An Automat Of Wireless 3D Printers


There’s a lot of really cool 3D printer stuff happening in the fashion district of NYC this month. It’s called 3DEA, and shows off  the awesomeness of Shapeways, Ultimaker, and the Up! 3D printer to all the fashionistas, trend setters, and the caliphate of coolness that is midtown Manhattan. The folks at Ultimaker wanted to bring something awesome to this exposition and came up with the Vendingwall: a wall of 3D printers connected into a vending machine able to print multiple objects at once.

Ultimaker has made a name for themselves as the top open source 3D printer manufacturer with absolutely impressive build quality and even a 20-foot-high printer able to manufacture entire rooms. The Vendingwall is their next step in the commercialization of 3D printers; all you need to do to create your own 3D printed object is walk up to the Vendingwall, order a print, and later retrieve from one of the many Ultimakers.

To control these ranks of Ultimakers, a piece of software runs on a wireless router loaded up with OpenWRT. From there, the router serves up a website powered by JQuery-mobile for all the Android and iDevices at the 3DEA open house, turning a wall of 3D printers into a vending machine reminiscent of the automats of yore.

17 thoughts on “An Automat Of Wireless 3D Printers

    1. We’re pretty open. Yes, we have a “None Commercial” license on our hardware files (except for the electronics). But they are open, and free to tinker with. (And even the NC license didn’t stop Chinese copies) No, we are NOT “Open Source Hardware”, with capitals, as that conflicts with the NC license.

      Also, our software is 100% open source. They even went so far to hire me, as Open Source developer for software. (See Cura, currently the supported software for the Ultimaker, by Ultimaker, from Ultimaker)

      But I know someone is going to give us shit for whatever we do. Life is hard when you are a small group of people making an a product that the whole world is watching.

      – Daid, fulltime Open Source software developer at Ultimaker.

        1. In the build instructions. Every step lists the parts needed.

          As for part numbers, some parts have no numbers. The often asked thermocouple and heater are custom parts. Made specially for Ultimaker. We need to buy some parts at bulk, large bulk, 2000 parts minimum. So why should we put effort in listing in something that is of no use to our users?

          But like I said. We are NOT “Open Source Hardware”, as that would require everything listed as you ask, without a none-commercial license. We are simply not going to do that, as we want to keep developing newer and better printers and stuff around that and developing requires money.

          As for “parts lists and stuff”, there are a few machines out there that where build from scratch, self sourced. It can be done, but it takes some effort.

          Now if you excuse me. I have fixes to commit in the Marlin RepRap firmware sources.

          1. Custom parts? Hey, that’s awesome, good on you. But that just raises the bar for openness. Look at Aleph Objects: when their source is “made custom”, they post blue prints! Why should you go through the trouble? Because you’re riding that Open Source wave, treating it like a check box on a list of things people will look for. Unfortunately they won’t find out just how secret things are until they need to replace that thermocouple. Then they’re in for a surprise when you’ve got them by the short and curlies demanding a whopping 26 EUR for a replacement! When I can walk to my nearest electronics store and walk out with one that isn’t in the “magic” shape that you somehow feel the need to defend as a good design decision for 8 EUR.

            Perhaps you should find time between your commits to put a little asterisk on your web site after every repeat of “Open Source” where you can defend your pseudo openness. I always laugh when developers are so accepting of the feel-good word of mouth from non developers, leave the tech support to non developers, but the second a non developer calls you out on being a bunch of phonies, well, “I have fixes to commit”.

            There’s a plain reason why the FSF endorses the AO-100 and not the Ultimaker

          2. You know what. I could make those blueprints, and diagrams for all parts you seem to be “missing”. But someone would need to explain a bunch of customers then that their kits will be delayed. As it’s currently still almost impossible to keep up with demand. And in the end, only a really tiny group cares about that stuff. But a noise tiny group you are.
            If I tell you that the thermocouple is a KT thermocouple in a 3mm diameter casing with a length of 25mm. Will you be trying to find a supplier? No you will whine and bitch about the next part.

            Remember that Ultimaker was 3 people in a shed 1.5 year ago. They had to ramp up production from almost nothing to high amounts in a year, without experience on how to run anything like this.

            And the kit is designed as the best possible printer, as open as possible, but not sacrificing print quality for openness. Freedom to tinker is our most important freedom we want to have on our printer.

            Yes, there are still a few “wrong” texts on the website, and missing bits and pieces. It’s taken a year just to get everything sorted and even find the time talk about how open Ultimaker wants to be. Because of everything else going on. And, no, they are not Open Source Hardware. But Open Source itself has many forms, and one of those forms fits on how Ultimaker wants to operate.

            Might not suit the FSF, or you. But it fits us.
            In the end, we are building one of the top consumer level 3D printers, which allows tinkering. And we doing that from a old building at the border of a tiny town in the Netherlands. What are you doing? Except for complaining on the internet?

  1. I had an idea simular to this a long time ago. my idea wasnt a store thoe, it was a shed. you order your part online and pay for it, and you get a number. you go to the shed and type in your number and a locker opens (like Amazon Lockers) and you grab your part. also built into the shed is UPS shipping, so when the part is done and is supposed to ship it drops it into a box and putts a label on it.

    my other idea was a “Service Station” and i was going to sell them to Sears and other in store service departments. you go up to it, select the part you need (E.X. Dewalt Drill Handle Left Side) and it will print out the part.

    1. Would love to see something like this get established, somehow.
      if it could produce a really nice finish
      Or one that’s close enough to permit
      some reasonable finishing work
      and have proper structural attributes.
      ..could be a rebuilder/restorers
      “Santa Claus machine”
      mmm, But getting specs and details from manufacturers would be no small feat.
      switching feed stock
      and purging nozzles reliably ,
      so many details to work out..

      Hope someone finds a way
      to make it go.
      even if it has to be limited
      by some practical or copyright issues.

  2. Reminds me (a bit) of a more modest idea I had. Get a wall of cheap-or-free inkjet printers and tie them into one system. Given n printers, the computer would print 1/n of a book on each printer. Then, manually combine and bind. 20 printers at a modest 10 pages per minute each could do 200 ppm.

    1. You’d probably be better off with color-laser printers due to materials cost and reliability. Cheap inkjets are at best 0.24USD/page and have a failure rate on the order of 1/1000 pages so you’d have a printer failing every 5 minutes. Laser printers are much cheaper (<0.05USD/page) and have much lower failure rates as well.

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