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MakerBot-related hints, gotchas, and desires

I'm assembling a MakerBot, which is an open source 3D printer: essentially, its a robot that makes things.
My MakerBot is a Deluxe kit from Batch 10 (
serial number 000619), and uses the Plastruder MKIV.

MakerBot Assembly

Wherein I enumerate the stupid mistakes I made when building my bot, and humbly suggest improvements in the design.
Please note that the build instructions for Batch 10 differ from the instructions for other batches--your mileage may vary.

Y stage Assembly

On the first evening of assembly, my friend Cassie and I built the Y stage using these instructions. The instructions said it would take thirty minutes to build the Y stage. It took us 1 1/2 hours, although we were gabbing most of the time. We probably spent as much time looking for the parts and figuring out the instructions as we did actually assembling the parts.

I was initially confused that my kit came with two build surfaces and build platforms, until Cassie actually read the instructions and pointed out that this was intentional. I'm still not sure why there is an extra build platform--do the build surfaces get messed up over time? Perhaps it's because the build platform is detachable? Or maybe it's convenient to leave a printed object on one platform, while starting to print another object on the second platform. In any case, the second build platform is a nice touch.

The two build surfaces were packaged differently, which I found a little confusing. One kit has a razor blade, which I assume is for scraping plastic off of the build surface. The other kit included 5 gold magnets, 6 M3 nuts, and 6 M3 screws that are shorter than the M3x16 bolts that come in the bags in the Hardware Burrito. The parts list and photo claim that to build the Y stage you need 10 magnets, 12 M3 nuts, and 12 M3x16 bolts. The Hardware Burrito contained 10 more magnets (for a total of 15), two bags of M3x16 bolts, and two bags of M3 nuts. However, I only used 6 M3x16 bolts and 6 M3 nuts, so either I did something wrong or the instructions are off. I didn't use the shorter bolts that came with the build platform kit--I'm still not sure what those are for.

I was confused by two other things in the parts list picture. The flanged side bearings are shot from above, which makes them look like rubber grommets; perhaps a side view would be clearer. Also, I wasn't sure which of the timing belts to use. Later the instructions make clear that you should use the shortest belt.

The two bags containing M3x16 bolts were extremely greasy--so greasy, in fact, that the lettering started coming off the backs of the bag. It would be nice to have de-gunked bags, but I'm sure the MakerBot folks don't want to spend all afternoon wiping grease off of bags. I wonder if soaking the bags in dishwashing detergent might help degrease them.

The tiny square rare-earth magnets were fun to play with, and to install. I love the simple but effective trick of putting a nut on the end of the magnets to keep track of the orientation. I wonder who came up with that trick?

I found it much easier to insert the magnets in the bottom of the build platform, rather than inserting them in the top and pushing them down. Of course, this meant I had to switch the orientation of the magnets with respect to the Y stage.

I had to thoroughly ream out all the holes for the magnets, especially on the build platform. The instructions suggest using a hex key to ream the holes, but I didn't find this effective. Maybe I was doing it wrong. (I was scraping along the sides with the smallest key; perhaps I could have twisted a larger key in the hole, but I was afraid of damaging the holes.) However, there is a small screwdriver on the back of my CyberTool 41 Swiss Army knife (which is the most useful tool I own) that must have been designed for just this task--it worked perfectly. A small flathead screwdriver might work just as well.

When clamping the Y belt to the Y rib, it seemed like tightening the bolt enough to hold the belt down puts lots of stress on the clamp's connection to the Y rib. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I would have liked it better had there been another bolt below the belt. Probably that would make the Y rib jut down too far, though.

We were initially confused when the instructions said to insert the Y rods into the bearings, since the rods weren't on the parts list or photo. We spent some time trying to figure out if we needed the long rods or the short rods, until we realized that we were just making sure the bearings were aligned. We found it easier to hot glue the bearings with the rods removed; however, my friend Nathan points out that leaving in the rods guarantees alignment of the bearings.

The parts list and parts photo mention the acrylic build surface, but the instructions don't say to bolt the acrylic onto the build platform when building the Y stage. I'm assuming that's what the other 6 M3x16 bolts and M3 nuts are for.

X stage Assembly

On the second evening of assembly, my friend Nathan and I built the X stage using these instructions.

Last updated February 17, 2010

Please send cool links, broken links, and Other Things I Should Already Know About to Will (webyrd@gmail.com).