A buddy Alan and I decided to build a cool robot. Alan ponied up for the Cupcake CNC Basic Kit by MakerBot and I tooled up and provided a workspace. Special thanks to my girlfriend Jeannie for enduring many days of melting plastic, solder fumes, and a distinct lack of dining table.
The Cupcake CNC machine is an amazing, open source 3D printer. It works by heating and depositing plastic layers upon subsequent layers to build any object you can imagine that would fit into the size of about a cupcake. There is a large community of object designers as well as a large community backing for the open source machine hardware and all software. You can even download the original CAD files to make your own machine parts if you have a laser cutter. 3D objects can be built in any number of 3d programs and exported directly to your face. Neat.
A couple things to note if you decide to build this bastard.
1. BUY THE DAMN USB TTL CABLE. We had some decent EE experience and we were not able to homemade a cable. Without the cable, you will do nothing except wait for overnight parcel. And you will pay a lot of money for it and this will cause depression until it arrives. Then you will be happy.
2. You will need a few more tools than it says you need because of a few manufacturing defects. I recommend a drill and assorted bits, and a dremel capable of cutting through metal screws. Wire cutters, soldering equipment, multimeter, magic hands, heat gun, toaster oven. You know, typical household goods.
3. The kit comes with 10 pin headers and rainbow cables. THESE SUCK. Unless you have the special tool to make them, but even then I recommend finding them prebuilt on digikey or, if you're in the bay area, head over to Weird Stuff. Actually, just go there anyway. Isles and isles of surplus electronics. We loaded up on those cables and I think we paid dollars.
4. Get the Mk5 Drive Gear Upgrade Kit if it is not already part of the kit. The old drive gear is not designed to bite into the plastic thread so there is no happy balance between tightening the grip and disfiguring the plastic past a point where it will feed through the rest of the extruder. The following photo illustrates the problem:
Most of all, you will need patience and perseverance. This is a lovely kit with a big reward, but it takes quite a bit of time before you print your first Hello World Cube that doesn't look like a cobweb.