The CupCake CNC is significantly smaller
than mainframe-style rapid prototypers —
so portable that people bring it to parties.
MAKE in years past). The first prototype of the Cup-
Cake CNC, MakerBot’s flagship 3D printing machine,
was finished just in time to bring to Austin’s SXSW
music, film, and tech conference in March 2009.
Pettis spent the weekend printing plastic shot
glasses, and, thanks to lots of positive press and enthusiasm in the online DIY community, by mid-April
the three had shipped the first batch of 20 machines
to the eager hands of early adopters.
Hoeken, Mayer, and Pettis quit their jobs and lived
on savings for the first ten months of the operation.
Friends Adrian Bowyer (of the RepRap Research
Foundation) and Jakob Lodwick (founder of Vimeo)
provided seed money, and since then the business
has grown steadily. By year’s end, the batch size had
increased from 20 to 150 machines, with one batch
shipping approximately every month. The basic kit
sells for $750.
The technology behind the Cup CNC is similar to
the RepRap, the first open source 3D printer, which
was designed specifically to be able to replicate
its own parts. The CupCake uses the RepRap
motherboard, which Smith, 26, designed. It uses
his own Sanguino microcontroller platform, itself
a compatible derivative of Arduino.
During the design stage for the machine, Smith,
Mayer, 35, and Pettis, 37, prototyped parts for the
CupCake on NYC Resistor’s laser cutter. They
worked round-the-clock, settling on a design by
the end of their second case of ramen noodles.
Unlike RepRap, whose toolhead moves around
depositing plastic on a stationary platform, the
CupCake extruder only moves up and down. The
10cm-square build platform moves laterally to
spread the thinly extruded filament of plastic along
in the shape of the layer being printed.
Having a stationary toolhead minimizes power
and size requirements, making the CupCake CNC
significantly lighter than the RepRap. And it’s leaps
and bounds smaller than “mainframe”-style rapid
48 Make: Volume 21