Makerbot, Occupy Thingiverse, and the reality of selling Open Hardware

Yesterday, Makerbot Industries introduced the Replicator 2, a very good-looking 3D printer that will is probably the closest thing we’ll see to a proper ‘consumer’ 3D printer for a year or so. There’s only one problem. The new Replicator 2 is rumored to be closed source. If that’s not enough, [Bre Pettis], co-founder and CEO of Makerbot Industries will be speaking at the Open Source Hardware Association conference next week with the suitably titled talk, “Challenges of Open Source Consumer Products.”

Of course, the Replicator 2 being closed source is hearesay, and we can’t blame them for closing up parts their product; they have investors to worry about and people are blatantly copying their work. There was another change in Makerbot’s operation at the press conference yesterday: Makerbot now owns everything you’ve put up on Thingiverse.

This news comes from [Josef Prusa], creator of what is probably the most widely used 3D printer in the world.

[Prusa] begins his rant with the history of the RepRap. The project began with a team of core developers headed by [Adrian Bowyer], and supported by [Zach Smith], [Adam Mayer], and [Bre Pettis]. [Boyer] gave the guys a bit of money to start Makerbot, and it’s something the guys at Makerbot have never been ashamed of. Makerbot went on to create Thingiverse, became the darlings of the Open Hardware movement, and acquired $10 million from investors.

All things change, of course, and Makerbot is no exception. Along with the (again, rumored) closed-source Replicator 2, [Prusa] pointed out the Terms of Use for Thingiverse say that Thingiverse – and thus Makerbot Industries – owns everything submitted by Thingiverse users. [Prusa] started an Occupy Thingiverse movement in response to this discovery.

Honestly, we hope [Josef Prusa] is wrong on this one. We hope the specific clauses in Thingiverse’s Terms of Use granting itself a license to do whatever it wants with uploaded Things is just a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo added in by lawyers to protect Thingiverse from being sued by crazy people. Still, if rumors are true, it may be a portent of things to come.

In any event, [Prusa] will be taking his Thingiverse things down. He plans on posting his stuff on GitHub, probably the most Open Source-friendly community in existence. You can do the same with this GitHub template for 3D printed objects.

So, learned reader of Hackaday, what do you make of this? Is Makerbot right to close up their projects? Are we finally becoming disillusioned with Open Hardware? What say you?

Introducing the Makerbot Replicator 2

A few short hours ago at press conference, Makerbot announced the release of their Replicator 2 3D printer.

The original Makerbot Replicator was released earlier this year at CES and regaled by the press as a quantum leap in home manufacturing (a quanta is actually very small, guys) with and option for dual extruders and a rather large build volume. The Replicator 2 takes the same formula and adds a powder coated steel frame, larger build volume (11.2″ x 6.0″ x 6.1″ or 28.5 x 15.3 x 15.5 cm) and a resolution so fine as to approach the realm of uber expensive 3D printers (100 microns or 0.004 inches).

Base price is $2200 USD for the single extruder model with no Makercare service plan. A dual-extruder Replicator 2X is slated to be released after the beginning of next year. This model will also handle ABS filament, although we can’t find anything that says the single-extruder Replicator 2 is only able to use PLA.

Even though the new Replicator 2 is rumored to be closed source, we’d really struggle to come up with a better 3D printer for a high school shop class, college CS and/or engineering department, or even a hackerspace.

Hackaday links: September 7, 2012

MakerSlide, European edition

We’re all familiar with the MakerSlide, right? The linear bearing system that has been turned into everything from motorized camera mounts to 3D printers is apparently very hard to source in Europe. A few folks from the ShapeOko forum have teamed up to produce the MakerSlide in the UK. They’re running a crowdsourced project on Ulule, and the prices for the rewards seem very reasonable; €65/£73 for enough extrusion, v-wheels, and spacers to make an awesome CNC router.

Kerf bending and math

A few days ago, I made an offhand remark asking for an engineering analysis of kerf bending. [Patrick Fenner] of the Liverpool hackerspace DoES already had a blog post covering this, and goes over the theory, equations, and practical examples of bending acrylic with a laser cutter. Thanks for finding this [Adrian].

276 hours well spent

[Dave Langkamp] got his hands on a Makerbot Replicator, one thing led to another, and now he has a 1/6 scale model electric car made nearly entirely out of 3D printed parts. No, the batteries don’t hold a charge, and the motor doesn’t have any metal in it, but we’ve got to admire the dedication that went in to this project.

It was thiiiiiiis big

If you’ve ever tried to demonstrate the size of an object with a photograph, you’ve probably placed a coin of other standard object in the frame. Here’s something a little more useful created by [Phil]. His International Object Sizing Tool is the size of a credit card, has inch and cm markings, as well as pictures of a US quarter, a British pound coin, and a one Euro coin. If you want to print one-off for yourself, here’s the PDF.

Want some documentation on your TV tuner SDR?

The full documentation for the E4000/RTL2832U chipset found in those USB TV tuner dongles is up on reddit. Even though these chips are now out of production (if you haven’t bought a proper tuner dongle yet, you might want to…), maybe a someone looking to replicate this really cool device will find it useful.

TangiBot and the perils of Open Source Hardware

I’ve commented before on the terrible inefficiency and artificially high expense of the current crop of 3D printers. It simply doesn’t make sense to produce the plastic parts of 3D printer kits on a printer farm when there are literally thousands of Chinese injection molding companies that will make those parts cheaper. It looks like [Matt Strong] heeded my call and now has a Makerbot Replicator clone up on Kickstarter that costs $700 less than the official version. We assume the Makerbot lawyers are having a busy morning.

From the info on the Kickstarter page, [Matt] is used parts from his Makerbot Replicator to design a one-to-one copy. Every part and component on [Matt]’s TangiBot is 100% compatible – and seemingly 100% identical – with the Makerbot Replicator. Like the Replicator, [Matt] is offering a dual extruder version that allows you to print in two colors.

At the bottom of the Kickstarter page, under a section titled, “How is 3DTangible able to make a Replicator Clone?,” you’ll see [Matt]’s reasoning for cloning the MakerBot replicator. He says everything is open source, and, “MakerBot used other open source designs when designing and producing their 3D Printers.” We’ll agree that MakerBot used existing extruder designs (and improved upon them), but MakerBot was not this blatant in borrowing from the RepRap project.

For want of editorializing, I’ve complained about the stupid inefficiency of manufacturing 3D printers with 3D printers before. It was only a matter of time before someone realized current manufacturing techniques can be used to make 3D printers cheaper. [Matt] – dude – you were supposed to clone a RepRap. Makerbot has done some really incredible things for the community such as building Thingiverse and generally being an awesome cheerleader for the 3D printing community. Taking the flagship Makerbot printer and making it cheaper will not make [Matt] any friends on the Internet, but at least the laws of economics are coming to the world of 3D printers.

Thanks [Brad] for sending this in.

Mixing colors on the Reprap

3d printing has come huge strides in ability to construct detailed objects. Unfortunately, color is still a considerable limitation. Here, some people at the Reprap blog are having fun coming up with an extruder head that actually mixes two colors as it deposits them. Don’t confuse this with the dual head that Makerbot is touting that allows you to switch colors on the fly, this is a single head that actually has a cavity where the material is melted, then stirred to create a combination of the two. It is an interesting method of overcoming a limited supply of colors.

Having this extra stirring chamber means that there would be a small amount of material wasted any time that you wanted to make a change to the color, as it would have to be purged. There are some interesting thoughts in their comments on how to use this extra material most efficiently.

Solidoodle, a $500 3d printer

3D printers are very popular right now. We’ve seen them go from an interesting project to multiple commercial entities. Makerbot seems to be the poster child for the commercial side of things, at least they were. Their former COO [Samuel Cervantes] is now in charge of a new company called Solidoodle. Their main product is a complete 3d printing kit for $499. You supply power and a computer.

The Solidoodle is capable of building things 6″x6″x6″. The quality seems to be comparable to most of the others we’ve seen. They tout a .1mm layer thickness in HD mode (makerbot shows .2-.3mm). Not bad considering it is less than 1/3 the price of the makerbot replicator with a single extruder. The video after the shows it in action, as well as both with the optional case and door and without.

Printing point-to-point circuits on a 3D printer

[CarryTheWhat] put up an Instructable on his endeavours in printing circuit boards for solder free electronics. He managed to print a flashlight where the only non-printed parts are a pair of batteries and a couple of LEDs.

The circuit is a weird mix of point to point and Manhattan style circuit construction; after modeling a printed plastic plate, [CarryTheWhat] added a few custom component holders to hold LEDs, batteries, and other tiny electronic bits.

To deliver power to each electronic bit, the components are tied off on blue pegs. These pegs are attached to each other by conductive thread much like wirewrap circuit construction.

Right now, the circuits are extremely simple, but they really remind us of a few vintage ham radio rigs. While this method is most likely too complex to print 3D printer electronics (a much desired and elusive goal), it’s very possible to replicate some of the simpler projects we see on Hackaday.

[CarryTheWhat] put the models and files up on GitHub if you’d like to try out a build of your own.