Chapter 4. Before You Get a MakerBot

In which the reader shall prepare their home, learn about the implications and responsibilities that come with being the Operator and Caretaker for a MakerBot and shall be introduced to robots of great power and promise.

Obtaining a robot that can make anything isn’t like getting a drill or even like getting a swiss army knife. It’s not about getting just another tool, it’s about getting a small factory that sits on your desk.

While you are waiting for your MakerBot to arrive (or just dreaming about the day when you will purchase one), there are many free things that you can do to prepare yourself and your home.

Think About What You Will Replicate

The last thing you want to do is to have your MakerBot set up, and suddenly get "maker’s block." Imagine: your friends and family are gathered around your machine, and the only thing you can think of replicating is a 20 millimeter calibration cube. Don’t let this happen to you! Before too long, you’ll find yourself visiting Thingiverse in your spare time, and clicking a thing’s "I Like It" button so you can come back to it later and replicate it. There’s no better time to develop this habit than while you are waiting for your MakerBot to arrive.

The MakerBot excels at manufacturing presents. What things can you give away? Search Thingiverse for keyrings, coins, bottle openers, whistles, charms, and other great giveaway items.
An army of things
What could you use multiple copies of? Chess pieces? Poker chips? Toy soldiers?
Replacement parts
What could you fix around the house? Always important - you’ll have so much fun you’ll forget to do it. Look for anything loose, chipped, broken, uneven, held together with duct tape, or something with a missing counterpart.
Gadget accessories
Your electronics are unruly, and you can use your MakerBot to keep them in line. Look for cell phone stands, cable/cord managers, and even Micro-SIM to SIM adapters.
People like to play with things, so give them something amazing to have fun with. You’ll find everything from working gear mechanisms, trebuchets, or a functional steam engine.
Your next product
MakerBots are often used by engineers, industrial designers, and architects to make their next contraption, product, or house model. If you’ve got an idea for a product, you can prototype it over and over until it’s just right. Then you can do a small run and test the market. You might have the next amazing product idea, but you won’t know until you try it out!

Connect with the MakerBot Community

Working and sharing your results with others is what open source technology is all about. You can join the MakerBot community even if you don’t already have your MakerBot.

The first step is the easiest. Just jump right in and sign up for the MakerBot Operators Google Group. Spend a few days reading the conversations there before you make your first post. Even if you don’t have your MakerBot yet, you might find a conversation you can contribute to. You’ll also get to know the community by reading the messages in the group, which will help you find some few MakerBot Operators to follow on Twitter, Google Plus, or Facebook.

Find out if there are any MakerBot Operators near you. We are a friendly bunch and can talk endlessly about our challenges, triumphs, and will even share the stories of our epic failures. The best part about a live meet-up is you’ll get to see a MakerBot in action. Visit the MakerBot User Groups page to find a map of MakerBot User Groups (MUGs) near you, or to find out how to start your own.

Become Familiar with the Necessary Software

Every MakerBot Operator needs a basic working knowledge of the MakerBot software, MakerWare (, which allows your computer to communicate with your desktop 3D printer. It is important to familiarize yourself with this software so you can get a feel for how it would work with your machine. The MakerBot blog "Software" category lists announcements of new releases of MakerWare, as well as information about other software of interest to MakerBot operators.

Even if you never design a single thing, you could happily spend the rest of your days just replicating objects from Thingiverse. However, as a MakerBot owner you know that you’re going to be happiest when you’re making things that you designed yourself. There are 3D design programs for people of every computer and skill level.

If you’re looking for an intuitive point-and-click interface, try out the no-installation required and websites. Autodesk 123D is an easy-to-use and easy-to-learn free 3D modeling program that can create STL files you can replicate on your MakerBot.


Those with a little bit of a programming background might want to start with OpenSCAD, an open source solid modeling program that interprets written commands and creates 3D objects. Those more familiar with traditional animation or Computer-Aided Design (CAD) programs might appreciate Blender or Wings3D.

You can find more information on these and other programs in Chapter 8.

Prepare Your Home

You are going to need a place to put your MakerBot when it arrives. The Replicator 2 is bigger than a breadbox, though not much bigger. You’ll need to give it at least 13x19 inches of counter/desktop space, plus a little extra for its power adapter and spool of filament.

Prepare an Area for Your Bot

Here’s what you need for the optimal MakerBot location:

  • A sturdy flat surface (check it with a spirit or bubble level). Bad choices: card tables or laptop stands. Good choices: banquet tables, work benches.
  • A well-ventilated area, but one that isn’t too breezy. The MakerBot needs to be able to heat up and maintain that heat for the duration of the print.
  • A clean location, free of dust, dirt, and debris.
  • A dry location. The filament (organic PLA or ABS plastic) can absorb moisture, increasing its thickness and introducing moisture where you don’t want it.
  • Access to an electrical outlet with a power strip.
  • Adequate lighting to watch your MakerBot at work.

Social Implications

Another dimension of preparing your home is social; hyping the fact that the MakerBot is coming, and then building things with friends and family when it does arrive. Your MakerBot becomes a "campfire" around which you can gather friends and family.


Our editor, Brian, says: Hanging out with my stepson and his friend, building stuff from Thingiverse was an amazing experience—seeing this through the eyes of a couple of 24 year olds was amazing. You can’t replicate objects in other homes.

When you talk to friends and family, don’t forget the collaborative aspect. This is part of the promise you make to family and friends about why you’re getting your MakerBot.

Last Christmas my wife and I collaborated on the gifts we gave to family. I replicated bracelets and she knit bracelet covers. We’ve got pictures somewhere, but it’s similar to the printed napkin rings for which she knit covers. She would tell me the rough dimensions for the rings and bracelets, I designed a draft, when we finalized the design, I replicated one, then eleven more.

There’s so much more that we’ve replicated: sports towel hooks for my daughter, window latches, garage door opener switch cover, garden wire clips, a little bracket holding our dishwasher’s bottom panel up, and clips for holding a window sill garden in place.

My favorite part about having a MakerBot as part of my home-repair toolkit is that sitting on the couch designing a replacement part or fix actually constitutes working on a repair.


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