Can Bre Pettis Replicate Himself?

(Bill Gurstelle is guest blogging here on Boing Boing. He is the author of several books including Backyard Ballistics, and the recently published Absinthe and Flamethrowers. Twitter: @wmgurst)

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.

maker bot and bre.jpg

photo by rstevens

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!