A Consumer Printer That Handles Large Prints: Is the MakerBot Z18 For You?

By | December 4, 2017
MakerBot z18 Review A Consumer Printer that Handles Large Prints 

The MakerBot z18 is a consumer 3D printer with industrial printing capabilities. This printer is made to change the way you think about 3D printing. It is a large printer with the necessary software to print everything you need. It comes loaded with Makerbot functionality, live print monitoring capabilities, multi-option connectivity, and a smart extruder.  

No longer do you need to design something that will fit within the printer. The large build area allows you to print anything up to full-scale prototypes and models. You can obtain industrial strength manufacturing power to create the builds you dream about.

While it does have many benefits, users have discovered some problems with the machine. Here you will find all the information you need to make an informed decision on if the Makerbot z18 is the right 3d printer for you.   

This review is written with the help of users who have hands-on experience with this printer. They provided us with their own insights, experiences, and opinions into the quality of the z18. The rest of this article will cover the core features and key specifications, as well as pros and cons.

We conclude it with a full summary chart and our overall number rating for the printer. Please share your experiences and ratings of the MakerBot z18 with us at the bottom of the page.  

Core Features 

Massive build area: With a large build volume of 11.8” x 12.0” x 18.0” you can print just about anything you want with this printer. It is capable of handling anything from handheld models to extra-large, full-scale production prototypes. The power of large-scale printers is now placed in the hands of an everyday at-home user. 

MakerBot Smart Extruder+: One of MakerBot’s best extruders. The company dedicated over 160,00 hours of testing and development to ensure this extruder is dependable and consistent. This piece produces high-quality prints when used with MakerBot PLA Filament. 

Flexible connectivity: This feature allows users to send files via WiFi, USB, Ethernet, or USB drive to the printer. No more scrambling trying to get files transferred from one piece of equipment to another just to print something.

The MakerBot z18 will connect to almost anything. Also, you can control the printer two ways: MakerBot Print or the MakerBot Mobile. This allows a user to have full control over all aspects of the print job. 

Full-Feature Software: The printer comes with MakerBot Print Software, which runs on both Windows and Mac OS X. Using your personal cloud library, this software enables the user to store, organize, and access all of your 3D design and print files.  

MakerBot Support: The MakerCare plans allow you to always get quick answers from an expert team to help solve any issue you come across while using the MakerBot z18. As well, the MakerBot website has many useful support documents including user guides, knowledge base, and contact information.   

Key Specifications 

The key specs of the MakerBot z18:  

Build Area  11.8” x 12.0” x 18.0” 
Print Speed  100 mm/s 
Filament Types  ABS or PLA 
Layer Resolution  100 microns 
Extruders  1 
Nozzle Diameter  .4mm 
Open/Closed System  Closed 
Warranty  1 year moving parts 
Our Score  7.74/10 
Price  Around $6,500 (check here for the latest price) 

Pros of the z18 printer 

Now we have some of the highlights of the machine that users pointed out to us: 

Build volume: We mentioned it before and we will mention it again, one of the most talked about benefits of this machine is the size of the build area. Users are very pleased with the amount and variety of prints they can compete with this machine. It allows users to get more creative and stretch previous limits of design when using a consumer printer.  

Design: With a 3.5-inch LCD display, an onboard camera, and ease of connectivity, this printer is one of the better designs for functionality for the everyday user. Many users are happy that a printer with such a large build area is still fairly compact overall. The MakerBot z18 measures at 19.4” x 22.2” x 33.9”. 

Heated Build Chamber: For those who don’t know, the MakerBot z18 has an enclosed and heated build chamber to perfect your models and prototypes. This chamber essentially heats up for the build process, which causes the printed PLA filament to cool slower than usual. A benefit of slower cooling means less cracking between the printed layers.

This function can be turned on or off depending on the print. A heated chamber is more helpful for longer prints rather than short print jobs. Also, keeping this function off means you save energy while printing and can handle the final product faster. 

Ease of use: Since this machine is app and cloud controlled, users have a lot of power and control during all stages of the print process. The onboard camera enables users to monitor all aspects of the print and ensures everything is turning out the way they want it to look. The MakerBot software and ease of connectivity let users stay organized and keep more ready-to-print files on-hand.  

Cons of the z18 printer 

Per usual, most good things come with a few bad as well, and here are a few features that didn’t go over too well with the users: 

Print and build quality: One major problem many users experience is inconsistent print and build quality. From the users we heard from, around 40% of their attempted prints are deemed “successful”. The more successful prints typically come with a long print time. But you know the saying, good things come to those who wait. 

Material availability: Users have mixed reviews on the MakerBot Filament. It seems they either love it or hate it. No matter what side you pick we all lose when using 3rd party filament with this printer. MakerBot machines are designed to use their own filament as you would imagine, but this limits the users’ creativity when it comes to printing.

Once a user goes with a 3rd party filament, they automatically void the warranty on the machine. 

Not open source: Although this is not the biggest issue we have seen with a printer and can be common practice with other models, we still prefer open source software. It encourages more creativity, collaboration, and educates users on the entire printing process.

In an industry as unique as 3D printing and is relatively new to many people, it needs all the collaboration and education it can get. Open source software allows for faster innovation and better products for the users. 

Extruder Issues: The majority of our users have reported issues with the extruders. This is an unfortunate problem for the printer as MakerBot heavily tested the Smart Extruder+.

The problems with the extruders vary from user to user, however, one common issue seems to be with a poorly designed bracket. MakerBot seems to be understanding of the issue and sends replacements as long as the user returns the original piece. 

Final Take  

The MakerBot z18 is loaded with user-friendly features, which when combined with the right design and some patience, make a really great machine. Although you may run into a few headaches and setbacks when printing with the MakerBot z18, you will certainly be impressed when everything runs smoothly.

The size of the build area alone is enough to make any 3d printer enthusiast excited about the endless possibilities you can create. As well, connectivity options and control with an app or the cloud make this an all-around quality machine.  

The price tag on this machine seems a little high when considering some of the negatives. While there are more affordable options, you may miss out on certain features such as the build area size and power of industrial printing when choosing another printer.

However, going another route may help you avoid some major headaches that stem from frustrations with failed prints, parts, or being limited to filament options. In short, if you are looking for a printer to create quality, large models or prototypes then this is a solid printer for you.   

MakerBot Z18

6500.00
7.7

Print Speed

7.8/10

Build Area

9.7/10

Precision

7.2/10

Value

6.0/10

Ease of Use

8.0/10

Pros

  • Great for prototypes and models 
  • App and cloud control/organization 
  • User-Friendly Features

Cons

  • Consistent print quality 
  • Filament Options
  • Extruder issues  
Author: Sam Westin

Sam Westin has been in the media printing space for over 5 years and is an early adopter of 3d printing technology. He is excited to be a mere peon among the 21st century printing revolution! When not thinking up new things to print in multiple dimensions, Sam shares his thoughts on the industry here.

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