The Thing-O-Matic comes with one major decision you need to make: Do you want to use an Automated Build Platform, a Heated Build Platform, or do you want to use an Acrylic Build Platform? Your kit contains all the parts to build one of them, and you can only have one of them on your machine at a time. Let's examine each, and you can decide which one you want to start with.
Automated Build Platform
This baby is our pride and joy. No other 3D printer in the world has it, and it allows you to unlock the true power of your Thing-O-Matic. The MakerBot Automated Build Platform combines a conveyor belt with a heated build surface. During the print, the conveyor belt remains motionless, and your Thing-O-Matic prints directly onto it. The heated build surface allows you to print large objects with minimal warping. After printing, the conveyor belt automatically kicks into action and ejects your part onto the table (or a bin) in front of your bot. Your Thing-O-Matic then resets to allow the printing of another part. You can print a hundred different things, such as a series of parts for the assembly of a toy. Or print a hundred of the same thing in quantity, such as gifts for your extended family. It's all the same to your trusty robot friend.
The Automated Build Platform can be a bit tricky to build. It requires attention to detail, some electronics assembly, and patience. It is no harder to implement than the rest of the system, but boosts the level of precision required of the builder: later stages of assembly depend upon this stage working perfectly.
Heated Build Platform
The heated build platform was the first major innovation in build surface technology in the previous machine. It reduces warping when building large parts by heating the object and preventing a build-up of shrinkage between layers. When the object is done building, it will cool down and can be removed manually from the heated build platform.
The heated build platform is a medium difficulty build. It is more complicated than the acrylic build platform, yet less complicated than the automated build platform.
Acrylic Build Platform
The Acrylic Build Platform is a throwback to the original style of build platforms. It is simple and straightforward: a piece of acrylic with a laser-etched grid on it. The grid allows the ABS plastic to stick to the slick plastic surface, but not so permanently that you cannot scrape the part off at the end of the print. No electronics to go awry: easy to build, and easy to use.
However, there is a compromise to using just an acrylic build surface: no heating. When you aren't able to maintain an elevated temperature to keep the bottom layers slightly molten (and tacky to the touch), these areas begin to cool, solidify and shrink — and the pull of the shrinking layers sometimes warp the part. Lack of a heated build surface limits the maximum height of parts you can build.