MakerBot Method 3D printer gives desktop fab a pro-upgrade

MakerBot has made a name for itself creating desktop 3D printers, but now the company is looking to fill the gap between that segment and the hulking industrial 3D printers that are priced well outside the budget of most consumers. Today, MakerBot announced the Method, which it calls the "first performance 3D printer." The result is a machine that costs a fair bit more than many desktop 3D printers, but borrows capabilities from industrial machines.

Though the Method still fits on a desktop, it seems to be aimed more at small teams of designers and engineers than it is at hobbyists and DIYers. MakerBot says that the Method is built on industrial patents from its parent company, Stratasys, and because of that, it has some features we're not necessarily used to seeing in desktop printers.

Method's circulating heated chamber, for instance, presumably does more than a lone heating bed to prevent warping in finished parts. The printer also features a pair of performance extruders to speed up printing times, dry-sealed material bays that are monitored by a "suite of built-in sensors" and a rigid metal frame to prevent flexing, which in turn keeps printed parts consistent.

In the end, MakerBot says that these industrial parts and technology allow Method to print "up to 2x faster" than other desktop 3D printers, with an accuracy of "± 0.2 mm or ± 0.002 mm per mm of travel (whichever is greater)". The machine can be controlled through a 5-inch touch display, but you can also monitor your prints remotely through the MakerBot mobile app.

The MakerBot Method sounds like a pretty capable desktop printer, but the kind of functionality it'll bring to the table isn't cheap. The Method starts at $6,499, so those who 3D print as hobby will probably want to give this a pass. Small businesses that don't want to shell out for an industrial 3D printer might find what they're looking for in the Method, though, and that seems to be what MakerBot is counting on with this release.

It'll be interesting to see if there is indeed a market for the Method. Exploring that space between home and industrial 3D printing definitely seems like a risk, but perhaps the Method will wind up filling a gap that none of us realized existed but needed addressing nonetheless. We'll see soon enough, as the MakerBot Method is due out in Q1 2019.