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January 14th, 2011
11:26 AM ET

THE BIG I: 3D Printing

Today's Big I is all about 3D Printing.  A company called Makerbot is out with an open source, 3d printer called Thing-O-Matic.  Basically, you can print 3D objects just like a regular printer prints text on a piece of paper.

Click here to check out the Makerbot website.

Click here to check out the 3D Printer Thing-O-Matic in action.

Filed under: Ali Velshi • Anchors • CNN Newsroom • The Big I
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. frenchjr25

    Industrial versions have been around for decades. But this is the first home version.

    There is also an industrial "printer" that can do metals.

    January 14, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  2. Greg

    Oh good, so instead of paper waste we'll have plastic! Wrong direction in my opinion, but I doubt this will become widely popular on the consumer level. Can the plastic be recycled?

    January 14, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  3. Vic Kley


    Just caught your discussion with Makerbot. The technique of 3D printing is so old its in the public domain and certainly was not invented by Makerbot. Indeed there are a number of manufacturers competing with Makerbot for this small market.
    These methods produce plastic parts not suitable for any but the most undemanding applications, like models, labels or perhaps prizes where strength, wear resistance, and heat resistance are not a factor at all.

    When I started a company in 1990 (Creator inc. since defunct) 3D printing using laser techniques had been around a few years. Creator was a desktop manufacturing system that would produce useful parts or complete assemblies for things like toys, watches, clocks, farm equipment, copiers, cars, bicycles etc.
    The key is that the Creator made its parts from the right materials like steel, brass or bearing bronze, engineering plastic (not usable in a Makerbot type machine) and aluminum.

    Your statements about inventorship were false as were your suggestions that such systems as Makerbot could produce competitive parts to restore Americas ability to compete internationally. You have misled and deceived the public, I'm sure unknowingly. It's all right as long you correct your comments.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  4. Vic Kley

    I participate in the young maker program here in Berkeley and at the SF Exploratorium.

    Makerbot is an open source KIT available from a Maker influenced start-up. On site at least they make no claims to have invented anything and allow everyone to copy their stuff under the GNU license.

    So the thrust of your description and show was just off base and failed to explain Makerbot. I can assure you that no one believe kit Makerbots will remake American manufacturing.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  5. Christina Ginn, CNN Producer

    This is Ali's producer Christina. Just wanted to let you know that we were showing an innovative product. Not implying that Makerbots would remake American manufacturing.

    January 14, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  6. Bre

    @frenchjr25 Yup, we couldn't afford one, so we made a 3D printer that could be cheap and then we decided to make it available to everyone.

    @Greg I didn't get a chance to talk about PLA which a plastic we like to use that's biodegradable and clear. It's pretty and a green plastic. It smells like waffles when you print with it.

    @Garry Yeah Jay Leno has one for fixing his cars which is cool. I don't claim to have invented 3D printing, we hacked on it until we could make one that we could afford. I suppose you could say we invented the MakerBot way of 3D printing, but you're right it's been around a while.

    @Vic Kley You'd be surprised what you can do with ABS plastic including lots of mechanical objects. Check out for some examples that I predict will blow your mind. It sounds like you were using laser sintering. I'm jealous, that technology is rad AND uses big freaking (and expensive) lasers. When we started MakerBot we envisioned bringing Manufacturing back to America, but we actually sell around 50% out of the country, so we've since had to become more of an international company. See my above comment regarding inventing things. In regards to your second comment, I'm glad you noticed the open source license. Don't underestimate the power of creative people and open source!

    It was a pleasure to be on CNN, everyone there, including Ali, is passionate about bringing the news to the public and it was fun too!

    January 14, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  7. Jim McCracken

    I'm a Cupcake CNC owner. To the person who commented about seeing leno's printer... his is also a Cupcake CNC. This Big I is about the Thingomatic, a pretty impressive upgrade to the Cupcake CNC, that won best in show at CES 2011. I'd say that's worthy of a blog post or two...

    I'd also like to reply to Vic. You're absolutely right that there are stronger structural materials than the grade of ABS plastic makerbot ships. This method of construction can reduce structural strength by as much as 30% due to the laminar buildup. But to characterize it as "not suitable for any but the most undemanding applications" is somewhat unfair. It's true that there's not much to be done about heat tolerance... but you could certainly print a part with more mechnical toughness than the default settings with a cupcake.

    The default profile creates a 2-shelled object with a gridwork of plastic lines within, taking up about 10% of the volume. I commonly print 3 or 4-shelled objects with up to 90% infill – and they are quite durable.

    BTW, my local welding supply house sells engineering plastic in 3mm d rods... perfect for feeding into the cupcake cnc. I hear as long as the thermoplastic properties are right, you *can* in fact print with the stuff... a local friend with his own 3d printer (ok, a farm of them... they're self-replicating...) uses it on occasion and hasn't commented negatively...

    January 14, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  8. Duann

    Congrats to Bre and the Makerbot team for getting exposure for their/our/everyone's 3D printer. Also great reply to comments Bre, rock on..

    January 14, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
  9. Linkreincarnate

    There are recycling projects underway. Pretty soon you will be able to feed raw materials into a machine that extrudes raw flastic feedstock.

    January 14, 2011 at 7:57 pm |