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Building the Makerbot - Part 1

Slightly later than promised, here is the first part of my adventures in building the Makerbot! I meant to post this before I went away to the states, but had too much work on.

Having bought in a decent desk mounted vice, a new soldering iron and a decent multimeter, I was locked cocked, and ready to rock. Sadly, I couldn't get Pete or Matt over, so I was instead assisted by my trusty feline companion, Suki:

My Able Assistant

To be fair, she didn't do much apart from Purr and try and sit on me when I was doing fiddly stuff, but she did sit there the whole time, so all good.

Having sat down and read through the extensive Makerbot Wiki I have to say I was pretty daunted, its easily the most complicated project I've ever undertaken. First up I had to install all the drivers/software on my laptop, and check that the Arduino board was working. That turned out to be really straightforward, it was just a case of installing some software, and plugging in the board via USB to install the drivers.

Next up I started assembling the parts I needed for the X stage of the printer (the actual print surface). There were three options, the first, a simple wooden platform, the second a simple heated platform, and the last was the all singing, all dancing Automated Build Platform, with is heated, AND has a conveyor belt for ejecting printed objects. Not wanting to pussy out, I went for the third option. Popping out all the wooden parts was pretty simple, although cleaning the burnt residue from the edges of all the parts was pretty time consuming.

Assembling the wooden frame parts is really straightforward, thanks to the clever T-Nut construction. You do it all with allen keys. Its like a really, really geeky Ikea kit :P First part of soldering was attaching wires to the motor for the converyor belt, and that was pretty straightforward too. Building the rollers for the platform proved to be slightly more tricky. If you don't get your measurements exactly right, they end up out of alignment, which is what happened to me, so I had to do some trimming and adding to the rollers until they fit correctly.

Eventually, after several hours, I ended up with something that vaguely resembled an Automated Build Platform:

Completed Build Platform 3

Feeling bouyed by my success, I decided to make a start on the Y assembly, which proved to be even simpler than the X stage to build. Eventually I got most of the way there:

Y Axis Frame

Sadly I ran into an issue with the pulleys. It turned out they didn't fit! The instructions said they might need sanding, but it turned out they were totally the wrong size:

Oh Noes!

A quick email to Makerbot support later, and it transpired that the motors had been upgraded in a recent kit upgrade, but I still had the older pulleys. They sent me out replacements, first class, the same day! Most impressed. That did however mean that I had to call it a day at that point.

You can view the full photo set on my Flikr page, here. More to come soon, once I've uploaded all of the pictures!

Building a 3D Printer

At Codegarden this year, I was lucky enough to win a Makerbot Thing-o-matic. What's one of those you ask? Its a self build, 3D printer. It is, by far and away, one of the coolest things I've EVER won. Thanks to all who cheered for me during the competition!

The only thing is, it starts off life looking like this:

Makerbot in bits

(The wool isn't part of the kit, its just on my table). Quite a way to go before I can start printing out cool stuff! I've read through the rather comprehensive online Wiki for the device and reckon I've got it mostly worked out. I had to order in a few bits and pieces, I've never owned my own multimeter, and my old soldering iron was dead. Those have now arrived, so over the next few weeks, I'll be blogging about my experiences building this very cool device.

With any luck, I'll be getting some help from Matt Brailsford and Pete "Knife Meme" Duncanson along the way as well. I'll be sure to post plenty of pictures and blog posts.

And yes, one of the first things I intend to print is an Umbraco logo :P If I can get a decent model on the go, I'll also be trying to print out some medals for all of the entrants to the package competition too!