What’s a MakerBot?
Pictured here is the MakerBot Replicator, a personal, desktop-sized 3D printer. Users are able to design a 3D object on their computer, or download an existing model from Thingiverse.com. Once you have the model, you simply send it to the printer via USB or SD card, and the Replicator will go into action, creating an actual 3D object. Through a process called additive manufacturing, layers as thin as .2mm are piled on top of each other one at a time until the object is completed. With the Replicator model, dualstrution (extrusion of two different plastics during the same print) is possible, enabling prints such as the globe on top of the bot to the right.
How do I fit in?
I filled many roles at MakerBot (as most employees of a start-up do), but my main role involved designing improved electronics for the bot. Specifically, I was responsible for designing an all-new electronics platform for the MakerBot Replicator. MakerBot’s previous two 3D Printers, the Cupcake and the Thing-O-Matic, implement an electronics system derived from the popular RepRap open source 3D printer project. While this got the job done, it required each bot to house as many as nine separate circuit boards plus a computer ATX power supply. For the Replicator, I designed the “MightyBoard” (shown above), a new single-board platform capable of controlling the whole machine (even the dual-extruder version) with ease. Since MakerBot is totally open-source, you can check out my handiwork first hand:
Download the MightyBoard schematics, fabrication files, bill-of-materials, and more from the MightyBoard Thingiverse Page.
Dave Jones, host of the EEVBlog, and co-host of the Amp Hour Podcast (on which I have guest-hosted) did a tear-down of the MakerBot Replicator and gave a thorough video review of the electronics that I designed.
You can also view some high-res pictures of the MightyBoard:
The MakerBot Digitizer
In addition to designing all new electronics for the MakerBot Replicator, I also designed all the electronics and firmware the 3D Scanner prototype that was unveiled at SXSW2103. Dubbed “The Digitizer” this device is a consumer-oriented 3D scanner that can easily convert any object into a 3D model that can then be manipulated on the computer or printed out. By pairing the Replicator and the Digitizer, you can essentially create a 3D copy machine or a 3D fax machine. Since only the prototype has been announced, I cannot talk in detail about the workings of the electronics and software, but I’ll update this section with more information as it is made publically available. In the meanwhile, you can sign up to get more information from the MakerBot website, and you can drool over the photo of the unveiling to the right.
How did I end up working for MakerBot?
In the spring of 2011 I was selected to be one of twelve Cornell University Kessler Fellows. Kessler Fellows are engineering students who possess a unique passion for entrepreneurship, leadership, and technology. Each Kessler Fellow pursues a summer fellowship at a technology startup, with their salary paid by Cornell’s fellowship fund. For my fellowship, I worked at MakerBot Industries, under Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Adam Mayer. You can read Adam’s recommendation of my work, here. After the completion of my fellowship, I’ve continued to consult for MakerBot remotely, and I go work at their Brooklyn headquarters whenever I find the time (usually during breaks from school). In the summer of 2012, I returned to Makerbot once again as a R&D Electrical Engineer before returning to Cornell for my masters degree. I was profiled by “NYC Creative Interns” regarding my experience at MakerBot Industries.
Do I have a MakerBot?
Of course! I own a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic, and a MakerBot Replicator. Check out a timelapse video of me building my Thing-O-Matic below. You can also visit my Thingiverse page to see some things that I have designed and printed.