So You Just Bought A MakerBot

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So You Just Bought a MakerBot

You raised the funds, placed the pre-order, waited a few weeks, then suddenly received the shipment notification e-mail. Now What?

Well, the first thing you (or your group) need to do is tool-up for the build.

Tooling Up


  • For Everything
    • Empty egg carton(s) to manage all the little nuts, bolts and washers.
    • Metric wrench set or a couple of small adjustable wrenches
    • Extra Metric hex key set
      • If not at your local hardware store, check out sports and cycling shops for sets.
    • Needle nose pliers
  • For the Plastruder
    • Soldering iron
      • If you haven't already, invest in at least one good Weller-type iron with settable temperature.
    • Electronics solder
    • Hook-up wire

Also Essential

  • Multimeter
  • Steel ruler with metric and imperial markings
  • Digital calliper
  • 3mm or 1/8" drill bit
    • For drilling missing holes and boring out excess plastic from the extruder's PTFE barrel.
  • Painters tape
  • Thermocouple-based temperature probe
  • Magnifier lamp
  • Dremel with cutting wheel
    • Useful when bolts and threaded rods turn out to be longer than desired
  • Protective eyewear
    • Use when cutting and/or drilling
  • Fan/ventilation
    • Use when soldering.

Soft(ware) Skillz

While we'd all love to have infinite budget to buy all the best toys, the fact of the matter is most of us enthusiasts are either students, parents, or employed in fields that don't need the tools. With that in mind, here are the free and mostly open source (SketchUp is free of cost but not open source) tools I use:

ReplicatorG 0017 (or more current)

Platforms: Linux, Mac, Windows Get It:

Skeinforge - Build In

Platforms: Linux, Mac, Windows

  • This slicing gcode generating set of scripts has been integrated into ReplicatorG 0017
  • As mentioned in the installation instructions for your platform, you need to install Python for your operating system.


Platforms: Linux, Mac, Windows

Skeinforge (Experimental - Latest Build)

If you're feeling adventurous, the bleeding-edge versions of skeinforge can be found at

Settings in this version are *not* backward-compatible with the MakerBot/ReplicatorG version of skeinforge. It is highly recommended that you use the SkeinFox settings as a starting point -


Platforms: Linux, Mac, Windows Get It:

  • Useful for troubleshooting 3D model issues, converting between formats, scaling from imperial to metric units, etc.

SkeinFox v1.5 (Mac only)

Get It:

Pleasant3D (Mac Only)

Get It:

  • For visualizing STL models before slicing and the resulting GCode after slicing.
  • Very useful for centring and repositioning STL models for optimal build platform printing.

Arduino 0018

Platforms: Linux, Mac, Windows Get It:

Start Building!

Group Building

We managed to get through about three-quarters of the build in three hours on the first evening by splitting up the work across two groups of 3-4 people each (see Group 1 and Group 2 below). If we'd had another 3-4 people we might have been able to get the Plastruder (Group 3) assembled in parallel as well. With some preparation, it should be possible to group-assembly a fully operational Cupcake and be printing your first test objects in a day.

Here is how I would plan and execute such an operation:

Group 1: CupCake Body Assembly

Group 2: X-Y Stage Assembly

Group 3: Plastruder Assembly

It's Built! Now What?

Before you dive head-first into your first print, run through the following sanity checks.

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