AZ — Makerbot workshop

News report from the fore­front of ubber geek­ness ^^ No we didn´t launch a DIY open source space-sta­tion,.. just yet. What we did do is assem­ble 2 Cup­cake CNC´s from Maker­bot Indus­tries.

News report from the fore­front of ubber geek­ness ^^

No we didn´t launch a DIY open source space-sta­tion,.. just yet. What we did do is assem­ble 2 Cup­cake CNC´s from Maker­bot Indus­tries. Maker­Bot Indus­tries is a Brook­lyn NY based com­pany, founded in Jan­u­ary 2009 by Bre Pet­tis, Adam Mayer, and Zach Hoeken. It´s a very young com­pany indeed, and they must be one of the few com­pa­nies based entirely on open source hard­ware. Now, what is the Maker­bot Cup­cake CNC ? It´s an open source 3D printer rapid pro­to­typ­ing machine. It´s a cute lit­tle machine that fits on your desk­top and unlike a nor­mal printer that only prints in 2d on flat paper, this one prints true phys­i­cal objects in ABS plas­tic. It´s a robot that makes things ! How does this work ? You design your thing in 3d soft­ware, send it to the Maker­bot Cup­cake and some time later your thing exists for real, in real plas­tic, strong and durable !

A white and black role of 3 mm filament ABS plastic.
A white and black role of 3 mm fil­a­ment ABS plas­tic.

Some of you pro design­ers out there might say, well there is noth­ing new about this, rapid pro­to­typ­ing machines have been around for some time now, yes you are right, but until recently these type of machines where pro­pri­etary and very expen­sive with prices rang­ing from 20.000 € and upwards and cer­tainly didn´t fit on your desk­top. This was true until Dr Adrian Bowyer, a Senior Lec­turer in mechan­i­cal engi­neer­ing at the Uni­ver­sity of Bath in the United King­dom, founded and invented the RepRap Project. As it hap­pens, Dr Adrian Bowyer is one of the seed investors of Maker­bot Indus­tries. DIY open source rapid pro­to­typ­ing for the masses was born. Now you can have your own machine for less then 700€, or even less if you recy­cle some motors from old print­ers and you´re handy enough to saw some ply­wood into a nice look­ing box. Being the geeks we are, we had to have one of those machines, so many times while work­ing on projects we wished we could make a mount­ing bracket for this, or a sup­port that could hold that, or that we could just have this cool fig­ure we mod­eled in 3d soft­ware for real to show it off to our friends or offer as a gift to our beloved ones. The need was clearly there, and what bet­ter way to ful­fill that need then invit­ing one of the founders and inven­tors of Maker­bot, Mr. Zach Hoeken to host a 2 week work­shop on build­ing and using a Maker­bot Cup­cake CNC.

Zach explaining how the Plastruder MK4 works.
Zach explain­ing how the Plas­truder MK4 works.

We were very lucky in find­ing just the right place to hold the work­shop the “Fac­ul­dade Arqui­tec­tura — UTL” in Lis­bon, a cen­tral loca­tion and thus eas­ily acces­si­ble to par­tic­i­pants com­ing from all over Por­tu­gal, we even had the visit of a proud Maker­bot owner from Spain. Besides it´s ideal loca­tion, we had great sup­port from the local Pro­fes­sors who par­tic­i­pated in the work­shop, it was great to wit­ness their moti­va­tion and ded­i­ca­tion to the project.

Working hard assembling the Makerbots.
Work­ing hard assem­bling the Maker­bots.

Thanks to Mr. Zach´s patient guid­ance and extreme knowl­edge, it took us only 8 hours to build the 2 machines. Zach divided us into 2 groups per machine, the machine con­sists of 2 main parts , the cas­ing that holds the 3 mov­ing axis X Y and Z and the elec­tron­ics to drive them, the other main part is the extruder aka the “Plas­truder MK4”, this is the bit that will pull the 3mm ABS fil­a­ment and heat it up to 220 °C, this guy is the ‘print­head’ for your Maker­bot, It has a beefy motor. This is also the same extruder that you would use for a RepRap machine and was devel­oped by Maker­bot Indus­tries as a part of the RepRap project. As if by magic the groups worked in syn­cro mode, so that when the indi­vid­ual parts where ready, it was just a mat­ter of assem­bling them into nice look­ing and ready to print Maker­bot Cup­cakes. A few more hours where ded­i­cated to test and cal­i­brate all the ele­ments to make sure they worked well and printed nice, it was so cool to see the machines up and run­ning and to feel the excite­ment and awe of the great­est magic trick ever ^^

The 2 Makerbots ready.
The 2 Maker­bots ready.

Now what ? Get print­ing of-course ! Get­ting a vir­tual 3d model ready to be printed for real is not as easy as hit­ting print in your text edi­tor, but it´s not rocket sci­ence either, there are a some things to know and a few tricks to learn, luck­ily our work­shop host Zach knew it all and had quite a few tricks up his sleeve which he gen­er­ously shared with us, It didn´t take long before we all had some­thing ready to print. Before you can send your 3d model to the Maker­bots, you have to export it from your favorite 3d app as a .STL file, if your fav 3d app doesn´t export .STL , no wor­ries, Blender to the res­cue! Blender is a splen­did open source 3d appli­ca­tion that can read most 3d file for­mats out there, for sure you´ll find a file for­mat that´s com­pat­i­ble with Blender, once in Blender it´s a breeze to export your 3d model in the right for­mat. Besides export­ing in the .STL for­mat, Blender is handy for a few more things, you can eas­ily get rid of any dou­bled ver­tices, check for Man­i­fold mesh errors, and reduce your poly­gon count (dec­i­mate) to improve print­ing speed.

One of the Makerbots printing in black ABS.
One of the Maker­bots print­ing in black ABS.

Some of the par­tic­i­pants where advanced 3d artists, and some never had touched 3d soft­ware before, but the truth is that we all man­aged to achieve some amaz­ing results, and we were all very impressed by the qual­ity that those lit­tle machines where able to pro­duce. Not all prints came out per­fectly at the first go, and here and there some oper­a­tor errors where made, that resulted in hav­ing to unmount the Plas­truder to clean it´s lit­tle teeth, which by the way is done in less then 10 min­utes, unem­ploy­ment due to tech­ni­cal fault just gives you enough time to get a cof­fee, only if the cof­fee machine is just around the cor­ner. For me per­son­ally this has been one of the best work­shops i´ve par­tic­i­pated in, all par­tic­i­pants where highly moti­vated and eager to learn and share, the ambi­ence was all about shar­ing and car­ing, how could it not be when you´r dis­cov­er­ing the amaz­ing world of Maker­bot­ness, and you have a great host like Zach to hold your hand 😉 Thank you.

Please head over to Zach´s post to see some great exam­ples of what has been printed dur­ing the work­shop.

Keep an eye out on the blogs from the AZ-Labs (Alt­Lab, xDA, LCD) for more news on upcom­ing Maker­bot adven­tures, includ­ing more work­shops and how to get access to our Machines to print your stuff.