Ever since I saw a MakerBot, I've wanted one. This isn't just a passing lust for a new gadget though, I've got a lot of history of loving CNC machines and other automated building gadgets. First things first though, if you don't know what a MakerBot is, I'll let the creator explain the awesomeness to you:
Pretty awesome right? Just looking around at my house now I can count 10 things that I need to fix, or create with the ABS plastic that the MakerBot uses.
Now for a bit of history: Years ago, before I was even aware of the MakerBot (Perhaps it didn't even exist back then) I learned a lot about CNC machines. In the cabinetry world, they are used a lot to build cabinets from. All of your panel cuts can be done on these very quickly, speeding production, and cutting costs. One day, I was reading Instructables and I came across directions to build a home made CNC machine.
I bought the electronics kit from HobbyCNC, soldered the board together, and then started construcing the actual gantry CNC machine from the plans online. The plans were good, but the wood parts were so interlocked together that you basically needed a CNC machine to build this one. Since I didn't have one, I printed out all the shapes, glued them to MDF, and spent the better part of a day with a bandsaw cutting the parts out. I assembled the machine, hooked it up to the computer and got it to work.
"Work" might be a grandiose term for what I had, while it did cut wood, it was horribly out of square, and had to have more drywall screws shot into it after each cut as the machine was falling apart.
I set about to build a new machine, one that was easy to create. I had basic shop tools, a table saw and a drill press. I thought to myself, "Table saws are great at rectangles, so why can't I build a machine out of only rectangles?". I did just that. I designed the machine in Sketchup, using only rectangles with holes drilled in them. I connected everything together using store bought furniture connectors. Here are the results: (You can download my Sketchup model here)
So now I can take my 2D Sketchup models and "print" them out in wood!
As cool as this machine is, it only cuts 2D parts out of wood. I've had a blast using it over the years to make all kinds of parts.
I think it's time to move up to the world of 3D printing. The MakerBot allows you to build plastic extrusions out of ABS plastic using STL files. Sketchup has an STL exporter available for it (I actually have used that on my CNC machine before). I'd LOVE to be able to make some of my models on the MakerBot...
I honestly think that home 3D printing is going to be a big part of our future. Imagine being able to buy a product and "print it out" at home. I actually talk about this a lot when I am doing presentations on technology.
I am just going to come right out and say this:
I want a MakerBot
(So guys, if you want to send me a review unit, I'd be more then happy to give you TONS of coverage!)