Uber-maker Bre Pettis his colleagues Zach Smith and Adam Mayer are hard at work on a open source 3D printer for the masses. Great idea: it's one thing to come up with an idea on paper (or CAD file), and quite another to turn that idea into a tangible thing. It's even another thing to sell a 3D printer kit that's about as cheap as a regular-old mass produced laser printer.
I interviewed Bre at NYC Resistor last month, after we went on a fruitless search for restaurants in Brooklyn that serve saltfish and ackee.
Bill Gurstelle (pointing to squarish object on desk): What's that?
Bre Pettis: That? It's the MakerBot Cupcake CNC. It's an open source 3D printer, that turns your table top into your own little factory.
Bill Gurstelle: So, how does it work?
Pre Pettis: The machine works like a super accurate automated hot glue gun robot. It takes a filament of plastic and melts it down and extrudes it through a tiny hole to make a tiny string of molten plastic. Layer by layer it builds up material until your object is complete!
BG: Um, what's with all the cans of cake frosting?
BP: We created a frosting attachment that you can use by switching out the plastic extruder. The Frostruder means it can frost a cupcake too! Right now, we're getting set up to make a world record attempt for the fastest cupcake decorated by a robot.
BG: (points to more stuff on a different table) What's all this other junk for?
BP: We're prototyping up a scanner which together with a MakerBot would be a replicator. We are also in the process of having an eco-friendly plastic manufactured called Polylactic Acid (PLA) manufactured. PLA is a material made out of corn in Nebraska. PLA is clear and we may be able to get it in a medical grade to do things like replace bones with it. Also we're getting the electronics for the machine assembled.
BG: Replicator? Hey, Could a Maker Bot make a Maker Bot?
BP: We're getting there one part at a time. With every batch we manufacture a new part to ship with the machine. Already we've got idler pulleys that snap over a skate bearing that are made on a MakerBot. MakerBot Operators who got a first batch MakerBot can get a hardware upgrade just by downloading the design file and printing it out on their machine. Printable Upgrades!