MakerBot Cupcake Ultimate : The Beginning

I’ll cut directly to the chase : the Makerbot Cupcake Ultimate has been the source of many awe and frustration.  In a nutshell, this product makes into reality, some parts that one can design in a 3D CAD software.  For now, this is a special interest/niche product – the general consumer may not fully understand the allure of owning such a device, and if they do understand, there are some trade-offs.  Even with my own subjective bias(and remember, I wanted this bad), I find that the following key items keep 3D printers from becoming mainstream so far

  • High cost (mine cost ~$800)

+ The alternative, industry strength, 3D printers are not practical for consumers, has power, space, and safety(?) needs that will be difficult to meet in an average home/condo/room.

– $800-$1200 : to the general mass, this is a computer peripheral that costs more than the cost of the computer itself.  Sometimes, that alone makes this a big deal(like spending thousands in a stereo system for a $800 beater car, I suppose).

  • Specialized materials required

+ As the 3D printers become more mainstream(and I honestly believe it will), this won’t be an issue.

– This requires a spool of plastic string of a certain size(3mm for mine), certain type(I use ABS).  This is not something you can get from your local outlet or office supply store.

  • Questionable directions are unclear

+ things will only get better as more people get involved/designs get better/things get simpler

– things just work, except when they don’t(long story made short)

  • Meets a specialized demand

+ A cool geek toy!

– when trying to use the 3D printer to solve a problem,  it might require less effort/time to rethink the approach and use off the shelf parts.

+ for the special geek wanting to build parts/items, the 3d printer can require less effort, time, and money. Learning to properly handle wood, metal, lexan plastic + power tools + safety gear + proper space + time required to get familiar with everything + noise considerations may or may not apply to every geek, but it does make it a bit daunting.  3D printer have their own quirks that need to be mastered, but is arguably shorter than the “traditional” means of fabrication.

 

Based on my personal experience with this particular brand of 3d printers – I would only recommend it to those with abundant time and patience.  The good people at Makerbot made it possible for get a complete kit from one location at a lower price than some of the others.  This is a major step forward and allows for more people to get exposed to this type of product and the wonders of 3d printing.

 

My complaints can be summarized as that of a person at the end of a long line in a supermarket – with each person served, I move that closer to the end but the progress does not feel significant enough.

 

At this stage, 3d printers are still an expensive hobby and I wonder for every success, how many give up in despair.

 

For the time being, I am able to get most of the Makerbot working to my satisfaction.  I will be taking a break from it, both to recover from focusing on it for every other work night and almost every weekend for the last ~ 3 months and to consider some much needed(in my opinion) upgrades/alterations.

Planned upgrade/alterations;

  • venting system for fumes – I don’t like to be near it when it’s printing
  • build housing to contain the printer, spool, etc. – this is more for convenience
  • a controller interface – the successor for this 3d printer has one, a simple keypard+LCD to trigger a print w/o the computer.  I think others have thought about this and done this as well.
  • curling/misshapening of the prints – this might be because I have one side facing an open window and causing a sudden change in temperature
  • improve time; speed up printing – I don’t feel I’ve “nailed” the configuration, just enough to enough to print things without big flaws.  There are tiny ones, bubbling, and non-straight lines.

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