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.