MakerBot Thoughts

Discoveries
. After Sharpie permanent marker drys on ABS plastic it will not rub off.
. Silicone is not a good build platform. I used the bottom of a silicone baking pan and the ABS (or maybe it was PLA) did not stick at all.

Other stuff I learned
. There ultraviolet light cured 3D printers. Inkjet-like technology squirts out object and support materials. UV light cures the object material to a solid and the support material to something that can be separated from the object. These have redundant print heads so that if material cures in the print head, the object is not ruined.
. Gator board is “Much stronger then foam core, but about the same weight.” An individual at FIRST suggested this be tried as a build platform material.
. The biggest limitation the engineers I’ve met at FIRST see in the Cupcake CNC is not the print area or the resolution, it’s the lack of support material. It’s crucial that a multi-plastic extruder head be developed.

Ideas
. Use a smaller diameter filament. Decreasing the diameter by 50% should reduce the force necessary to drive the filament by 75%; reducing the motor’s necessary size. You could also increase the filament input speed 400% and run it at 4 rpm. I bet there are more sources for motors geared down to 4 rpm than there are for 1 rpm.
. Make a multi-plastic extruder head: one motor, several rollers with actuators, and a plastic wire between the shaft and each roller. Each plastic extrudes only when the roller presses the plastic against the roller.
. Use egg dye to color the ABS plastic. That may be a good way to get into all those little cracks that a marker cannot.
. Use liquorice string as an extrusion material
. Use two sizes of extrusion orifice. A small orifice to do detailed work, a large for fill. This could solve the problem faced  in the compromise between built time and print resolution.
. Use a flexible, reusable material for the build platform. From this we can build a belt mechanism, so multiple print jobs can be executed in succession without human interaction. After a print is finished the x-y platform moves to the opening and rotates the belt. The object should break away leaving the build platform ready for another job. We may be able to use a mesh or woven fabric made from a material that would otherwise not be suitable if it were a solid chunk.
. The next time I have a makerbot on display I would like to have a video camera in the machine to display the build process on a video screen viewable from outside the booth. This would be good for people to see form a distance and allow more than just a few close individuals to see what is happening.
. Make printed circuit boards by extruding plastic where traces should be on the surface of copper clad board. The board may need to be heated.
. Make printed circuit boards by shooting UV laser light at the surface of photo resist board.
. Can a furnace spray nozzle be modified into an extruder nozel? Maybe there is an obscure one out there. What about a fuel injector or something?
. If a nozzle is made from JB Weld or other material, we may be able to form it around a nylon of Teflon threaded rod (assuming it won’t stick) rather tan tapping it.
. How about making things by extruding JB Weld?

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Response Pictures

During Thursday, Friday, and Saturday while the pit floor was open I must have spoken to upwards of four-hundred people. I captured some of their reactions in the following images.

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Rollercoaster Ride

Yesterday was crazy busy. I did a bit of twittering to keep things updated, but didn’t have the opportunity to make a full blog post. Not having wifi in the pit area made posting even more difficult

Much of today was spent trying to get the extruder to extrude properly. This morning after more tinkering I decided to just stop. I have the machine and LEDs on with a finished power rind still on the foam core, so the display is still attracting people. In the first four hours of the day I’ve spoken to around thirty sincerely interested people plus a dozen or so who just see it as neat.

Mike Sinclair came to the booth after two of his team mates told him about the makerbot. Me gave me his card and asked if I’d be interested in trading laser cutter heads. He’s got a bunch for cutting lenses and other odd things. I’ll pass the information to the Makerbot Industries guys. The three were very interested. From our conversation I gather that some of their excitement comes from knowing they can make many of the parts in their own labs.

I’ve been in contact with John Weiler from Freeside Atlanta trying to arrange a meeting with the makerbot. Today he told me he’s coordinating a few people from Freeside Atlanta and Atlanta Arduino to come to the conference center. I’m pretty excited to share the makerbot with some hackers. They should be here Saturday.

There are regional FIRST competitions all over the country and throughout the world. I would like the the various communities interested in the makerbot get booths at all these competitions. Even with a non-functioning machine there has been tremendous interest and amazement from everyone I’ve spoken to. I could have easily sold a few kits if I had any with me. I really see this as the best way to market the makerbot. Many of the people I’ve met have never hear of a 3D printer and one around a dozen had actually seen one working. Seeing the machine real life helps people realize that it exists, what it can do, and that it’s something they can actually make.

People have positively responded to the low cost of the machine but their eyes really light up when they compare the operating costs of the makerbot and a professional machine. The 3D animation teacher in my school will be purchasing one, so his students can print their models. The cost to do this on our Dimension BST 768 is just prohibitively high. What’s the point of having a $20,000 3D printer if a cupcake-sized object costs $40. It just makes no sense.

All Settled In

We’re all settled in now and ready for tomorrow. The FIRST robot is uncrated and Cupcake CNC is sleep in its box.

We’re located at the Georgia World Congress Center (building C, see attached map). Our booth is near the practice area along the wall next to the pink team. We are team 714 Technology from Newark. New Jersey.

I contacted some folks from Freeside Atlanta, a group of fifty or so hackers currently searching for the right hacker space. We’re making arrangements for them to have a look at the Cupcake CNC. They and everyone else are welcome to visit the team 714 booth, but we may get together after hours for a botting session.

In other news, Makerbot Industries has just shipped 1000 lbs of desktop manufacturing revolution. Congratulations, guys.

Great view from the hotel. Time for bed.


From where this picture is taken the PaPa Johns is behind me and the practice area is to my left.


Here’s the map.


Mr. Sylvester opening the crate.

Midnight over Atlanta
Midnight over Atlanta

Secrets Revealed

I opened the mysterious box to find a Cupcake CNC machine by Makerbot Industries. I’ll be taking it with me to Atlanta for the FIRST Robotics Competition.

Cupcake CNC is a 3D printer that uses plastic wire to make 3D objects. CNC stands for computer numerically controlled. It’s similar technology to what was used to print velociraptor sound chamber at the beginning of Jurassic Park III (random film references are fun). A Cupcake CNC is in a class of machines called makerbots, any robot that makes things for you. This one can make things about the size of a cupcake (10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm).

I printed a few objects to show my family and they all started with the same question, “what can you do with it?” My father sat watching a cupcake print for fourteen minutes and appreciated how he had watched something be created from plastic spagetti and noticed the raft makes a nice screen. My mother spotted the FIRST logo, held it up to her ear, and made note of how great the machine would be for making earrings. My two nieces just wanted to make more cupcakes.

Let’s take a look at what we have in the picture.

The wooden box is the Cupcake CNC. I tricked it out with a string of blue LEDs, which I got from Freecycle, tapped into an open 12 volt source from the power supply. I did this hoping to make the object being printed easier to see. Looks cool too.

The little plastic things scattered about are objects printed from the 3D models on Thingiverse. If you have an interesting 3D object or other thing to share, go ahead and upload it. Post a link in the comments and I’ll try to print it out while I’m in Atlanta.

The red squares are non-functional circuit boards that I plan on handing out to folks at FIRST. I printed our team information along with “Makerbot Industries” onto clear mailing labels from Staples and stuck them to the boards.

I’ll also be handing out buttons, the artwork of which came directly off the Makerbot Industries web site. The school’s button-press plus free child labor means buttons for everyone. Woo hoo! Don’t worry; I’ll buy them a pizza.

You’ll also notice the speech bubble (yes, it’s bheld up by a slide rule). I purchased a few small dry erase boards made of a foamy material. I cut them up with a razor and made the perfect way for people to express their thoughts in a still image.

Lastly, Darth is there answering my family’s question. What can you do with a Cupcake CNC? As you wish.

What I learned
-Jewlery can be printed
-The foam dry erase board makes a nice build platform.
-Use a spoon or knife to catch the initial ooze of plastic. Then grab the remainder with tweezers.