How MakerBot Industries can help RepRap even more

Some people have suggested MakerBot is somehow stealing thunder from the RepRap project. 1  Here’s a super simple way every MakerBot sold could, in a very small way, help the RepRap project.

Why not put a copy of every Mendel part as an STL on the SD card that comes with the MakerBot?  Actually, why not put Spacexula’s set of Mendel production STL’s?

This is a cheap and fast way to disseminate plans for RepRap files to people who are actually capable of making them.

  1. I totally disagree, but there you go. []

He’s saying the things I think!

…only in a way that is far less wordy and verbose than the manner in which I would typically attempt to describe the sorts of things I am thinking about.

Thank you, Cory Doctorow.

“”The way you improve your iPad isn’t to figure out how it works and making it better. The way you improve the iPad is to buy iApps. Buying an iPad for your kids isn’t a means of jump-starting the realization that the world is yours to take apart and reassemble; it’s a way of telling your offspring that even changing the batteries is something you have to leave to the professionals.”

This is part of what is at the core of the Maker philosophy – empowering people to learn about the stuff of which civilizations are made, rather than being a plankton-like consumer/spectator.  When something goes wrong, you don’t have to take it back to the store or call the (*shudder*) Geek Squad. 1

This is the heart of civilization, improving upon the work of prior generations.  You have the luxury of being smarter than Einstein and wiser than Oppenheimer with 20-20 hindsight.  You can know everything they know and improve upon it all.  You can fix it yourself. 2  You have all of the tools you need right now, in your home right now.  You can use the stuff you already have to build the tools you need to build absolutely anything within imagination.

  1. Geek Squad.  Don’t get me started. []
  2. Or, heaven forbid, improve it yourself. []

Full RepRap for sale

A complete1 Mendel for sale?  That’s incredible!

There has been a truly amazing progression2 in RepRap parts lately.  While I’m not crazy about eBay as a way of selling3 , it’s a very democratic4 way of disseminating RepRap parts.  The first few parts and sets of parts were all printed, then molded, now MOLDS are for sale?!

Yes, the Platonic ideal of RepRap is that a machine makes the components of the next machine.  But, is it not also part of the RepRap ideal that these machines be disseminated as far and as widely as possible?  It’s really great you can use a RepRap to build another – but that doesn’t mean it’s the best/most economical way.

These RepRap mold are advertised to be good for roughly 50 pourings.  It is advertised to create 9 vertexes at once, but they all appear to be 1/2 vertexes.  The posting also suggests it takes 12 vertexes for a full RepRap.  So:

  • 12 vertexes per RepRap / 0.5 vertexes halves = 24 vertex halves required
  • 24 vertex halves required /9 vertex halves per sheet = 2.67 sheet uses per RepRap
  • 50 uses per sheet / 2.67 uses per sheet = 18.75 sets of RepRap vertexes

Admittedly, this is only a set of molds for the frame vertexes, not the entire set of parts.  However, it’s really only a matter of time before a set is up for grabs.

This makes me wonder – is there a different market value to printed parts rather than molded parts?

  1. ish []
  2. transmission?? []
  3. having sold things on eBay myself []
  4. fair? capitalistic? []

Take two of these and call me in the morning

There’s now both a RepRapMap and a MakerBot Map.  In a very small way the MakerBot Map is slightly more interesting.  Since each MakerBot is numbered and we can check the numbers against the batch numbers, it’s possible to get a rough idea of the growth of this type of RepStrap.

Now, if both maps had each ‘bot labeled with it’s date of first operation (date of birth?) we could watch the viral progression of the project. 1  Or, would it be more interesting to see the date a RepStrap first made a set of RepRap parts?

Either way…  infectious ideas defy innoculation!!!

  1. The NY Times had a really great Outbreak style map that you could push back and forth through time, but I can’t find it right now. []

Beco Block limitations

Having printed up and played with a big pile of Beco Blocks, I have come to the conclusion they are only about half of what I was looking for.  Mind, they are probably the more difficult half.

The articulated joints you get with Beco Blocks are absolutely fantastic.  The connect well, disconnect well, are very moveable, and reasonably poseable.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult to build a rigid structure with them.  After you play with the parts a bit they become even more mobile and less poseable – but this is to be expected.

So, how would one go about building a system of rigidly connectable blocks?  There’s the Construx way – of side/slide/snapping parts together.  Then, there’s the snap/push the parts together Lego way.

Something to think about.

Making passion

ManDrake responded to my last post about MakerBot being a victim of their own success:

Do you think the expectations difference could be at all connected to Bre’s constant overselling of the product to anyone that will listen? He’s completely disconnected from reality in the way he talks about the Makerbot and what it can do. He’s got the look and feel of the sham dot com boom types, overselling in hopes of getting some bigger company to buy them up, so they could unload their utter mismanaged and badly organized start up. In probably under an year they’ll sell out and then a corporate entity will realize their mistake and kill the product like they did as the boom died.

Here’s my response:

  1. I’m biased.  I think MakerBot have a great product that really delivers.  Thus, I don’t think Bre or MakerBot are overselling anything.
  2. There’s no way to really address ManDrake’s concern about how he feels about MakerBot’s public persona.
  3. Having never seen their books, I can’t say whether they’re mismanaged – but I doubt it.  They’ve grown a lot in a year and hopefully will continue to grow.
  4. I sincerely doubt their plan is to hype themselves, get acquired, and cash out.  There are just so many easier ways to make money.
  5. Even supposing they’re acquired and the new company kills the MakerBot, I’m not left in the cold.  Building my MakerBot has taught me how to build MakerBots.  I can go out and build another one or repair my own.  There are plenty of people selling plastic.  From the day my MakerBot started working I was never going to be without my very own 3D printer ever again.

This may sound unrelated, but bear with me.  Tonight I had the good fortune to hear Dr. Zahi Hawass speak in San Francisco.  If you’ve ever seen an exhibit, TV show or documentary about Egypt, the pyramids, mummies, or King Tut you’ve seen him and heard his enthusiasm.  He gave a piece of advice at the end of his talk:

“If you like something, it is not enough.  If you love something, it is not enough.  Only if you are passionate about it will you make it big.”

When I see Bre and Zach and Adam talk I see people who are truly passionate about their goals.  This is the kind of passion scammers imitate and others wish they had.  Their passion is infused in their products and absolutely infectious.

How to test a ridiculous idea

Cathal Garvey posted his recommendations as to how those without mice can test their designs.  He suggests:

*Think* like the mouse, *be* the mouse!
Alternatively, leave one outside in the country or garden, and await your furry, diseased reward!

But how do you test a one way door/mouse funnel mousetrap if you don’t want to invite mice into your house?  I suppose a box with two such funnels installed with a bit of peanut butter inside.  If you wake up and find no mice or peanut butter – it either worked perfectly1 or it failed miserably2 !  If the mouse is stuck inside…  well I guess it kinda succeeded.

  1. as in the mouse left via the second one-way-exit []
  2. as in the mouse left the wrong way out the first one-way-exit, just to be a rodent jerk []

Why make blocks?

Making blocks with a MakerBot is almost counter productive.  Why would you want to make something out of plastic that can be used to make other things out of plastic?  Why not just print the final plastic object as a single piece all at once?

I like the idea of being able to physically play with the design of something.  Sketchup is easy to use, but legos are even easier.  I never worry about an operation that I can’t Ctrl-Z my way out of.  Plus, it’s even easier to go from idea to objection with physical building blocks.  I think it would also be a very interesting way to get around the overhang and size limitations of a CupCake CNC.

Things I learned while trying to unclog my extruder barrel

I learned a lot this morning!  And now you don’t have to learn, as they say, the hard way.

  1. Never ever ever use tiles. I thought I was being very clever with the tile idea.  Apparently leftover kitchen tiles can shatter and fly apart when you heat them.  Who knew?
  2. Instead, use a big piece of metal to hold the barrel. I ended up using a piece of metal I had laying around to hold the extruder barrel and weight it down with a rock.  This worked perfectly.
  3. Don’t tilt your blow torch too much. Probably an elementary thing for most people.  My torch kept going out when I tilted it too far – probably a safety feature.  This meant I had to change the set up so that the barrel was somewhat elevated so I could keep the torch mostly vertical.
  4. Keep a friend handy. This was one of my few ideas/preconceptions that actually worked out.  Thankfully I didn’t need him to use the fire extinguisher or garden hose, but I very well could have.
  5. Don’t leave a nut on the extruder barrel. At the last minute I decided to screw a nut part way on the barrel.  I figured I could prop the extruder barrel up in the washer, heat it, and not discolor the nut or washer.  This didn’t work out because I needed to apply more heat to the barrel to get the clog out.

It’s not just me!

See!  Spacexula has discovered the hard way she’s a wicked temperamental woman!

Shattered acrylic plastruder…  Yikes!  I printed up one of Zaggo’s Prinstruders – but it appears to be optimized for an early MakerBot Batch 5 with large/small dinos.  If I wanted to use my printstruder I would need to pick up some of the extra parts required and essentially print up a small dino.1  However, I think I’d like to start replacing parts out of my MakerBot with printed parts so that I can keep the originals as backups.  However, I have a feeling a prinstruder out of ABS is going to be much more robust/resilient than the layered acrylic plastruder.  What do I need?

  • 2x 626 ball bearings.
  • 4x M4 bolts, 60mm long
  • 4x M4 nuts (optionally two of them as wingnuts)
  • 1x M6 bolt (30mm long)
  • 1x M6 nut
  • 3x M3 bolts (30mm long)
  • 3x+ M6 washers
  • 3x+M3 washers
  • 4x M4 washers

In addition to these parts, I’ll also need to measure my ‘bot for a small dino equivalent.  Since my extruder barrel is out of commission and the plastruder is just lying on the platform, this is as good a time as any to measure it up.

  1. Shopping list below []