Printrbot vs Replicator 5th Gen – Which is a Better Machine for the Money?

By | May 4, 2015
replicator vs printrbot

When choosing a 3D printer it’s always a battle between choosing something that is within your budget but also has the features you require and a lot of the time you end up waiting to be able to afford the better option instead of settling on your best bet.

But at some point you’re paying for the brand name and not for added functionality and in recent years it’s harder to tell which companies are legitimately offering the best they can for the price or the if they’re charging the most they can for added frills you may not need.

Even the most useful extra feature isn’t required to get into 3D printing, especially if you’re not sure how much of an interest you’ll have in it.

We’ll be analyzing the extremely affordable Printrbot Simple Metal as compared to the Makerbot Replicator 5th Gen; machines with a huge disparity in price, but does that affect the end user’s print quality?

Overview of the Printers

replicator vs printrbot Printrbot is not new to the scene, it was started back in 2011 by Brook Drumm through the most successful kickstarter at the time raising over 800,000 dollars to bring an affordable printer into the homes of hobbyist and tinkerers alike. Since then they’ve expanded their product line to include several tiers of printers from novice to enthusiast all upgradable and moddable as the whole unit is simply built.

As it’s a no frills machine it allows for adding extras down the line and from your choice of third party hardware developers or to develop your own hardware and software to go with it if you’re so inclined.

Makerbot has become, in some ways, the Apple of the 3D printing scene.  With their sleek and stylish machines that – for better or worse – come at quite the premium compared to the competition. Many people argue that they’re far too expensive for what they bring to the table in terms of extra features and and ease of use.

Comparison: Printrbot vs Makerbot Replicator

While at first glance it may seem that the drawbacks of the Printrbot could outway it’s advantages it’s also reasonable to expect that from a machine that’s more than 2,000 dollars less. So keep that in mind while looking at these statistics as it’s a huge determining factor.

Printrbot Simple Metal Makerbot Replicator 5th Gen
Build Volume: 150 x 150 x 150 mm 252 x 199 x 150 mm
Build Speed: 80 mm/s Unlisted
Layer Height: 100 Microns 100 Microns
X, Y Accuracy: Unlisted 0.011mm
Desktop Space: 457 x 431 x 330 mm 528 x 441 x 410 mm
Build Platform: Aluminum, with tape Glass, with tape
Nozzle Diameter: 0.4 mm 0.4 mm
Connectivity: USB Cable, SD card Ethernet, USB(stick/cable), WiFi
Filaments: PLA PLA
Auto bed Level: Yes No
Built in Camera: No Yes

Printrbot Simple Metal

Pros: Cons:
-Very good print quality for the price.-Auto leveling sensor, to prevent smear and scratching the bed.

-Very solid build made almost entirely of powder coated steel.

-Only prints in PLA.-Very slow print speed at only 80 mm/s.

Makerbot Replicator 5th Gen

Pros: Cons:
-Camera so you can monitor your prints on their mobile application.-Able to print files from Ethernet, USB and Wifi.

-Longer build area for rectangular and elongated printing.

-Only prints in PLA.-Extremely expensive compared to the Printrbot.

-Not open source hardware, or software.

These printers are worlds apart in both price and extra features, though when it comes down to it they’re functionally the same. Based on customer feedback, many argue that the Printrbot is more reliable and everything you’d want in a printer, the Printrbot pulls farther and farther ahead in this race. Since the layer heights are the both same similar quality prints and really the few things separating them are overall build volume and desktop space.

While at first glance the space the Printrbot takes up seems large compared to the build area, it is easy to overlook the fact that the build platform moves left to right and this space includes the platform extending fully to both sides and it still remains far smaller than the Replicator 5th Gen.

The Replicator does offer a lot of neat features too, touting an impressive array of premium add ons exclusive to the Makerbot line. The first of which is a 3.5 inch full color display, used for navigating files, utilities, and preheat your printer. The most interesting though according to some customers the most faulty is the Smart Extruder, fully swappable if you ever need to replace or upgrade the extruder you have on your printer.

The extras don’t stop there either it includes an onboard camera that you can monitor on either the mobile or desktop app, keeping track of printing through the whole print even if you’re elsewhere doing other things. far more convenient than walking in to find your new print smeared and collapsed due to some minor issue after hours of printing.

Finding what you prefer

When you get down to it, you need to ask yourself which you’re looking for: top of the line with almost all the features you could hope for that’s more temperamental and costing a pretty penny, or a work horse that while not the shiniest toy is inexpensive enough to  be replaced several times over before you’d even match the price of the Makerbot Replicator. For those who really need these other features it could be indispensable. Though, if any of these features aren’t absolutely necessary, the cost savings are your better bet and anything else you need can be acquired through modifying the existing open source hardware and software.

Packages: What Comes in the Box?

Printrbot Simple Metal:

-Spool holder, for free spinning filament.

-0.5kg PLA filament reel.

-USB cable for updates and printing from a pc.

-Power supply (not specified which adapter).

-user manual.

Makerbot Replicator 5th Gen includes:

-Spool holder, for spool reels to spin freely.

-Power supply (not specified which adapter).

-plastic guide tube for filament.

-USB cable for updates and printing from a pc.

-user manual.

Final Verdict: Which Would I Take?

This might be one of the easiest verdicts I’ve come to yet. While many sing high praises for the quality of all the Makerbot products, they’ve dropped the ball on the Replicator 5th Gen. With so many high quality add ons though they’ve let slip all of the core requirements. This has led to many negative customer reviews all echoing the same sentiments: that the print head is constantly failing or under performing even though it’s one of the most advertised features. Though some customers claim that MakerBot has remedied this, others still say they’re experiencing this problem. Meanwhile regardless of the budget friendly nature of the Printrbot simple metal, It has countless positive reviews under it’s belt.

I can’t recommend the Printrbot enough, regardless of a little setup and fine tuning it’s the best deal on the market hands down. Buyer beware: it is a significant time and learning investment. However, it’s a great value for how much you are paying for it.

While I’d normally vouch for both machines the Makerbot 5th Gen was made for a show room not for prints and I feel that Makerbot has forgotten all about that with this product more caught up in the design factor. I can’t help but feel that they’ve forgotten where they came from and need to refocus their efforts on making a printer not a show pony.

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