Makerbot, besides making a darn nice printer, offers some amazing software for laying out and printing objects. Their product, Makerware, is free to download and use and supports some other 3D printers including the FlashForge. The new software adds some interesting features to the package including improved support structures and rafts.
For example, some objects require support material to maintain stability while printing. Before, Makerware would dump lots and lots of plastic over the face of an object to maintain support. Now, however, it only adds supports where they are needed, reducing the amount of plastic needed. The software has also added improved “rafts” that help keep the objects steady on the platform during printing.
While this update is only useful for folks who use Makerbot it does point to one of the company’s great strengths: excellent software that works amazingly well with the hardware they sell. Form Labs, the creators of Form One, offer a similar software that also helps prints come out of the machine with a little more efficiency. These hardware plus software marriages ensure that the experience is far more streamlined and professional than it was in the past. Plus, you can print little kittens on the inside of your objects with this new software.
The firmware update to Makerbot printers adds a percentage left/time left readout to the printer and adds the ability to change filament colors during printing.