MakerBot Development Roadmap


Our goal at MakerBot is to constantly innovate and improve the technology. We've seen many projects over the years get bogged down and stymied in the great 'version 2' effort. Meanwhile, the version 1 is full of bugs and never gets any attention. Forget that. Our development philosophy is to first get a working model and then to incrementally improve upon that. This way, you have a working design at every step in the process.

Here is our current roadmap. Please note that these are only estimates and may change at any time as we revise our ideas and produce results from testing. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to contact us.

CupCake CNC

Having a reliable mechanical system to build on is critical to high quality prints. Our goal is to build the best 3D printer possible within the self-imposed constraints of making it as cheap as possible. Some people say you have to choose one or the other. We dare to dream the impossible.

Milestone #1: (achieved 07/2009)

Status: Production

  • Switch to fully assembled Generation 3 electronics
  • Find reliable manufacturing sources for every single part so we can scale to hundreds or thousands

Milestone #2

Status: Under Development

  • Switch to ACME threaded rod for the Z axis drive system. Smoother, more reliable, and possibly faster operation.
  • Switch to internal electronics based on the work by Charles Pax.

Milestone #3

Status: Under Development

  • Switch to the Generation 4 Electronics

Milestone #4

Status: Concept

  • Implement some sort of conveyor belt based Y stage for continuous printing operations.
  • Add support for filament spools for simple, automatic filament feeding (see plastruder-mk5).

The goal for this milestone is to create a system that can do multiple prints without human intervention for extended periods of time. With a conveyor belt, we hope that after a print has been completed, then it can do a full revolution and the printed part will peel off and be ejected out the back of the machine. If we are successful in achieving this, then MakerBot will not just be an awesome robot that can build things, but it will be an awesome robot that is capable of doing small scale manufacturing, or large scale manufacturing if you parallelize the process with multiple machines.

When this feature is completed, it will be possible to queue up multiple print jobs: you could tell the machine to print 200 of the same part, or 200 different parts and then walk away. When you come back the next day, it will have filled up its print bin with the parts you requested. This is the future and the goal that we are working towards here at MakerBot.

Milestone #5

Status: Concept

  • Convert as many parts as possible to 3D printed parts.

This one is contingent upon creating a successful 'Continuous Print' mechanism that will allow us to easily produce all the parts for the kits on our own machines. In order for this to be viable, we will need to be able to produce these parts with very little human work involved, otherwise it will be too time consuming and costly.


The electronics are the foundation of the machine. They should be robust, simple, and elegant. Since MakerBot is designed to be hacked, we want to provide a set of electronics that is not maxed out, but rather has the capacity to do what you want without having to cut corners or sacrifice.

Generation 4 Electronics

Motherboard v2.1

Status: Needs testing

With the recent release of the Arduino MEGA (ATmega1280), we now have a much more powerful base to build our system upon. Not only that, but the MEGA is also officially supported by the Arduino team. This means it will be much more reliable than the venerable Sanguino that we hacked together to meet our needs.


  • Actual USB port with built-in FTDI chip (auto-reset will now work!)
  • Stepper driver interface will be able to control configuration lines for software-configurable step-modes (full/half/quarter/eighth)
  • Built-in piezo for alerts and notifications via sound
  • Support for external interface box with LCD and buttons
  • Continued support for SD cards

Extruder Controller v3.2

Status: Final prototype

The current extruder controller is an excellent board, however it suffers from a few limitations and less-than-ideal design choices. First of all, it uses the FTDI cable which does not reliably support automatic reset. Also, the power and communications connector can be confusing to new users. The new design intends to address these problems and improve on the design.


  • Switching to USB port + FTDI chip built-in for the authentic Arduino experience
  • Switching from RJ45 Jacks to a new connector system that can support power+comms in the same cable, but is not easily confused with other standard interface options (like ethernet)
  • Adding an additional thermistor input to allow driving 2 extruders from the same board if desired.
  • Potentially adding a 4th mosfet to enable the potential of driving unipolar stepper motors.

You can check out the design on Thingiverse.

Stepper Driver v3.1

Status: Ready for production

The latest version of the stepper driver boasts the Allegro A3977 microstepping stepper driver. This is an awesome chip capable of 1/8 step (think: smooth and quiet). It also can deliver up to 2.5A / phase which means its capable of controlling some pretty powerful motors. It is a very nice chip at a good price.

The second major change is the opto endstop connectors: we are switching from RJ45 jacks / ethernet cables to Molex connectors / CDROM audio cables. This switch is nice because of the reduced footprint of both the header and the cables, as well as the reduced price of the cable itself.

You can check out the design on Thingiverse.

Mechanical Endstop v1.1

Status: Ready for production

This is a new board, developed with ease of use in mind. Mechanical switches are much easier to trigger, and can function in any light conditions. We plan on using an M3 bolt as the triggering method which means it will be very easy to install, as well as calibrate.

Since this board may be used interchangeably with the opto endstop board, we have attempted to make it as compatible as possible. Not only does it use the same connector, but it also has the switch positioned in the same location, as well as having the same mounting holes as the opto endstop family of boards. You can even mix and match within your design if you like.

You can check out the design on Thingiverse.

Interface v1.0

Status: Prototype

A control interface with buttons and a LCD.

You can check out the design on Thingiverse.

Generation 5 Electronics


Status: Concept

Evaluating processor architectures; ideally, we'd like an SoC w/ USB, MMC, and ethernet peripherals.


** Onboard high-speed USB
** Onboard MMC/SD peripheral
** No onchip ethernet
** Tons of I/O, 3 UARTs

See the ++ Generation 5 Electronics page for more information on this topic.

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