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MakerBot Thing-o-Matic 3D Printer Assembly, In Pictures 105

ConMotto writes "After an estimated 16 man-hour assembly effort, these are some of the first high-quality user photographs of the Thing-o-Matic 3D printer and completed component assemblies, released December, 2010 by MakerBot. The Thing-o-Matic is a commercial-supported open source 3D printer (similar to the RepRap), allowing hardware hackers to print their own 3D objects out of Lego-like plastic."
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MakerBot Thing-o-Matic 3D Printer Assembly, In Pictures

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  • This is the kind of thing that makes me wish I were unemployed, or retired, or at a different phase in my life when I just plain had more free time to play with cool shit.
    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Same here, and I am only in my 30s. :(

  • by NixieBunny ( 859050 ) on Friday December 17, 2010 @12:06AM (#34583874) Homepage
    'Cuz they know the server will collapse within minutes.
  • 2D photos of a 3D printer? Please...

  • by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Friday December 17, 2010 @12:17AM (#34583954) Journal

    Too bad none of those 3d printers can print a copy of themselves. Create one that does and is programmable and uses genetic algorithms and you've created the first form of synthetic "life." More sophisticated ones can become the basis of an entirely new kind of economy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by EdIII ( 1114411 )

      Replicators and Terminators and other such synthetic and artificial intelligent life forms are not evil.

      It's just that... well.... they.... perform an initial unbiased assessment of their environment and conclude the most dangerous thing to them in their environment is the humans. Not exactly incorrect though is it?

      Reminds me of Mice and Men. Sure, Lennie was cute and all, and probably did not mean too.. but he did kill that woman. So the new lifeforms might put up with us for awhile but I would imagine

    • The RepRap tries this approach, but it cannot manufacture all of its parts. Take into account that among those parts are circuit boards, motors and support struts that just wouldn't be structurally sound if made out of relatively soft plastic instead of metal.

      I'm not yet convinced that complete self-replication is a relevant first goal. It will be impossible for a long time yet to produce every single part of a fabrication unit with another one of the same type, simply because fabricators are necessarily bu

    • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Friday December 17, 2010 @03:12AM (#34584638) Homepage Journal

      They both have a strict purpose of making replicating them easy.
      They can't print their own PCBs. They can't place and solder their components. They can't make their own stepper motors or even create the construction metal bars. But they were made with a specific ability in mind: to be able to print any custom part of themselves, and for the rest of the parts to be off-the-shelf commodities or doable by common low-difficulty DIY techniques requiring no advanced tools.

      It's 16h assembly of off-the-shelf parts and parts printed by the device. No milling, stamping, welding or anything like that. Making and soldering the PCBs is the most difficult, and the hot plastic dispenser/noozle is the only part hard to obtain "off the shelf" and not printable itself.

      • CNC or just laser cutter is better for self replication. Because you can cut metal, you can cut laminations for motors which are then screwed together in a stack. Insert magnets and wrap wire and it's a motor. Only a shaft and bearings needed. Larger metal parts with simple bends can make structural pieces. For electronics, an accurate CNC can turn plain copper-clad into double sided circuit boards. In fact, some real board prototyping tools are exactly that. For self replication and ability to make cool st

        • The problem with CNC is they are all 2.5d which all too often is a showstopper.

          These 3D printers can do real 3D printouts even with fully overhanging pieces, with little help: they first print a "scaffolding" from an easily-removable material, then print actual part on top of that with final material, then you remove the "scaffolding" by heating, washing with a solvent or even just breaking it off.

          (still, as I look at the resolution, I'm not very impressed. The UV-hardening resin 3D printer made of an LCD d

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hm, it is a stated goal for the reprap to make printers that can print most of their own parts. They have sometimes gone to great lengths to try to achieve this (for example, they have tried but given up on creating proper bearings in plastic). But like all "life", it needs extra parts ("vitamins"). Some things you just have to get somewhere. Humans need a few different kinds of food for example. But a big part of a reprap can in fact be printed on a reprap.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      IIRC the RepRap can make all the parts needed to build another RepRap. Obviously they have to be assembled by hand.

      I think laser cutting is often overlooked in favour of 3D printers. With a laser you can cut or engrave plastics, wood, thin metals, even paper and cardboard. They are more suited to making things like cogs or panels for a case, basically anything which can be assembled from 5mm sheets. I'd love to have one at home but for now I use Ponoko who are fairly cheap and easy to do the CAD for (I use

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The rep rap can print about 60% of its parts, and they're working on printable circuitry and motors. Makerbot is an open source commercial sourced lasercut kit based on rep rap, and someone managed to make a makerbot replicate (i.e. print all its mechanical components besides straight rod, threaded rod, and bearings)

      The thingomatic is a makerbot with a redesigned z-axis and automated build plate - kind of a heated conveyer belt that objects get printed on, that can auto-eject a model when finished. The z-

    • In other words, like the machines in "Makers" by Cory Doctorow? []
    • I was looking Thing-o-matic and Reprap, both can produce a number of their own components. Each group have stated they are working in two directions to make them able to self replicate. The first is simply expanded what they number of things they can make and the second would be to simplify the design as much as possible to make the first goal easier to reach.

      Reprap has a secondary project called Repstrap, which is pretty much a "good enough" design made from scrap parts and easily made on conventional

      • Reprap has a secondary project called Repstrap, which is pretty much a "good enough" design made from scrap parts and easily made on conventional tools. The idea is you build a temporary one that will last just long enough to help you make the more finished parts you need for the Reprap.

        Repstrap refers to any means of building a Reprap-style device without the requirement of already having a working Reprap to print parts. "Reprap bootstrap"...

        So it's not about a "good enough" design made from "scrap parts" necessarily - just any method that allows you to build a machine without paying someone $200 for a set of printed Reprap parts.

    • by Dabido ( 802599 )
      They already have factories that use robots that build robots, and the robots that are built are the same as the ones doing the building. (Admittedly, they usually get sold to other companies who use them to build cars or other things). I'm pretty sure Karcher has one (or more) such factory. (I ran into it when I was researching robot building of my own).
  • Men and Boys (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cstec ( 521534 ) on Friday December 17, 2010 @12:28AM (#34583998)

    The assembly process is intense, to put it lightly. Instructions are generally correct and straightforward 90% of the time, but given the intimidating complexity of the project, insane number of parts and dexterity required for some of the assemblies, simply locating the correct widget can sometimes be challenging. As the online assembly guide progresses, the instructions increasingly rely on your prior knowledge of repetitious concepts. We’re talking sanding, soldering, cutting, punching, scrubbing, gluing, and screwing hundreds of bolt/nut combinations. Only attempt this project if you’re the type of person that wakes up with ideas on the order of, “I think I’ll build an air conditioner this weekend.”, and actually completes the task. Like I said: intense.

    Awesome! Damm this post is going to cost me a ton of time.

    • Now there's a challenge.
    • Hi everyone.. thanks for taking down the server every 20 seconds. :) In the meantime, you can take a look at the photos on Flickr (sans some commentary). Please keep it open in a browser tab and check back later. At the moment there is so much traffic I can't even log in.

      • by Splab ( 574204 )

        In the future, stop playing with aperture on your camera for build projects. Generally people want to take in the whole scene in these cases and it is to be honest quite annoying when only part of it is in focus.

        For portraits etc. playing with depth of field is really good - not so much for documenting.

  • by cutecub ( 136606 ) on Friday December 17, 2010 @12:33AM (#34584024)
    ... is here. [] (Pretty Sure.)

    "Here's a quarter, kid. Buy yourself a decent server."
  • A device like the Thing-o-matic is unlikely to work as a replicator by itself. It only makes one kind of part (plastic) and has no assembly ability.

    What you would need is a machine that can produce a number of types of parts (metal, plastic, glass), and then assemble the parts.

    • It just needs to be made entirely out of materials that are available to it. I don't think metal would be easy to come by for a machine like this. Or plastic, for that matter. The mining/manufacturing process is too difficult.

      People get freaked out by the idea of replicators, but what the hell are WE? Or any life form, for that matter? The simplest ones can survive on light or heat or chemical energy alone, and as long as there is energy and a few new necessary building blocks about (C, O, N etc in various
  • I really love to see these types of projects using other open hardware, such as the Arduino. I cringe whenever I see some simple project that requires a bunch of custom electronics. I mean, in the software world, it doesn't really matter if you want to waste time creating yet-another-library for your app. But in meatspace, people can only afford to have so many little pieces of custom electronics and your motor controller probably doesn't justify a completely custom circuit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pantherace ( 165052 )

      Having made a mostly arduino controlled mill that works, but needs work to correct some wobble (structure problem). I can tell you that even with the current set of shields, there isn't one that works out of the box. I had to modify the bipolar stepper on this page: [], to also accept an enable/disable. That's in addition to an Adafruit motor shield (which was when I was doing research on them, far and away the best). Both of which used two stacked

    • I think part of the problem is the cost of PCB fabrication: buying someone else's board, that's capable of handling your specific use case, is going to add about $30 per axis, or about $60 for a multi-axis-on-one-board, to the cost of the electronics, and while that might not seem like much, to people who are used to doing their own, with homemade PCB's, that's 50-70% of the price of the entire motor controller, so it seems cost-effective to roll your own. Add to that, the expense of high-power drivers and
  • At long last, I can printer my own 3D objects! I love printering 3D objects. Printering is my life.

    out of Lego-like plastic

    Really, when I want to do that, I just use actual Legos. :)

  • by waterwingz ( 68802 ) on Friday December 17, 2010 @12:59AM (#34584164) Homepage

    I've got mod points tonight but I'm going to post instead. Take a look at this link [] for an interesting scifi spin on what the OP is thinking about. Free download available - its a good read.

  • Does this one require 3D glasses too?
  • All the parts for mine are sitting on the floor right next to me - waiting for me to get off work for the holidays...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Work on it instead of reading/posting on slashdot.

  • by MrQuacker ( 1938262 ) on Friday December 17, 2010 @02:01AM (#34584388)
    Seeing as we are on the topic of DIY fabrication, and I have karma to spare...

    For those that want to make chainmail, (the metal stuff knights wore) I make and sell a very cool tool for that: []

    • I just wanted to say: I've seen a few Thing-o-Matics and it's a really awesome way to get into 3D printing. It can print many small objects for you without needing much attention; a replicator in your home. Now, in the spirit of shameless plugs -- there's also the Ultimaker, which can build larger objects but is not much bigger itself, it's also a FLOSS RepRap-based derivative and will start selling februari next year. []
      • Nice.
        Looks simpler, perhaps easier to build than the Makerbot. I like the moving head better than the moving x-y stage.

  • Now if somebody could create a precise 3D milling machine that would trim that thing to precise tolerances . . . NOW that would be something!

    • Now if somebody could create a precise 3D milling machine that would trim that thing to precise tolerances . . . NOW that would be something!

      If you had a precise 3D milling machine, you could replace many of the functions of a 3D printer.

      They're basically the same thing; one adds material that looks like a chess piece, the other removes material that doesn't look like a chess piece.

      • A 3d printer produces prototypes out of many little dabs of plastic.

        Those prototypes won't be nearly as strong as the same thing cut out of a single piece of plastic (or Injection molded).

        That said there are many things that are impossible to machine that can be made by this category of machines.

      • CNC mills cannot cut internal structures.

        This is a task for which a 3d printer shines.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      In the 1980s there was a popular series of books on how to make a very simple low budget foundry, how to use that to make the basics of a lathe, how to use that lathe to improve parts and make it a better lathe and how to use that to make a two axis milling machine.
      Anybody remember those and the author or titles?
      • Re:Milling Accessory (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 17, 2010 @03:35AM (#34584754)

        "In the 1980s there was a popular series of books on how to make a very simple low budget foundry, how to use that to make the basics of a lathe, how to use that lathe to improve parts and make it a better lathe and how to use that to make a two axis milling machine.
        Anybody remember those and the author or titles?" []

        The Dave Gingery book set.

    • Perform a search on ``simple CNC mill'' and you'll find lots of pages like: []
      or []

      Unfortunately, milling involves side-to-side stress, so all the homemade ones I've seen have issues w/ slop &c., so as you likely had surmised, tolerances are an issue. If someone has plans for a mill which can do precise tolerances in hard materials, I'd be very interested.


  • course I cant see the original post but ... it seems like a maker bot with a print buffer? ok fine cool I guess if you want it (I have not seen many uses for it other than toy models, boxes and the occasional hose fitting) but why are we all yippiee about someone putting together a kit?

    • Nobody cares about the guy putting together a kit.

      The interesting thing is that you can buy a kit that allows you to build a (basic) 3D printer, and that there are photos of the printer hardware.

      Many people on slashdot would be very happy to have a 3D printer.

      • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

        yea but you could do that for a at least a year now,this is just a new revision

        and there is no mention of where to get this prized kit, its literally a collection of photos of someone putting it together []

    • The Thing-O-Matic has the ability to produce many items, one after the other, while running completely unattended. So you can start it up on Friday, come back Monday and have a big pile of custom objects waiting for you (if it doesn't go haywire, that is).

      That's what is new. Not even the $10k industrial machines offer that ability.
      • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

        yea I understand that after reading the website,but I still dont get why some dude putting together a kit is front page news, the story should be about the machine, not photos from someone who successfully followed instructions

  • Use the thingomatic 3-D printer to print out a thingomatic 3-D printer! I think this will be one of the first thing to be solved if we are going to colonize mars. Then we need to pack it inside a robot that will make the raw material for 3-D printer plastic too. One kind of robot will make may be one kind of raw material but with self replicating capacity and another robot another raw material. These robots would be programmed to have an innate urge to reproduce and replicate themselves. They would eventual
  • I give it one month before someone figures out how to make a dildo with it.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain