MakerBot has started 2019 with a 3D printer that is dressed to impress. Its Method model became available just this year, and it’s designed to eliminate the gap between desktop and performance 3D printing. They wanted to make a printer that would combine industrial speed and precision with desktop accessibility, and while the Method’s pricing doesn’t lend this model quite as much broad appeal as MakerBot is aiming for, the printer itself is an impressive piece of technology. It’s technically not immediately available, but if you like what you see, you can put a preorder in with MakerBot and be one of the first to experience its majesty in person later this year.
MakerBot was started in 2009 on a philosophy of open source and has been on the cutting edge of new 3D technology since their beginning; they were the first comp any to present a 3D printer at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2010, and the first to introduce a 3D printer with wifi printing capabilities in 2014. Stratasys acquired the company in 2013.
MakerBot has thrown everything you know about 3D printer design out the window to make the Method. It looks like a science testing chamber from a movie set in the near future – instead of a horizontal-based open plan like the majority of desktop 3D printers, this one is longer than it is wide with a closed printing chamber in the middle. It’s all sleek corners and smooth surfaces straight from science fiction, but the printer bed is instantly recognizable and fun to watch as well. This is all meant to give individual designers and engineers a 3D printer that is compact enough for personal use but fully capable of delivering a standard industrial performance.
43.7 cm x 41.3 cm x 64.9 cm
Maximum print size
Single extrusion: 19 cm x 19 cm x 19.6 cm
Double extrusion: 15.2 cm x 19 cm x 19.6 cm
+/- 0.2 mm
20 – 400 microns
Spring steel build plate with grip surface
PLA, PVA, PETG, etc.
WiFi, Ethernet, USB
100 – 240V/4A, 50 – 60 Hz/400 W max
MakerBot Method Pros and Cons
The Method 3D printer is truly impressive. MakerBot promised a lot with this one, and it looks like it has delivered. First on the “awesome” side is the print quality, which is the crowning achievement of this machine. MakerBot designed this to bridge the gap between professional and personal 3D printing, and anybody who makes prototypes as part of their business process will be able to use these products in whatever capacity they need. It boasts a dimensional accuracy more precise than most of the other 3D printers out there period, much less any of the other desktops available. Its layer resolution is also top notch, thin enough to create a surface invisible of any gradient to the naked eye thanks to the vertical layer uniformity and cylindricity. This type of print finish is what you need for industrial pieces and prototypes, where friction between parts means an eventual breakdown of the whole machine; or if you just really want to impress the people who will be dealing with your end products, especially when they’re paying customers.
The Method may not have the physical space to print dozens of copies of a prototype at a time, but its repeatability makes it great for duplicating precisely what made your design great in the first place. You can save any combination of commands, methods, or settings you create in the brain of the printer itself, which means you can go back to that best-selling design and print another whenever you want, you can save different preferences for different projects – the possibilities get close to endless.
If you don’t have the space to print multiple copies at once, one way to make up for that is how long it takes to print each object. MakerBot boasts the Method prints at twice the speed of other printers, which individual professionals can definitely use to their advantage. The Method can print so fast because it’s got dual performance extruders. These are powered by a dual-gear system with a 19:1 gear ratio and that magic number means three times the push force of a standard 3D fused deposit method printer. Also, the thermal core is up to fifty percent longer than a typical nozzle, which makes its extrusion both quicker and smoother than typical hotends. The listed print speed of 1 +/- 0.2 or 0.02 mm per mm traveled does indeed make it about twice as fast as your typical desk model.
With all this speed and power, you might expect a lot of self-made movement from the Method. Fortunately, MakerBot has already thought of this and planned accordingly. The ultra-rigid metal frame runs the full length of the printer, which absorbs any wiggle the printing movement might produce. That’s how the Method can print so fast with such great accuracy.
MakerBot gives you the power to finetune almost everything about your printing experience with the Method.
First, there’s a heated circulating chamber that lets you control the temperature of every stage of your print. MakerBot calls this full active heat immersion, and it helps parts cool at a controlled rate for higher dimensional accuracy, better layer adhesion, and stronger parts.
Next up is the spring steel build plate, which is situated inside the build chamber. It detaches from the printer with an easy pop-out motion, allowing you to retrieve your finished project in the open air without worrying about banging your elbows on supports. And it goes right back in whenever you’re ready to print next, so you’ve got portability AND instant readiness on your side every time.
Yet another point where you can make the Method do exactly as you want is the 5 in (12.7 cm) touchscreen control mounted to the top of the printer frame. It’s about the size of a smartphone, and it acts much in the same way as well. You navigate through a variety of settings with your finger, or stylus if you’re fancy, and as we briefly mentioned above, you can save your preferences to your heart’s content. The UI is amazingly intuitive, and it shows you status updates on print jobs while guiding you through all the choices.
In addition to its general sleek profile and intuitive controls, the Method also hosts a few clever details that you never knew you needed until you had them.
Like the dry-sealed material bays that hold your filament as you print. This is basically a drawer situated underneath the build chamber that encloses the filament into its own humidity-controlled environment. The printer lets you monitor the environment in there without having to open it to physically check (and also potentially messing up any balance you may have wanted to keep), which is crucial for water-solvent materials that depend on specific moisture control levels to stay stable enough to print with.
There’s also the Smart Spool, where you mount your filament. It shares information via RFID chip so you can see the filament type and color and how much is left on the spool without having to open the section.
And to top it all off, the Method has a built-in camera that connects to MakerBot’s Print program and mobile app so you can monitor your print from anywhere.
The Method is essentially a printer you can plug in and use immediately; this massively streamlines the process of designing to prototyping. It automates everything from setup to maintenance, so even if you have little to no experience setting up 3D printers, this one will be a breeze for you to start. It adds the user-friendliness of a much more basic printer to its industrial prototyping quality, making it perfect for the market of individual professionals who want their own printing station for their work. That’s who MakerBot had in mind, so if you’re in that market, you’re getting the best of both 3D printing worlds.
Bonus pro: improved printer software. MakerBot has kept working at its Print software so it’s now compatible with 25 of the most popular computer-aided drafting programs, which means you can design in any of those programs you want and print directly from them without a hitch. More CAD options mean more personal control and variation, so choose what you want and go to it! MakerBot’s Cloud Management platform also lets you share your designs and collaborate with anyone who has access to the program.
At $6,499, this is not the machine for beginners, or anyone needing to 3D print on a budget. If you are looking to make the plunge into 3D printing by yourself for a hobby that won’t regenerate revenue to make up operations costs, go in a different direction. However, if you’re looking for a printer with industrial capabilities in the footprint of a desktop; if you’re a company dependent on individual prototyping; if you’re an engineer or designer who depends on high-quality prototyping and can swing the startup cash; this point may not matter. Also, MakerBot has a payment plan that may help you convince any funders who are on the fence (including yourself!).
At over sixty pounds, this printer does not leave much room for physical adjustment once you get it in place. 3D printers aren’t equipment you want to be constantly moving around in general, but if you’re searching for something portable to bring with you to multiple demonstrations, or if you’re going to be printing in one area and storing in another, think about getting something lighter. On the other hand, a heft to it means this printer will stay grounded and exhibit less wiggle than those with more open designs, so you’ll have to figure out what kind of trade-off you want to make.
Don’t get us wrong, MakerBot is not trying to chain you to their products by making them incompatible with any third parties – you can use whatever you prefer for your filament brand. But one downside of the Method is that it does work best with MakerBot filaments. That’s certainly not the end of the world, as MakerBot makes a lot of quality stuff, but it does limit you to their product line if you want to ensure 100% of its promised quality. A big part of that is because of the Method’s unique market area. The first machine to jump into a niche is by design going to need materials that aren’t widely available yet; and fortunately, the Method is not so specialized that using your favorite PLA or ABS spools is going to turn into a complete disaster. But until someone else jumps on their bandwagon of desktop 3D printers that can handle professional-grade jobs, going full MakerBot will be your best bet.
If you’re in any sort of need of a personal 3D printer that makes professional-level prints on an individual level, the Method is perfectly tailored to your process. It’s way up there in price if you compare it to all the other desktop 3D printers out there. However, when you consider that buying a Method means you won’t have to wait to use a communal industrial printer, when it means you won’t have to readjust your CAD measurements from a 3D printer meant for other dimensions, when it means you’ll have complete control over the entire printing process of your professional prototypes – the Method is for sure worth it.
MakerBot says they spent over 220,000 hours testing this printer out for reliability, subsystem, and quality, and you can tell with every aspect of the experience. They’re calling the Method a performance printer, and its dedication to the market gap of professional desktop 3D printers has earned its keep with its plethora of unique features. And oh boy, that printing quality – if that doesn’t convince you that MakerBot has dreamed up something special, truly nothing will.