MRRF: Jellybox, A STEM-Oriented Printer

It’s the first full day of fun here at the Midwest RepRap Festival. This year’s turnout is quite impressive—as I’m writing this, we’re an hour or so in and there are already hundreds of people and a couple of R2D2 units milling about.

The talks will begin in a few hours. This year MRRF has expanded to another building, which should tell you something about the growth of this festival. We are excited to hear [Filip] and [Ladi] give a presentation about Jellybox, a STEM-driven project he started to bring 3D printing into education in a comprehensive and hands-on way. The initial idea was based on [Jean Piaget]’s theory of constructionism. [Piaget] was a clinical psychologist who helped advance the idea that human learning is greatly influenced by connecting a person’s ideas with their experiences.

Building a Jellybox printer is about as easy as it gets, and takes about 4-6 hours depending on your skill level. The laser-cut clear acrylic panels are connected with zip ties that lock around 90° plastic brackets. The back panel even has a etched diagram that shows where all the connectors should go, and the wiring is neat and tidy by design. It’s meant to be easy to tear down so that teachers can use them again and again with middle and high school-aged students. The Jellybox is open-source; both the extruder and the hot end can be swapped out in a flash.

IMade3D offers one- and two-day intensive courses in the DC area that cover building a Jellybox and learning some things about 3D modeling. The kit is included in the price of admission. Jellybox kits will be available in a few weeks, but can be preordered today for $799.

24 thoughts on “MRRF: Jellybox, A STEM-Oriented Printer

  1. Rather original way to join acrylic panels as the body.

    From what I’ve seen on Thomas Sanladerer reviews most nut and bolt ways tend to crack the fragile material that’s acrylic. Even if you are extra careful tightening cracks appear overnight … not structural dangerous ones, though, but if you are building your printer to be pretty and use acrylic instead of wood … try keeping it beautiful!

    Although i’m always skeptical when it comes to 3d printers … I’ll admit this is colorful and straight to the point. Buy , learn, print, and tinker around. Not too much BS (that 0.02mm layer height is pretty silly, it’s impractical (prints take AGES) and it requires a lot of fine tuning and good filament ), good price.

  2. Let’s see what Jellybox teaches kids:
    -Zip ties are industrial grade fasteners for precise machines
    -Cheap plastic construction is an acceptable thing
    -Exposed PCBs are acceptable in end user products

    Maybe they should be sending this thing over to China to help bring down the competition

    1. For the target audience, I expect the lessons that the kids will learn are more like:
      * You can build a machine that does something.
      * You can design something.
      * You can make something you designed.

      All of the lessons you cited are at way higher levels of understanding than the target audience (who has maybe never heard of a zip-tie or PCB).

    2. Funny you should mention that. In the talk they gave, [Filip] specifically said that they use American zip ties that cost ten times more than Chinese zip ties. So there’s that.

      It seems that cheap plastic construction has been an acceptable thing since shortly after the birth of plastic.

        1. Come off it, by your reasoning LEGO shouldn’t exist because you should machine everything from billet 6061 or Ti-6Al-4V when it counts. Do the pink zip ties make you uncomfortable or something?

          1. LEGO is not supposed to take force. On my FIRST team we used to use the occasional LEGO component, they sucked for that. But when you wanna build a visual model, it’s great.

            3D printers can use plastic, but it shouldn’t be flexible nylon zipties except in very specific cases.

        2. Your reasoning is actually correct in north american manufacturing lol. Metal detectable zip ties that cost a fortune on EVERYTHING and duct tape to cover holes over electronics and even 480V enclosures.

          As for kids if you can not open the box and have something moving within one afternoon 19 out of 20 kids with walk away and forget about it. The one left over would build a steel machine with a million bolts but the point is to expand the horizons of the other 19 kids.

        3. @Rev Tactule
          I have this sneaking suspension that you don’t actually think these are valid criticisms and are just shit-stirring. I just don’t believe you could miss the point this badly.

    3. Very few 3D printer kits comply with all your ideals, and no consumer 3D printers are industrial grade to any meaningful degree. That’s not really the point, it’s to learn how to tinker, not learn how to develop a finished consumer product. This is a good stepping stone to the FIRST robotics, which also aren’t finished products either.

  3. It may not be the best printer in the world but i think it looks pretty cool!! It’s great they used clear plastic as it gives the kids a briliant view of the insides so they can see exactly how it moves and how their prints are made.

  4. Can anyone elaborate about how the cable tie right angle things work? Pics arent high res.

    I am trying figuring out how to have right-angle edge joins on acrylic without a rediculous number of tabs and slots.

  5. Hackaday is buying the political STEM rhetoric?
    Fact, there is no shortage of engineers/software-people willing to take a reasonable job. However, anyone who pays for an education in the North America can’t afford to work for 3rd world wages. The ignorant STEM strategy is artificially saturating the market with demand deficient labour pools that will drive down operational costs for large companies.
    This is only a true STEM project if one trained their own H1B replacement workers.

    1. +1 on that as well.

      Somehow it went over my head, I was busy looking at the printer and I didn’t catch the STEM part :/
      Also the STEM rethoric conjugates very well with the “XXXX in STEM” (where X can be “children/women), and thus you now have a “morally” backed “tech”-crusade. Which will saturate the market and lower the price an engineer (all while american education is expensive as hell, think of the student credits ffs).

      I’d say children do not need special emphasis or push to go to Science or Tech … they are amazing enough by themselves. Jeez, did you go to (your field of “geek”) because of a STEM promotion scheme? I didn’t. My friends at college didn’t. My coworkers didn’t either.

      But with cool laces and nice words … you may sell well and expensive. Corporations like that.
      I know i’m sounding like i have tinfoil hat on.

      But “STEM promotion/” and “hour of code” has become the “pink lace” for tech .

      PS: that being said, I’d need to see that printer in action and reviewed before drawing more conclusions about the printer itself. Me likes 3D printers

    2. This is the first I’ve heard of your theory, so I’m not going to argue out of ignorance. But even if there are too many engineers, I highly doubt there is a downside to exposing kids to cool stuff like this, and teaching them to think like an engineer even if they don’t become one. There certainly is a shortage of people with a basic understanding of how the world works, and to some extent STEM education helps rectify that.

      1. Plato:
        “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

        Putting a discussion about Phototrophs aside, the economic barriers that burden impoverished families still restrict access to higher eduction. It was shown that by grade 9 students above the poverty line are actually around 1.5 years ahead of their peers academically. This phenomena was further pronounced by families that paid for additional private after-school programs. Unfortunately, just giving students opportunities to engage other fields of study will not change the fundamental problems within the community, or their academic performance relative to their age group.
        Notably, one effective policy in England was shown to actually improve student performance, and required $0 to implement. It simply randomized class attendance based on parent income, and scattered all students into schools that were traditionally attended by affluent families.

        There have been dozens of failed Technology driven programs since the 90’s, as people tend to ignore the primary causes of student attrition rates in both grade school and higher education. Know that first year attrition rates are over 43% for some faculties, and around 27% for second year Engineering programs. However intelligent people may become, the political rhetoric can’t acknowledge why idealizing a theoretical meritocracy has never yielded functional policies.

        It is a complicated problem, as many universities have become facilities driven by commercial interest due to cultural misconceptions about future financial prospects. The policies are bad for instructors, con students, undermine scientific progress, and is the primary argument for why Academic Inflation is unsustainable.

    1. You can buy a pile of parts from China, but I doubt the instructions or parts would be amenable to the target market. Price is but one goal, and it seems the group offering the Jellybox kit is trying to offer something more than just a poorly supported and riskier box of parts.

  6. On the quality side. I talked with one of the designers and inspected prints in TPU and PLA. It produces quite good prints in both. It has a specialy sourced inductive bed sensor. It uses an E3D V6 lite heatsink and heatbreak. It uses their own design for the heater block. They have their own hobb custom made from high grade steel and then they have it hardened. The PLA corner clips actually clip into the frame. All electronics are fully tested before boxing. You can assemble it with just the clips at first, so if you need to correct an earlier mistake it is easier. The assembly “instructions” are engraved in the acrylic. They have put a surprising amount of thought and effort into making a good printer that is a productive learning experience. When I first saw it I just was some kids toy. It may be for kids, but it is a good printer. I think the printer is a one day modern shop class that creates a tool with potential to inspire further learning and discovery.

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