Every Body Needs a Skull

Delicious brains

Delicious brains

Is there anyone out there who built their own Polargraph, but does not have a plastic case for it?1

In designing my own I’ve got two perfectly serviceable cases that I’m not going to use.

Each case fits Sandy Noble’s PolargraphSD which consists of an Arduino Mega 256 clone plus an LCD touch screen and his custom shield for running the drawing robot.  I’m also going to be taking my current Arduino Uno plus Adafruit Motor Shield powered drawing robot apart.  When I do I will have another plastic case.

If interested, please drop me a line.

Oh, what’s with the skull and brains?  Well, if you have a robotic brain, wouldn’t a nifty plastic skull go nicely with it?

  1. Photo courtesy of chotda []

It’s still extruding…

Spacexula is selling his RepRap on ebay.

It’s one thing to buy a kit and it’s another thing altogether to buy a fully assembled fully operational machine.  This machine was built and operated by one of the most vocal RepRap champions and prolific RepRap bloggers around.  So, it’s not insignificant that this machine comes backed his promise of helping you getting this machine running.  If I recall correctly, his last machine sold for a little over $1400.  At the time of this post, this RepRap Prusa Mendel one is going for $510.00.

Also, here’s my favorite video from Spacexula:

MOAR CUPCAKES! Or, am I being a glutton?

MakerBot just announced they’re dropping the price on the MakerBot Cupcake CNC Ultimate kits to a ridiculously low $455.00.

I already own a Cupcake CNC, named “Bender.”  He’s been fully upgraded with an automated build platform, MK5, and a few printed upgrades as well.  (Right now it has a Unicorn instead of the MK5 installed.)  I already own a Thing-O-Matic, named “Flexo.”  My Thing-O-Matic is fully upgraded with a MK6 stepper extruder and a few minor printed upgrades.

Do I really need more plastic printing production capacity?  I don’t know.  Do I have a new name for a potential new robot lined up?  No, I really don’t.

Do I really want another 3-axis CNC robot?  Yes.  Yes, I do.

What’s the best MakerBot sample you can think of?

Okay, what’s the best thing you can think of that exhibits the possibilities of a MakerBot or RepRap? 12 If y0u’re going for something that shows off the utilitarian potential, then a bottle opener or thin profile whistle might be it.  If you’re going for something that shows off what you can achieve with just printed parts – a Leonardo Robot or Rubik’s cube clone.  And, if you’re going for something that shows off the precision and detail that is possible, it’s got to be a Pink Panther Lady.345

When judging such things heavily weighted by print time, I suspect the thin profile whistle might be one of the best options.

What do you think?

  1. Yes, I know I ended the subject of this post with a preposition, but what the heck.  The first amendment protects “free speech” not just “correct grammar.” []
  2. Amiright or amiright? []
  3. And, really a bottle-opening-pink-panther-whistle-lady-that-transforms-into-a-dinosaur-and-voltron that shoots open-source-lazzors might just be the ultimate thing to print ever. []
  4. Mind, it should shoot lazzors, not lazzor beams. []
  5. Remember kids, lazzor beams can be dangerous. []

What would you charge?

I know some people use their MakerBots as small scale rapid prototyping services.  What I don’t know is what or how they charge for providing these services.  Obviously, there’s a cost associated with the plastic, electricity, wear and tear, failed prints, etc. 1 Setting aside the intrinsic value of what you have produced 2 , what’s a reasonable way to set the price of an object printed on a MakerBot?

I can think of several ways to look at this:

  • Resource cost. $0.04 per cubic centimeter, of pure cost in terms of just MakerBot ABS/PLA.  Electricity is probably around $0.02 per hour of print time.  The laptop connected to the MakerBot is capable of multitasking, so there’s no real opportunity cost there.
  • Shapeways. Their gray ABS is $2.50/cc.  They also have a white nylon polymide for $1.50/cc with a $1.50 start up charge.  Their colored prints are made with a plastic powder that is relatively fragile.  At $2.50/cc and assuming it takes 4.5 minutes to print 1cc, this comes to $0.56/minute.3
  • Ponoko. Their UV curable resin is $2.76/cc and their white nylon polymide is $0.80/cc. 4 Their colored prints are made with a plastic powder that is relatively fragile.  At a MakerBot’s printing speed, $2.76/cc comes to $0.61/minute.
  • Metrix:Create. They charge $0.50 per actual minute of build time.  However, Metrix:Create members get 20% discounts and anything printed from Thingiverse gets a 20% discount.  Without any associated discounts and assuming we print at the same speed, this comes to $2.25/cc.

I believe transparency makes for a better customer experience.  That way a customer can see right up front what they may be spending, avoiding “sticker shock.”  It is probably a lot easier for the average customer to estimate the volume of a digital design than it is for them to guesstimate how long my printer would take to print such a thing.

What metric and pricing structure do you use to charge for your printing services?  Do you go by volume, weight, plastic used, machine time, or something else entirely?

  1. It takes about 4.5 minutes to print one cubic centimeter of ABS or PLA.  This is a rough average of several different types of settings, but assumes a roughly 0.36mm layer thickness. []
  2. Pretending 19cc of a puzzle cube is worth exactly 19cc of a toy rocket, window latch, or plastic part that will fix the international space station. []
  3. This is more of an analogy to a MakerBot’s printing speed than an actual assumption of the printing capabilities at Shapeways. []
  4. There are discounts for their “prime” members. []

Unbelievable deal on Cupcake CNC’s

Apparently MakerBot is getting ready to launch a new 3D printer and is putting their Cupcake CNC’s on sale.  I’ve had an absolute blast with my MakerBot over the last nine months.  I bought the Deluxe Kit for $950.  With shipping and taxes it came to just over $1,000.  I haven’t confirmed it with MakerBot, but it looks like their new Cupcake Starter kit is the same thing as their Deluxe kit except it doesn’t have the extra 5 pounds of plastic.  Sure, this kit doesn’t have the MK5 plastruder, heated build platform, or automated build platform – which means it’s basically identical to Cupcake kits sold a year ago.  Oh, and the Starter kit is only $650.

If you’ve been looking for an excuse to buy a 3D printer anyhow, this is your chance.  I don’t know what the new printer is, but $650 is a crazy deal for a kit with everything you need.1

  1. Yes, I now write for the MakerBot blog, but all I really do is post what I would have written here anyhow over on their blog.  I don’t get kickbacks or anything for saying how awesome I think this deal is. []

What’s the minimum cost to upgrade to a MK5 Plastruder?

I figure to upgrade my Batch 9 MakerBot to use a Plastruder MK5, I’ll need the following:

$106.00 isn’t too shabby to upgrade to the most badass Plastruder2 money can buy. 34

  1. I’d ask Zaggo, Webca, or jrombousky to design it… []
  2. Edit: Plastruder kit []
  3. Especially when you essentially get to keep your Plastruder MK4 as a backup. []
  4. You’d still need a few spare parts – but I’m sure that’s nothing we can’t scrounge from leftovers… []

MakerBot Business Idea #5

I’ve had a few ideas about how one can build a business around a MakerBot.

  1. Advice for a Makerbot based business
  2. Thingiverse based business idea
  3. Custom plastic cookie cutter business idea
  4. RepRap crowdsourced parts business

Well, here’s my latest idea.  Small custom replacement parts.  Not a new idea, right?  Well, it’s all about the marketing and how you reach and pitch to your target market.  Who is always out looking for small replacement parts?  When they do, where do they go?  What are their alternatives when they can’t find a replacement part?

I found the answers to all of those questions when I needed a replacement window latch.  Here’s the business model:

  1. Print up some universally useful parts, prime examples of your ‘bot’s ability to print
  2. Take said parts to your local neighborhood hardware store and ask to talk to the manager1
  3. Explain that you can quickly and cheaply fabricate nearly any small replacement part out of sturdy plastic2
  4. Ask them if you can put up flyers for your business and maybe even leave a few samples3
  5. Put up a website with a few examples of what you can print, how you solve problems with your Makerbot, things you’ve fixed, things you’ve replaced
  6. ???
  7. Profit!

What do you think?

  1. You’ll probably have much better luck with a mom-and-pop store than a big chain []
  2. Throw or jump on said ABS specimen []
  3. I’d even offer them a percentage of net []

Why should you buy a MakerBot sooner, rather than later?

A fair number of people I polled are waiting to buy MakerBots not because of money, but because they are waiting for the technology to mature.1  Is this you too?

If so, let me ask you this – would you be willing to spend $235 right now to play with a current “immature” technology MakerBot for an entire year before buying a full price MakerBot that’s more “mature” next year?

If you said yes, you need to buy a MakerBot today.

I bought my Batch 9 MakerBot in late November 2009.  In the nearly 10 months since then MakerBot has come out with a $50 heated build platform and the brand spanking new 2  more reliable $185 Plastruder MK53  The only “difference” between my MakerBot and one you buy today with all the upgrades is that I got to play and experiment with a MakerBot for 8 full months more than you for an extra $235.  On top of that, I have all the parts for a complete Plastruder MK44

$235 is a small price to play with a MakerBot for nearly a year.5 6 7

  1. Not to mention a small percentage of people whose parents were killed by awesome robots… []
  2. As in released about 11 hours ago! []
  3. I’m not counting the MK5 Drive Gear Upgrade Kit because that MK5 Gear is included in the Plastruder MK5 kit. []
  4. This way, if any part of the MK5 fails, just drop the MK4 back in! []
  5. Not to mention having a Plastruder MK4 on standby. []
  6. That’s a $125 value FREE!!!  That’s right – FREE!!! Order now and we’ll throw in these high tech atmospheric pocket buffer equipment safety enclosures FREE!  That’s right – FREE!!! Just pay shipping and handling! []
  7. High tech atmospheric pocket buffer equipment safety enclosures is bubble wrap. []