Making Christmas

I’ve been doing a little Christmas dreaming lately.  No sugar plum fairies for me t – I’m dreaming of 3D Printers and desktop CNCs.  I’ve been watching these spaces for a while and I think the price / performance ratio is finally at a place where  will take the plunge.  I really am just looking to tinker and have one more go at getting the kids interested in engineering ;-).  The question is what to get?  I’ve listed the top contenders in each category below.  If anyone has any experience (positive or negative) with any of these, I would appreciate a comment.  Also, of course any others I should look at are appreciated too.
3D Printers

  • MakerBot Thing-o-matic – this seems to be the top choice now.  Lots of unit sold, reliable company backing and lots of mod options.
  • Printrbot – this one doesn’t look like its available yet, but its got some good funding behind it through Kickstarter and I like the price (less than half of a MakerBot kit).
  • Fabbster – this one also isn’t available yet, but does come from a big time 3D Printing company so it should be solid.  Price is in line with MakerBot.

Desktop CNCs:

  • MicroMill DSLS 3000 – I think this is the same CNC that Taig Tools sells.  Seems to have good reviews and be fairly robust.
  • micRo – this looks cool (and is the cheapest option) but from the forum posts it looks like the “company” behind it may not be the most stable.
  • MyDiyCNC – this comes from another Kickstarter project, and is only a little more expensive than the micRo.  Only shown working on wood though, so wonder if you can mill any metal with it?

Software & Sites:

  • Thingverse – the place to get and share 3D models of things you can print or cut.
  • Sketchup – seems to be one of the free modeling tools of choice for feeding things to 3D printers and/or CNCs.
  • – the home of the open source machine control software EMC.  Have to get one of my machines sitting around in the closet setup with the latest version of Ubuntu I guess to be a controller.
  • GRBL – controller software that runs completely on the Arduino chipset that is the brains of alot of the printers and CNCs.
  • Phlatscript – a sketchup plugin that spits out gcode from some guys that make machines to build your own model airplane parts.
  • Blender – all the cool kids make their action figures using this one 😉
  • Autodesk 123 Catch – an app that turns a series of 2D pictures into 3D models.  Personal action figures anyone?

If I can get this figured out then I can make my own toys next Christmas 😉
UPDATE: Just saw this article from the Economist which mentioned another 3D printer I was unaware of: Ultimaker (looks like a European MakerBot)






2 responses to “Making Christmas”

  1. Lex Avatar

    More companies are addressing this hobby maker market.
    Cute but very small is the new iModela milling machine made by Roland Japan.
    In order to use a small CNC milling machine you will also need 3C CAM software.
    A good product (self-promotion) is DeskProto, see <a href="” target=”_blank”> Especially the Gallery is nice (click on any gallery picture for a story).
    Lex, the Netherlands.

    1. aakelley Avatar

      Thanks for the pointer to the Roland site, although it appears to be a product focused on Japan right now. I used to have a Roland Vinyl cutter for a sign business so I know their stuff is top notch. Thanks for the link to your site too…will take a look.

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