Monday, July 5, 2010

MakerBot explained by Shelly Palmer of NBC

The attached video does a great job explaining the MakerBot and its potential.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Low cost custom plastic parts

If you haven't read Chris Anderson's theory about the Long Tail of markets yet, the theory is that products in low demand or that have a low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current bestsellers and blockbusters, if the store or distribution channel is large enough. The Long Tail is the potential market and the manufacturing, distribution and sales channel opportunities created by the Internet often enable businesses to tap that market successfully.

What does the Long Tail theory have to do with the MakerBot? Most of the case studies with respect to the Long Tail are related to distribution channels. However, the MakerBot (or other low cost fabrication machines) enable individuals to manufacture products in extremely low volumes with decent margins. An example is a custom cylindrical bushing that I was asked to manufacture on my MakerBot. The price to machine this bushing out of ABS plastic was quoted around $225 per piece. Needless to say, the machined price for the part would be prohibitive for the everyday person. However, the price for the part off of the MakerBot will probably be a tenth of the machined version.

The low cost of the custom plastic part will enable those potential buyers at the end of the "tail" to participate in the marketplace. As the sum of all those buyers is greater than the few, large buyers currently in the market, the actual sales opportunity is tremendous.

The question now is how to tap into that market which is not currently being served and may not even know that they have options.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dewey (my MakerBot) upgraded with low cost, parts printed on Dewey (my MakerBot)!

OK, which came first? The chicken or the egg? The printable upgrade poses a similar question, which came first, Dewey (my MakerBot) or the plastic parts in the Z-axis wobble arrestor printed in 3D by Dewey (my MakerBot)?

The low cost, 3D printed parts where uploaded to Thingiverse by another MakerBot owner in the pursuit of improving the print quality. While trying to find ways to improve Dewey's print quality I happened upon his designs, downloaded the files, printed them out, and installed them. All for pennies.

Imagine the possibilities!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Micro Manufacturing with a MakerBot

First, I am the proud owner of MakerBot 997. While I thoroughly enjoy making parts for myself, I believe that the MakerBot is the beginning of a new type of democratized manufacturing. Call it whatever you want, cloud manufacturing, distributed manufacturing, or even micro manufacturing. However, this type of low cost technology has the capability to put the common person back in the drivers seat of choice by allowing the manufacturing of low cost, low volume, high mix products.

My question is this, who else out there is using their MakerBot or other type of low cost manufacturing equipment as a part of their business? What is your business model? Pricing structures, etc.?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Making your own bottle opener

OK, say you are tired and thirsty after a long hot day at the baseball park. You grab an ice cold beer from the frig but after much searching can't find your bottle opener. What do you do? Resort to using the cabinet handles, pry it off with a screw driver, get in the car and drive to the store? No, download the model from Thingiverse and print it out on your MakerBot. These are photo's of the bottle opener I printed on Dewey. The thing actually works!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Printing of a cylinder

Building of the base

Printing the first hole

Middle of the print

Printing of the second hole

Final printing (approximately 45 minutes)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Printing the Z-axis Wobble Eliminator

The thought that anyone can download and then make (print) a design that was developed and shared by an individual somewhere in the world is hard to take in. The whole concept of proprietary information, corporations, mass manufacturing is all thrown out the window. An example is what I did tonight. I downloaded the 3D model of a Z-axis wobble eliminator from the ThingiVerse website, ran it through a program which converted it into machine code, and then printed it out right in my own home!

It is hard to imagine the possibilities. Below are the videos of the printing:

Initial stages of the printing.

Printing final stage of the Z-axis wobble eliminator.

Monday, May 17, 2010

3D Printing Business Models

While building the MakerBot and printing objects off of Thingiverse is
fun and challenging, I must admit that I have an ulterior motive, i.e.
I see a new and different business model for manufacturing. While
this is more of a gut feel at this point, I can't stop thinking about
the potential for the ultimate in mass customization. This may mean
that there is a "MakerBot" in every home for personal use, or maybe
one that is in a regional public "hackerspace" that people can rent
time on, or a third option is for individuals who own/master the
MakerBot to print "things" for others. There are probably other
business models that we haven't even thought of as well.

Darth Vader and Stormtroopers

Stormtrooper printed from TTL cable.
Darth Vader successfully printed from SD card 5/16/10.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The "future of manufacturing"

So what is "cloud manufacturing"? Here is the ultimate premise:

1. A readily available, low cost, easy to use, personal fabricating machine is in every household.
2a. 3D models are available for download from the Web, the "cloud", for free (see Thingiverse for an idea of the possibilities) or for a fee, depending upon the demand. Think E-books for the Kindle, old classics can be downloaded for free while you pay for the newly released top sellers.
2b. 3D modelling software accessed through the Web (or "cloud") is so easy to use that the average person can create a representation of what he or she wants or modify a current design relatively easily.
2c. For replication purposes, change the tool head on the personal fabricator to a scanner, place the desired object for copying into the machine, press scan, and the personal fabricator creates a 3D model of the object ready for duplication (sounds a lot like a copier!)
3. After finding, creating, scanning what he/she wants/needs, the file is loaded into the home fabricator, and manufactured on demand.

Literally, you reach into the "cloud", find what you want, and make it right then, right there.

Why would we go in this direction:

1. The ultimate in one piece flow
2. Literally, on-demand manufacturing
3. Little, to no transportation, inventory, overproduction, over-processing (i.e. the seven deadly forms of waste)
4. The ultimate in consumer choice, no more buying what is available, buy want you want, when you want it!

How would this work? Imagine a child wanting a toy:

1. Child desires toy
2. Parent searches Web, "cloud", for toy child wants
3. Parent downloads 3D Model of toy into fabricator and makes toy
4. Child gets the exact toy they want, now.

Are we there yet? No. Is this just the beginning? Yes. Remember the original Heathkit computers? All but the early adopters were saying, why would we need a computer at home? Look at us now.

How will it begin? With early adopters building personal fabricators from kits, i.e. the Makerbot. In the beginning until the technology catches up, those technically inclined will fabricate for those not so adroit at it. The automobile started out this way, owners were mechanics up until they were mass produced for the every day person. With the rate that technology is changing, it is hard to predict how soon this transformation will occur. Will everything go this way, probably not. Toys seem to be a natural fit. Maybe even replacement parts for appliances? Medical devices, maybe not. It is hard to tell what industries will grow up around this. No one could have predicted what would come out of the personal computer. No one will be able to predict what will come out of the personal fabricator either.

This is literally a "if we build it, they will come" approach. The market is undefined and unimaginable, but it is there. We just have to find it. My goal is to be part of it.

Printing video of tall, thin cylinder on DEWEY

This is video of printing on DEWEY.

Building the raft.

Starting to build the cylinder.

Almost done!

What an amazing machine! The possibilities are literally endless. The next step (probably should have started with this) is fine tuning and calibrating the machine. I have been printing with out of the box settings, now to dial it for to DEWEY.

Printing tall, thin cylinder on DEWEY (my Makerbot)

The above are pictures of the printing of a tall, thin cylinder.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Problems with Skeinforge

The above show the issues I have had with Skeinforge on smaller radii and thick parts. It appears that too much material is being deposited and the extruder head is plowing through it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

MakerBot; is 3D printing the closest thing we have to teleportation? - Out of the Toy Box - Blog on Playthings

MakerBot; is 3D printing the closest thing we have to teleportation? - Out of the Toy Box - Blog on Playthings

Y-Stage assembly

This is the Y-stage assemby. The key is ensuring the magnets are placed in correctly and that they are secured in with superglue.
The platform is held to the Y-stage with the magnets. Therefore, if the magnets are backwards, it will push the platform away versus hold it to the Y-stage.
If the magnets are not secured in with the superglue they will tend to come out when you remove the platform.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Unpacking and staining the frame

Continuation of the unpacking process and staining the frame.

Arrival of the Makerbot!!

After what seemed to be eternity but was actually only a few months, my Makerbot kit has finally arrived!

Saturday, March 13, 2010


The thought of being able to manufacture almost anything in your home, garage, etc. is intriguing. Most manufacturing requires factories with high capital costs, highly specialized personnel such as designers, engineers, etc. and require large volumes of generic products to offer a decent ROI. The cloud manufacturer, by contrast, is low cost, small, can literally be done in the home, support is offered by an on-line community, enabling the manufacturing of custom products at low volume, potentially one-off production, with an ROI that is almost immediate. The capital cost is so low it is almost negligible.