Sunday, September 26, 2010

MakerBot etc (pt3)

MakerBot, RepRap, CNC, it was all there from hobby level to pro.

I have been interested in computer controlled tools ever since I first saw one (probably a milling machine). I have WANTED one ever since I saw that you could control a Dremel in 3 axis using surplus stepper motors and a cad program on Linux.

Since that time the home hobbiest machines have gotten better and better. Now not only can you use a Dremel to sculpt in 3-D, you can build a rapid prototyping machine that creates objects using hot extruded plastic.

So the vary first thing I saw when I got to Makers Faire (after a Spinal Tap-ish hunt for the location...with random other people) was a demo by the NY University ITP lab of a 3 axis Dremel CNC controlled by an Arduino board. (Arduinos and other hardware were for sale at the Faire) A computer (windows in this case running the software "Processing" ) sends the cad data to the Arduino board via USB, the board converts that into data to tell the stepper motors where to move. The CNC hardware available from Bluumax CNC ($415). ITC lab created it to build circuit boards.

The following video is of the Arduino CNC demo done by the NYU ITP folks...I cut out the first 3 minutes of trouble shooting to find that the power plug was turned off (oops).

Next I saw a demo by MakerBot industries of their brand new latest generation MakerBot "Thing-O-Matic". The MakerBot is a rapid prototyper that uses a stream of hot plastic to 'print' a 3-D object...very cool...these also use an Arduino board.

The brand new top of the line one is $1200, but it is a complete kit. The frame is made out of laser cut wood pieces. It holds a 12x12x12 work area, and you can make things just smaller than that...(not sure about the height). If you decide you have outgrown the MakerBot, you can use it to create the RepRap.

The RepRap is another rapid prototyper, but this one can be created by a rapid looks like an erector set and is all open source. I think one of the benefits is you can make it a custom size to create odd sized objects. With the MakerBot you are stuck to one size...well now two sizes.

There were about 20 or so MakerBots and about 10 versons of the RepRap in a couple of tents, making stuff, or showing off what they made...I really want one of these.

This doesn't really fit exactly in this category...but is related...the company WidgetWorks Unlimited was showing off their line of vacuum formers. (stretches plastic sheet warmed in oven over form), a 12x12 was about $300

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