Tips and Tricks for Traveling with a MakerBot

Posted by on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 in Uncategorized


It’s fun to take a MakerBot out into the world and blow people’s minds with 3D printing! I have a whole routine around taking a MakerBot out and about. Here are some tips and trips I wrote down for you for when you travel with a MakerBot.

  • For short trips around town, I just tuck the cords away, throw my tools and plastic in a backpack and carry it as is. Its very fun carrying it on the public transit and always starts conversations.
  • For longer trips, you’ll want a Pelican 1620 case which is the best investment I’ve ever made in travel gear. Between me and the baggage handlers, we’ve  brutalized this case and it has kept my MakerBot safe. The weight of the pelican with everything in it is always 42 pounds.
  • Be nice to the people at the airport. Always explain that you have a 3D printing robot with you and would be happy to tell the TSA about it and answer any questions. Bonus points for converting them into Operators. I’ve seen TSA folks deal with the most unpleasant people in the world. If you are friendly and use your best manners, it goes a long way with them. Having an awesome robot in a bag can make you a ray of sunshine in their day.
  • Having a copy of Make: Magazine with the MakerBot on the cover helps explain what a MakerBot is to TSA type folks.
  • I pack a box with tools and a spare parts kit. I bring a small screwdriver, pliers, metric allen keys, flashlight, tweezers, xacto knife, sd card reader, extra ethernet cable, extra ttl cable, a pen, kapton tape and some blue tape. I also throw in a little baggy of extra m5 and m3 nuts and bolts. All this goes in the checked pelican case.
  • I take about 2-3 pounds of plastic. The most I can go through in a week is less than  a pound printing full time, but you never know when an Icelandic Volcano is going to keep you stranded in Berlin for an extra 5-1000 days. (Knocking on wood that I get home on Friday)
  • I use a heated build platform with sanded down kapton, but I always bring an acrylic platform as a backup.
  • I bring a spare parts kit and an extra plastruder with an extra extruder controller on it when I’m going to be away for a while. MakerBot plastruders can be fussy. I’m good at building them reliable  and I haven’t needed my spare in a long time, but it’s always handy to have one spare so I can just switch them up if I get a jam or the teeth need flossing. I like to be prepared for worst case scenarios.
  • It’s always great to have a bunch of printed parts to show including a bottle opener, eliptical gears, unfold’s head, and the whale tooth.
  • My laptop works as a boombox to play daft punk and ward away gremlins.
  • Check the regional groups page to see if the place you’re visiting has a MakerBot community, connect with them!

What would you add to this list? Make your own suggestions in the comments!

Photo Credit: kk+ took this at Gnomedex last year.

Tagged with 9 comments

9 Comments so far

  • Sam Sebire
    April 21, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    How much was that case? It looks perfect for what I’ll need when I finish building my Makerbot and want to carry it round

  • Bre Pettis
    April 21, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Hey Sam, It depends on where you get it. I think I got it either from b&h or amazon. – Bre

  • mctrivia
    April 21, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    I have a Pelican 1510 and 1020 cases. The 1510 is the largest allowed on carry on and makes an excellent camera case. the 1020 I use for memory cards and batteries. These cases are practically indestructible and worth there wait in Gold. If you are going to buy one spend some time searching some web sites are significantly cheaper then others in both price and shipping costs.

  • =ml=
    April 21, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I like this one:

    “Having a copy of Make: Magazine with the MakerBot on the cover helps explain what a MakerBot is to TSA type folks.”

    Works especially well if you’re on the cover too!

    I’m going to order one from

    Do you have pictures of the foam inside the case? Is it pick & pluck or custom?



  • Bre Pettis
    April 22, 2010 at 6:21 am

    ml, I’ll snap a pick next time it’s all packed up, but the foam inside is in pick and pluck cubes so you can take what you need out.

  • hc gilje
    April 23, 2010 at 7:07 am

    I ended up bringing my makerbot from Brooklyn to Bergen, Norway as carry-on luggage, basically because I had so much stuff to check in already. This meant going through the security check both at JFK and Schiphool is Amsterdam.
    I removed all the electronics and the extruder, but left the stepper motors and power supply. Then I wrapped the makerbot in bubblewrap, made a nice little handle, and made sure it was possible to have a look inside.
    This obviously caused a certain amount of attention at the security checkpoint, but by explaining and showing some pictures of what I had made with the printer, this worked out pretty well.
    My bot made it to Norway without any problems or damages and is now printing happily in it´s new home.


  • =ml=
    May 18, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Pplease take pix of inside of 1620 case with Cupcake in it.


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