Makerbot has announced a new line of printing mediums as part of CES, expanding its product line far beyond the traditional plastics. Planned for late 2015, the new filaments will let 3D printers mimic the look and feel of limestone, maple wood, iron, or bronze, using the same Makerbot Replicator hardware. The new filaments are heavier and dry to a different texture, but they're designed to behave roughly the same as previous models, giving users the chance to add new weight and texture to old designs.
The filament material is primarily the same PLA plastic that Makerbots typically deal with, but by adding composites, Makerbot has been able to take on many of the unique properties of other materials. Makerbot says its maple composite can be sanded, stained, or finished like regular wood, and the metal composites can be magnetized and will take on patina similar to actual metal. The limestone composite can be stained or written on, which could make it ideal for more intricate architectural models.
The new filaments are heavier than traditional PLA and won't mix well with other filaments, but the company says it's new smart extruders can be used to minimize downtime, using a different extruder for each material. All told, it's a big step forward for 3D printing capabilities, adding new versatility to Makerbot's basic Replicator model.