Archive for June, 2011

Bre Pettis Interview on Founder Stories

Chris Dixon interviews MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis about MakerBot. A great snapshot of where we are to date, where 3D printing is heading, and a great chance for Bre to brag on the incredible army of MakerBot Operators out there in the world who are making everything possible.

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OpenSCAD Intermediates: Fixing Design Problems

In this OpenSCAD tutorial series so far we’ve covered the basics of the OpenSCAD interface, how to make 2D forms, how to make some basic 3D forms, how to position those forms in 3D space, the different ways to combine forms, how to create mashups of one or more existing STL’s and OpenSCAD forms, how to use modules to reuse your code to make your life easier, and how to extrude flat 2D forms into 3D forms1  Although I described the last four tutorials as “intermediate” levels, that’s really only because you learned the basics so quickly from the first few tutorials. With just the basics you can literally design anything you can imagine. The “intermediate” lessons will let you do a little more and make your life a lot easier.

Before we get started, the image is from punkerdood’s OpenSCAD tutorial homework. I’d like to include a picture of your homework next time. So, please practice making something in OpenSCAD, upload it to Thingiverse with an open license, and tag it with “openscadtutorial.”

  • As with any 3D modeling program, you can sometimes get lost or disoriented in OpenSCAD.  These things happen.  Perhaps you accidentally zoomed out too far or in too close and you don’t know know what your point of view is in relation to the object you’re trying to create.  Maybe you created a little object of some kind and can’t see where it is being rendered in the preview screen.  Today’s tutorial is all about how to overcome those problems and get back to designing awesome things.
  • Let’s start with a very simple module and see what happens as we manipulate it with these different methods.
    1. module funkybox()
    2. {
    3. cube(40);
    4. sphere(15);
    5. }
    6. box();
    7. translate([0,0,100]) box();
  • “*” or Disable command
    • The Disable command, “*”, does pretty much as it promises.  Just add that little asterisk before an object, and it will be disabled.  You just won’t see it when previewing (F5) or rendering (F6) an object.  This command will disable an entire subtree.  Really all this means is that it will disable everything right up to the first semicolon.
    • If you add the asterisk at line 3 above, you won’t see the cube.
      1. * cube(40);
    • If you add it before line 4 above, you won’t see the sphere.  If you add it before line 6, you won’t see either.
    • If you can’t find an object you’ve designed, it’s easy to locate it by temporarily disabling other objects until you see where it is.
  • “!” or Root command
    • The Root command, “!”, forces OpenSCAD to ignore everything except the subtree following the root command.
    • If you add the asterisk at line 3 above, you’ll only see the cube as if it were not in a module.
      1. ! cube(40);
    • If you add it before line 4 above, you’ll only see the sphere, as if it were not in a module.  If you add it before line 6, you’ll only see the one instance of the “funkybox();”.
    • This is a good way to isolate just one feature out of an entire OpenSCAD file and focus on it.
  • “%” or Background command
    • The Background command, “%”, draws the subtree that follows it in transparent gray.
    • If you add the percent sign before line 4 above, you’ll still see both instances of the cube, but both will also be a transparent gray.
      1. % cube(40);
    • If you add it before line 4 above, you’ll see both instances of the sphere as transparent.  If you add it before line 6, you’ll see one instance of the “funkybox();” as entirely transparent and the other as normal.
    • This is really useful if you need to manipulate objects within other objects or need to see where two things really intersect.
  • “#” or Debug command
    • The Debug command, “#”, draws the subtree that follows it in a pinkish color.
    • If you add the pound sign before line 4 above, you’ll see both instances of the cube in pink.
      1. # cube(40);
    • If you add it before line 4 above, you’ll see both instances of the sphere as pink.  If you add it before line 6, you’ll see one instance of the “funkybox();” as pink and the other as normal.
    • This is useful if you need to identify just one object from within a lot of similar looking objects.

Homework assignment

Now that you’ve learned how to fix design problems in OpenSCAD, how about showing everyone what you can do?  Please leave a comment below about how you’ve been able to fix a problem using one of the techniques above or by using your own method.  While you’re at it, how about designing something cool and uploading your OpenSCAD file and the STL to Thingiverse?  As always, to make me extra proud be sure and tag it with “openscadtutorial.” As if basking in my affection wasn’t enough, I’ll pick one someone’s OpenSCAD homework and use their designs as part of the next tutorial.

Bonus Section 1: The Tutorials So Far


Bonus Section 2: Other sources

If you like reading ahead or want more information about OpenSCAD, I’ve found these websites to be very helpful.

  1. Official OpenSCAD website
  2. OpenSCAD User’s Manual
  3. OpenSCAD beginner’s tutorial
  4. OpenSCAD tutorial roundup on the Thingiverse blog
  5. Inkscape to OpenSCAD DXF tutorial
  6. Two New OpenSCAD Polygon Tools
  7. How to create a printable sign or logo (Inkscape and OpenSCAD)
  8. OpenSCAD screw libraries by syvwlch and aubenc
  9. Inkscape for OpenSCAD users

Bonus Section 3: What’s next???

The topic of the next tutorial is up to you. What would you like to learn next? Is there something you’d like to learn how to make? Is there something more you’d like to learn about some of the topics we’ve covered?

  1. If you’re wondering why it’s been a while since the last tutorial – it’s because I’m writing these things as I learn OpenSCAD myself.  If you catch up to this tutorial, you’ve caught up with me too! []
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Come Fly With Us!

I am really enjoying MakerBot Operator Larsie‘s Small Plane, a re-think of a classic balsa flier. He focused his 3D printing project to just the parts that needed to be 3D printed (the structure, the frame) and then skinned his flier with a light silk paper by hand. He hopes to add a propeller, but at this stage the plane does indeed fly. Success!

I’d like to also point out a few other interesting plane, ornithopter, and quadrocopter projects up on Thingiverse — there are some great scale models, of course, but there are also a number of models you can print out and launch out your window. Or into a window. Or hover around near a window. As there have been such a diverse list of tag terms for these items, I recommend the tag “flight” for those projects meant to, well, get off the ground.

I also look forward to the rest of flight history reaching Thingiverse — 3D printable gondolas for airships would be super cool! (Maybe just grab the conning tower of the great Bathtub U-Boat and get to work?)

Error - could not find Thing 9743.
Error - could not find Thing 7367.
Error - could not find Thing 4812.
Error - could not find Thing 4582.
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3D Printed Pinhole Box by LeoM

Actual photo from a 3d-printed camera!

Actual photo from a 3d-printed pinhole camera!

Thingiverse user LeoM has accomplished a landmark, and shared his design on Thingiverse.  It’s a fully (ok, almost fully; he sourced a pinhole elsewhere, though I’ve heard you can make one with tinfoil) 3d-printed pinhole camera.  With the photos to prove it!

A lot of us photo nerds are excited about this one of course, but while a 3d printable camera is awfully cool, it hints at even greater things to come.  What other mostly 3d printable assemblies will we have soon?  A handheld vacuum cleaner?  Electric toothbrush?  Wet chemistry auto-analyzer?  All of the above and more?

Well, regardless, please keep the camera designs coming.  Anyone working on a printable design for a 4×5 camera?

Error - could not find Thing 9044.
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Transformers 3 Review

View more videos at:

Ok, when NBC called me up to go to see Transformers 3 and review it, I was skeptical, but it was going to be free popcorn and I knew that even if the story was as sketchy as Tron2, I’d still love the visuals.

In the interview I was asked if MakerBot decided to jump tracks from making affordable 3D printers and instead switch to building autonomous transforming robots, how long would that take? In the video, I basically settle on 5 years, but to be honest, we’re living in that future already with such awesome Thingiverse hits as the Cupcake transformer and the Blockbot cube transformer.

I was surprised to find myself enjoying the movie. You have to look past the fact that it is a movie targeted at boys full of gratuitous explosions and the idea of robot war as the defining plot element, but Buzz Aldrin stars in it as Buzz Aldrin which redeems the movie. Also, the 3D effects were good with lots of action on many planes of view in the focal plane. It went on for almost 3 hours, but I got caught up in it and ended up enjoying it as long as I didn’t think to much about the plot.

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New York Notables Party – This Thursday, June 30th!

On June 6th a team from MakerBot scanned the head Stephen Colbert and put the 3D model online, but we didn’t stop there. Hackers, bloggers, artists, musicians, comedians and anyone one else we think is notable stopped by our Brooklyn workshop to get immortalized.

Well, the week of the event is upon us! Come see the results, and hear a brief art talk by current artist-in-residence Jonathan Monaghan who performed scanning, digital clean-up, and printing for all of those lovely notable heads.

Thursday June 30th, 2011   7PM-10PM

314 Dean St

Brooklyn, NY 11217

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Evolution of a Dump Truck

Tiny Toy Dump Truck by madscifi
Tiny Toy Dump Truck by madscifi

Thingiverse citizen madscifi has designed what is sure to be a classic printable toy – a dump truck.  This one piece print features captive wheels inspired by a toy tanker truck by jag and sports a moveable truck bed.  While a one-piece printable, rolling dump truck with a movable bed is pretty sweet – what really wows me is the photograph of the interim design stages. Madscifi has been kind enough to share his OpenSCAD design files so that everyone else can benefit from his work too!

Okay, who’s up for designing a one-print, captive-wheels, working-hinges transformer?

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MAKE Live Features Tips from MakerBot Staff About Creating Time-Lapses

Ever since the earliest days of the first proto-MakerBots, time-lapse footage has been showing up in videos featuring MakerBots. The reason is obvious: watching a MakerBot print1 is an inherently visually experience, and a time-lapse compresses the entire process of printing into a few minutes like a magic trick.

Last week, Becky and Matt from the MAKE Live invited MakerBot to share behind the scenes tips and tricks for creating time-lapses on their live-streamed show. As I have created many of the recent time-lapses here (posted below), I went on to share my thoughts, and chat with Matt.2


Some Tips I Shared with Matt and Becky

  • You need something that is fixed or moves slowly to “gel” the time lapse.
  • Be careful of auto-exposure and auto-focus, as these kill illusion.
  • Sell realism by simulating camera moves — s-curves and ease in/ease out help give the viewer a cinematic handling feel while direct lines feel kinda mechanical (security cameras).
  • Typically folks add music after the time lapse — but if you pick music you like, you can make adjustments to the time lapse to connect it to (or work against) the music.
  • Shoot a big enough image to give you room for reframing — but make sure the resolution for a tighter shot looks good enough for your needs.
  • Many time lapse/stop motion/intervalometer type tools can be hacked to be queued by something other than time. If you are recording something that changes over time, you can create a tool to trigger the shots that are interesting (motion sensing, tracking, sound sensing, etc).
  • Once you are done shooting, it is like you have a strip of film. You can use any number of batch file renaming or image processing tools to change parts or all of your sequence well before encoding it as video.
  • You can “thin” out your time lapse to have only images doing what you want, and then use a batch file renaming tool to create a new consecutively numbered sequence of images.

What Time-Lapse Videos Are You Watching?

Well, watching time-lapse projects of unboxing/MakerBot assemblies as well as printing and frostruding is always a real treat for me so I wanted to direct you all to take a look at some great videos NOT created by MakerBot and encourage you all to post links in the comments to other great MakerBot-related time-lapses that you have created or encountered in your travels through the Internets.

The above is my currently reigning favorite of the MakerBot kit assembly videos — this one takes advantage of lots of manually triggered time-lapse events as well as tricks to shoot large formats and then re-frame for nice, believable pans and camera moves. Great work!

Another great MakerBot assembly time lapse — the camera position directly above makes this a really fun group build video.

YouTube Preview Image

The above video isn’t a time-lapse, but it is a video showing MakerBot Operator RobertHunt working to update Thingiverse Web Warrior Marty McGuire’s gcode-activated time lapse script for the Thing-O-Matic. With a stepper driven extruder going, the time is prime for slipping your camera automation into the gcode for your print!

  1. or even putting the kit together for the first time []
  2. Doing my best to hold off just talking about MakerBot the whole time, a real temptation! []
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Printing Plates

Prusa Mendel Cupcake production files by kliment

Prusa Mendel Cupcake production files by kliment

A “printing plate,” sometimes referred to as a “production plate,” is the practice of organizing the pieces of a multi-part print so that several parts will fit onto a build area.  They help streamline printing and production by reducing the number of separate printing tasks.  Organizing your multi-part print onto plates is a relatively easy design trick for improving your speed of production.  Here are a few tips in case you’re doing this:

  • Draw a square or rectangle the shape of your build platform into the design.  Try to organize your parts onto that square1 and delete the square when done. 2
  • Start by placing the largest piece onto a square, then adding the largest piece you can manage to the plate.  Add as many little pieces as you can around the larger parts.
  • If you are printing slot-together parts, you can safely mirror or flip the pieces.  Once printed, they’ll be functionally identical whether they were printed face-up or face-down.
  • Packing parts together can actually reduce warping and curling.  You may find that the extra parts will either provide apron-like mechanical advantages by holding down corners or thermal walls.
  • If certain parts need to be printed multiple times, put them with other parts that need to be printed multiple times.  In the case of Dino-Girl’s spidersaur, it has two different kinds of legs – four identical long legs and four identical shorter legs.  It also had a body panel and a fang part that needed to be printed twice each.  I created one plate with a long leg, a short leg, and the body panel and another plate with a long leg, short leg, and the fang part.  If you print each of those plates twice, you end up with four long legs, four short legs, two body panels, and two fang parts.
  • Ask for help!  I had a lot of trouble organizing the last five parts onto the fifth printing plate.  I enlisted the help of two other Thingiverse citizens, Syvwlch and Renosis, in organizing this plate.  They each solved it in a nearly identical fashion in far less time than I had spent trying to figure it out.
  • Use a stepper extruder.  If you’re packing parts in closely together, you’re going to want the kind of fine-grain control a MK6 stepper extruder can provide.

What other tips do you have for creating printing plates?

  1. Or rectangle []
  2. Ed of suggests using a matrix of small cubes. []
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18″ Stonehenge by 7777773

Ian Faith: Nigel gave me a drawing that said 18 inches. Now, whether or not he knows the difference between feet and inches is not my problem. I do what I’m told.
David St. Hubbins: But you’re not as confused as him are you. I mean, it’s not your job to be as confused as Nigel.

Even without references to one of the finest films ever made, this would be  a very cool object — a 3d model of a truly interesting piece of early technology, and a physical reminder that, at its best, technology is quite a lot like magic.  Well done then to remember it in one of its most memorable and important appearances, 7777773.  I think this really captures its whole social and cultural significance.

Now, unfortunately, I don’t see any good dwarf models…

Error - could not find Thing 9687.

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MakerBot MicroTip: Using the Support Features in Skeinforge’s Raft Tool

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with Skeinforge 35’s Support preferences (located in the Raft tool) to print objects that either have nasty overhangs (so would be likely to drop loops) or do not offer an easy flat sides to print from. In the past, these tools worked, but lead to uneven results. But with the latest toolheads offering stepper driven extrusion and really precise temperature management, bridging and printing with support structure gets better every day.

One consequence of the mechanical and software engineering updates to the Thing-O-Matic printer: with each new round of releases it is worth the effort to experiment with tuning Skeinforge settings in the Raft tool so that you can see how your MakerBot responds to the new possibilities.

Here are the models I use for support testing:

  • Wizzard by guru (the hat, sleeves, and arms are excellent support tests)
  • a 40% scale, upside down Stanford Bunny (printing inverted will make it obvious if your settings are skewing your model)

I also have a really challenging support test (featured above): animator Raedia Albinson‘s abstract sculpture “SisterRaeSpiral3.” I can’t make this STL available (though she is considering sharing it with Thingiverse) but suffice it to say that this is a cluster of nested spiral tendrils with no flat base. Pretty much the most brutal support test I have found — so I keep threatening the R&D team to send it to them as a test print.1

The Support settings are found within Skeinforge and can be accessed by clicking “Generate Gcode,” choosing a profile from the list, and then hitting the “Edit” button to open up the settings windows.

First Tip: Your settings in the Raft:Interface section will have a tremendous effect on your support material! So that Interface Infill Density (ratio) value determines how dense your support material will be (even though it isn’t in the support material section).

Second Tip: Can you use Support Material in combination with ReplicatorG 25’s Print-O-Matic features? Why, yes you can! Print-O-Matic overwrites some of the values in your profile, but not all of them. So you will be able to get the support material settings you like in your profile, and use a combination of activating “Raft” and picking a “Use support material” setting to use the Skeinforge:Raft settings you have added into your profile.

Here’s a great place to start for settings!

  • Interface infill density (ratio): 0.4 (0.3-0.7)’
  • Interface Layer Thickness over Layer Thickness: 1.2 ( also  0.7)
  • Support Cross Hatch: No.
  • Support Flow Rate over Operating Flow Rate (ratio): 0.7 (0.4-0.7)
  • Support Gap over Perimeter Extrusion Width (ratio): 0.005
  • Support Material Choice: Everywhere
  • Support Minimum Angle (degrees): 35.0
  1. And they keep saying “Bring it on!” []
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New EXPERIMENTAL 0.3mm Nozzle up on the Store!

Hey folks!  This Monday brings a product announcement that should be exciting for some of you bleeding-edge types: a new, experimental 0.3mm nozzle for the Stepstruder MK6 and MK6+.

This is the smallest nozzle we’ve ever offered, and while we’ve decided that the 0.4mm nozzle is the best choice for general use, we wanted to get these nozzles into the hands of advanced MakerBotStars to see what they can do with them.  These nozzles have the same geometry and the same anti-stick coating as our other nozzles, but the a smaller opening does mean that it won’t work with the default printing profiles.  You’ll need to use Print-O-Matic in ReplicatorG 25 or roll your own custom Skeinforge profile.  Also, if you don’t have a stepper-based extruder, this isn’t going to work for you.

If  experimenting until you’ve got the perfect settings to get some of the best MakerBot prints ever sounds like loads of fun to you, then head over to the store and pick one up.

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3D Printing Animation!

3D printed zoetrope

3D printed zoetrope

Each of these twelve sections was created with a 3D printer and then put together to show a figure walking.  Old school zoetropes had a thin wall all around the edge with slits through which you can observe the action.  As the zoetrope was rotated, the small glimpses through the holes in the wall would create the illusion of animation.  Newer zoetropes tend to use synchronized strobe lights so that the light comes on for a brief moment exactly when each segment reaches the point in the rotation where the prior segment was when the light was last on.  While still a work in progress the artist, Sam Ellis, has updated his website to show some more pictures and details.  He’s even promised to share the code for his work!

While we’ve seen animation using 3D printing before, this is probably the best example of something we could all be doing with our MakerBots right now.  Here’s what I’m hoping for – a stop motion video or zoetrope with a Gangsta.

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Robot Hospital! Episode Sixteen!

Hey everybody!  It’s Friday, so, despite having just been upstaged badly by the amazing sun-printing video, we’re back with another episode of everyone’s favorite web-show about all things MakerBot.  We’ve got a Thingiverse round-up showing off a printable flyswatter, a 3d-scanned sign of the horns and its first mashup, some printable keys, and just a few of the cool folks we’ve scanned with the Polhemus FastScan.  Then, our artist-in-residence Jonathan Monaghan tells us a bit about the scanning process, and invites everybody to next Thursday’s party.

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Solar Sinter by Markus Kayser

Solar Sinter” is a 3d printer by Markus Kayser that lives on sand and sun. It’s based on selective laser sintering (SLS), using Saharan sand as the medium and sunlight from a Fresnel lens in place of laser.

If you jump to 1:36 in the video above, Markus appears to be using MakerBot electronics to drive the Solar Sinter.

Markus writes:

In a world increasingly concerned with questions of energy production and raw material shortages, this project explores the potential of desert manufacturing, where energy and material occur in abundance.

In this experiment sunlight and sand are used as raw energy and material to produce glass objects using a 3D printing process, that combines natural energy and material with high-tech production technology.

Solar-sintering aims to raise questions about the future of manufacturing and triggers dreams of the full utilisation of the production potential of the world’s most efficient energy resource – the sun. Whilst not providing definitive answers, this experiment aims to provide a point of departure for fresh thinking.

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MakerBot’s Keith Ozar To Be A Judge for Jell-O’s Big Adventure This Saturday!

MakerBot Operators and friends in the New York Area are invited to check out the final wrap-up show for Jell-O’s Big Adventure, Brooklyn’s annual Jell-O Mold competition. This year is the year of the DIY 3D printer, with a number of the high school student groups and adult designers using MakerBots to accomplish unusual gelatin creations. Keith Ozar, MakerBot’s Marketing Manager, will be one of the judges this year — and his wife, the amazing Anney Fresh, will be emceeing and bringing lots of mischief. Details below!

Help take Jell-O on a big adventure—out of the kitchen and into the world at large!—as a crack panel of judges including creative consultant and curator Josee Lepage of Bondtoo, and Keith Ozar of MakerBot Industries, Emily Elsen of Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie shop ,and Core77’s Allan Chochinov and host Anney Fresh of Space Kittys announce the winners of the third annual JellO Mold Competition on Saturday June 25, 2011 at 8pm.

Guests will also have the opportunity to vote for People’s Choice. Kelso beer and JellO shots will be served, along with the JellO creations. There is an $8 cover, students under the age of 16 enter for free.  Doors open at 6pm.  Music by DJ Allied Mastercomputer till 10pm.

More information at

And check out this video about last year’s competition!

YouTube Preview Image
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MakerBot on CNN: “Start Small, Think Big”

A few weeks ago, CNN came to the BotCave to talk to Bre about the entrepreneurial origins of MakerBot for “Start Small, Think Big” — and got caught up themselves in what is possible if you have a MakerBot at your disposal. Here’s their segment!

Also, take a look at the CNN crew having a great time while filming in the BotCave.

The team here from CNN is spellbound while time lapsing a print.

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Cool Things and Cooperation

311mm x 311mm Printer using TOM parts by Scooter

311mm x 311mm Printer using TOM parts by Scooter

Thingiverse citizen Scooter posted his work-in-progress designs for a printer that could be built out of parts printed on a Thing-O-Matic.  Along with his description he added this a simple request:

I have been working on this design for over a week, but I am having trouble printing the larger parts flat. Some times they are almost flat but not the intire part, they always tend to warp up in the corners and ends. The smaller parts seem to print fine. Each part has a common wall thickness, and actually designed so they could even be injection molded.

Are there any veteran TOM users thay can reply with some help in correcting this warping issue.

At last count, Scooter’s project designs have at least 20 helpful comments with lots of different ways to defeat warping and curling.  These suggestions were so great that I had to go back and update yesterday’s post to add two additional methods.  However, the best part is that a simple request for help can garner so much information.

If you’ve gotten stuck on a project or it has just stalled, why not upload it to Thingiverse?  There’s bound to be someone interested in helping!

Error - could not find Thing 9554.
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Vertex generator by ssured

Vertex generator by ssured

Ever since I watched Michael Felix create a massive dome using connectors printed on a MakerBot, I have been fascinated with the MakerBottable possibilities when you consider MakerBot elements in combination with other elements (rods, ropes, sticks, stones, wires, springs, lasercuts, etc.). Thing 9560 really caught my eye — an OpenSCAD tool for creating wire-frame models of geometric figures.1

Thingiverse Web Warrior Marty McGuire proposed a next leap in the comments: imagine joining this tool with another “papercraft” tool to allow you to skin your object.2 Ssured and WilliamAAdams have been tag teaming on these platonic solids — so maybe one or the other of them will take this tool even further. Or maybe you, O Reader, will post one first!3

Error - could not find Thing 9560.


  1. Toothpick geodesic domes, anybody? []
  2. From geometric model to enclosure! []
  3. Marty also mentions this interesting paper from CMU last year by Max Hawkins that looks to be compelling reading for someone looking to jump in to this topic. []
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MakerBotting is Cheap!

What is the real cost of MakerBotting? Nick Starno, MakerBot Engineer decided to find out. He did some SCIENCE and made this handy chart so you can plan things out. You’ll notice that the electricity cost is at $.15 in this equation. That is a little bit more than we pay for it here in NYC, but we thought we’d adjust up in case your electricity is more. You’ll notice that the timing of the centimeter cubes is all the same, even though there are different infill settings. That’s because “cool” was turned on, which makes small layers take 15 seconds so they get a chance to cool. Even with solid infill, it needed to be slowed down to make each layer take 15 seconds and so they are all the same time! In the settings, these each have 1 shell so each model has two perimeters. The time noted here did not include warmup time. Using the new Print-O-Matic functionality in ReplicatorG, this was printed with a .4mm nozzle and a .3mm layer height and 30mm/sec feedrate.

We are proud of our plastic. We get the best plastic possible with great tolerances and we make it as cheap as we can! If you’ve done your own experiments in regards to power usage and costs. Drop us a note in the comments!

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Scanning John Biggs of CrunchGear

Check out this Crunchgear video of John Biggs getting scanned! You’re coming to the party right? It’s not a LAN party, it’s a SCAN party!

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Wall Thickness Calibration Test Piece by MiseryBot

Wall thickness calibration piece!

In last week’s Robot Hospital, I was remiss in mentioning the test piece I used to demonstrate that Skeinforge issue.  So I just wanted to give credit where it’s due, and spotlight this useful calibration print by the tireless MiseryBot.

This is a really nice calibration piece, and it should be helpful for many issues other than the one I mentioned.  It can also bring out other skeinforge bugs, as you can see from the main item photo.

And of course, it’s brilliant at demonstrating the “extra shells” bug — print one with 2 extra shells, and you’ll see see that the narrowest X’s and O’s are unfilled — then print one with zero extra shells and it’s hunky dory.  Remember that next time you’re printing an item with very thin walls and they’re coming out hollow!

And don’t forget to check in tomorrow afternoon for this week’s episode of Robot Hospital!

Error - could not find Thing 8859.
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12 Ways to Fight Warping and Curling

This article was written about printing with the MakerBot Thing-O-Matic and MakerBot Cupcake CNC. Click one of the following links for a similar article on the Fifth Generation MakerBot Replicator, MakerBot Replicator Z18, MakerBot Replicator Mini, MakerBot Replicator 2 or MakerBot Replicator 2X.



As printed plastic parts cool the different areas of the object can cool at different rates. 1  Depending upon the parts being printed, this effect can lead to warping and curling.  Although PLA has a much lower shrinkage factor than ABS, both can warp and curl, potentially ruining a print.  There are some very common ways to deal with this potential problem, the most notable being a heated build platform.  However, sometimes that might not be enough.

1. Use a heated build platform.  A heated build platform helps keep the lowest levels of a print warm as the higher layers are printed.  This allows the overall print to cool more evenly.  A heated build platform, sometimes abbreviated as HBP, helps tremendously with just about any ABS print and large PLA prints.

2. Print with a raft.  Rafts are a printing option in ReplicatorG and Skeinforge.  They’re basically a large flat lattice work of printed material underneath the lower-most layer of your printed object.  They’ll also help reduce warping and curling by allowing your printed object to adhere better to your flat build surface.  Other variations on this are to print with a larger raft and/or a thicker raft comprised of more layers.

3. Calibrate your starting Z height.  A good first layer makes all the difference.  If your starting Z axis height is too high, the extruded filament won’t be able to make a good bond with the platform.  If you think your Z axis starting height is too high, try lowering it by 0.05mm increments until you find a good first layer.

4. Get the right build surface.  Some people have experimented with different surfaces such as steel, titanium, glass, different kinds of plastic, different kinds of tape, and foam board.  However, I find both ABS and PLA seem to stick really well to hot or warm Kapton tape.

5. Clean your build surface.  ABS and PLA stick better to a clean build surface.  Keep it clean of dust, pieces of old prints, and any other debris.

6. Print slower.  Printing slower allows finer detail, better adhesion to the build surface and lower layers, and gives the printed part more time to cool evenly.

7. Print cooler.  Printing at a lower temperature isn’t always an option.  Ideally, you should be printing at the lowest temperature required for extrusion and that allows good interlayer adhesion.  However, trying lower temperatures isn’t for the faint of heart.  Printing at a too low a temperature could cause harm to your extruder motor or extruder.

8. Eliminate drafts or enclose your robot.  Forrest Higgs found that having his 3D printer too close to an open window caused very uneven heating across his build surface.  This in turn caused the side of his prints closest to the window to curl.  Since keeping the window closed wasn’t an option for him, he compensated for the window drafts by adding a heat lamp.  Cupcake and Thing-O-Matic owners might have an easier time of eliminating drafts by simply enclosing two or three of the sides of their robots.  It will also have a fortunate side effect of helping to control fumes.

9. Design with mouse ears.  Zach Smith’s solution was to add little discs to corners of an object to help those corners stick to the platform.  These essentially serve as “mini-rafts” to give those corners more surface area and better adhesion without having to print an entire raft.

10. Design with aprons to hold down corners.  Forrest Higgs suggested adding “aprons” around an object to be printed, while that object was being printed on a raft.  These low thick pieces of plastic help keep the raft flat and help prevent any curling or warping from affecting the desired printed object itself.

11. Design with surrounding thermal walls.  While Forrest Higgs’ apron approach provides a mechanical advantage of essentially holding down corners with a chunk of plastic, Nophead has added thin surrounding walls to his designs to act as baffles to keep warm air around the printed object as it moves around.  He’s postulated that a very thin surrounding wall could have the same beneficial effect as printing inside an enclosed build chamber.  Interestingly, it seems that Nophead suggests that designing objects with more rounded corners might also help avoid curling and warping at those corners.

12. Reduce infill.  When printing a model you can chose to print it hollow, completely solid, or some percentage between zero and 100.  However, as Nophead points out even the plastic inside a model exerts a force on the entire printed object as it cools.  It stands to reason that the more plastic you have, the more those pieces of plastic will pull against themselves and the build surface as they cool.  By reducing infill there will a reduced amount of internal tension as the object cools.  Reducing these internal forces by printing with a lower infill ratio can help reduce curling and warping as well.

13. EDIT:  Sand the Kapton.  Charles Pax has suggested that sanding a Kapton tape build surface will increase the surface area, making it easier for the molten plastic to stick.

14. EDIT:  ABS surface.  Some have suggested essentially painting the build surface with liquid ABS.2  This is has the same effect of laying down a big flat raft.

If you’ve got some suggestions, tips, or tricks that you use to fight warping and curling, please leave a comment below!

  1. Photo courtesy of backpackphotography []
  2. ABS dissolved in acetone or ABS glue []
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Everyday Fixes with MakerBot #3 (Tacklebox Clip)

YouTube Preview Image

Thingiverse citizen Chris aka TheNewHobbyist just posted a fantastic new video in his “Everyday Fixes with MakerBot” series.  There are a lot of great things about this post, but one of my favorites is just how quickly he goes from photograph of the object to fixed tacklebox. 1  He basically took a top-down view photograph of the clip, imported it into Google Sketchup, traced it, scaled it to size, exported as a standard STL file, then printed it FTW.2  Chris has also uploaded his work to Thingiverse so you can benefit from his ninja Sketchup design skillz.

I almost want to go out and get a tacklebox just to use some of these clips.

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  1. I can only hope that he uses this tacklebox to keep all the clips that have fallen off of his other tackleboxes. []
  2. For the win, natch. []
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The Cupcake CNC is totally sold out!

Exploded Unicorned Cupcake CNC

This is the end...

That’s right folks: this is the end of an era.  We have looked over the numbers, and it’s official: we’ve just sold the very last Cupcake CNC kits that we’ll ever be able to offer.

Though we’ve moved on to bigger and better things, the Cupcake was the kit that got it all started for us, and we’ll never forget that.  It’s also still a darn good little machine, so if you have an order that’s among the last, you’ve just gotten yourself a great deal on your first 3d printer.

This must be what it’s like to send your kids off to college…snif.  I told myself I wouldn’t cry…

Of course we still have lots of parts for servicing and upgrading your Cupcakes at the store, so don’t be a stranger!  Check in once in awhile!

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Carrot Holder by CloudMaker

Yes, that's a rabbit.

As viewers of Robot Hospital may know, I am a huge fan of items that are used to stick pieces of fruit to things.  This is mainly because these items are generally intended to feed small, cute animals, and I am, in general, a supporter or small, cute animals.  As long as they are not vicious.

For these reasons, I was very excited to learn that it was also possible with vegetables, thanks to CloudMaker‘s elegant design.  I am a bit concerned about its performance with thicker carrots, but this is a “Work In Progress” so I expect updates.

I haven’t made a “What’s up Doc” joke as of yet…I apologize for this oversight.

Error - could not find Thing 9445.
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Going slow

Slow down, you move to fast.  You've got to make the moment last.

Slow down, you move to fast. You've got to make the moment last.

Over the weekend I was experimenting with really really fast feedrates for my Thing-O-Matic. 1  What I discovered was that if I start even a complex object off very slowly, I could run the Thing-O-Matic pretty darn fast. 2  The tricky bit was getting that first layer to print slowly enough.3

After some poking and prodding in Skeinforge, I found the settings here:

  • Raft -> Object First Layer -> Object First Layer Feed Rate Infill Multiplier (ratio)
  • Raft -> Object First Layer -> Object First Layer Feed Rate Perimeter Multiplier (ratio)
  • Raft -> Object First Layer -> Object First Layer Flow Rate Multiplier (ratio)

I set each of these settings to the same value.  However, my target range was between 10 and 15mm/s.  So, I look the Feedrate from the Speed settings, and discovered that I would have to reduce my Feedrate to 30% of it’s normal speed in order to get within that range.  Thus, I entered 0.3 in each of the above settings.

The result was an almost agonizingly slow first layer – but a print that adhered well to the heated build platform, did not deform as the infill was applied, and provided an excellent base layer for the rest of the print. 4

  1. Feedrate is the speed of the X and Y axes.  Flowrate is the speed at which the plastic comes out of the nozzle. []
  2. More on the speed stuff in a later post. []
  3. Photo courtesy of Jakob E. []
  4. If you’re curious, I was printing the 27-to-1 gear toy []
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Senior Developer Needed!

MakerBot Industries is hiring! We’re looking for smart, driven developers to help us build the software that will define 3D printing for thousands of users. Candidates should be independent workers with strong software design sense. You’ll form the kernel around which we’re building our software shop; good team leadership skills are key.


  • Strong C/C++ skills
  • Experience working with small, nimble teams
  • Good understanding of 3D geometry
  • Ability to quickly grasp new ideas and technologies

Desirable skills:

  • Embedded platform development (AVR, ARM)
  • Qt (on the desktop)
  • OpenGL programming
  • Git/Github
  • Python
  • Understanding of open source and the OS community

This position is located in Brooklyn, NY. To apply, fill out the online application, and be sure to upload your resume. We look forward to hearing from you!

About Us
MakerBot Industries is a rapidly growing, Brooklyn-based startup that designs and manufactures low cost 3D printers. We make machines that make things! We’re deeply committed to open source hardware and software, and have the goal of getting these incredible tools into the hands of makers, inventors, and ordinary people around the world.

How to Apply
Visit our Online Application to apply!


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3D Printer Key Duplication with nrp

Duplicating Disc Detainer Keys by nrp

Duplicating Disc Detainer Keys by nrp

Thingiverse user nrp has been working on using his 3D RepRap printer in some pretty amazing ways.  He’s already put his 3D printer to use along with a Kinect to print by use of hand gestures.  Since then he’s been working on duplicating house keys and the more secure disc detainer keys pictured above.  Nrp’s website, and the comments that go along with his detailed posts, provide a wealth of information about his project along with lots of interesting links about computer enhanced key generation.

This project and the way nrp uses his printer remind me of the very cool Nickel for Scale project by Amy Hurst and MakerBot’s own Marty McGuire.  How cool would it be to never have to go get keys made again?  I don’t think it’s too much to dream that one day you might be able to put a key down next to a nickel, take a picture or short video, and have your MakerBot crunch out a few duplicates.

Error - could not find Thing 8925.
Error - could not find Thing 9463.
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Candlemaking molds with a MakerBot

Candle of Android's Mascot by mah_digilife

Candle of Android's Mascot by mah_digilife

When I saw the above image I first thought, “Gah!  Have we learned nothing from the flaming bunnies!”  After reading the entire description, I was greatly relieved and excited to see mah_digilife was using their MakerBot for printing molds, not candles.   His description, list of materials, instructions, and numerous pictures should be enough to help anyone get started in candle making.  These directions could probably be used to help make molds for candles, soap, and probably even little silicone objects as well.  What a great new use for a 3D printer!

Error - could not find Thing 9322.
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