FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

What is a MakerBot?

A MakerBot is an affordable, open source 3D printer. It's a machine that can make things. It's your own little factory!

Technical specs

Manufacturer MakerBot Industries
Model Thing-O-Matic
Technology Thermoplastic extrusion
Price $1099 for the Thing-O-Matic Kit which includes our new Stepstruder MK7
Annual Service This is a hot rod style device on the cutting edge of 3D printing technology and like a hotrod, you'll have to oil it and do occasional maintenance. There is no service warranty.
Machine Size It's 12"x12"x16" LxWxH
Weight Approx. 12 lbs or 5 kg.
Materials ABS or PLA Plastics. The Plastruder MK5 and below use 3mm filament. The Stepstruder MK6 can take both 3mm and 1.75mm filament and the new Stepstruder MK7 uses 1.75mm filament exclusively.
Material Cost See the store for current pricing. But it's not expensive.
Accuracy Accurate to 0.08mm (.003") Minimum feature size is 0.08mm.
Resolution Nozzle is 0.4mm in diameter and extrusion is appx 0.3mm in diameter and layer height is also appx 0.3mm (.012") The new Stepstruder MK7 is capable of a layer height of 0.2mm (.0079")
Speed 33mm/sec (1.3"/sec)
Build Time A weekend with a friend
Fun Factor Off the charts

What skills are needed to make a MakerBot?

There are two main skills need to put together a MakerBot. The first is assembly. It's a bolt together process that is really easy. The second is soldering: there are a few solder connections that you need to make for the plastruder and the Automated Build Platform. However, the electronics boards are now shipped fully assembled and programmed.

How long does it take to make?

Two people can make a MakerBot in a weekend. Many users report it takes them 12-16 hours for a first time assembly.

How big of things can it make?

The build area is 105mm x 120mm and about 130mm tall. Adding an Aluminum Build Surface will give you 120mm x 120mm and about 130mm tall. Using the Automated Build Platform will give you slightly less build height area.

How big is the desk footprint?

Thing-O-Matic: It's 12"x12"x16" LxWxH.

CupCake CNC: It's 240mm x 300mm and it stands 400mm tall. For the imperialists out there, that translates to 9.5" x 11.5" and 14.5". That's just the actual body size. The electronics stick out approximately 20mm on right side of it and the pullieys are on top and add about 20mm in height as well.

What is resolution?

It's accurate to .1mm which is roughly equivalent to 300 DPI and the extrusion width is .4mm.

What is the minimum wall thickness?

You can set this yourself. I usually set up my models to be two layers of plastic thick which is .8mm. For water-tight applications, I go a bit thicker.

Is it living room compatible? Will the neighbors complain?

MakerBots are absolutely living room compatible and they make the most lovely sweet gentle machine sounds. It's much quieter than a Dremelâ„¢ but louder than a disk drive. Your neighbors won't complain.

Can it make parts for itself?

Yes! There are numerous modifications that can be printed! Our users create more mods all the time and upload them to Thingiverse so that if you've already got a MakerBot, you can print out your own parts! There is even a printable CupCake CNC on Thingiverse!

What kind of materials can you print with and what is the cost per pound of material?

We sell three kinds of plastic.

Our favorite right now is ABS plastic which is the same thing Lego is made out of. It's super strong, fuses really well to itself and looks great!

We used to sell HDPE which is the same thing that milk jugs are made out of. It's got some issues with warping on wide prints, but it has great low friction properties that make it perfect for some applications. MakerBot Industries has discontinued selling HDPE.

Plastic number two is polylactic acid (PLA). PLA is a plastic-like material made from corn. It's clear, resists warping during printing, and looks awesome.

See the store for up-to-the-minute pricing, many of the 3mm options are $20 a pound, and just a bit more for the new 1.75mm versions.

Plastic #3 is Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA). It's water soluble, and smells a bit like Elmers glue. Here is the store page.

How long does it take to make something?

Build time depends on the size of the object and the infill settings. When I make a hollow dodecahedron (12 sided dice) that is about 25mm tall, it takes about 12 minutes to print.

When will it be cheaper?

It already is! Most 3D printers cost between $25,000 to $250,000. The Thing-O-Matic is currently $1099. It's an amazing value for the type of prints that can be made with the machine.

Are MakerBots earth-friendly?

Sure they are! When you print out an object on your own, no energy is expended on packaging or shipping. A lot of our users are also printing out custom parts that allow them to fix household objects and keep them in service for much longer than if they'd had to source parts from the manufacturer.

How much maintenance is involved?

We tighten down the bolts every month or so. If we used a threadlocker, we wouldn't have to do that. Every once in a while we add some 3 in 1 oil to the rods. Besides keeping the bolts tight, some cleaning of the extruder helps keep things running smoothly.
If you run into a bigger problem, the good news is that you'll be able to fix it — after all, you built it! You'll also have help from the good folks at MakerBot Customer Service.

What can't a MakerBot do?

Right now overhangs that are more than 45 degrees are a bit challenging. We're working on support material and there is code for buttressing but those are both stopgaps until we find an even more clever solution.

How smooth are circles and diagonals?

Wonderfully smooth! Overhangs more than 45 degrees require integrating support into the design.

What is your minimum hardware requirement to run the Software and printer?

At least 1gb of RAM is required and at least and one USB Port. Most modern computers run the software without breaking a sweat.

Is the software compatible with PC, Linux, and Macs?

Yes! Here's a walkthrough of how to print. Our supported platforms include Mac OS 10.5 or later, Windows, and Linux 2.6 or later. Since ReplicatorG is open source, please download it and test it on your OS!

What's the design process like?

It all starts with an STL file which you can make in a number of 3D modeling applications. We like Blender, Sketchup, and Art of Illusion because they are either open source or free. Practically all professional 3D Design and CAD softwares can create STL format files as well.

Once you've got the STL file, you slice it up in skeinforge and then import the resulting G-Code into ReplicatorG which sends the instructions to the MakerBot. Once I finish my model, it's usually a 10 minute process for me to scale it and slice it. Then it's printing time!

When will MakerBot be able to use a second extruder?

We set the extruder controller board up to be future compatible with a second and even third extruder. There are currently settings for single-material support structures in our software ReplicatorG.

Can the Cupcake CNC or Thing-O-Matic create larger objects?

If you're feeling adventurous, you can try to design a variant with a larger build area— that's what open source is all about. If you're working on such a design, search for modifications for your MakerBot on Thingiverse.comThingiverse.com — or check our Plus-sized Cupcakes page for a few past examples.

Is there a place where I can download models to print out?

Yes! We created Thingiverse for people to share digital designs. Check out all the models tagged with "MakerBot" here: http://www.thingiverse.com/tag:makerbot It's an amazing resource for 3D Printing and Makers alike.

What community resources are available?

There is a MakerBot operator list, a digital designer list, a forum, a wiki, a Flickr pool, twitter, and a blog!

MakerBot Operator List: http://groups.google.com/group/makerbot
Digital designer List: http://groups.google.com/group/thingiverse
MakerBot Forums: http://wiki.makerbot.com/forum:start
MakerBot Wiki: [http://wiki.makerbot.com
Flickr Image Stream l:http://www.flickr.com/groups/makerbot/
MakerBot Twitter: http://twitter.com/makerbot
MakerBot Blog: http://blog.makerbot.com
Thingiverse Blog: http://blog.thingiverse.com

How long does a roll of ABS plastic last when printing?

Short answer: a long time.

Long answer: [Based on the MK5 setup (MK5 drive gear + MK5 hot end), and assuming a stock 0.5mm nozzle, the DC motor running at 2RPM with a 3mm filament, and specific weight of ABS being 0.00104 g/mm^3]:
- It takes almost exactly 2min to extrude 1 gram of ABS.
453grams/pound means
- it takes over 15 hours of continuous extrusion to go through 1 lb. of ABS
- it takes over 75 hours (3+ days) of continuous extrusion to go through 5 lbs. of ABS

OK! Enough already, I want to buy one. What do I do?

Go to the store and get one! If you've got all the tools and an ATX computer power supply, get the basic kit. If you need tools, get the deluxe kit! Here's the link to the 3d Printer Kits page: http://store.makerbot.com/3d-printers.html

How do I pay for my order?

We prefer payment by credit card. We also accept Paypal, wire transfer and checks. All checks must be drawn on a U.S. bank.
We are also willing to accept gold bullion coins such as American Gold Eagle or Swiss Vreneli, based on their New York closing price on the day of the transaction and their rated purity. MakerBot Industries does not accept gold bars.

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