I’m curious – has anyone out there retrofitted their MakerBot Cupcake CNC, MakerBot Thing-O-Matic, or RepRap with a cutting device? I recall seeing an example of someone creating a laser cutter, but I was particularly interested in whether someone had made a cutting device using a blade.
If so, what kinds of blades did you use? Did you create your own? Did you use off-the-shelf replacement parts for a commercial robo-cutter?
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.
If you’ve been waffling on whether to buy a 3D printer, NOW is the time to pull the trigger.
I purchased my Cupcake CNC Deluxe kit for about $1000, shipped. Over the following year I spent about another $500 or so on other color of plastic, replacement parts, and upgrades. You, my friend, are in a much more enviable position. For the next five days MakerBot is selling their Cupcake Ultimate kits for $697. This is all the tools you’ll need (Well, you’d still need some basic things – soldering iron, etc) , all the parts you’ll need, all the upgrades (the automated build platform, the MK5 kickass plastruder, and the relay kit) you’ll need, plus five pounds of plastic to start making ANYTHING you can imagine. Since getting my MK5 plastruder, my Cupcake hasn’t had a single problem that required any replacement parts at all. This kit has been battle tested by literally thousands of people and is totally rock solid.
I’m telling you, my past self is SO jealous of your opportunity!!! Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving my brand new Thing-O-Matic, but this is an insane deal.
Okay, I know someone is going to point out that I blog for MakerBot. That’s totally true, I do. No one asked or suggested I say any of this, I’m not getting any kickbacks, kudos, knickknacks or kangaroos. I’m just a big believer in their products and service.
If you’re in the market for a 3D printer kit and can’t get a Thing-O-Matic, these next few days are exactly what you’ve been waiting for.
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.
Huzzah! I have been both excited and a little bit apprehensive about these parts. I have to admit I was almost relieved that they were accidentally swapped out – forcing me to skip their assembly for a little while. Now that they’ve arrived I need to actually solder these itty bitty parts.
I have a soldering kit I use about once or twice a year – and never for anything more interesting than connecting two wires. For some reason I find soldering little bits more intimidating. With my trusty soldering iron and a steady hand, on to adventure!
I’ll need a few extra things to get going:
- Superglue for the idler pulley and bearing
- 3-in-1 oil for the rods (I need to clean the threaded rods). It will be a little bit of a pain to pull them out of the MakerBot, but I want to make sure I’ve done everything I can to make the robot work properly.
- Popsicle sticks
- Daft Punk
I’ve assembled quite a lot of my MakerBot today. This entailed assembling and putting together the X axis stage, Y axis stage, pulleys, putting gears on stepper motors, mounting gears, putting in the slider rods, Z axis threaded rods, bolting on the motors, and assembling the two “dinos.”
- If you’ve got a Batch 9 MakerBot, definitely install the Z-axis after assembling the body of the MakerBot.
- Put off adding the Z-stage/extruder-stage for as long as you can. It will just be in the way.
- Keep that sandpaper handy – you may need to sand down some tabs or widen slots or holes to make things fit, especially if you painted your MakerBot.
- If the smooth slider rods are just a smidge too short, they will slide back and forth causing a little extra noise as your MakerBot operates. I haven’t gotten mine running yet, but I have read this is the case. I noticed that one of the slider rods for the X axis on my Batch 9 MakerBot was about 1mm too short. When I put the caps on, I noticed that it still had some wiggle room. I took a scrap of paper towel, folded it up so that it would push up against the end of the rod, and clamped it down. There’s no wiggle room now, so hopefully that’s it.
- Make sure the top bearing is just under the top edge of the top panel. This is in the directions, but it’s really important to make sure everything spins freely.
- Putting gears on the stepper motors is tough! Even when you back the tightening screws on the gears out as much as you can, the fit is incredibly snug. I eventually sanded the inside of the gear slightly, put the motor on cardboard, and then pushing downwards slowly and forcefully.
- When you’re installing the geared belts, get them as level as you can manage.
- For the top stage this will involve adding/subtracting washers/nuts from the printed pulleys as well as adjusting the gear’s placement on the stepper motor.
- For the X and Y stages, the height would essentially be dictated by the height of the belt on the clamps. The height of the belt on the clamp is essentially set, so the pulleys and gear on the stepper need to be matched to that.
- When assembling the carriages with the plastic sliders, the instructions suggest you may need to sand the circular hole they fit into. Just make a point of sanding them, if they’re tight they could affect the looseness of the stage on the rods.
- Inspect your Y-stage pulley (this is the smallest printed pulley) to make sure the top is level and there are no protuberances. Even a little bit of a nub will prevent it from rotating properly.
- The easiest way to remove the itty-bitty sticky-paper protective acrylic cover is to use a razor blade or exacto-knife to pop them off. You probably don’t need to, but it’s an aesthetic thing.
Although I have the CupCake CNC Deluxe kit, there are still some parts and tools required. If you’re getting ready to build your own MakerBot, here’s what else you’d need to build everything in one go:
- Primer, paint, masks, cardboard, duct tape, and pen – if you’re painting. While the other stuff is obvious, I found the pen handy for labeling the cardboard next to the parts that had to be painted differently from other nearby parts.
- Sandpaper for sanding down punch-out-nubs and leveling off plastic parts so they’ll fit. Based upon my enormous background in robot building, I’d recommend a super fine sandpaper for the nubby bits wooden bits and a medium course sandpaper for sanding down plastic parts. You won’t need much, so there’s no need to buy a whole pack. You may also need the course sandpaper for widening the openings for the plastic sliders on the X and Y axis platforms and/or to make some of the tabs fit better if you’ve painted.
- 3-in-1 oil is needed for the various slides/rods and as part of the cleaning of the Z-axis threaded rods.
- Paper towels are just a good thing to have around. Damp they’ll help you wipe down a little bit of the fine ash left by the lasercutter.
- Electrical tape and an electric drill along with paper towels and 3-in-1 oil are used for the recommended method for cleaning the threaded rods.
- Zip ties for organizing cables. But, seriously, you should just have these necessities anyhow. They’re good for everything. If you’re going out for zip ties, I’d highly recommend picking up (1) an assortment of colors/sizes in a large pack (2) a pack of uniformly colored small zip ties and (3) a pack of uniformly colored large zip ties.
- Hot glue gun, hot glue sticks are needed for affixing the plastic sliders on the X and Y axis stages. Like zip ties, if you have these around you’re going to find they’re a good solution for a lot of problems. It’s like Windex that way.
- Popsicle sticks and black paint are needed for completing and installing the opto-endstops.
- An exacto-knife or razor blade will come in very handy for removing the very very tiny bits of protective cover on the acrylic lasercut parts.
- Super glue is needed for affixing a pulley to the idler pulley and for laminating some parts of the two “dinos.”
The body of the MakerBot is complete, rods in, X and Y stages in, pulleys and belts on, motors bolted on. No opto-ends stops yet for obvious reasons. The opto-endstops also require popsicle sticks.
On to the plastruder. I put together the Weird Dino and the Tall Dino, but the idler pulley requires super glue. I don’t happen to have any lying around, so I’ll need to go out to the hardware store. But, this is as good a spot to stop as any.
I originally intended to document each step – but the directions on the MakerBot wiki are so good that there’s just no need. So, the pictures you’re going to see are going to basically jump from a bunch of spraypainted wood giant chunks of the robot already bolted together.
The build process, much of what consists of fitting pieces together and using the MakerBot “t-slot” semi-captive nut method, is very intuitive, relatively easy, and extremely gratifying. Sometimes its a little bit of effort to get that nut in the notch properly, but it was never that bad.
Once the painted parts were dry, I couldn’t resist getting started bolting the thing together. Putting the parts together is pretty fun – it goes quickly and all the parts fit together very well. In fact, it went so quickly that I didn’t get pictures of each step as I was originally planning. Oh well, I guess you’ll just have to build one for yourself. ;)
Behold! A robot being born!
Front, middle, back, and Z-axis brackets bolted on
Here the body panels are mostly all put together. You’ll notice I opted to install the Z-axis threaded rods after assembling the body.
Sides, top, bottom all bolted together
The new system is really huge improvement over the prior. Before you had to get all of the Z-axis rods identically assembled and installed. Now I just had to set them up, drop them in, make sure the top of the topmost pulley on each rod was just below the level of the top panel. Any higher and it would have interfered with the smooth rotation of that axis.
The Z-stage is also a huge improvement over prior designs. Since the new brackets are “U” shaped, you can remove the entire stage without having to unbolt the entire assembly. It’s also possible to adjust one or more rods individually by lifting the stage on that side slightly and rotating the hex nut as required.
I feel smarter just having seen these designs in action.