Everyday Fixes with Makerbot #2 (Kitchenaid Cap)

Owning a Makerbot has changed the way I think about replacement parts. So when a friend of mine mentioned that he lost the cap for the front of his mixer I had to step in.

“No Jeff, I can’t let you buy a $6 replacement cap for your mixer. That is ridiculous.” I said as I rode in my Makerbot high horse. “Let me take care of this.”

As an owner of this particular mixer myself (as should any home baker) I was able to use my cap as a reference model. I spent about 15 minutes with SketchUp and my digital caliper and was able to get a pretty good replica of the part. I made some minor customization that allows it to fit in both my newer “Classic Plus” mixer and my parents ~15 year old mixer (“Artisan?”).

As you can see from the gallery below the model isn’t very complicated. I’ve uploaded both a Makerbot branded and plain cap (suitable for customization). While this isn’t an expensive replacement part it’s always nice to have the option to spend $0.25 printing a replacement instead of paying $6 + shipping. Hopefully another Thingiverse user will find this helpful in the future.

[thingiverse thing=8415]


Everyday fixes with Makerbot #1 (Desk Gromit)

I’m a huge fan of Thingiverse.com user Zaggo’s video series “Better Living Through Makerbot” Here’s a link to his first video. In this series he shows how you can use Makerbot around the house as a tool rather than a toy. I’ve printed my share of legos and whistles, but seeing someone actually fix problems around the house with Makerbot is really cool.

I ran into a problem around the house that I realized I could fix with the help of Makerbot. So here’s my first installment of “Everyday fixes with Makerbot”.

The table in my workshop/man cave was in desperate need of some cable management. The best way I could see fixing this problem is by running some of my cables down through the desk. The only issue with this is that I would then have a huge ugly hole in the middle of my desk. So this was the good news moment of my day.

Good News: I had a white 2″ desk gromit I could use to fill the hole and class things up a bit.
Bad News: My desk is black.

I had some black ABS already loaded in my Thing-o-Matic so I took the next logical step and reached for my digital caliper to get modeling. In about 15 minutes I was able to make a nearly exact scale model of my white desk gromit in Google Sketchup.

Real world vs Google Sketchup.

I exported the model from Sketchup, loaded it into ReplicatorG and hit print. Since I this was printed without a raft it only took a little over an hour before I had a functioning desk gromit in black. The top fits snuggly into the base without being too hard to remove. It actually holds on a little better than the store bought model. Here’s a link to my model on Thingiverse (which can be freely downloaded and printed). This model can be scaled up or down to fit various hole sizes, the full size model will fit a 2 inch hole.

[thingiverse thing=7902]

Here are some pictures comparing the store bought vs printed model. Over all I’m very happy with the print quality and can’t see any reason to buy a desk gromit ever again!

Note: The gromit is stuck into a white cardboard box for the photos. The black desk made it impossible to see anything (which after all is the whole point).

I made a thing that makes things

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.


[thingiverse thing=6217]


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?!

Making Makerbot

When I opened my Etsy Store in June of 2010 I had one goal in mind, “earn enough to buy a CupCake CNC from Makerbot.com.” It took almost 6 months for my first item to sell and a new 3D printer (The Thing-o-Matic) came out while I was waiting to earn enough for the Makebot. It was slow going but by the end of Febuary 2011 I had socked away enough cash to place my Makerbot order. Once it arrived my Dad and I spent four evenings after work building the Thing-o-Matic, although, those four evenings were spread out over three weeks for reasons I will explain shortly.

Build Day One
About half way through building stage X (the automated build platform) I realized I was missing a belt. I was able to build most of the X and Y stages and hook up some electronics before giving up. I put in the call to Makerbot Industries and they quickly mailed me a replacement (quick here is relative).


Build Day Two
Fast forward one week and I’ve received the replacement belt in the mail! We set back to work completing the X, Y and Z stages in one evening. We also completed most of the MK6 Plastruder which was a bit trickier to build as lots of slippery plastic parts go into the filament motor assembly.


Build Day Three
Day three was fun because we started building the frame of the Thing-o-Matic and combining parts we had built previously, it was finally starting to look like a Makerbot! Of course day three was not without issue. After finishing the frame, mounting the motors and finishing the electronics it was time to power up the bot. I held my breath as a threw the switch on the power supply. The power supply turned on with a *click* followed by a *pop* *crackle* *fizz*. It was easy to tell something had gone terribly wrong as smoke was rising from the inside of my Thing-o-Matic. As you can see in the picture below a capacitor blew on my Arduino MEGA. After contacting Makerbot support I was informed that this was caused by a mis-manufactured Arduino shield. Replacements for both were shipped and another week of waiting began.


Build Day Four
I don’t really have many photos of day four because it consisted of plugging in the new Arduino MEGA, crossing my fingers and getting to work printing! Everything worked fine after replacing that part, though we did take extra time to carefully zip tie and route all the internal cables making everything as neat as possible just in case anything went wrong.

My next post(s) will show some of the test prints and projects I’ve started working on using my Thing-o-Matic. Before we get to that, I thought I’d also leave some notes that might help those building their own Thing-o-Matic in the future.

  • Separate screws and other small parts in plastic cups if you have them. It makes continuing the project later much easier.
  • Do not throw anything away until you have a working bot. There are a few transparent plastic pieces I almost lost this way.
  • For internal parts tape the nuts in place before you try to screw them in.
  • Watch this video from Makerbot on Self Aligning Bearings your ears will thank me.
  • Wipe down all your wooden parts before you start or you will have ash on everything!
  • Some of the pictures in the instruction manual show parts that you haven’t installed yet, don’t jump ahead.
  • Needle nose pliers and extra allen wrenches are very helpful. So is blue painters tape.


Makerbot Thing-o-Matic printing away!

I can barely contain my excitement.

I just received some excellent news.

Your shipping confirmation is below. Thank you again for your business.

My Makerbot “Thing-O-Matic” has shipped. I plan on documenting the build when it arrives. I’ll also be posting my successes and failures with 3D printing in the near future.