratasys salesman said that not only had corporate given Makerbot VERY ambitious sales numbers to meet, that they were not meeting them. I’m shocked! SHOCKED I say! I get weekly emails from Makerbot’s reseller people with webinars and all kind of tips to sell more product. Well you know what? I’d love to sell more Makerbots. I really would. If they will (1) fix the darn engineering design and (2) support their customers like a real company that cares.

    Jeff Zepp
    Owner, American 3D Printing

    1. I had nothing but problems from my Z-18 printer from the day I opened the box. At least 7 extruders and continuous filament jams, air printing you name it. DO NOT Purchase from this company. I fell for their past reputation but that is all gone. I hope the class action suit ruins this company as they do not deserve to be in business. Petis should be thrown in jail for endorsing this crap!

  18. Hi all, ive owned a makerbot mini now for nearly 3 months and only last week had the first clog of many prints. I tore the extruder apart, cleaned out and manged to get the whole thing back together with no real problems. The key is to use PTFE tape around all joints to stop any liquid pla/abs to squidge through. I know i have only the mini but the workings is the same but on a different scale.

    Hope this helps anyone out there whos a little hands on and not afraid the pull things apart.

    Darren

  19. I am on my second fifth gen at home, and also have one at school. They are all but paperweights now. They jam constantly, it is impossible at times to level the build plate, and when a print finishes, it is poor quality. I ended up with the second machine at home after MB took my first machine as a return and offered a refund, only to renege on it once they had the machine in their hands. Anytime I’ve needed help from MB, it has taken at least 20 emails and a Tweet to their CEO to get anything done. Their poor ethics and regard for the customer are off the chart. Their rep offered another year of MakerCare free for the school model. but nothing on the home machine. Out of frustration at home, I purchased a MakerGear M2 and it has been printing constantly since June without so much as a jam or the need to level the build plate. I was able to convince our school district to go with M2s, and between five of them we haven’t had so much as a jam since September.

    1. Totally understand your frustration. I had the same experience with the ZYYX — almost never jammed and when it did it was due to my experimentation, and easily resolved.

      I did notice that MakerBot released a new extruder, the Smart Extruder+, last week. Hopefully 5th Gen users can re-animate their paperweights with that. Maybe I’ll try to get my hands on one to update my review, since it’s one of the most-read posts on my site.

  20. Hi! i would like to buy 3d printer. But since i am new in all of this, i would be very grateful if you could help me choosing the good one with any suggestion from your experience.

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