MakerBot is pioneering distributed manufacturing! Get paid to make parts for future MakerBots.

Posted by on Thursday, August 6, 2009 in Uncategorized

Problems are opportunities

At MakerBot, we have a problem of production. You see, our CupCake CNC is made of a variety of components: electronics, lasercut parts, machined parts, and printed parts. To be specific, there are 4 idler pulleys that are printed by the machine, for the machine. Currently, we produce all of the idler pulleys on our own bank of MakerBots in our Brooklyn factory. This worked smoothly when we were shipping 20 bots a month. Lately, demand is increasing so fast that we’re ramping up production to be able to ship 50 to 100 bots a month. Our next production bottleneck is printing enough pulleys for the kits.  We could switch back to lasercut pulleys, but we’d rather not have to.

Crowdsourced manufacturing

In the conversation about cheap, ubiquitous 3D printing, people talk a lot about distributed manufacturing  The concept is simple: instead of having a centralized factory that produces parts and then distributes them to the people that want them, individuals have the tools they need to build the things they want and distribute them without a central hub. Here at MakerBot, we fully support this vision of the future–we’re actively building tools that support this revolution. We want to take a first step toward that future by starting crowdsourced manufacturing, where production is distributed, but distribution  still uses the hub model.

That is where you, the MakerBot Operator comes in. If you have a MakerBot, then you have the means of production. We want you to take part in our grand experiment in crowdsourced manufacturing. We want you to use your MakerBot to produce the next wave of MakerBots. In essence, we want to distribute pulley manufacturing to you. Since this is just the first step, we want to make it easy and simple. You build the parts, we handle distributing them.

Be a part of it

We will pay $1.00 / pulley for 608 Idler Pulleys. Download the linked file for the 608 Idler Pulley and print it out. When you have at least 30, mail them to us and we’ll either send you a check or pay you by Paypal. When we make them, the bearing press fits into the pulley and yours should too! Don’t forget to check the pulley for bearing fit before sending them off, because we certainly will! We need 150 of these pulleys before September 3rd and if this experiment works out, we’ll ask for folks to print out 625 Idler Pulleys too!

This is a new and exciting adventure for us. As far as we know, crowdsourced manufacturing is just something people have talked about, not actually done. We’re looking forward to the results, and we hope that you will take part. If this whole thing goes well, then it means we will be able to crowdsource other parts as well, and gradually turn our MakerBot design into a 3D printable design and fulfill the RepRap dream of a 3D printable 3D printer.

Being able to collaboratively create MakerBot kits with the help of MakerBot operators is going to be an awesome future, and we want you to be a part of it.

Tagged with , , 46 comments

46 Comments so far

  • Marcus
    August 6, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Oh man, you’re gonna need to become a label vendor too!

    You guys are too, too cool:)

  • Torleif
    August 6, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    mabe you could post the Gcode to

  • Ryan
    August 6, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Any idea how many of these can be produced using a 5lbs spool of ABS? I’m trying to use this montitization thing to entice my wife into letting me get a makerbot (ignoring initial investment of course).

  • Wade
    August 6, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Roughly, 500, assuming each one uses about 5 g of plastic. Each one could take as long as an hour to make though, depending on how fast your machine runs, raft sizes, density, etc. Still, it’s a start!

  • Zach Hoeken
    August 6, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    I just weighed and averaged 6 pulleys: they weigh 3.91g and probably about 1g with the raft (you definitely should use a raft!)

    So, wade’s estimate of 5g is accurate. However, these pulleys typically take 18 minutes to print on a MakerBot. If you use natural ABS, its about $0.022/g. Each pulley therefore costs about $0.11 in raw materials. That leaves you with $0.89 in profit per pulley.


  • Conrad2468
    August 6, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    I AM CHOMPING AT THE BIT!!!!! (cowboy term)……..I am so doing this!!!

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  • Phil
    August 7, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    I am in the UK. If anyone needs things like this over here, then im sure I can be of some assistance ;). My website has plenty of contact details on it. I am available and willing to help with stuff like this. I am happy to stock things people have made in my shop too (Should be running by the end of the month at the latest! Just finishing it up.)

  • Doc
    August 7, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Nice! My bot (I hope) should be in the mail by now – Seems like a good little project to cut its teeth on to say the least.

    Good call guys.

  • Aaron
    August 7, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    I will participate as soon as I can. I know you are working as hard as you can to help us move forward. Thanks.


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  • Orville
    August 10, 2009 at 1:59 am

    So… whoever uses a mold to make the idler pulleys gets to clean up on this offer?

    And the money they make could potentially buy a Cupcake CNC?

    Pardon me, I’ll be at the local art supply store to purchase some sculpt-a-mold and resin…

  • tamberg
    August 10, 2009 at 3:16 am

    @Torleif: GCode dependens on a particular machine. The parameters used to turn STL into GCode (e.g. with skeinforge) vary from MakerBot to MakerBot. Regards, tamberg

  • tamberg
    August 10, 2009 at 3:52 am

    @Zach: Nice idea to solve an artificial problem. If your mission is to make personal fabbing a reality (and to distribute RepStrap machines) I do not see the point in adding the production bottleneck of MakerBot produced parts. Given all the well-balanced trade-offs in the MakerBot design it seems odd to argue in favor of “self replication” at the expense of availability. And in terms of aesthetics, laser-cut wood wins over ABS anyway. So maybe it serves your mission more to ship wooden pulleys and let MakerBot operators print and replace their own parts if they desire to venture into self replication.


  • Lindsay
    August 10, 2009 at 7:40 am

    I would absolutely love to help you guys out by making these pulleys. I am waiting for my MakerBot to arrive in the mail. I am very excited about the prospects of this device. I love robotics and building things. I would really enjoy helping you in any way that I can with your robotic revolution. Sign me up!

  • Zach Hoeken
    August 10, 2009 at 9:22 am

    @orville – the molded pulleys will need to be able to stand up to a bearing being press-fit into them, as well as general use. if they can do that, then someone will definitely be able to clean up. there are overhangs though, so it would be a fairly difficult part to mold.

    @tamberg – the printed part is superior to the lasercut part though. its not an artificial problem. its a genuine problem that many people face all the time…. scalability. this particular way we’re approaching it is new and interesting. will it work? i hope so, but it sure is exiting to find out. like we said though, if it comes to a worst case scenario, then we just switch back to the lasercut pulleys. we’d rather not though.

  • tamberg
    August 10, 2009 at 9:48 am

    @Zach: Having people send printed parts to NYC from all over the world just to ship them again seems to reverse the very idea of distributed production. But maybe there is a way to implement distributed quality control and direct shipping to end users (Thingiverse producer/seller reputation, in the spirit of EBay?). Anyway, I really do hope you and the rest of MakerBot.Inc continue your pioneering work.


    PS. Didn’t we already have “crowd sourced manufacturing” at the beginning of the industrial revolution?

  • Zach Hoeken
    August 11, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Well, there are two completely different things that fall under manufacturing: production and distribution. I had a whole big long blog post that philosophizes on them, but basically it comes down to this: we only have a problem with the production, and we only like to solve one problem at a time.

    The way we see it, there are two very interesting things in this realm that MakerBot can help bring about:

    * Distributed Manufacturing – this is what we’re interested in. Having the actual production of the parts farmed out to multiple independent entities has some really cool possibilities. Its like having 100 CPUs all working on a task in parallel which allows the job to be done much more quickly.

    * Distributed Distribution – this is what you’re talking about. this is much trickier to handle and is adds much difficulty to something we don’t really have a problem with currently (namely: shipping boxes to people). This is certainly something that will be solved in the future, but we don’t want to hog all the fun to ourselves.

    Anyway, keep in mind this is a Grand Experiment. Part of the fun is not knowing what will happen and finding out what does.

  • MattG
    August 11, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    i live in Manhattan and I’m thinking of buying a makerbot, so when i get it i’ll help out too

  • MattG
    August 11, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    if i get a makerbot, i can make 150 pulleys in about 2 days

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  • SteveB
    August 25, 2009 at 7:44 am

    @Zach,i could injection mold them in abs for you at that price,i would build the tool
    let me know if you would be interested,if you cant get enough pulleys fast enough let me know and i’ll make the tool and run parts

  • Ernie S
    August 31, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    This ain’t “crowd-sourced” but I can run these off
    on my lathe in PVC or HDPE if it would help.
    How many do you need by when?
    Cost = material + nada.

  • bob
    September 10, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Quit making things out of plastic.

    At some point, the machines you are making will reach end of life.
    Then, the parts will require disposal.

    At some point after disposable, the plastics will enter the food chain, and your descendants will be eating your toxic waste.

    For the sake of your own family, please employ foresight.

  • Cathal
    September 11, 2009 at 2:23 am

    Jeeze, Bob, give it a rest. Virtually everyone involved in these projects wants a home-brew recycler to re-use their printed projects, for starters, and quite aside from that this distributed home manufacturing process cuts out the far more damaging transport costs associated with normal manufacture.

    Besides, as soon as PLA becomes readily available, I think most of us will start using that instead. Biodegradable and renewable. Happy? Probably not.

    If you have an environmental axe to grind, which I fully understand and empathise with, go troll a “Meat Enthusiast” forum or a car website.

  • Luke
    September 29, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Don’t forget about shipping costs…When you look at a USPS medium flat rate box costing $10.35 and probably housing about 30 pulleys, that eats in to your profit margins.

  • Jerry
    October 16, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    This is a great way to generate some income aside from having a cool makerbot inhouse. But I’m wondering what would be the profit like, minus the cost to ship the stuff out from my place to NYC and it would not be cheap tho. Anyway, thumbs up to MakerBot for such a brilliant concept!

    Jerry from Malaysia

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    November 20, 2009 at 2:26 am

    can i print one, and mold the rest out of urethane plastic? I have enough idle time between test setup to have this running for 30.00$ !

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  • Bian Melani
    April 28, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Do the pulleys have to be printed or can they be machined?

  • Max
    May 19, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Self-replicating 3D printers? Now when do I get my Grey Goo apocalypse? We need some cool AI in these machines >:D

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  • Marshall
    December 10, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Is this offer still open? I see it’s been over a year since it started.

  • malea
    June 3, 2011 at 8:17 am

    I would like to do this in my own home. too help out with the bills and all.

  • Guy
    July 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Is this thing still going on?

    • MakerBlock
      July 15, 2011 at 6:13 pm

      @Guy: Nope! This program ended a long time ago. 🙂


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