Human Friends: Andrew Plumb


Andrew Plumb, AKA, Clothbot is a hardcore MakerBotter. He has a first batch machine and he puts it to work! He’s an active member on Thingiverse and the MakerBot google group and often answers questions from other operators before we at the BotCave even get a chance to read them. Has made a ton of stuff including, but not limited to: MakerBot Coin, Lego Compatible Disc Buttons, Toy Train Track, and the Locking Bearing Bracket.

I asked him some questions about MakerBotting and he wrote his answers all up on his wiki!

You got a MakerBot. What were you thinking?

I was fortunate to be going through university in the early ’90s right when Linux was making the rounds – Math and Engineering, Control and Communications Systems program at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. (Cool! There wasn’t a Control and Robotics option back then.) That box of a hundred-odd 3.5″ floppies landed on my desk and I was plunged into the second emerging wave of Open Source software – the first being the BSD origins of UNIX. With healthy wiki, forum, google group and twitter extended participation (to name a few channels), the RepRap+MakerBot+Thingiverse projects feel like they could be leading a third wave of open source innovation and community.

ShopBot was a possibility, but even the small model would have taken up sizable space in the garage. With small children in the house, noise was a significant factor; subtractive CNC is rarely quiet. A laser cutter would have been cool, but I couldn’t justify the cash with a service like Ponoko at hand with a broader range of materials and community experience to pull on. They do steel too!

I watched Desktop Factory development make progress and start taking pre-orders but couldn’t bring myself to pull that trigger. There were too many unknowns for me around input material which made it feel too much like the old 2D printer ink/toner game; we’ll sell you the printer cheap and make money on the proprietary ink/toner cartridges. Also, with an opaque development process it’s hard to grow a community beyond the hard-core, existing (ab)users of the tech.

I’ve been a closet Industrial Design (ID) enthusiast for years. The local ID school ( recently started a Masters program, but what with parental obligations and startup-style work schedules there’s little time left to entertain that sort of additional commitment. My Makerbot provides me with an outlet to explore the whole design process at my own pace. Perhaps one day I’ll enroll… At least by then I’ll have something in the way of a portfolio!

No matter what happens in the future, since all aspects of the hardware and software are open sourced, my MakerBot will always have a repair and upgrade path. It’s very much about reconnecting with the materials around me. My tools are extensions of me, the cyborg me if you will.

What was it like building it?

It took many short morning and evening sessions over the course of two months to get my MakerBot operational – unboxed on May 5th, 2009 to first-print on June 27th, 2009. Such is life with parental obligations and a day-job that pays well.

On the other hand, my Basement Isolation Booth took from August 31st, 2006 to February 24th, 2007 to reach a useable state. Slow build-time is relative.

Figuring out how to do SMD for my first-edition cupcake was worth the price of admission. Looking back on it, I can’t believe I waited that long to gear up for that skill!

What excites you about the future?

I’m watching RepRap Mendel intently, particularly the bit about it making its own electronics. Being in the microelectronics and by extension MEMS industry, coming up with ever-smaller makerbots using the previous generation is a most intriguing proposition. It’s now a question of how long will it be until – not if – we will have home atom-pusher replicators? Closed-cycle fabrication. All that is old shall be remade anew. I’m saving up all my spent rafts and trimmings for this part.

Big thanks to Andrew for sharing!