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The Makerbots are working (2011- 04 -01)

All of the Makerbors are working.

Nutjob (the Noisebridge bot) has had a number of major upgrades performed on it, including heated build platform and Mk 5 extruder. It is now working well. The standard ReplicatorG software and profiles (choose Cupcake with Heated Build Platform) will work fine with it.

Go ahead and use it, the instructions here and on the Makerbot site are appropriate, with one caveat: there is a bug in the Makerbot profiles that will leave the heated build platform and steppers on, which is a fire hazard.

Before printing, install ReplicatorG, find the file called end.gcode, and if it does not contain the M109, M104 and M18 codes, edit it to look like this:

(end of the file, cooldown routines)
M104 S0
M109 S0
G1 Z10
M18 (turn off steppers.)

This will turn off everything, leaving the Makerbot in a safe state.

White Rabbit (Gian Pablo's bot) has had its XY stage replaced with a printed one, and Z axis guide rods installed. Please check in with Gian Pablo before using it, because it is now far from standard, and you should make some adjustments in operating procedures.

Scotch (Miloh's bot) has a Mk 5 extruder made with Noisebridge's own laser cutter. It is the thing made out of green acrylic. Check in with Miloh before using it, it is still being debugged and enhanced.

For smaller parts, make a Skeinforge profile where you change the Fill/Extra Shells setting to 0 (no extra shells) and the Fill/Infill Densiety to 1.0. This yields extremely strong and dimensionally accurate parts.

How to Use the Makerbot

if it breaks, we can fix it. don't be afraid of the makerbot! I've crashed it hundreds of times and only permanently broke something once.

install some software first

ReplicatorG now includes various versions of the Skeinforge slicing utility, so no need to download and install separately.

ReplicatorG 0024 has a serious bug in some of the profiles for the Cupcake CNC Makerbot, it will not generate the instructions that turn off heated build platform and stepper motors. This is a potential fire hazard, as the steppers and the build platform can get very hot. Do this:

Go ahead and use it, the instructions here and on the Makerbot site are appropriate, with one caveat: there is a bug in the Makerbot profiles that will leave the heated build platform and steppers on, which is a fire hazard.

Find the file called end.gcode, and if it does not contain the M109, M104 and M18 codes, edit it to look like this:

(end of the file, cooldown routines)
M104 S0
M109 S0
G1 Z10
M18 (turn off steppers.)

This will turn off everything, leaving the Makerbot in a safe state.

You are done.

using the software

  • Start ReplicatorG.
  • Open an STL file. You should see a 3D image of your model.
  • Press the 'generate GCode' button on the right.
  • You will be asked to choose a profile. Currently you are looking at Cupcake CNC Mk4, but very soon you will want Cupcake CNC Mk5 with Heated Build Platform.
  • It will take a while to build the GCode for the model. Go talk to visitors to the space and tell them not to sleep here.

fire the makerbot

Instructions have been updated to reflect the (coming) new and improved Makerbot.

  • turn on the makerbot PSU, it's a switch in the back
  • plug in the makerbot usb cable
  • run replicatorg (./replicatorg)
  • (firmware should be updated)
  • the first time you run it, machine->driver->cupcake CNC with heated build platform
  • also machine->serial port, choose whatever serial port is being emulated via USB
  • load filament
    • loosen the extruder thumbscrew
    • insert filament into the extruder, basically to the level of the motor axle (NOT all the way down into the nozzle - you do this so that you can more easily tell if the motor is working)
    • tighten the extruder thumbscrew, just a little bit more than finger tight, enough to get a good grip between the drive gear and the filament - you can adjust this while printing, if the filament starts slipping
  • click on the 4 arrows symbol (control panel)
    • lay a small piece of paper on the platform
    • remove any crud from the nozzle with bent nose pliers (hidden under the EFF hat)
    • move X, Y to the center of the platform (you can do this by pressing Disable steppers, then moving it by hand)
    • jog down in Z first in 10mm increments, then 1mm increments, until there is maximum drag force on the paper
    • jog up in 0.1mm increments until the drag lessens
    • click "set zero"
    • at the bottom of the control panel there are some settings, set them in this order
      • Motor Speed (PWM): 255
      • Target Temperature: 220
      • Heated Build Platform: 120
      • Motor Control: Stop
    • wait until the temperature is above 200 then try a test extrusion
      • move Z axis up 20mm or so
      • click Motor Control: forward
      • wait for the filament to enter the extruder, and start coming out the nozzle
      • make sure the extruder motor is turning, there is a dot drawn on the axle with sharpie
      • if you accidentally start the motor before it's hot, you can fix it by slightly unscrewing the extruder thumbscrew and adjusting the filament
  • the build platform should be plenty hot now
    • there might be an IR thermometer in a little duct tape pouch thingy
    • it should be around 120-130C for best results
  • remove ooze from the nozzle with pliers
  • zero the Z axis (ie. move it down until it near touches the platform)
  • file->open the .gcode file you created earlier with skeinforge
  • click 'build' (the solid kidney bean)
  • if the first layer doesn't stick at all or peels loose immediately, adjust the z axis down by turning the pulley on top of the makerbot
  • if the first layer starts getting fugly during the infill, with crap building up on the nozzle, adjust the z axis up a few steps until it looks perfectly flat with no "fuzz"
      • note to self: get some pics and video of first layer too high, first layer too low, and verify zeroing procedure
  • now since it probably screwed up somehow, hit stop and remove the grossness with the plastic scraper and/or pliers
  • it should still be zeroed, and hopefully at the correct height adjustment now, so just click 'build' again
  • if you can't get it to stick at all, the platform is probably at the wrong temperature.
    • wait five minutes for it to warm up completely
two sample pieces, side view
your part should look like this or better. I still hadn't tweaked the feedrate perfectly for colored plastic, hence the blobbiness.
  • ok now presumably you're done printing and nothing went wrong.
    • jog Z+ 20mm to give yourself some room
    • wait for the piece to cool down, 3 to 5 minutes should be enough
    • now just peel it off with your hand
    • if you let the piece cool all the way down, maybe 10-15 minutes, it will just "pop" off the build platform by itself
      • be careful, the part may still be soft and can deform
      • don't use a knife if at all possible, it will mess up the Kapton coating on the platform - just wait for it to cool
      • it's easier if you remove the build platform - it's held on with magnets

tweaking skeinforge

two sample pieces, top view
note the incomplete infill on the right; this was due to improper perimeter width settings. note the square teeth on the left; this is because "stretch" is turned on. this is a good thing.

there are about 300 different "craft" settings in skeinforge, and they all interrelate in confusing ways. here's a quick overview of the important ones:

  • carve->layer height: should be about 0.8*nozzle hole diameter, ship default is 0.4
  • carve->width over height: should be about 1.45, if threads in flat parts show gap make this value smaller
  • speed->flow rate: 255
  • speed->feed rate: start around 35mm/s
  • fill->infill solidity: 0.25 is adequate and not too slow. higher for stronger parts
  • fill->infill pattern: controls whether you get hashbrowns or honeycombs
  • comb keeps it from driving through empty spaces and making stringies
  • raft prints a waffle grid thingy to keep the corners held down - will be disabled for heated build platform
  • raftless - don't use it, instead turn off the raft checkbox when generating GCode in RepG, use outline to generate a lead-in
  • oozebane is useless, forget about it
  • jitter is good, set it to a large value like 100
  • stretch makes corners un-rounded, but can cause data overload stuttering if "stretch from distance" is too small
  • temperature is usually set to 230, but newer extruders can print fine with temperatures as low as 205C. You might need to lower all the temperatures in order to print tall skinny objects.
  • wipe should be turned off
  • outline should be turned on, it draws a rectangle around the first layer which lets you tweak the Z axis distance and ensure adhesion

You may want to create a profile with an alternative set of settings. In the Generate GCode dialog, select the default profile for your machine (mostly likely Cupcake with Heated Build Platform), duplicate it and call it "SuperSolid" or something like that, and make the following changes:

  • Fill/Extra Shells -> 0 (there are a number of extra shells parameters - make all of them zero)
  • Fill/Infill Density -> 1.0 (this will make solid objects)

Use this profile for parts that need to be extra strong or precise, ie. working machine parts or gears. Be warned that this will be very slow and will use a lot more plastic. However, the results can be truly outstanding.

you can safely ignore the rest

care and feeding

  • don't leave the makerbot unattended for hours, as it can theoretically catch on fire (those heated bed wires are iffy)
  • don't leave the extruder hot for hours. periodically flush through plastic to prevent it from oxidizing.
  • if you are about to run out of filament, cut off both ends square with diagonal flush cutters (the blue cutters for electronics) and simply hold the filament together as it goes in
  • if the filament strips out during use (extruder motor is on, temperature high enough, nothing happening) try pushing it down manually
    • if this doesn't work, try reversing the motor until the filament comes out, cut it cleanly, and reinsert
    • if it keeps stripping out, you may have to completely disassemble the extruder and remove plastic gunk from the gear teeth.
      • use a long 5/64" or 2mm allen key to set the extruder idler wheel/feed gear spacing
    • try not to let it happen in the first place. stripping can be caused by setting the first layer too low, blocking the nozzle and letting pressure build up
  • don't upgrade the firmware unless you're willing to deal with the consequences
  • keep it away from bright light
  • don't get any water on it
  • never, never ever feed it after midnight.

Usage log

please write your name, what you tried to make, and what happened below (pics or it didnt happen)

mini mendel Z leadscrew base and motor mount. This bastard took 2 hours and almost the entire remaining roll of green. It started to peel up badly at the back corner. I rescued it by melting the corner back down with a soldering iron. Fenn 13:07, 1 May 2010 (UTC)

A two color mushroom printed on one of the Makerbots. Shows what is possible! Gian Pablo

Tron Bunny watches over two sake carafes. The one on the left was printed before major mods to the XY axis, the one on right after. Note that the "ringing" effect is gone. Gian Pablo
caption text

Construction log

This describes the current progress of the building of the Makerbot. Instructions are found here, and a forum for it is found here.

Noisebridge's Makerbot kit, thoughtfully purchased by Mitch, arrived at 83C on Monday evening, July 20. Leading the assembly team is Joachim, along with Christoph, Rachel, Steve (Mr Domino), and Jeffrey (ieatlint).

It took about an hour and a half to go through and check the parts against the parts list. We think we are missing a bag of "laser cut pulleys" but it's hard to be completely sure, as there are a LOT of parts and they are not all labeled exactly as in the parts list A bag of "laser cut pulleys" was replaced by MakerBot-made pulleys, but the parts lists weren't updated. We determined to start assembly anyway.

Cupcake Electronics Assembly

Instructions Christoph soldering one of the stepper motor drivers, one of the endstop switches, and the SMD parts on the motherboard with only occasional bitching to people to STOP MOVING THE TABLE.

Motherboard is tested and able to control stepper motors. Regular firmware needs to be flashed back onto it. This may help. Ieatlint 02:55, 25 July 2009 (PDT)

Cupcake Pulley Assembly


Cupcake CNC Body Assembly

We got the first part of the body together without difficulty, but had trouble with the Z stage as one of the parts had changed from when the docs were written. The Z stage rod holding guides changed from being O-shaped to being U-shaped, and are marked "Z guides". The forums told us to use them anyway.

The next problem was with threaded rods, which had been cut to size. The ends of some would not take a nut. We solved this with judicious use of the bench grinder. There were LOTS of nut/rod jokes, and we were in a state where they were actually funny! Rachel 10:08, 21 July 2009 (PDT)

Progressed to and including the step entitled "Z-stage stepper wiring" as detailed on the body assembly instructions. The body assembly is nearly completed. Ieatlint 03:52, 21 July 2009 (PDT)

Stages assembled and motherboard and stepper driver circuits in place. Driver boards are tested. Axis stops are installed, platforms still need craft stick beam breaks installed. -- JSharp 06:45, 2 August 2009 (PDT)

Cupcake Y Stage Assembly


Cupcake X Stage Assembly


Plastruder MK3 Assembly


  • Note: Ubuntu 9.04 specific: the and the RXTXcomm.jar that come in the replicatorg download need to be replaced with some binaries from this other place that I don't remember. -Skory
  • Progressed through to end of Heater Barrel Assembly. Miloh 04:24, 21 July 2009 (PDT)
  • Progressed through the Filament Drive Assembly, and Joachim mastered the extruder electronics. Miloh 02:03, 24 July 2009 (PDT)
  • Progressed through Attach Heater barrel through step 3. Miloh 13:17, 24 July 2009 (PDT)
  • Progressed through Attach Heater barrel to the end. Miloh 20:46, 26 July 2009 (PDT)
Continue at Plastruder burn in test.  The burn in test can't be completed until the Thermistor and extruder board are recognized by the control system.
  • Plastruder board burnt out a few components on power up test. Ordered new plastruder driver from makerbot, should arrive at 83C soon. -- JSharp 06:43, 2 August 2009 (PDT)
    • New plastruder control board received and installed. -- JSharp 10:52, 9 August 2009 (PDT)

Status Reports


Martin - The makerbot is working and printing objects well. You will need to download and install "ReplicatorG" and "skeinforge" in order to use the bot. The software runs on Mac, Linux, and PC. (skeinforge requires Python, ReplicatorG requires Java) Example objects are next to the bot.

The X/Y/Z stage endpoints are not yet installed. It requires a number of popsicle sticks to be cut to the correct length and the stage to be calibrated. You can operate the MakerBot with ***great*** care without them.

The extruder head has been upgraded to the Mark-4, with a new bearing and idler wheel. Also, the extruder head is now insulated with the same material they use to insulate the Space Shuttle heat tiles from the skin of the shuttle itself. *** IT IS EXPENSIVE. PLEASE DON'T TAKE APART! *** I can't replace the material, it was given as a gift from a friend at JPL.

Please read all the instructions on how to use the MakerBot on the [Wiki Site] before attempting to use it.


Thanks to excellent efforts and support from Martin, the MakerBot is now in a semi-functional state. There are three things that need to be worked on, however:

  1. The Y stage endpoint is installed incorrectly (the Y stage and physically crash into it)
  2. The nichrome wire needs to be better insulated so it can maintain higher temperatures and consistent temperatures.
  3. The feeding mechanism needs to be reviewed, as it appears that it fails to operate reliably.

Please do NOT attempt to disassemble the plastruder header. Also, do NOT attempt to operate the MakerBot unless you really know what you're doing.


Much has happened to the Makerbot since last noted, the broken idler wheel was replaced and the extruder head assembly was upgraded by me using parts from Bre when he was here. Thanks Bre! I also at that time upgraded the firmware and printed a bunch of skull throwies, yay! Time has passed between then and now and many people have been reporting the makerbot in sickly condition, after much testing I am glad to report this not the case. go go makerbot!


Bre was here on 20/2 and installed a heated build platform on the Makerbot. The heated platform is a new development, still in prototype stage. It is awesome because it prevents warping, and allows workpieces to stick to the build platform without having to build a raft.

He left a sheet of instructions, they say:

"... While here we set you up with a heated build platform. It's hooked up to the fans pot. So before you print, go into the control panel and click [x] fan and it will turn it on. Let it warm up for at least 5 minutes and then print on it. When the model is done, let it cool for 5 minutes and it will 'pop' right off the warm kapton tape.

We are also leaving you a spare parts kit for the extruder. Your nozzle is super thick and slow. This new nozzle has a smaller nozzle hole. Make it, use it, love it!

Bre and Zack, Makerbot"

When asked about the workings of the heated build platform, he said:

"Yup, ours is a prototype part, it's awesome but not very well documented.

You want to plug it in above the mosfet that usually runs the fan.

You can then go into the control panel and just turn the fan on, let it heat up for 8-10 minutes and it will get to about 110F.

Print away and remember to turn it off and unplug the bot when you're done!"

Please note that he's left us the parts for an improved extruder - up to us to build it - and some of the new colored ABS plastic.


After using the makerbot all day I (fenn) noticed the Z axis was consistently jamming up when traversing above 125mm/min. Several hours of head-scratching later I discovered that the heated platform would cause the large acrylic plate that holds the extruder to heat up and expand, pushing outwards on the Z-axis nuts and causing the mechanism to bind ever so slightly. The simple fix of filing the plate down was complicated by the lack of small files and the fact that the machine was assembled wrong, requiring removal of the four small u-shaped plywood "guide plates", which I put back in the correct orientation: gap outwards.

I'm not sure the heated build platform actually ever gets hot enough for ABS to stick to the kapton tape. It seems to max out at 95 celsius, as measured with an infrared thermometer. The RepRap wiki suggests 120-220 degrees for ABS. Perhaps connect the platform directly to a higher voltage power supply?

Lacking a hot enough bed for the first layer to stick to, blue masking tape sorta almost works (the first time you use it), and I got much better results when I taped a business card on top and printed on that instead. I printed a few gears and hope to add a "wade extruder" soonish.


I (fenn) came in today and it appeared that nobody had touched the makerbot since I last left it. But the nozzle wouldn't heat up. Voltage to the wires, it just didnt get hot. So, heeding the warning to not disassemble the nozzle, I removed it and swapped in another one, which works a lot better anyway. Then I attached a 16V transformer to the heated bed, and now it gets up to 165C which is much better than the old 90C running on 12V. Now the first layer actually sticks! Z axis seems to still be jamming up; I didn't file the notches deep enough I guess. Wish I had more time to play with it. Skeinforge settings that seem to work with ABS: layer height: 0.4mm, flow rate: 255, feed rate: 25mm/s.


added a fan to cool off the acrylic plate. make sure you enable the fan before printing and it shouldn't jam up anymore. seems to be working reliably now.

hint: instead of trying to adjust the Z zero in software, manually adjust the height as it prints the first layer.

caution: plugging in or unplugging the heater transformer may cause the power strip breaker to trip and reset the makerbot.


leveled bed by shaving down tabs that were sticking up, pushing magnets back in, and adding a small strip of kapton tape. adjusted toothed gear/idler wheel spacing with 5/64 allen key.

Some of the magnets on the Y stage are in sideways (poles on left & right), not upright (poles on top & bottom). I found this when building my Makerbot, since I wanted the build platform to be interoperable, I tried placing the magnets on the Y stage of the NB 'bot to check polarity, and found that they were sticking corner-to-corner, not face-to-face. - Gian Pablo


I've taken in two functioning nozzle assemblies, and an extruder block with double idler wheel. These should help get the 'bot up and running. The nozzles may need to be heated up, PTFE insulator removed and cleaned. - Gian Pablo

What is the large spool of white plastic next to the Makerbot? It seems a lot softer than ABS, and certainly acts strange when I try to print with it. (It is so soft that it scrunches up in the extruder feed channel, and the pinch wheel starts grinding into it super quickly. It doesn't stink when heated.) Could it be Shapelock? - Gian Pablo

it is PLA, rather than ABS. It melts at a much, much lower temperature. - Martin

It's not PLA, far too soft. There's some green PLA in the bag on top of the pile. I think it's HDPE. Smells like HDPE too. (like a blown out candle.) - fenn


The Makerbot is broken...


i'm really not sure what happened. i was cleaning out the extruder and i think one of the green wires touched the large metal washer; there was a spark and a small poof next to the rj-45 connector on the extruder board, and now nothing turns on. sigh.

two sample pieces, side view
corroborating evidence

I swapped in one of Gian Pablo's extruders and bought a new 606 bearing for the gearmotor. (somehow the original must have fallen out and gotten lost.) Lots of jamming up and cussing ensued. Some adjustments were made, much filament run through the machine, and I deduced that the NEW EXTRUDER REQURIES THE FAN ON whenever it is at operating temperature. I got it to print out a timing pulley on the fifth try, and reliably printing after that, using the same settings as before.

The nozzles I left seem to print reliably at much lower temperatures, try 195C and see how that goes. [gian pablo]


I've ordered an extensive selection of parts, including new extruder, heated build platform, extruder board etc. Should be here next week.

We've started work on this. I've also started printing a replacement XY stage ( on my Makerbot, and ordered the parts for it (bearings, nuts, screws, washers).

[gian pablo]


All the parts have arrived. Miloh unpacked them and started working on it. Things to do:

  • Assemble heated build platform
  • Assemble relay board
  • Assemble Plastruder Mk 5
  • Replace extruder controller (and motherboard if necessary)
  • Clean the 'bot
  • Calibrate it


Watch it. It prints.

The autospool can cinch down and yank your build to ruin. Jake and I modified it to pull out the side in a lazier loop. It needs to be watched.

  • Needs More calibration
    • feed rate
    • stepper driver currents (there were some X-Y 1-2mm shift errors halfway through the first builds)
  • Need a get up to speed session & bot day (CrashSpaceLA is having one this weekend)

Miloh 12:51, 18 February 2011 (UTC)


Printed different series of shelving brackets in red ABS. Another 2mm shift 1/4 of the way through the print only made them semi-useful. Not sure what caused the shift -- there were ~50 people milling around so I'm going to assume someone just touched the build in progress. The autospool is modified and working well on its side. The new MK5 head is working well so far (without the extrusion blowout and grip problems of the MK4 series pinch wheel and gear drive) improvements:

  • we can laser cut 1/16 cork mounting dampeners for the stepper motors
  • either replace the Y axis build platform mounting part or the build platform wood back to improve stability in the platform.

Miloh 23:14, 2 March 2011 (UTC)


All the Makerbots are working.

I've made a bunch of upgrades to White Rabbit and it is working great, there are a few fun sample prints scattered around. Ping me if you want to use it, it is a bit non-standard.

I spent a bit of quality time with Nutjob, cleaned out the driver gear, levelled the Z stage, replaced the drive motor and tidied up the cables. It is pretty standard, go ahead and use it.

There are now two filament spindles up and running, with red and white ABS. Black ABS is on the way.

Miloh printed a replacement toilet hinge, and it is now installed and working.

Gian Pablo

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