Makerbot Z18 Review
I have been printing with a Makerbot Z18 for about two years now. We have come a long way together. It was bought sight unseen after the 2014 CES, and it has been an adventure ever since. We thought we were getting a machine with a heated chamber (no) and the ability to print ABS (no). As of today, these features have still not been implemented.
First let it be said that all of my coworkers have given up on this machine. I still deal with it but it is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. The Smart Extruder heads have been a nightmare, consistently clogging right out of the box. I have gone through at least 20 heads at this point (at $175 a pop mind you). Makerbot has recently come out with a new Smart Extruder + head which still experiences the same clogging issues.
The printer does connect to the network so you can send prints directly from your computer. This is a nice feature. The software however is very buggy and often times you have to reconnect over and over to your machine. Each software update manages to introduce new and different problems that are amazing in their endlessness.
The resolution of this machine has never been great. The “test prints” they send along with the machine have never been replicated successfully by us no matter the settings. Large flat things will print well but often time the object surface that rests on the rafts will be pitted and warped.
*We are out of warranty* so – my favorite thing about this machine is being able to print different types of PLA, like woodifill, carbon fiber, etc. The wood fill by Hatchbox is hands down the best material in this machine. It sticks the best and has the best layer cohesion and appearance. I never buy Makerbot filament because the quality has been bad for me and their prices are too high. We use a wire rack next to our machine to hold the filament externally.
TLDR: Not as bad as people say once you get used to it. I love the big size.
Pros: Does not have to use expensive Makerbot filaments. Huge build chamber. It makes nice robot noises as it prints. It is still running (although we did have it factory refurbished last summer). Prints breakaway support. If you clean the print bed occasionally with alcohol you can maintain fairly decent surface adhesion. Solid metal enclosure.
Cons: Always has random problems. The head is still an issue. Software updates are always glitchy on top of glitchy. The design of the filament loading tube is wacky and needs some more thought, I removed ours and rerouted to improve performance.