On day four of my Makerbot Thing-o-Matic build I was able to start laying down some plastic and printing things! I grabbed a bunch of models form Thingiverse, generated my gcode and my printer came to life.
Basically how the printer works is this. It starts by melting plastic into tiny threads that fuse together and become solid, it works around one layer at a time building up from the bottom of the platform. The plastic used is a 3mm ABS filament that is available loose or on a spindle. Before printing the actual model, it prints a thick “raft” and the final product is printed on top of the raft. I believe the raft helps the print stick to the platform and stops it from curling, it also makes it easier to remove if you do not have a heated platform. The downside to printing the raft is that it goes very slowly and adds a considerable amount of time and material to your prints.
Getting the prints from your computer to the machine is simple. Prints are sent to the Makerbot using a program called ReplicatorG that reminds me a lot of the Arduino IDE. It allows for minor scale and positioning adjustments as well as fine tuning of your hardware settings such as build platform and extruder temperature.
My first print was a rather boring calibration cube, however it was really cool to watch the machine print and have an actual product in my hand. In the gallery below I’ve included pictures of my first few days of printing. Everything except the cookie cutter were pulled from Thingiverse and printed without modification. It’s really awesome to have access to such a large database of items ready to print. I’m really excited to start submitting my own models to Thingiverse, especially utilitarian parts. The idea of being able to look up and print replacement parts for things around the house is really exciting to me. Hopefully I can find some things around the house to model that will be useful to someone else.
“Need a new knob for that oven? I’ll just download one and print it out!”
Here’s a link to the cookie cutter I modeled on Thingiverse (thanks to schmarty for the awesome WordPress Thingiverse plugin). I modeled this in Google Sketchup in about 20 minutes. I did make a mistake by not setting the resolution on the curved parts higher. Because of this you can see a “stepped” or blocky look on the finished part. Overall moving from Sketchup to ReplicatorG (the printing software) was really easy and only required me to export my model from Sketchup to a specific format (.STL).
I’ve yet to print a 100% sized copy of this but it should fit on the Automated Build Platform without resizing. The copy pictured above was printed at 80% of the models actual size as I was still testing out the calibration of my printer and didn’t want the print to run off the side of the build platform.
The video below shows a timelapse build of Thing #1046 “Whistle” by Zaggo. The build took about 29 minutes, though at least 5 minutes were spent printing the raft on the bottom. Once I have my machine calibrated well enough to not print the raft my prints should speed up a lot. The coolest thing about this print is that the whistle ball is printed inside the whistle. The ball needs to be broken off after the print by sticking a hex wrench or tweezers through the air hole. Parts printed in parts, how cool is that?!