I recently built a Makerbot Thing-O-Matic at the lab, preparing it for a demonstration at the iSchool student conference in February. Surprisingly, the build was relatively easy, if a bit tedious. It’d probably be best to find someone with tiny little fingers to help you connect the nuts and bots, as the provided Allen keys have a tendency to bend under light stress after about 5 uses, and your patience will be pushed to the limit. That said, I just listened to lots of space jams and zoned out. Uriah Heep, Mountain, T. Rex, Alice Cooper, and Golden Earring were all on heavy rotation throughout the build. If only we could burn incense in the lab without setting off the fire alarm…
Anyway, aside from a dud MK5 extruder motor, everything went surprisingly well. While I took my time – few hours here, few hours there, over the course of a month – a similar build, especially by someone with any relevant experience, could easily be done in a day or day-and-a-half. Here are some tips:
- Make sure you have a good, sharp knife.
- Don’t waste your time following the instructions to tape behind the t-slot nuts to keep them in place. In 99% of the cases, your finger will be sufficient.
- The tubing for the build platform rollers in our kit was clear, unlike the black tubing in the instructions. It needs to be cut EXACT, or you will be trimming it with very painstaking precision to make the roller fit.
- Get extra sandpaper (probably some rougher grit stuff) than what is provided.
- Have some extra Allen keys kicking around. The provided ones bend under a small amount of stress, rendering them basically useless in no time at all.
- Make sure you know your bolt sizes. Get a little tackle box or something that can keep them separate.
- The ceramic tape to wrap the extruder core is pretty fragile, so be careful with it as it’s pretty hard to find.
- With regard to firmware, I used the Linux 0028, as well as the Windows0028,29,30. One of the Windows ones – 29 or 30… I can’t remember – doesn’t display the control panel properly.
- When you make the motherboard stack, be sure to press the sandwich together tightly.
- If you have an MK5, throw it away.
I’ve posted more information, including links to tips, fallout, and success on my personal research wiki. An associated gallery of images (with notes) can be seen on my website by clicking on the 3D Printing thumbnail. I’ve also posted a few videos on YouTube of the thing in action.
Thanks to Liav Koren for lending an MK6 motor when our MK5 turned out to be shot.