PechaKucha Night

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Pecha Kucha Night

Scratch space for assembling my March 31, 2010 presentation for Ottawa #2 - PechaKucha Night

Final Slides with Intended Script Text


  • Anatomy of a MakerBot
    • A Brief History of Fabrication Made Personal

Possible Talking Points


Software origins

  • Original UNIX - BSD
  • Linux ecosystem


  • Proprietary
  • GPL
  • Creative Commons

Content Sites

  • Flickr
  • YouTube
  • Thingiverse
  • Instructables
  • Museums and Science Centres

Hardware Foundations

  • Arduino embedded computing platform.
  • Off-shelf mechanical and motor parts.

Paying the Bills

  • AdaFruit
  • DIY Drones
  • EMSL
  • SparkFun

Value of Community

Forums, Wikis, Mailing Lists

  • Source for new developments
  • Heated Build Platform
  • Replacement parts
  • Improved extruder designs
  • New materials

Design Flow

  • 2D Software
    • InkScape
    • QCad
  • 3D Software
    • Google SketchUp
    • Blender
    • OpenSCAD


  • Ponoko
    • 2D Laser-cut designs
    • Cloth, wood, plastic, fabric, metal
  • Shapeways
    • 3D Printed designs
    • Plastic, alumide, bronze-infused stainless steel
  • Etsy
    • Quickest way to set up shop.
  • PayPal
    • Buy and sell with a degree of separation from direct bank and credit card access.

Personal Fabrication

Technology shift from rapid prototyping with a view to mass production, to personal fabrication with some extra consumables thrown in Ikea-style.

Tired: Injection molding millions Wired: Rapid prototyping one.

How many other technologies sit neglected because they wouldn't scale to Industrial Revolution factory floors?

Rapid Prototyping

  • The 'Mainframe' model
  • Foundational patents expiring
  • Follows the 2D printer model - proprietary inks/materials

RepRap Project

  • Founding University project
  • Machines that reproduce themselves from raw materials
  • Challenge to source all parts locally

MakerBot Industries

  • RepStrap kit
  • Addresses challenge of pulling all the pieces together to build a functioning 3D printer
  • Not unlike the original Apple Computer kit only based on OpenSource developments from the start.
  • Used to make next generation RepRaps locally


  • Recycling technology
  • Bioplastics
  • Open3DP
    • ceramic
    • glass powder


  • RepRap Wiki
  • Thingiverse

HackerSpaces and FabLabs

  • Using current tech in new ways and a-typical applications
  • People who enjoy making things, sharing in the process.

ModLab at ArtEngine

  • Small group of individuals gather every other week.
  • Work on personal projects.
  • Access to non-traditional tools
    • MakerBot on order
    • Long-term
      • Laser cutter
      • CNC mill
  • Fusion of art and tech


Title Slide

Anatomy of a MakerBot - Slide 1

  • APP_01
  • Anatomy of a MakerBot
    • A Brief History of Fabrication Made Personal
  • Talking Points
    • Rapid Prototyping technology has been around for decades.
    • Substractive methods
      • lathes and multi-axis mills
      • laser cutters and water-jet cutters
    • Additive methods more recent
      • Stratasys - fused deposition modelling (FDM)
      • Object - powder+binder
    • The RepRap project.
      • Reproducing Rapid-prototyper


About 25 years ago, machines the size of walk-in refrigerators started appearing deep within the R&D departments of corporations and universities with big budgets. While I was printing school assignments to a brand new Epson dot-matrix printer, these folks were printing actual three-dimensional THINGS!

Six years ago a professor over in the UK launched a little open source project called RepRap, short for Reproducing Rapid-prototyper. A desktop footprint 3D printer that can not just print things but print it's own replacement parts and eventually spawn the next generation.

But it's the old chicken vs egg problem. How do you make the first generation RepRap?

What is a MakerBot?

Adam, Bre, Zach and MakerBot Cupcake - Slide 2

  • A little over a year ago, Bre and Zach showed up at SXSW 2009 with their prototype MakerBot in tow.


What's needed is a pre-chicken! While some people take the franken-chicken approach, bolting together machines from primordial 2D printer parts, these three decided to design a purpose-built bootstrap, or RepStrap machine.

A little over a year ago, Adam, Bre and Zach launched MakerBot Industries and their Cupcake CNC.

The Extruder - Slide 3

  • This is the business end.
  • A close cousin of the hot glue gun, you feed long filaments of 3mm diameter plastic in one end and a 0.5mm diameter noodle of 220C plastic emerges the other end.


The Cupcake CNC gets its name from the build volume; roughly the size of a large cupcake.

It operates on the same principles as the early rapid prototyping machines - patents long since expired.

To put it simply, it's a computer-controlled hot-glue gun. Instead of hot-glue though, it pushes filaments of ABS (the stuff of Lego) or PLA (corn-based plastic) through a small nozzle heated to 220C.

Laser Cut and Off Shelf Hardware - Slide 4

  • It's assembled Ikea-style from a mix of laser-cut acrylic, laser-cut wood and off-the-shelf nuts, bolts and threaded rods.
  • In keeping with open source principles, the design files have been available under the GPL since the first cupcake shipped.


Unlike it's older commercial cousins however, this one comes in kit form. Body panels and other structural elements are made from laser-cut acrylic and wood, bolted together Ikea-style with standard-issue metric nuts, bolts and threaded rods.

Very much unlike it's predecessors but in keeping with the RepRap parent project, all the design files have been available under the GPL since the first units shipped.

The Laser Cut Pulley; Just Because You Can - Slide 5

  • On the first few batches they went a little over-board with the laser-cutting.
  • While being able to laser-cut a pulley is interesting in principle, it doesn't scale as quickly when you have to get hundreds out the door.
  • In later batches they experimented with crowd-sourcing by placing a bounty on printed pulleys. It had similar issues of not being able to scale quickly enough.
  • Most recent batches make use of old-school injection-molded parts.
  • Sometimes the old way is still the best way.


Of course, when you have a something like a laser cutter at your disposal, you try to make everything with it.

These pulleys in the first batch machine are a good example. It's interesting that you can laser-cut them, but that doesn't mean you should. Designs with lots of little detail take a proportionally longer amount of time to cut, and time is both money and scalability.

In the next few batches they tried crowd-sourcing by placing a bounty on printed pulleys. While not as wasteful as laser-cut pulleys, they had similar issues of scaling to meet demand and some quality issues.

The most recent batches make use of old-school injection-molded parts. Sometimes a hammer isn't the best tool when not dealing with nails.

Upon the Shoulders of Arduino - Slide 6

  • Finally, to control the machine they embraced and extended another popular open source platform; the Arduino.


One definite advantage of taking the opensource route is being able to piggyback on existing projects. The RepRap and MakerBot machines make extensive use of Arduino electronics and development software for the machines' brains.

Channeling Ikea - Slide 7

  • As part of the early-adopting first batch, it took me a couple of months worth of late evenings and early mornings to assemble MakerBotNumberNine.
  • I had to solder all the boards myself.
  • They switched to US-manufactured and assembled boards early on.
  • For more recent batches, they finally made the jump to China-manufactured boards.
  • Another case of old-school approaches making the most sense for scaling.


While it took me a couple of months worth of late evenings and early morning to assemble my own first-batch machine, since they switched to US-manufactured then China-manufactured electronics most people now get theirs assembled over a weekend and tweaked enough to finish a print in about a week.

Our little Ottawa ModLab group should be receiving a MakerBot for the ArtEngine space some time toward the end of April.

What Can It Make?

Around the House (Part 1) - Slide 8

  • One of my earliest from-scratch designs was a replacement part for a plastic clip that broke in our bathroom.
  • I designed it in Google's free version of SketchUp.


On to how these MakerBots and RepRaps make fabrication personal.

First stop: the handy-man special. A few years back this little plastic clip holding a board in place on our bathroom counter broke.

Out came the digital callipers, I fired up Google's free SketchUp software and designed a replacement.

Around the House (Part 2) - Slide 9

  • It almost worked.
  • The biggest problem I ran into was that fabjects made in this way, layer upon layer, tend to be weak at the layer interfaces.
  • My mistake was mimicking the physical design of an injection molded part without taking into consideration the mechanical stresses at play.


I ran into some dental hygiene issues with the extruder around this time - there's a little toothed pulley that needs flossing occasionally to clean out little slugs of plastic that break off - but managed to print off some useable parts after cleaning it out and documenting the process to the MakerBot wiki.

As with the laser cut pulleys, this turned into another case of hammering every problem like a nail. The original part was injection molded; this part was built up layer-by-layer. The mechanics weren't the same so my particular replacement part didn't survive the mounting process.

I still need to design a proper replacement.

Building Blocks - Slide 10

  • Next up, a classic. Lego!
  • Lego is made of ABS plastic. My MakerBot extrudes ABS. Need I say more?


Next up: the stuff engineering dreams are made of. Lego!

Lego is made of ABS. MakerBots and RepRaps print in ABS. Need I say more?

The Button - Slide 11

  • Yes, I do. Why make run-of-the-mill blocks when you can design your own Lego-compatible designs?
  • Take this button as an example.
  • Bre got the idea to print off a replacement button for one he lost.
  • I embraced and extended the idea to make a Lego-compatible button.


It turns out that yes, there is more to be said. Printing existing designs is only the first step. This button is my own little experiment in embracing and extending ideas.

On one of his many excursions, Bre lost a button on his clothes. Rather than do what most people would do and buy a replacement, he whipped off a design and printed out a replacement.

I thought to myself: self, how do you make an awesome idea like printed buttons awesomer? Make them Lego compatible!

Material Exploration - Slide 12

  • I didn't stop there.
  • A company out of the Netherlands (home of Mark Hoekstra, RIP) called Shapeways lets you upload your own designs and have them made in a selection of materials.


The thing about awesome ideas is they rarely know when to stop.

I had the design and had proved to myself that it worked. The next logical step was to try it in different materials.

I uploaded the design to Shapeways and had them print off some samples in a selection of plastics and one in Stainless Steel.

Wearable Electronics - Slide 13

  • Since my first print was so successful, I designed special thread holes into the pegs so I could make things like this simple electronic circuit with conductive thread.


Finally, crossing over to another interest of mine - wearable computing and electronics - I tweaked the design some more and had these button-shaped connectors fabricated.

The centre holes are the mechanical connection to cloth and the pegs have little diagonal holes through which I can sew conductive thread to make simple, reconfigurable electrical circuits.

Plug and play!

Thom Yorke's Head; Warp Factor - Slide 14

  • Getting back to the earlier limitations of this particular 3D printing process, here's another example of how things can go wrong.
  • Thom Yorke's Radiohead. Channeling Han Solo meets Easter Island.
  • The larger the print footprint, the more challenging it becomes to manage warping.


Getting back to my own desktop, here's Thom Yorke's head. As you can see, he's channeling some sort of Han-Solo-meets-Easter-Island thing.

From the bits of raft grid you can see up top there, you can see I had to print this one upside-down. The problem this attempts to work around is with the underside of his nose. Because it projects at an angle greater 45 degrees, printing it the right way up would cause the tip to droop or split open.

This print started off ok, but I had stop it early because the bottom started to warp and pull off the build platform. Objects with larger footprints often have this problem.

Train Track; Lattice Solution - Slide 15

  • One approach to working around the warping is to modify your design to meet the process.
  • On this train track piece I created a lattice structure on the bottom to make lots of little footprints instead of one big area of contact.


One way to work around this large-footprint, toe-curling problem is to turn one big footprint into lots of little footprints.

On this toy train track piece you can see I cut out a lattice structure to make the transition from cold build surface to fabject more gradual. It worked well for this piece, but the best solution is one that addresses the root cause of the problem.


Heated Build Platform - Slide 16

  • A better approach is to modify the machine itself to address the ultimate cause.
  • Here I designed a heated build platform made of laser-cut plastic, manufactured using the Ponoko service.
  • By keeping the build surface hot, the printed object doesn't warp as quickly, making for a more mechanically stable structure as layers are added.


It's the transition from cold build surface to hot plastic that actually causes the shrinking that makes fabjects warp. So why not make the build surface hotter?

Here's where open source hardware's strength really comes into play. I pulled down the DXF-format source files for my MakerBot and used them as a starting point for my own heated build platform design. Since I don't have direct access to a laser cutter I uploaded the design files to the Ponoko fabrication service and had them cut and ship the plastic to me.

It worked after a fashion, but now I have a growing list of improvements to make for my next version.

Stainless Steel Nozzle - Slide 17

  • Returning to the extruder, I decided to try printing a nozzle upgrade via Shapeways in Stainless Steel.
  • Unfortunately, that manufacturing process is such that holes smaller than a certain size fill themselves in.
  • A jeweller friend tried drilling out a 0.35mm diameter hole but the SS/Bronze composite proved too tough for the drill bit.


In parallel to that heated build platform design I coded up this other part - a redesigned extruder nozzle - to fabricate in Shapeways SS.

It almost worked - it's physically as strong as I'd hoped - but there's one important limitation to the manufacturing process. While you can design features as small as 0.1mm into the surface of SS, holes tend to fill themselves in. Ryan Taylor, a jeweller friend in Toronto, tried drilling out a 0.35mm diameter hole but the SS/bronze proved too tough for that particular drill bit.

MakerBeam Dremel Attachement - Slide 18

  • Playing with the product of another open source hardware project called MakerBeam, I designed this Dremel flex-shaft adapter to use my MakerBot as a subtractive CNC mill.


Before taking the piece to Ryan I did try applying a Dremel to it, but in hindsight that was doomed to fail.

I did come up with this way to mount a Dremel flex-shaft to my MakerBot's z-stage though, so it wasn't a complete failure. Here I designed the plastic parts in OpenSCAD and joined them with the product of another open source hardware project - MakerBeam Mini-T extruded aluminium. I haven't quite worked up the courage to actually use it as a fully operational CNC mill; some failure modes are more difficult to recover from than a big blob of molten plastic.

The Frostruder - Slide 19

  • The MakerBot folks haven't been sitting still either.
  • This is a Frostruder accessory for the MakerBot. It lets you print using a variety of paste-like materials including, of course, frosting.


The MakerBot folks haven't been sitting around twiddling their thumbs either.

For those wanting to explore materials that don't lend themselves well to melted-rod extrusion, they're working on this Frostruder accessory. You can use it to print using a variety of paste-form materials such as clay, silicone, peanut butter or as the name suggests, frosting.

Since sugary dirt doesn't taste very good, I'll likely order two.

Planned Obsolescence - Slide 20

  • Ultimately, the most intriguing use of a MakerBot is for making itself obsolete.
  • Coming full circle back to its' RepRap origins, many MakerBots (including my own) are being enlisted to manufacture more 3D printers.


Finally, getting back to the RepRap source project from which it sprang, MakerBots can and are being used to make RepRaps. Once the MakerBot on order for the ArtEngine space arrives anyone with about fifty hours of spare time to watch the nursery will be able to print off the printable parts for themselves.

We're still working on making the electronics printable, and the motors can be a bit tricky to locate, but the rest of the hardware can found locally.

From the chicken-maker come the chickens. With one hammer (and a forge) you CAN in fact make new and better hammers.


Post Presentation Thoughts

My final slide set with script text in the descriptions:

I probably should have split this presentation up into at least two separate 20x20. The first focused just on RepRap, MakerBot, 3D Printing and how it works. The other would be around the ecosystem of fabricated objects or *fabjects*, overlapping Shapeways, Ponoko, and my own ClothBot ideas.

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