Saturday, October 9, 2010

So many intersting things in the last few weeks..

Hot Rod Makerbot

Nice little kitty right?  Must have been printed on a UP! or BfB Rapman right?  Wrong.  A Makerbot with MakerGear Compact Plastruder. The drive is an abridged version of the Brustruder, and the hot end is new Makergear compant hot end using professional grade 1.75 mm orange filament with support material enabled in skeinforge.

Seriously, printed on a a Makerbot, who knew a Makerbot could do that?  I guess that's the end of Up! and others uploading stuff to Thingiverse that no Makerbot can print, go Makergear!

So many different RepRap Electronics are now in stock!  (How much 6 months can change things)

Ultimachine's Arduino based electronics ($195 complete kit)

Johnnyr of Ultimachine has done some wonderful work on these electronics, and they are written up in the wiki.  Adrian and Johnnyr are neck and neck on the RepRapable electronics for RepRap "race".  Adrian's version is written up in the wiki also (but to my knowledge are not currently commercially available).

Makerbot Gen 3 Electronics ($199 complete kit)

They have been in stock for a few weeks now, this has to be a record.  But considering how many alternatives there are now, and the fact that Makerbot has now shown the Gen 4.  These are very likely to stay more reliably in stock now.  To my knowledge Makerbot electronics and firmware are still the only ones that allow for Printing from SD cards, which I am slightly addicted to. Gen 6 Electronics ($210 complete kit ($180 without End Stops )

Mendel Parts newly introduced Gen 6 Electronics.  These boards are in pre-order currently, but according to Camiel there is only a 2-3 week lead time, and he is scaling up quickly.  These are professionally designed boards, so look for good things to come from these.

Botmill's Gen3 Remix Electronics ($179 complete kit)

Botmill / Techzones shrunk version of the RepRap Gen 3 Electronics.  One point I must bring up, these are based off the Makebot manufactured Gen3 Electronics, but they are not a component for component copy, so even though they are "Gen 3" they bare very little in commonality with the Makerbot manufactured Gen3 Electronics.


RepRapstores community shop Electronics ($143 w/ power supply)

Seriously WTF.  RepRap Electronics for $143 with a power supply?  I knew Botmill/Techzone had sort of a bad name in the community for not shipping quickly/not responding to emails/minor issues with quality of the electronics, but RepRap Gen 3 Electronics for less than $150 with a power supply?  Seriously, if you have ordered these recently, please comment, do they burst into flames when you plug them in or something, or are they just being aggressive as heck on their pricing?  If they work that's a GREAT deal.

German RepRap Foundation Gen 3 Electronics ($267 complete kit)

These are to my knowledge a component for component copy of the Makerbot/RepRap Gen 3 Electronics (I might be wrong).  But non the less they are not Makerbot sourced, so again, each "Gen 3" is different.  These are not Makerbot or Techzone sourced Gen3.

I think that's all of them.  The ones that have peeked my interest are the Makerbot's Gen 4, Ultimachine's Arduino Electronics , and Mendel-Part's Gen 6 electronics.  But RepRap is entering a whole new world of commercially available, open source electronics, in stock even.

Brustruder, STILL EXTRUDING (and a little red in the face)

I designed the Brustruder because I honestly got sick of all the headaches I was having out of my Mk4 Extruder.  I have not had 1 issue in the month since I installed it in my Makerbot.  But the coolest thing is it's been downloaded over 80 times in the 30 days it's been up, and I have not had one person say they have had issues out of it.  Which is just the best feeling in the world.

Now what is not the best feeling in the world is having Make Magazine pick up a video where you accidentally punch yourself in the face with a Kysan Gear motor, and run it on their national blog.  Then it get's even less fun when people at work find out...  Explaining to your coworkers why you where straining pickup up 20lb of water, or what you mean by "steal extruding", while groaning, or why your floor is dirty, not so fun.  :)

I kid, it's flatting that so many people like the Brustruder, and that over 4000 people watched the video, and the fact that every time I go into the RepRap or Makergear IRC people pick about "Still Extruding".  Thanks for the Fun!

Bits from Bytes acquired by 3d Systems

So many litmus tests have happened in the last few weeks for our community. 1st it was the Makerbot/Techzone Electronics Drama, then the Up! Printer Drama, now BfB has been acquired by 3d Systems.  Before I comment, a lot of Folks in the community don't really know who 3d Systems is, and what they are known for.

-3d Systems was started by Chuck Hill, who was the creator of the 1st rapid prototyping technology, Steriolithography, and created the STL file format.  He was also the 1st one the bring 3d commercial printing to market in the 80s.

-A little over 1 year ago 3d Systems acquired Desktop factory, which was at the time a failing 3d printer company, that never really managed to sell their promised "revolutionary inexpensive 3d printer" at $5000.  Some say the death keel for Desktop Factory was Makerbot squeezing them on the low end with their $750 kits and Z-corp's Z-150 ($10,000) on the high end.  3d Systems likely acquired them for a song.

My personal take is this is a VERY smart acquisition for 3d Systems.  With this acquisition they get the product that Desktop Factory always wanted to be able to sell, the BfB 3000 Panther.  The Panther, which at this time is being pathetically marketed by BfB is a full up 3 head, multi material 3d printer for $3200, a full $1800 less than the promised Desktop Factory price.

But what I don't quite understand is where does the Rapman 3.1, and the Bits From Bytes brand name fit into the picture?  It would not suprise me to see the Panther sold under the 3d Systems moniker as one step below the V-Flash $10,000 printer.  But the Rapman does not fit the 3D systems model at all.

1 year after Desktop Factories acquisition their web page is little more than a redirect to the low end V-Flash $10,000 printer.  I don't think BfB will suffer quite the same fate, simply because they do have 2 products, and a valuable brand name.  So what would be the logical, and profitable reason to acquire BfB, and not just build a BFB 3000 printer alternative in house?

Just Speculation

If I had to guess, I think 3d Systems has read the same tea leaves a lot of us in this community have.  3d printing is exploding, and I think 3D Systems is getting ready to use the BfB brand name to come in hard on the personal market.  I think the purchased BfB for the brand name, and the Panther.  So this is what I think is going to happen:

-V-Flash shows up on BfB website
-The BfB 3000 Panther shows up in a few months as a cartridge unit on the 3d Systems website
-BfB will release a new 3d printer to replace the Rapman 3.1 in the next few months.  This will be their new competition for  Makerbot.

The new printer would be optimized to be quicker and easier to assemble, the harder bits to assemble would come pre packaged (The X axis and the Extruder), and be a part for part copy of the Panther.  It would look like a cross between:

Fab @ Home
The Panther

Think of the possiblity for such a machine.  It does not have to compete with the Cupcake, so as long as they can keep the same price point as the Rapman, it would be price competitive with the Thingomatic.

Makerbot really needs a competitor, I was hoping Up! would be it, but they just priced themselves out of the Market by trying to sell a a visually cheap printer at the same price that BfB is asking for the Panther.  I was hoping Botmill/Techzone would be that competitor, but they don't seem to know how to hire someone for $7.50 an hour to answer email questions and send tracking numbers.  I was hoping that the Old BfB would be that competitor, but they never seemed to learn how to market their obvously superior product.  I even hoped that Profound Devices would be that competitor, be he just turned out to be an over promising hobbyist with a inflated ego.

So if I am reading the tea leaves right, I hope Makerbot has some more ammo in that clip, because I have a feeling the  3DS/BfB is going to come out with all guns blazing in the next few months, with a mission to become the defacto 3d printing brand that Makerbot currently is.

If you have read my blog, you know I am a Open Source fend, but in the end it really doesn't matter to me if the printer is open source or not, as long as it prints RP and is a good price.  If 3DS/BfB can compete with Makerbot on price, I know they can beat them in quality.

Honestly I can't wait to see the real reason 3DS bought BfB, but no matter what, they are going to use that Brand name for something, and I have a feeling it's going to be fun to watch.


  1. The cat in the photos was my first attempt to use skeinforge support material and I was using a rather old version of skeinforge. I've since printed more cats using a recent version of skeinforge (with more support options) and the print is getting better every time. It took a while to remove the support material from the first photo but using the newer options the support material can be removed quickly and it has less impact on the finished model. I'm still getting this dialed-in but it is quite promising.

    Also, it is not "still extruding", it is "stillllll extruuuuuuuuuuuding"! :)

  2. The GRRF Electronic is available at 192€ + Tax. The price of $320 is quite to high calculated, cause all GRRF prices containing tax!

  3. The Rapman has become the printer of choice in UK secondary schools (11-18age) so 3d Systems has that captive market now. Let's not forget that they now have eD onboard :)


  4. The Gen 3 remix electronics are by Techzone, not botmill or reprapstores, though both of those sites them for less than Techzone's own. I wish I had noticed that before I ordered them.

    3d Systems never made it onto my radar until I heard the news that they bought BFB, because they fell under the category of big, expensive, closed-source things that I'll never have. I thought the same (though less strongly, on all counts) about BFB. I'm not bullish on closed-source 3d printers, though I suppose anything that allows more Reprap parts to be produced can't be all bad.

  5. Actually the Gen3 remix are sold by Techzone & Botmill. Same exact electronics, both sourced from Techzone. The German RepRap foundation uses the same board layout as the Makerbot sourced Ge3.

  6. I know. Reprapstores also sells the same ones from Techzone. Their site and Botmill's even use photos taken from Techzone's site.

  7. I think that has a fighting chance in the sense that it's easy to assemble, will be in the sub $2000 price range and has a 9000cc build volume. And personally, I do care that it's open source. It's ignorant to think that a small team can come up with the best design.

    Then again, you're emphasis is really on 'what is the best' and with an emphasis on competition. I think all these different designs out there help the whole 3D printing revolution emerge. It's hard to really think of competition when we're all making this happen together. There are too many network effects at play here. For the Ultimaker I'm making ReplicatorG compatible with FiveD firmwares, etc. More printers means more designs on Thingiverse, more extra software, more tutorials and bigger sales by kit/supplies vendors (thus a lower prices for everything 3D), people like Tony Buser building cloudSCAD, etc., etc.

    With the internet, one's ability to compete is increasingly insignificant compared to the ability to collaborate.

  8. I hope Ultimaker comes in at the lower end of the sub $2000 price point or your going to have real issues out of the Mendel Kit folks. Your printer looks awsome, but not quite supperior to Mendel. But of course the market will tell, and your a smart dude. It will work out!

    As far as the Open Sourse thing, I perfer Opens Source, but if HP came out with a closed source 3d printer that worked for $700 that had an easy to trick plastic cartridge I would be all over it and my Makerbot would be on Ebay. On the other hand the difference it Open Source feeds each other.

    One look at Thing-O-Matic and you can see many changes that are almost line for line copies of other peoples work. That makes me happy. Closed source can't really do that very well.

    RepG on FiveD will be awesome, and if anyone can pull it off, it would be you.

    BTW the last line of your post is a clasic, just copied that into my list of good quotes :)

    BTW you have been married now for a few months, when you going to start replicating? :)

  9. As a note, we spoke with someone from 3DS at Maker Faire NYC who told us 'melting plastic is for kids toys, not real printers' -- just a week or two before the acquisition. Our group of 'kid printers' probably had 10x as many visitors as she did.

  10. After my experiences I'd say these points are right on the money. Techzone is a flop, I'm not even going to bother sending my board back for a 3rd try, I'm going to go with another extruder board from makerbot this time. If I could do it over it would me Gen 6 for sure.