Step by Step Guide to Building a MakerBot CupCake CNC 3D Printer

in-depth 13 part guide from Make:

Marc de Vinck  just wrapped up an excellent and exhaustive step-by-step guide to building a MakerBot CupCake CNC. His 13 part article for Make: has been in the works for nearly a year, and the guide was finally finished today.

The documentary starts off with a little bit of the author’s background in CNC machining and then takes you through every step of putting together a fully functional CupCake CNC — from opening the box on the kitchen floor…

“The first thing I found was a nice letter from the MakerBot team and a couple of postcards. I’m going to keep these filed away in a safe place. Maybe one day I’ll be on the Antiques Roadshow and the host will let out a delighted *gasp* when I whip out my original, signed MakerBot Industries letter. Hey, you never know?!”

…to 3D printing a classic whistle in ABS plastic.

“Feeling confident, I proceeded to download the infamous whistle by Zaggo STL file. I fired up the printer, and in a few minutes, I had a whistle! Amazing!”

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to try out a CupCake for yourself, now would be that time. Not only do you have Vinck’s guide to walk you through the entire process, but the CupCake Starter Kit is now on sale for $649.

And don’t forget, all the files for the body of the printer are available for free in MakerBot’s Ponoko showroom and will cost you under $250 to cut with Ponoko. Save even more money by sourcing the electronics from the new hardware additions to our materials catalog.

via Make: & Marc de Vinck (t)

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Should I Manufacture or License My Product or Invention?

I recently attended my local Inventors Association (Inventors Alliance in Northern California) and noticed that Inventors kept inquiring about the differences between manufacturing and licensing a product.  New Inventors were confused about what these terms meant and wanted to learn more about the factors to consider when deciding which way to go for their own product.   So I thought I’d take a minute to discuss both options as this comes up all of the time in my workshops and classes as well.

Let’s start with Manufacturing.  Manufacturing is the process by which an Inventor actually designs, develops, sells and markets their product. Basically they are working on a product idea from start to finish.  They are responsible for taking a product idea and bringing it to market and creating an entire business venture around this product idea.   Inventors who manufacture their products typically take on all facets of a business—they are responsible for product development, packaging, marketing, selling and much more.

Licensing is a bit different. Licensing is when you actually ‘rent’ your product idea to a company who will do all of the work for you.   And when I say work, I mean they will handle all of the product development, packaging, marketing and selling for your product idea.  In other words, you provide a company with your brilliant idea and they in turn will bring your product to market and write you a check for every unit sold.

Why would a company agree to license a product idea?


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How to find SparkFun electronics on the Ponoko site

find what you need amongst 1,500 items

Search is always a key thing online. When Ponoko teamed up with SparkFun to provide electronic hardware in the materials catalog, it meant that you could now build an entire product – inside and out – right here at Ponoko.

So how do you go about finding exactly what you want amongst over 1,500 hardware items?

Every page on Ponoko (other than the blog) has a Google Site Search feature awaiting your pleasure at the top right-hand corner.

So let’s say you are after an Arcade Joystick for your retro gaming cabinet. Simply type arcade joystick into the Site Search, and you’ll be shown a list of matching components.


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How Detailed is too Detailed?

Getting superb results from thin plywood and bamboo.

Every now and then we come across P3 design files that are so densely populated with designs that we marvel at the super efficient use of space.  It is fantastic cutting something that will generate minimal waste. However, there can be a downside to adding so much detail onto a large sheet.

Sometimes a sheet of material may not be very flat when we get it from the manufacturer. This is seen most commonly in 2.7mm/0.106″ bamboo, 5mm bamboo (NZ) and other thin plywood. Unfortunately this is the nature of material. The inherent tension in the grain of the wood and the way it is constructed means the panels can warp between the factory they were made in and the Ponoko shop.

Additionally, dense cutting and engraving generates heat build up, which can cause the sheet of material to warp during cutting. This can adversely affect the quality of the cutting, engraving and has the potential to damage the machine. This is most apparent on thin materials like leather, styrene and bamboo.

So why is warping so detrimental to cut quality?


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Barrier Grid Optical Illusions

Create Your Own Mesmerising Illusions

Had enough of your mundane reality? How about spicing things up a bit with some simple home-made optical illusions.

We recently mentioned an infinity mirror how-to from Youtube illusion guru Brusspup. While a number of his clips caught my attention, there was one in particular that stood out – another how-to; this time explaining the mysteries of Barrier Grid Illusions. Watch the video above for a good snapshot of this optical novelty.

Following in the footsteps of Rufus Butler Seder, this effect is remarkably easy to achieve using the most basic of Photoshop skills and your own home printer.

What gets my mind ticking over though – is the thought of how this could be taken further with a bit of Ponoko etching and laser cutting. Just like Rufus has done in numerous public spaces, imagine creating dynamic optical features as installations and artworks… or even incorporating these effects into your next laser-cut product!

Learn exactly how to create Barrier Grid Illusions of your own after the break.


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How to Access a Retail Buyer’s Contact Information

Ever wonder how to get access to a Major Retail Buyer’s contact information? Check out this quick and informative video!

Also, if you would like to learn everything you ever wanted to know about selling your products to major retailers, then please join us for a FREE 2 HOUR WEBINAR hosted by Ponoko on Saturday, October 30th, from 2-4pm PST

Space is limited.

Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

About the Author: Karen Waksman ( is a Successful Manufacturer’s Rep turned Author, Speaker and Consultant. She has written a step-by-step guide called ‘How To Sell Your Product, Invention or Craft to Major Retailers…No Sales Experience or Existing Buyer Relationships Required!’

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Infinity Mirror How-To

Knock together your own portal and lose yourself in distant dimensions

Posted on YouTube by user Brusspup is this quick overview on how to build your own Infinity Mirror. Using LEDs and a bunch of other materials you probably already have lying around at home, this impressive effect is deceptively simple to reproduce. He even says so himself…

Extremely simple concept with stunning results. The illusion may look complicated but it was really very easy to make.

Sure, there is a touch of 1980s novelty chic about objects like this… but perhaps that is exactly why we like to see them so much.

Comprehensive instructions have kindly been included at the video source, so now there’s nothing stopping you if your mind has already started ticking over. There must be a nice way to combine this refractive technique with some of the offerings in Ponoko’s Materials Catalog.

So what exactly do you do with an infinity mirror, once you’ve had enough of gazing into the illusionary distance? In a nice touch, this particular magic mirror was given away to a lucky YouTube commenter.

Via SolidSmack

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‘Clean Up’ your paths in Illustrator & upload easier

Remove hidden problems in an instant.

This short post will show you how to avoid one of the most common design file problems Ponoko creators encounter. The image above shows two halves of the same file, viewed in two ways.

In View > Preview mode it appears fine, with all of the visible elements formatted correctly. In View > Outline mode, however, suddenly we can see a number of hidden points – which appear as Xs.

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RepRap Progeny

Printing The Next Generation – Here’s How It’s Done

It’s all about taking a basic 3d printer, and using it to print a more advanced one. That’s the beauty of this technology… the beauty of the whole DIY 3d printer movement, in fact.

Watch the video as Gavilan Steinman neatly explains how his Darwin printer was used to fabricate a Mendel replacement, thus propelling him into a future where higher quality outcomes will be achieved with greater speed and efficiency.

From the humblest of beginnings, a device can be constructed that sets off a steady climb towards fabbing freedom. The original extruder was a handmade wooden contraption that Gavilan then used to create a better version of itself. This higher performing and more accurate component was then installed, ready to print out the next generation of components.

Not only do we get to see the whole process in this well composed clip, the tempting reality of Ponoko’s new hardware partnership with Sparkfun means that all of the other electronic goodies you’ll need to bring your 3d printer to life can now be sourced right here.

Combine this with the wealth of knowledge that continues to grow at the reprap community and you’ll soon be printing out a next generation of your own.

Via Hack a day.

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How to reduce burn marks on acrylic

Or how to avoid “smudgy yuckyBurn marks are an inherent part of the laser cutting process – we are cutting things with a highly focused beam of fire after all. There are some tricks to minimizing this issue for different materials, and this post deals with acrylic.

Most of the acrylic sheets we use come with protective paper on both sides. It’s possible for us to leave this paper on when making your design, which we tend to do where it will not interfere with your engraving. The main downside to this is needing to peel paper off both sides of the acrylic, which can be time consuming and tricky if your design is intricate.

Generally our rule is: cut with paper on both sides if there is no raster engraving in the design, or if all raster engraving is of the heavy variety. Heavy raster engraving burns through the paper without any trouble, as does heavy and medium vector engraving. If the file has medium or light raster engraving, however, we will remove the protective paper from the top of the material unless otherwise requested.

It is possible to use medium engraving through the paper, but due to the dot matrix nature of the raster engraving not all the paper is burned away. A slightly sticky residue may be left on the plastic if you ask for this option – which may need to be cleaned off before you use it.

Below are some typical examples of what you get when laser cutting acrylic. It should be noted that it is most obvious on black hence using it as the example material. Also the images have been zoomed in to great detail and emphasizes the effects more than might be obvious to the naked eye.

Cutting – Paper Left On vs Paper Removed
On the left through the paper and on the right without paper. The right shows a clear example of the smudgy burn marks that are left on the acrylic after cutting. Clearly the shapes cut through the paper is cleaner than not.

Heavy Raster Engraving – Paper Left On vs Paper RemovedOn the left through the paper and on the right without paper. You can see that engraving through the paper produces a crisper result. The vaporized acrylic builds up around the outside of the letters when the paper is not use and produces this slightly ‘inflated’ look. This would probably polish off should you have the desire to do so.

Medium Raster Engraving – Paper Left On vs Paper Removed

On the left through the paper and on the right without paper. Again engraving through the paper is a little crisper in the letter forms, but as mentioned earlier there may be sticky residue left over from the adhesive of the paper.

So what does all this mean?

If you want us to leave the paper on, you should only use heavy raster engraving. If you use medium or light raster engraving, we will make your design with the paper removed.

If you would like to specify how you want your job cut, make a note in the Special Shipping instructions.

Other tips for engraving & cleaning acrylic:
How to improve your engraving results – Part 1
How to improve your engraving results – Part 2
Tips for cleaning acrylic

Kudos to @deleifd and @skruff for the awesome type design.

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