We recently took delivery of a MakerBot 3D printer to support our MYP Design curriculum and eventually future projects in other disciplines.  If you are new to 3D printing, in the process of choosing a model or just plain curious then read on.

Opening the Box

Getting started with the Zi8 is a breeze. The documentation is first class, clearly written and well laid out. MakerBot have listened carefully to the consumer and pitched the manual at non-technical types. The display on this unit is pretty large and very easy to read in different lighting conditions. Navigation through menus is slick with the brushed aluminium knob that would not look out out place on an aircraft. After an initial self-calibration and insertion of the extruder, the Zi8 prompts you to load filament which is perhaps the trickiest part of all.

Test Print

One of the most impressive and useful features is the test print process. MakerBot preload several models for you to check the unit does what it says on the box. Estimated print time is shown for each model which is very helpful.

Challenges

The ’Nut and Bolt’ test print was difficult to pry from the plate. It wasn’t immediately clear if this was normal. Would be great if MakerBot includes a small tool specifically for this purpose. Configuring for Wi-Fi use was also difficult. In fairness this is wholly dependant on your network topology. We eventually called in the suppliers who worked closely with our IT team to update the firmware.

Thingiverse

To get a sense of the printing workflow I also downloaded the MakerBot application to my MacBook Pro and saved a model from Thingiverse to the root of a USB thumb drive. The unit instantly recognised the model once plugged in then displayed the estimated print time making this a great alternative print method.

Summing Up

This is a quality product from MakerBot and I would highly recommend it based the documentation alone. The Zi8 delivers in the promise of ‘plug n play’ and has an user community you can join to get the most out it.