C-N-C….In the House!

by Sally Applin

The Makerbot CupCake CNC machine from Makerbot Industries is on the market. The kits are now available for home hobbyists to build their own CNC machines.

For people who might not know, the Makerbot CNC is a 3-D printer, or for lack of a better analogy–an EasyBake™ “CupCake” oven for geeks.

CupCake CNC
I am an open, hackable robot for making nearly anything.
Overview
The basic structure of a MakerBot is:

A 3D positioning system.
A toolhead that does work.
Electronics to drive it.
As the CupCake CNC is a MakerBot, it contains all of these elements. The 3D positioning system is a standard cartesian (X,Y,Z) system. In our particular configuration, the build platform moves in the X and Y directions and toolhead is mounted on the Z stage which moves up and down. The X and Y axes are belt driven, and the Z axis is screw driven.

The owner has to build the CNC from a kit, and each kit comes with all the parts that are required, minus tools:

This particular kit comes with:

* The lasercut parts to assemble a CupCake CNC machine.
* 3 x NEMA 17 motors to drive your machine
* The nuts, bolts, and various hardware to assemble it.
* The belts and pulleys for it to move things around.
* All the bearings to make your machine nice and smooth.
* The highest quality precision ground shafts for the X and Y axes we could find.
* Fully assembled 3rd Generation Electronics to drive it better, faster, and stronger.
* A magnetized, detachable build platform to make removing your finished prints easier.
* A pinch-wheel Plastruder to make things in plastic with.
* 1lb of ABS plastic to get you started printing.
* Allen keys to make it easy to put together

The “Deluxe Kit” adds the following for $200 US more:

Additionally, we include lots of extras to make your kit building experience easier:

* a USB2TTL cable to talk to it
* cat5e cables to wire things up
* a standard ATX power supply
* a tools kit with all the hex keys, wrenches, and other bits you need to construct it.
* a full 5lbs of ABS plastic so you can print your heart out (in addition to the 1lb of ABS)
* an extra acrylic build surface, and a spare build platform
* SD card to buffer your prints

The basic process to print a 3-D object is:

1. Find or design a 3D model (.STL) of your thing.
2. Use Skeinforge to convert your STL into a GCode file.
3. Use ReplicatorG to run the GCode and build the thing.

At the moment, the CupCake CNC requires some specialized skills, though there seems to be a lot of supportive posts and papers available as resources.

There is even a “Bluetooth to Serial” kit that can be adapted so that the maker can just “print” in 3-D.

What I wonder about is:

  • What will it be making?
  • Will everything be made out of plastic?
  • Plastic is a petroleum product. The globe is currently on a “conserve” mode with petroleum. Is this a problem?
  • 5 pounds of plastic costs $60.00 US.
  • Will it be affordable?
  • Will it be affordable environmentally?
  • What will it be like to have most objects be either black or white plastic?
  • Is the plastic safe?
  • Is it toxic?
  • Can it be recycled?
  • Can a maker buy recycled plastic for it?
  • I have more questions but I feel kind of overwhelmed by them at the moment.

    Summary: CNC CupCake in your house. You can now, with about a 1k investment, make your own plastic things.

    Trend (from The Graduate):

    Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
    Benjamin: Yes, sir.
    Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
    Benjamin: Yes, I am.
    Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

    ©2009-2014 Sally A. Applin. All rights reserved.

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