Make a Custom MakerBot Body on Ponoko!

Posted by on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 in Uncategorized


You can now make a custom MakerBot body on Ponoko. We’re obsessively open source and the MakerBot Cupcake CNC files have been available for download from Thingiverse from the moment we launched. Up until now making your own bot has required having your own lasercutter. MakerBot was really made possible because we bought a lasercutter that Adam, Zach, and I share with the others at the NYCResistor hackerspace. Witha lasercutter, we could create lots of prototypes in a short amount of time. Ponoko lets you do this too. It is like having your own lasercutter on demand. Ponoko lets people innovate and then you can upload your designs and then Ponoko will lasercut them and ship it to you. It’s cool. We’ve put our files up on Ponoko’s site and you can have them lasercut them out of lots of different materials and send them to you. We’ve been working with Derek over at Ponoko and he’s set up our files and arranged them in a friendly way so that it’s easy for folks to download the files, modify them if you want and get them made by Ponoko. Want to get your MakerBot made out of Bamboo or get a custom body? Ponoko can handle it.

This may seem a little weird since we are a business and we don’t make any money when people get our designs made on Ponoko. The good thing is that for folks who want just the lasercut parts for the MakerBot body and the extruder that will just work, you can buy them pre-made from us. Having open source designs is a great thing for us. We’ve already seen some folks create scratch built MakerBots and the amount of innovation that comes back into the design when people do things on their own and try new things out and then reshare them with the community is one of those things that demonstrates how awesome it is to share and allow others to innovate with our design files.

Making your own custom MakerBot case is cool because we release our files under an open source license that allows you to download the files to understand and do things with them. If you make any changes, you are required to publish your changes so the community can see the innovations you’ve made. It’s kinda like you get to stand on our shoulders, but you have to let others stand on your shoulders.


We encourage people to share pictures and their modified designs is on our site Thingiverse. If you make a MakerBot you can go to the MakerBot page on Thingiverse and click the “I Made One” button.


Then you can choose to either upload a picture or if you’ve changed the design, you can upload your modified design files and you’re all set! This makes it easy for you get recognized for your work, reshare your innovation with the open source 3D printer community and meet the terms of the license and expectations of the open source 3D printing community. I can’t quite imagine someone standing on someone else’s shoulders and then the bottom person standing on the top person’s shoulders, but the image I get in my mind is a mobius strip of wonderful innovation!

There are a few things to lookout for. We stand behind the MakerBot lasercut pieces because they have our name on them. If you get these files lasercut by Ponoko, you’re doing so at your own risk. When you buy from Ponoko, you’re blazing a trail into new and exciting territory and we think it’s awesome, but if they don’t fit together, remember that’s part of the innovation process! As a guideline, we’ve found that any material you make these designs from should be no thicker than 5mm or the slots just won’t fit.

You can get a MakerBot in Acrylic on Ponoko and it will look HOT, but keep in mind that acrylic has the property of having a binary fail if you screw in your bolts a smidge too tight. The good news is you’ll be able to put it back together with superglue.

Besides the lasercut files, we’ve set up our Ponoko showroom to include the Laserless kit provided by us so that you’ll be able to combine your custom lasercut parts with a laserless kit to equal one basic kit. You can also add the deluxe upgrade kit on the Ponoko site which gives you a bunch of plastic and tools and a power supply, effectively making your kit a deluxe kit.

Traditional people who don’t get open source may shake their heads at us, but we know that being open with our designs and letting people innovate on them and reshare them is a key part of pushing the open source personal manufacturing revolution forward! It is the most exciting time ever to be involved in designing and making things!

Got questions? Drop a note in the comments! Ponoko has written it up too!

Tagged with 8 comments

8 Comments so far

  • tmophoto
    March 31, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    are the updated X Stage parts in the design there? (at work right now so i cant check it out till later)

    I just had a bamboo frame cut by them and it turned out really great. in the process of staining it right now.

    I need to modify my existing parts or have some new parts cut for my X stage because i didn’t realize that the parts had changed from the designs that i had downloaded somewhere.


  • Keith Neufeld
    March 31, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Hey, Bre, just a note about the requirement you mention above to publish any changes made to the design.

    I’m a huge advocate of open source and a huge admirer of MakerBot. I’ve been waffling since last week whether to chime in on the open-source blog comment conversation to thank your for publicly standing up to enforce the GPL license on MakerBot’s work and defend the rights of open source developers and contributors everywhere. In the case of Kymberly’s derivative works, you were spot on about it being a license violation for her to distribute her derivative work without at the same time publishing a modifiable source format of the new work.

    That said, we as open source defenders need to be careful not to make claims that fall outside of what our licenses state. And my understanding of the GPL is that the requirement to publish source to derivative works applies when the works are distributed, not when they’re created.

    If I create for my own use an acrylic heated bed mounting plate based on the QCAD file for the CupCake build platform, take pictures of it, post them on the web, and blog about it — no requirement to publish my source, as I’m not distributing the derivative work.

    If I offer the mounting plate for sale (or give it away for free), now I must publish the source document for it in preferred modifiable format. Likewise if I publish a PDF of my mounting plate so that other people can create their own, I must also publish the modifiable source document. And by “now,” I mean no later than the moment of the action of distribution, or I’m out of compliance with the license that permits me to create the derivative work.

    So in the case of people modding the CupCake case files to make their own custom cases, my understanding of the GPL is that they have no obligation to publish those modifications unless and until they distribute derived works — make a custom case for someone else, offer custom cases through the Ponoko store, etc.

    Don’t get me wrong — many of us will want to publish even designs we don’t intend to distribute. But I think it’s equally important not to call for an obligation that doesn’t exist as it is to enforce the obligation that does exist. We don’t want to muddy the waters by making inaccurate claims about licenses — it’s hard enough to get people to comply as it is.

    Make sense? Generally agree? About the same as you were already saying?

  • Design and Make your own 3D printer with Ponoko and MakerBot « Ponoko – Blog
    March 31, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    […] out the MakerBot Blog for more […]

  • Roland Turner
    March 31, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    More (and a correction) on Keith’s point:

    – You are never, ever, obliged by the Gnu GPL to _publish_ anything, not even as a condition of the license[1]. What you are obliged to do is to make the “source” (preferred form for making modifications) available to anyone you distribute “executable”/derivative works to, and to do so under the same terms.

    – If you don’t distribute the work, or a derivative of it, you have no obligations to share anything with anyone. Providing a copy of the work, or a derivative, to an employee or contractor in order to do something that you’re paying them to do is not distribution.

    You are never obliged to share anything with “the community”, although if you’re supplying your source under the Gnu GPL to someone who purchased your physical product you also can’t reasonably expect that it will remain unpublished.

    The purpose of the Gnu GPL – and other copyleft licenses – is to sustain the freedom of a person who receives software to alter its function, thus “free software” and the Free Software Foundation. This is very different to the purpose pursued by the open-source licensing, which is to facilitate (but not force) the sharing of code. Note that facilitating sharing, rather than forcing it, has proven to be a very effective way of getting worthwhile source into the open, getting hung up on the what people aren’t sharing is usually counter-productive. There are several forces that combine to bring this about; perhaps the most obvious is RepRap’s “Argument Kills Uploads”. Another is the need of companies whose business is licensing proprietary software to be able to take private the fruits of their collaboration.

    My take is that the Gnu GPL is actually the best available fit for Makerbot’s business, but that Bre hasn’t quite understood why, nor how best to wield this awesome tool that the FSF has provided for our use.

    TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read): “If you make any changes, you are required to publish your changes” is an incorrect statement. “If you make any changes and distribute the resulting device(s), you are required to make your changes available to the people you distribute that/those device(s) to” is closer to the mark.

    – Raz

    1: This is a small but important detail. As the Gnu GPL is a “naked” license, not a license agreement/contract (contrast “EULA” which is an agreement), you can’t possibly be obliged by it to do anything. Contracts depend for their strength upon an exchange of obligations. “Naked” copyright licenses depend for their strength upon the fact that if you make copies without complying with their terms then you’ve broken the law. I use the term “obliged” above to mean “in order to meet the license conditions so as to lawfully exercise the permission granted by the license” rather than its more usual meaning from contract law.

  • Bre Pettis
    April 1, 2010 at 11:22 am

    @tmophoto – yup, updated design!

    @keith and roland – I’m mixing culture and law here and you’re giving me the feedback to separate it and be clearer.

    The law is important and provides guidelines and sets expectations, but the culture that evolves on top of those guidelines and expectations is where the magic happens.

    One of the things I’ve been thinking about based on these posts is that I want to spend some time in the next few months discovering and sharing open source stories that focus on the amazing things that are possible with this idea of sharing. I don’t think anyone wants open source hardware to be limited to the <20 hardware companies with this approach right now. If this ideology is going to be a new way to build innovation as a worldwide culture, then we need more stories that showcase the challenges and victories of open source hardware.

    That being said GPL is a bit of a tricky beast when applied to hardware, but it's the closest thing to what we want out there right now.

  • tmophoto
    April 4, 2010 at 1:05 am

    i just dry fit the frame from ponoko (cut from bamboo) and it was really hard to put together. all of the tabs on all of the parts needed to be sanded on all 4 sides that fit into the slots. the current design should not be used to cut bamboo without changes to the size of the square holes, .25mm larger or something (dont quote me on that). i dremeled the top and bottom part with an old worn out sanding disk to make the tabs a bit thinner and used sandpaper to make the tabs narrower (i sanded off just enough of the burnt wood to make the bamboo show) it was a LOT of work to get it to fit correctly and i broke one of the side panels when a tab got stuck in the slot.

    still have a bunch of work to do on mine but the frame fits together now. i hope that i dont run into the same problems with the rest of the parts, but i am nearly certain that all the tabs will need some sanding.

    -cupcake build log

  • Simon Arthur
    May 27, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Hi Bre,
    I just noticed this post. We’ve been doing parts for various kinds of 3D printers for a while at Big Blue Saw. I’m sure we could handle the MakerBot parts as well.

  • Chris Sketch
    November 6, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Calling GPL freedom is wrong. It prevents businesses from forming around innovation and limits 3D printing companies to mere suppliers of others ideas. It rewards the communities with the most members who are both free (willing) labor and customers. I get open source and all of the benefits it provides as long as it doesn’t infect everything it touches with forced disclosure (I vote for BSD btw). It limits the space to hobbyists by forcing people who work hard improving designs to work for free. Hopefully GPL won’t be able to cripple hardware innovation.


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