The 2014 Line Of MakerBots


With the Consumer Electronics Show over, it’s finally time to take a look at the new line of MakerBot printers (here’s the press release). Unlike MakerBot’s previous offerings with a one size fits all business model, they’re branching out with a product line that can only be described as, ‘regular, small, and large’.

The new MakerBots include an updated Replicator that’s just slightly larger than the previous version. It includes Ethernet, an option for WiFi, an on-board camera, and a control panel with a 3.5″ LCD and rotary encoder. This new Replicator will retail for $2900, $700 more than the current Replicator (single extruder).

The other new MakerBots include the stripped down and small Replicator Mini. It’s a no-frills machine with a build volume of 10 x 10 x 12.5 cm (~4 x 4 x 5 in) with 200 micron resolution. Also in the new lineup is the Replicator Z18, an impressively large printer with a 30.5 x 30.5 x 45.7 cm (12 x 12 x 18 in) build volume, 100 micron resolution, plastic sides for a heated build volume, and all the bells and whistles on the new Replicator. The Mini will sell for $1375 and the Z18 is expected to sell for $6500.

The updated Replicator is available now, and the Mini and Z18 will be available sometime in the next few months.

3D Printering: A Makerbot In Every School Follows the Oregon Trail


Gather ’round, children and I’ll tell you a tale of how everyone from the ages of 16 to 40 has played Oregon Trail.

Back when Apple was just starting out, [The Steves] thought it would be a good idea to get the Apple II into the hands of schoolchildren across the United States. They did this with educational pricing, getting Apple IIs into newly created ‘computer labs’ in schools across the country. These new computers – from my experience, anyway – were used as a replacement for the old Selectric typewriters, and on rare occasions a machine that played the MECC classics like Oregon Trail.

Fortunately, a few students were bright enough and had teachers who were brave enough to allow BASIC programming, PEEKs and POKEs. This was the start of a computer revolution, a time when grade schoolers would learn a computer wasn’t just a glorified word processor or dysentery machine, but something that would do what you told it to do. For those kids, and I’m sure a few of them are reading this, it was a life changing experience.

Now it appears we’re in the midst of a new revolution. If this horribly named column isn’t enough of a clue, I’m talking about 3D printing. Yesterday, Makerbot announced they were going to fill in for Apple in this physical revolution by trying to get a Makerbot into every school in the country.

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3D Printering: A Call for an Open Source Automated Build Platform

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: if you’re using a 3D printer to make a few hundred identical plastic parts, you’re doing it wrong. That’s the place for traditional manufacturing methods such as injection molding or resin casting. If, however, you’re looking at printing a few dozen identical plastic parts, or even running a script to optimize your machine time, the current open source 3D printer world leaves one thing to be desired.

An Automated Build Platform

An Automated Build Platform is a fairly simple idea: put a conveyor belt on your heated bed, and when the print is done, send a command to drive a motor, dumping the newly printed part into a bin, The printer then begins the next part with a clean bed, and the days of doting over a 3D printer soon fade into the past.

For such a simple and useful idea, it’s surprising there hasn’t been much done with this idea in open source circles. There are, of course, problems both technical and legal, but hopefully nothing that should indefinitely derail anyone who would want to create the first open source automated build platform.

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Opening up the settings in MakerWare


[Rich Olson] really likes MakerWare and the Makerbot slicer – the software package that comes with every Makerbot – but sometimes he needs to change a few settings. Makerware doesn’t allow the user access to 90% of the setting for slicing and printing, so [Rich] did something about that. He came up with ProfTweak, a tool to change all the MakerWare slicing and printing parameters, giving him precise control over every print.

ProfTweak handles common settings changes such as turning the fan on or off, adjusting the filament diameter, changing feed rate options, and turning your infills into cats. It’s a handy GUI app that should work under Windows, OS X, and Linux, so if you’re running MakerWare right now, you can get up and running with this easily.

One thing [Rich] has been using his new software for is experimenting with alternative filaments. With his Makerbot, he’s able to print in nylon, the wood and stone PLAs, flex PLA, and PET. That’s a lot more material than what the Makerbot natively supports, so we have to give [Rich] some credit for that.

Students build a 3D printed plane

3d printed plane

A student team has successfully designed, built, and flown a 3D printed RC plane using only $16 of plastic with a consumer-grade 3D printer (Makerbot), plus the necessary electronics and motor.

The folks over at the Wright Brothers Institute (WBI) have a great program called the AFRL Discovery Lab which brings teams of students, businesses, researchers, and government together to work on a specific challenge or opportunity.

One of the programs this year was the Disposable Miniature Air Vehicle, or DMAV for short. The student interns [Nathan, Ben, and Brian] spent the first 5 weeks at Tec^Edge designing the plane. The team went through 5 revisions before they settled on a design they believed could fly. The final plane weighed 1.5 pounds, and on its first flight… plummeted into the ground. Good thing they printed a second copy! After some more practice [Stephen] got the hang of it and was able to fly and land the plane successfully.

According to the WBI, this is the first functional aircraft that has been fully 3D printed (sans electronics) using FDM technology, and the first low wing 3D printed plane to be flown. Hate to burst their bubble, but 3D printed quadcopters have been around for quite a while!

Test flight video is after the break.

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Makerbot shows off 3D scanner


We’ve said our piece over Makerbot and their interpretation of what Open Source means, but the fact remains if you’re sourcing a 3D printer for a high school shop class or a hackerspace, you really can’t do much better than a Makerbot Replicator. Apparently Makerbot is looking to expand their 3D design and fabrication portfolio; they just announced an upcoming 3D scanner at SXSW. It’s called the Makerbot Digitizer, and it takes real, 3D objects and turns them into CAD files.

Since Makerbot and [Bre Pettis] didn’t give out much information about the 3D scanner they’re working on, the best information comes from Techcrunch. The Makerbot Digitizer uses two lasers to scan real objects and turns them into 3D CAD files. The hardware isn’t finalized, and the prototype is made of a few pieces of laser cut plywood. No details are available on how much the Digitizer will cost, when it will be available, or what its resolution is.

Of course 3D scanning of real objects to translate them into CAD files is nothing new for Hackaday readers. We’ve seen our fair share of desktop 3D scanners, including one that was built in a day out of junk. Even the Kickstarter crew has gotten into the action with a few desktop 3D scanners, some of which scan in full color.

Custom 3D printed designs with Makerbot’s Customizer


Although having a 3D printer means you can create custom object of your own design, that doesn’t change the fact that most object printed on Makerbots and RepRaps are copies, or slight derivations, of already existing object. If you need a gear, just go grab an OpenSCAD file for a gear, and a custom smart phone case can be easily made by modifying an already existing one. The problem with this approach, though, is you’ll need to learn OpenSCAD or another 3D design tool. Enter the Makerbot Customizer, a web app that allows you to create custom versions of other people’s work right in your browser.

The idea behind Customizer is simple: someone creates an OpenSCAD file with a few variables like the number of teeth on a gear or the number of turns on a screw. Customizer takes this OpenSCAD file, puts sliders and radio buttons on a web page, and allows you to create custom objects based on user-created templates.

Already we’ve seen a lot of Hackaday readers send in some pretty cool customizable things, like [Bryan]’s coil form for DIY inductors and [Greg]’s customizable PVC pipe couplers. If you already know OpenSCAD, it’s easy to create your own objects that are customizable by anyone on the Internet.