The latest in MakerBot’s Replicator series hits the shipping desk finally. Promising the best price-to-performance, extra-large professional 3D printer, MakerBot’s Replicator Z18 is on the delivery truck. When the printer was introduced in January at CES 2014, it caused a lot of oh’s and ah’s. If you didn’t place your order then, you’ll wait about 6-8 weeks for the arrival of an order placed today.

MakerBot Castle

Large complex models are possible with the Replicator Z18

The Replicator Z18 got its name because of its large z-axis that makes 18 inch high prints in 3D. The big deal is that this printer costs tens of thousands less than comparable ones according to MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis. It can handle large scale and complex prototypes and models that engineers and architects couldn’t previously access due to cost. They will also be able to print multiple models at once.

The printer’s Smart Extruder can be swapped or replaced easily. It will sense when the filament is absent and pauses the print, sending a notification to desktop or mobile applications. Curling is minimized when printing the large models, while an included camera allows print monitoring. Users will appreciate these features and the full color LCD 3.5 inch display and controls.

PLA Spool

PLA filaments come in a variety of colors

Professional quality, high resolution prototypes are created with paper thin 100 micron layers. Finished products come out smooth without sanding, finishing or postproduction touchups. Design files can be stored and sorted in your own personal cloud library. A MakerBot Cart and MakerBot Filament Case that holds the larger sized 3D printer and XXL filament spools are also ready for delivery. The Z18 uses MakerBot PLA filament, a bioplastic derived from corn guaranteed not to have any heavy metals, phthalates or BPA.

MakerBot, is now a subsidiary of Stratasys <  > which manufacturers high grade professional 3D printers, such as the Objet Connex 500 that has a build envelope of 19.7×15.7×7.9 inches and can produce a model with 14 different materials in one job.

Individual 3D professionals can opt for MakerBot’s Replicator Z18 at $6,500. Companies with industrial requirements can opt for the Stratasys Obet Connex 500 at $250,000. To learn more about the Z18, view the video here however, viewers’ comments indicated that they wanted to see more live action on the part of the printer and hear less hype from the CEO.