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The Ultra-Bot 3D Printer is a beautiful printer inspired by the original Makerbot Cupcake. Buy as an Upgrade, Full Kit, or Assembled. Read more

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Funded!

This project was successfully funded on October 5, 2012.

The Ultra-Bot 3D Printer is a beautiful printer inspired by the original Makerbot Cupcake. Buy as an Upgrade, Full Kit, or Assembled.

Introducing my latest creation...

I know a lot of you have been getting anxious about my "big announcement", but the wait is over... Today is the day!  ... so without further delay, I'm introducing to you a brand new concept in 3D printing.  I call it the "PiMaker."

The PiMaker was an idea I came up with while working on the Ultra-Bot 8" unit.  In trying to design the larger extruder gantry, I realized that I could actually increase the build area by rotating the entire gantry.  That led me down the path to the PiMaker.  I've thought long and hard about this design and finally in the end decided that I couldn't in good conscious sell you the Ultra-Bot and then turn around and introduce this right after shipping you them.  I also realized that you were the perfect audience for the PiMaker.  The Ultra-Bot was designed to solve a lot of problems with the MakerBot Cupcake, and the PiMaker fulfills those same goals, but to an even larger degree.

The innovative rotating platform of the PiMaker allowed me to design a system that was physically no larger than the Ultra-Bot, but gave it over twice the build area.  In fact, the PiMaker has a build area that is larger even than the MakerBot Replicator 2... and that's just for starters. 

I've actually designed two PiMakers.  Those of you who ordered the small Ultra-Bot, will receive a PiMaker with an 9" build platform.  Those of you who upgraded to the larger 8" Ultra-Bot Ultra will receive a PiMaker with a 10" build platform.  Because the build area is circular, that means that the build areas of the PiMakers are 508 cubic inches and 785 cubic inches respectively.

It doesn't stop there... both units are capable of using the standard heated build platform, so those of you who ordered it will receive that as well.  (It does take a little height away... but with large parts, I don't recommend ABS anyway... PLA is way friendlier with larger objects... as it doesn't shrink and curl like ABS does.)

I have a few other surprises in store for the PiMaker... Like dual extrusion and built in 3D Scanning!  These are optional features that I'll be offering very soon because the PiMaker was designed from the beginning with them in mind!  The scanner will incorporate dual cameras and custom software that will rotate an object placed on it.  It will take from 60 to 120 pictures for processing with software like 123D Catch from Autodesk.  From their app, you'll be able to download the 3D model and print it directly from our software.)  The dual extrusion is equally revolutionary, as it avoids a lot of the problems that classical printers have had with alignment issues between the heads in a unique way... but stay tuned for details on that!

Now for some technical details and q&a.

1)  It's round... how does it work?  The major difference and innovation of the PiMaker is the fact that it uses the a polar coordinate (radius, angle) system for calculating the tool path instead of the standard cartesian (x,y) coordinate system.  The system will automatically accept standard G codes for X,Y and Z, but it will automatically convert them to the corresponding polar coordinates.  This allows you to use all the standard software like ReplicatorG, Prontorface, Repetier... but we've also tailored a version of the Repetier to the PiMaker, which will display the round build plate instead of the rectangle plates of the other systems.

2)  How big is it?  The PiMaker is the exact same size as the Makerbot Cupcake.  In fact, it still uses all the same parts!  Everything I learned from designing and building the Ultra-Bot is in the PiMaker... just with a little (ok... a lot) different configuration.

3)  Is it open source?  No... this design is so revolutionary that I had to patent it to protect my IP.  This design has the potential to change the 3D printing industry.  It affords many benefits that make it stand out above all other 3d printers.  The two most beneficial items are the increased build volume (200%+) and the decreased parts count (30%.)  With that said, the original Ultra-Bot is still 100% open and will remain that way.  In fact, I'll be posting the design files for it later this week.

4)  What about those of us who ordered the kits or parts?  You'll still receive what you ordered... but for the PiMaker instead.  The Cupcake can be upgraded to the PiMaker the same way that the Ultra-Bot was.

5)  I don't want a PiMaker... can I still get the Ultra-Bot?  Yes... for you Kickstarters who really want it, we'll still ship the Ultra-Bot to you, but we will not be going further with any development on it.  The PiMaker is our future! :-)

6)  Clear is very cool... but will it come in other colors?  Yes... the PiMaker will also be available in a White or Black chassis with Red, Yellow, Green and Blue accent colors!  (The lettering and build plate are in the accent colors!)  We will be contacting each one of you asking you for your color selection so we can place the bulk order for the acrylic.  (We received a refund for our previous acrylic order that was lost due to Hurricane Sandy... and have not placed the new one yet.)

7)  Can I see a video of it in action?  Sort of... here (http://sdrv.ms/SBu7ei) is a video of it printing a Darth Vader keychain without actually extruding.  I'll have a video posted shortly of it actually printing.

I'd love to get your feedback on this exciting new design.

Lastly, I'd also like to thank Ben, Brian, Maggie and Mike for providing me valuable feedback on this exciting new printer.

Bill

 

Comments

    1. Creator Samuel Patterson on January 20, 2013

      That is quite awesome! Thank you for answering in such elegant detail. (I've been having nightmares about re-levelling my schools MakerBot daily)

    2. Creator Peter Roden on December 7, 2012

      I stopped by the Hive13 Makerspace tonight and checked out the PiMaker. I have to say, it is one very cool and simple device. I can't wait to get mine. Bill you really outdid yourself!!!

    3. Creator William Steele on December 4, 2012

      Hi Sam... the build plate leveling is very easy... there's only one point where it actually needs to be leveled and that's the side of the build plate where the arm is farthest from the center. You simply align it's height with the center of the build platform. That one vector is the entire path that the extruder travels so the rest of the build platform can flex if needed, without worries about it messing up the build. There is a single set screw on that side to adjust it. (Dual extruder models will have one on the opposite side as well... but it's the exact same principle.)

    4. Creator Samuel Patterson on December 4, 2012

      Hey Bill,
      Since no one has asked, How do you level the build plate? Is it simpler to do or more difficult? Also thank you very much for making the product we thought we were getting into a superior product, it is awesome!

    5. Creator William Steele on December 4, 2012

      Alfredo... we we're just talking about you Today! Yes, they're very easy to assemble... in fact...we will ship you several "sub assemblies" already assembled and you'll be responsible for the final assembly (which fits your specific requirements.)

    6. Creator Alfredo Chaves on December 4, 2012

      Hi Bill,
      Congrats on the new idea, sounds amazingly promising.
      Since my units are to be shipped unassembled, is this new design also simpler to assemble?
      Cheers

    7. Creator William Steele on December 4, 2012

      Adam, 1) Yes, the firmware will be open... in fact, it's Marlin with a few modifications to it. The hardware will be easily modifiyible and the patent is simply to protect my IP and to prevent others from selling (commercially) printers with a similar design. 2) The design takes that into consideration. I use a 6.28:1 (2Pi) gear ratio on the build platform. In addition to the 1/16 stepper driver giving me a lateral resolution at the edge of just .04mm... which is much less than you can visibly detect. In fact, the stated resolution of the device is just 170 microns... which is four times greater than that and the highest I've ever tested is 50 microns on small parts. :-) Smaller (inner) parts would obviously be able to attain much much higher resolutions... however you would never be able to detect it, so instead, the inner portions are just mapped to the closer equalivant in the cartesian coordinates.

    8. Creator Daniel C. Mueck on December 4, 2012

      Hi Bill,
      I studied your new concept and must admit that it opens completely new horizons to 3D desk top printing.
      You did a great job and I'm looking forward to get one of the PiMakers, whenever it will be available.
      Keep us updated about the scanner and other options.

    9. Creator Adam Byram on December 4, 2012

      Hey Bill,

      It looks like a very nice design - can't wait to give it a try!

      Two things though:

      1) I see the hardware is patented now, but will the firmware and/or desktop software be closed source as well? Just curious if we'll be able to hack on either of those parts to help improve the machine or even try out new features (e.g. I'd really like to try to integrate a 3D laser line scanner since the design is just asking for it).

      2) How are you able to maintain consistent resolution in the middle of the build plate vs at the edge of the build plate? Is the rotational stepper attached directly to the build plate or do you have some type of gear/drive system in place that gives the plate the ability to move in increments smaller than the stepper motor's increments? (i.e. a stepper with 200 steps attached directly to the plate would move the outer edge of a 10" diameter plate about 4mm per step at the edge vs an incredibly small movement near the center of the plate).

      Anyway - very exciting stuff - can't wait to try it out!

    10. Creator William Steele on December 4, 2012

      Josiah Perillo, Yes... the software will display both the build plates... you'll simply select which one you want based on the settings for the heated build platform. It's a checkbox that determines which one to display. (To all other software, the printer will have the 8" build plate.)

      Patrik Lindström, you should still be good for Christmas. We only need to order your acrylic... and will be sending out the questionaire Tomorrow for it.

      Matt Smollinger, 1) the firmware will require a couple of modifications but will run just fine with the ToM Gen4 boards. It's just an addition of a couple of lines. I'll add them to the Sailfish firmware so you get the best firmware out there. 2) The Cupcake upgrades will use their existing hardware... for it there is only one stepper used with the pullies connected to it in a similar fashion to what they already have. Your long belt will fit perfectly with this new configuration.

      Minuk Choi, the single extruder has the stepper on the "R" axis already and doesn't need the remote extruder. With the dual extruder mod, it will have both steppers in the bottom section with a bowden tube attachment to the top like the Ultra-Bot did.

      Mike Morrison, yes, the extruder platform can handle a variety of extruder types... but the MK7/8 is going to be the best bet for plastic... but it can easily be removed and replaced with a syringe type as well.

    11. Creator Mike Morrison on December 4, 2012

      Well it looks great. & certainly innovative
      Well done bill

      Will it have the flexibility to change extruders for syringes for other materials?

    12. Creator Minuk Choi on December 4, 2012

      Hey Bill, can you go into detail about the extruder? It seem like PiMaker does not have the stepper motor to feed the filament from the gantry like the UltraBot. Is this correct? Finally, with the current shape, what are your thoughts on encasing the PiMaker(a common tip used on the rectangular boxes to prevent curling)?

    13. Creator Matt Smollinger on December 4, 2012

      Woah that's pretty awesome. I really like that you've gone beyond the original cupcake - it definitely had design issues and I was concerned (as you know from our email convos) about the viability of the design, although you prints looked promising :)

      Couple questions:
      1) I'm assuming custom firmware will be needed to translate x/y into polar coordinates. What hardware are you speccing for this? I have gen 4 Makerbot hardware (same stuff that came with the TOMs) but I use it on my Cupcake. Will that work with this?

      2) What threaded rod are you using there? Is that the stock cupcake rods? I'm assuming you've got some kind of coupler you'll be including then? Or will you include TOM-style steppers that have threaded rod directly attached to the steppers?

    14. Creator Patrik Lindström on December 4, 2012

      I pledge the: " Pledge $899 or more" . Est delivery 2012 - Dec. It was meant as Christmas gift for my son . What and when will I receive now instead?
      Best Regards
      Patrik Lindström

    15. Creator J515OP on December 4, 2012

      Wow! This is a big surprise. I have always considered pie superior to cake (cup or otherwise). Visual confirmation of the same accuracy obtained by Ultra-Bot on printed parts would be nice. Also regarding the heated build plate which will stay rectangular, will the modified Repetier software be able to easily change the display between the rectangular and circular plates depending on use?

    16. Creator William Steele on December 4, 2012

      Thanks Mike... that video is awesome!!!

    17. Creator William Steele on December 4, 2012

      Brian, the motion of travel for a part that is being printed... that is, the path that the extruder takes over the part won't change... it's just the coordination between the axis is different. Since the same electronics and steppers are driving the system through less mechanical parts in between means that the parts that are printed will be the same quality (or slightly better) than the classic 3D printer. I know... you need proof... I'll be posting it in the next day or two! :-) Again... I can't thank you enough for your valuable feedback in helping me make this decision!

    18. Creator Michael C. Neel on December 4, 2012

      Photos and video posted:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch…
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/scoregasm/sets/72157632172046200/

      Again, not a whole lot of PiMaker, but of the MakerSpace in general.

    19. Creator briankb on December 4, 2012

      You know I love this concept and idea. I've been waiting for this mega public announcement and so happy it's finally out there. That said I still want to see it print a cube or other large objects that will require various repeatability. I trust you I just can't imagine how this outputs the exact same as the standard XYZ system. :-)

      Thanks for keeping us in the loop and being a great KickStarter!

    20. Creator William Steele on December 4, 2012

      Thanks Ben! The 3D scanner and 2nd extruder are going to be fantastic options!

      By the way... here's a nice picture of the PiMaker. http://wjsteele.com/pimaker/images/pimaker.jpg

    21. Creator Ben Farmer on December 4, 2012

      Can't wait to get my PiMaker!

      I love the open look this design allows. And being able to use this as a scanner is mind-blowing.

    22. Creator William Steele on December 4, 2012

      George... the design is actually better than the Ultra-Bot due to the lower parts count (so less error.) The design is complete and I'm currently tweaking the software. The accuracy, repeatabiltiy are exactly the same as the Ultra-Bot! (Which is the cool part!) The parts I've printed so far match exactly the specs I set out for in the Ultra-Bot.

      As for delivery times... due to Hurricane Sandy, we lost our acrylic order... however, once we receive your mail on color selections, we'll begin shipping these immediately as they roll off the laser. I waited until this design was 100% complete before I announced it.

      The new design pricing hasn't been set for anyone outside the Kickstarter... but it should be comparable to the current Ultra-Bot pricing.

    23. Creator Michael C. Neel on December 4, 2012

      So glad I can finally talk about what I've seen!

      I took a trip to see Bill over the Thanksgiving break and took some photos and video while at the Hive13 Makerspace I'll post shortly. It's going to be hard to wait to get one of these but I'm really exited to be one of the first to own a PiMaker!

      I'll leave a comment when the photos and video are up (note there is very little PiMaker in them as Bill was actively working on it when I arrived).

    24. Creator George Martin on December 4, 2012

      What are the accuracy, repeatability specifications?
      It seems you have started a new development path (understatement). How long before this design is running as well as the original design?
      If I want to take delivery on the original design, how much would the new design cost and what is your estimate of delivery times?

    25. Creator George Martin on December 4, 2012

      What are the accuracy, repeatability specifications?
      It seems you have started a new development path (understatement). How long before this design is running as well as the original design?
      If I want to take deliverythe original design

    26. Creator William Steele on December 4, 2012

      Hi Minuk,

      The heated bed is the standard 8" square unit. Having a custom circular heat bed simply doesn't make financial sense at this point. (They'd be very very expensive.) As for the pleging for the options... stay tuned... I can't add any more options to the Kickstarter, but we'll have our website up and they'll be available there.

      As for the delivery date... we lost 30 days due to the acrylic issue, but that is what gave me time to complete this. It's ready now and as soon as we get the acrylic ordered, we'll begin shipping them... everything else is in stock right now.

    27. Creator Minuk Choi on December 4, 2012

      this is certainly an interesting turn of events... I'm curious about the heated bed, will that be a custom-made, circular one as well?

      Are there any plans to make changes to pledge to include accessories that you speak of?

      Finally, what does this latest news mean in terms of delivery date?

      Thanks in advance!