Monday, March 16, 2009


Announcing MakerBot Industries

If you've been wondering why I've been so quiet lately, then wonder no more! For the past couple of months, I've been working on getting a RepRap based company off the ground with the help of my friends Bre Pettis and Adam Mayer. The name of the company is MakerBot Industries and we make robots that make things.

Our first major project is a RepStrap design called CupCake CNC. We set out to create a simple, low-cost 3D printer that is easy to assemble, and capable of printing the vast majority if things that one would print with a RepRap machine. We've also made it essentially 100% compatible with the reprap design, and it is controlled by the RepRap electronics and software.

The idea behind CupCake CNC and MakerBot in general is that we love 3D printing, and digital fabrication in general. Our dream is for everyone in the world to have cheap, easy access to these cool technologies. For us, that means that we should provide them as cheaply as possible, and make them as easy to use as possible. For now, the easiest way for us to do that is to build RepStrap machines with our laser cutter. We're hoping that as the RepRap technology matures, we will be able to use that to produce our machines and lower the cost even more. As a core developer of the RepRap project for 4 years now, I'm a firm believer that is what is going to happen.

The CupCake CNC idea was mainly Bre's. His original idea was to build a cupcake frosting machine, and we have a prototype frosting extruder aka Frostruder that does exactly that. However, we also realized that the vast majority of RepRap parts, and indeed the vast majority of parts that one can reasonably print on a RepRap machine are about the size of a cupcake. Thus, Cupcake CNC was born. We borrowed some of the best ideas from a few of the other open source 3D printer designs: a lasercut box from Fab@Home, electronics, software, and extruder designs from RepRap and combined them into something that is uniquely ours.

The result is a nice, tidy machine with very few external parts that prints very nicely. The setup is actually inverted from a standard RepRap machine. On ours, it is the build platform that moves in the X/Y plane, and the extruder is stationary on the Z platform which raises it up and down. Since the various extruders tend to be a bit heavier than the things it is building, we opted to switch it up a bit. The X/Y platform is belt-driven and uses cheaper, smaller NEMA 17 motors. We use pulleys from SDP-SI which give it a resolution of 0.085mm/step. When the new, smaller pulleys arrive, we'll improve that resolution to 0.075mm/step. The Z-axis uses standard M8 threaded rod which gives insanely high accuracy. We've also used standard 608 skate bearings throughout the design to give it a butter-smooth operation. It has a build area of approximately 100mm x 100mm x 100mm (~4 inches on a side).

Anyway, we're excited to expand the number of options available for cheap 3D printing and look forward to releasing many new and exciting developments in the coming weeks, months, and years. We have a few super-rad surprises that we'll be unveiling in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned.

Obviously, the vast majority of things we do will be totally open source. We firmly believe and trust in the open source hardware movement and look forward to building an awesome future together.

If you want to keep an eye on us, you can check out our website, subscribe to our blog, follow us on Twitter, join the Facebook group, hack on our wiki, check out our subversion repository, or browse through our online store.

Of course, if you'd like to pre-order a CupCake CNC, its $750 for *everything* you need to build and start printing. We'll be putting the finishing touches on the design and thoroughly documenting the machine in the next weeks, and pre-orders will ship on or before April 15th.

Oh, and here's a little video we made:

Makerbot Industries - Cupcake CNC from MakerBot Industries on Vimeo.

This change makes me a bit worried that there will be a decline in the speed of development of the main reprap.

The big thing that makes me worried is the the RRRF is the only place where the electronics kits can currently be obtained(it seems every kit has at least one part that is really difficult to find at my local store and i need to order it in from far away, pcb's excluded of course). In the long term future, will the kits becomes harder to find? These are already the weak link in the whole reproduction process. The makerbot website says that you sell the gen 2 electronics, but if we buy the cupcake, it will come with the gen 3 electronics.

Forrest made a post about something like this happening a few months ago, it looks like it's coming true. The whole thing makes me a little worried.
I don't think we need to worry too much. Slashing the cost of 3D printing machines is an incidental and entirely positive side-effect of this research.

A $750 3D printer is awesome, but a RepRap has the potential to plunge down into the $200 or lower range, given enough research and a friend to print parts.

It is possible that cheap 3D printers like the Cupcake will reduce the pressure on innovators to create the RepRap. But I remain convinced that $750 printers are just a sign that this research path is going to pay off with even cheaper fabrication solutions down the road.
I can see your point letsburn00, however I think looking at a true reprap ( one that can print itself fully) is a long way off.

I do think that a broad range of ideas and designs is a sure sign of a healthy ecosystem.

The trick as I see it is getting the whole process bootstrapped , once there are enough printers (of whatever form) out there the Reprap will coalesce on it's own.

I have been toying with the microcontroller side for months now and i'm just getting the hang of them now.

I think that the cupcake is a neat little printer, I suspect that the only part it can't make is the X-carriage of the darwin , but this could be done in two parts and fused.

I say let anyone design whatever they like and the best design will prevail. Just like Darwin theorized.

Love the design footprint of that baby... good luck Makerbot!
I think it's a good thing, and now Zach won't have to spend so much time making little bags of parts for the electronic kits - it's handy for us, but it must have been a royal pain for him.

The parts lister is still there, and you can cut and paste your parts list into Mouser or whichever supplier, which lets them do what they're good at - making little bags of parts. I think the big parts houses like Digikey and Mouser have an automated system for filling orders, so it makes much more sense to let them keep the inventory and do the parts distribution, instead of having Zach do it all over again by hand.

PCB's will still be something that are special ordered, and I figure Zach (or anyone else) will still be producing those.
letsburn00: you definitely should not be worried. not only have i gotten two very smart and committed people (bre and adam) involved with the RepRap project, but I am also now freed up from having to fill and ship orders (ie: more time to work on the technology)

tigger: the cupcake build area is large enough to print every single darwin part. we're committed to the idea of RepRap at MakerBot, its just not quite ready for primetime. If it was, we'd have RepRap machines reproducing themselves exponentially already. ;)
"we're committed to the idea of RepRap at MakerBot, its just not quite ready for primetime."

If you can do frosting, you can do slip. That frostruder could become very important in the long run!
Good luck, Zach!

(In the interests of openness and letting everyone know what's going on, I should declare an interest: I am one of the investors in Makerbot, so I am sort-of wishing myself luck. Does wishing luck still work as completely reliably as normal when you do that?)
hi zach i have been trying to get hold of a number for the company please could you leave one on here ?
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