We've written before about prototyping with MakerBot and other home 3D printers over the last two years. For the planters that we sell here on our site and on Etsy, we prefer to use commercial 3D printers like Shapeways and Ponoko, but for prototyping, using a desktop 3D printer better suits our needs. Prints can be made in less than an hour (no waiting for a week for prints!), and I can immediately make changes to file if I see a change that needs to be made.
We've been lucky the last few weeks to have access to a MakerBot Z18, the newest of their series, to prototype some of our new forthcoming planters. Before we've printed on their Thing-o-matic and Replicator 2 Machines. The print quality has improved slightly from the earlier models, which is helpful when prototyping small pieces. The main changes with the newer MakerBots is the interface is much more intuitive to use, and now they're capable of printing much larger pieces.
Also, these planters were printed in PLA, a plastic made from cornstarch. The material is biodegradable over time, but can warp when exposed to heat, making this material suitable for use for prototyping.
Making and 3D printing on a MakerBot still isn't perfect, but its pretty amazing when you can hold a physical product in your hand that only existed on a computer screen hours before!
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