Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dragon! (rev 1)

My kids' school mascot is a dragon, so I made a crude first attempt at making one from scratch. A few spheres, stretched, rotated, scaled, attached, & some tweaked cubes stretched for wings.

OK, I know my art sucks. So, any artist out there that wants to collaborate with me, c'mon by!

Skyscraper Monopoly Upgrade

Ever have a looooong Monopoly game? Where everyone keeps getting more money & nobody loses? My son decided to build a "skyscraper upgrade" which is 10x the cost & rent of a hotel, to help escalate the game. He designed this in blender/CAD & has 3 iterations already on it.

Iterations are key in engineering & development of all sorts. My son & I are coming along great with fast iterations (imagine, design, build, learn, plan a revision, & redesign). The faster the iteration, the better all around, not to mention the more satisfying to the builders! He made this tower/skyscraper himself, & on each print, figures out what he wants to do better.

Here's his "version 1" skyscraper for comparison... The later versions have more features (spheres subtracted from the sides, and bigger, green)

Early Adopter Pain

Well, the first 3 days were glorious.

Then, the next week was "Early Adopter Pain" in it's most classic form

  • The motherboard fried. 100% dead. The MakerBot team shipped me a new one quickly, thankfully.
  • I followed the motherboard replacement specs carefully, but they were rather fresh/new
  • I found ways to fix the loud banging noises on homing, & am glad.
  • After much debugging & bad prints, I discovered, through classical "Doh!" bonehead troubleshooting, that I connected the Z-Min cable to the Z-Max connection on the board.
  • So, after 3 days up, 7 days down, I'm back online & dancing again!

Early adopters have inherent pain. We need to be forgiving, knowing that there's a fine line between "leading edge" and "bleeding edge". I've been very lucky, as an early adopter on the Prius (2004), and Solar Panels (2007), and Linux on a laptop (2003) with ZERO trouble, so it's expected that my roll of the "Early Adopter Pain Dice" should come up snake-eyes now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Snowman Rev 1 and 2

Withing 24 hours from getting the tool, my 8 year old son was able to imagine, design, & print, an idea of his own, 100% by himself. Quite impressive for both the tool & the kid!

Here it is: A snowman! He simply made 3 spheres, of different sizes, & positioned them on top of each other. OK, I helped him just a little by suggesting he add some cross bars at the bottom for stability, but he drew them in CAD by himself.

My daughter suggested we add a hat, eyes, and nose, for the "Snowman 2". Easy enough. Oh, and print it white, not black!

Here both kids are, quite happy with their creations.

Custom Medals, continued

My daughter requested a medal with her name on it, and it was easy to add this to the design. She's so proud to be part of this process, at just age 5.5. She also told me to get more colors than just boring "black & white", so I let her pick out some more colors to order. In a few days, we'll have purple, red, & green delivered from the good small company in Brooklyn ( that's bringing this open-source tool to the early adopters.

Super Cool

Super Cool Indeed! Here's a 100% custom medal that we designed in Blender, built on the MakerBot Replicator. My son put some ribbon through it & is wearing it proudly.

First print, a success! (with some trouble)

Did I mean to print spaghetti? Nope! So, the first thing we printed was a calibration item, to check if everything was setup correctly. Well, of course, it wasn't! This item is for sure for "early adopters", and we knew it when we bought it. It takes debugging, patience, but the rewards are there. And, the online community of early adopters on this tool is amazing, passionate, & very collaborative.

How'd it go so wrong? Why spaghetti? Well, this thing prints layer by layer, and, like so many things, the first layer is the foundation, and if you get that foundation wrong, it's all crud on top. We had to go back to square 1, & calibrate the spacing between the platform & the extruder tips. And, from some online tips, found it's best to cover the sides to keep it warm.

After some adjustments, FIRST PRINT SUCCESSFUL! Here's an image of the "custom medal" that I made. My kids love getting coins from swim class, & medals from school, so I made some custom medals to print for fun & motivation.

I designed the medal using a free 3D CAD tool called Blender. Like most other CAD tools, it has a rather steep learning curve, but it only took me an hour or so to design this, as I have many years experience in other CAD tools. It also took my 8 year old son about 2 hours to build his first model, since 8 year olds are 110% learning machines!

This is truly exciting for the Schmitt household. It's truly empowering to "Imagine it. Design it. Build it." All in one hour!

Kids? Well they are born into the world in it's current state, & don't appreciate how fast things have improved since their father's day. I was able to explain to my 8 year old son, that just 15 years ago, when I was a mechanical engineer, design-to-reality was a 2-4 week process, costing $2-10k. And, that iterations (build, learn, redesign, rebuild) took 2-4 weeks as well. Now, with this MakerBot, we can do 4 iterations per day, easily! This truly is the future of invention & manufacturing, and I'm very excited!

Monday, August 20, 2012


I'm so glad I made this investment. It reminds me of how "game changing" the first home PC's were in the early 80's.

We just got our MakerBot Replicator last week, and the whole family is excited to get making things!

We plan to share:

  • A) What this tool can do
  • B) Tricks/tips about using the tool best (what problems we had & solutions we found)
  • C) Photos of our designs
  • Most of this will likely be simple designs, that my kids can build, as they gradually learn CAD & the Makerbot. If/when we get "great" designs going, I'll also upload them to, where there's a great & growing catalog of printable designs from a great community of engineers around the world.