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Interviews: Ask Bre Pettis About Making Things

samzenpus posted about 10 months ago | from the ask-me-anything dept.

Printer 69

As co-founder and CEO of MakerBot Industries, Bre Pettis is a driving force in the Maker and 3-D printing world. He's done a number of podcasts for Make, and even worked as an assistant at Jim Henson's Creature Shop in London after college. Makerbot's design community, Thingiverse, boasts over 100,000 3D models, and inspires countless artists and designers by allowing them to share their designs. Bre has agreed to set aside some time from printing in order to type answer to your questions. Normal Slashdot interview rules apply.

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Do you like to make things that go fast? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46715215)

How fast?

What can you tell me... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46715265)

Ask about making things? What can you tell me about making Slashdot Beta go away?

What can you tell me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46719871)

Don't you freakin' dare!

Slashdots finally become usable again

Hero? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46715289)

Do you consider yourself a hero?

On a scale of 1 to 10, how heroic would you consider yourself?

Is there anything you would do differently given the chance that would make you more or less of a hero, and why would do do these things?

Materials (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46715293)

It seems consumer 3d printers mostly deal with plastics. Will we see other materials soon? I'm specifically interested in printing metal objects.

Re:Materials (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46715513)

Already [gpiprototype.com] exists [shapeways.com] . Next question.

Captcha: mechanic

Re:Materials (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46715643)

I don't think that falls under what I would call "consumer". I'm talking about a machine that sits on my desk and is affordable for the average person.

Re:Materials (1)

Larryish (1215510) | about 10 months ago | (#46716425)

how maek babby?

Re:Materials (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 10 months ago | (#46721993)

A number of patents exist for metal sintering 3d printers that have restricted development to a few licensees. It means that they haven't had the same cost reducing competition that plastic extruding printers have had recently. Some patents are approaching expiry (the biggest one just expired this year), and everyone's hoping...

Re:Materials (2)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about 10 months ago | (#46716865)

The problem is cost. The best process is sintering using either a laser or electron beam. Additive systems using a welding head are nowhere near accurate and very dirty in terms of smoke and soot. Sintering has its own can of worms including a cheap source of powdered or granular metals.

To sinter with a laser you need a laser and a box to put it inside of filled with an inert gas like nitrogen or argon. Nitrogen is cheap but people would have to buy or rent gas cylinders and keep up on getting new filled cylinders from a gas or welding supply company. Not exactly user friendly.
Now for the laser: A 500 watts cheap, compact, continuous wave laser would be needed but from my research, they don't exist. The ideal laser source would be a fiber laser. They are simply a cluster of LED's and the fiber that couples them together is the laser gain medium. The fibers then feed into a delivery fiber and off to the workpiece or yet another coupler to add more LED clusters. A CO2 laser would also work but they are bulky, inefficient and need a lot of cooling. I work with both NdYAG and fiber lasers so I know the industry. And the industry for fiber lasers is a patent minefield. So good luck getting a cheap 500+W fiber laser. Our 4kW IPG YLS-4000 ran us almost $300,000 including chiller, fibers and beam delivery head.
From the laser you need a galvo scanner to scan the beam around the powder surface. The galvo scanner might actually be an easy hack using cheap galvanometers.

Electron beam sintering. As crazy as it sounds, EB sintering is probably the better way to go. You don't need shield gas and the purity of a vacuum leads to higher quality parts. The only issue is again cost and bulk. You need a vacuum chamber of sufficient size and a decent pumping system including a high vacuum pump, either turbo or diffusion. Though I bet you could build one the size of a larger mini fridge. The electron gun is simply a tungsten wire or ribbon and the beam is deflected using what is analogous to the deflection coils in a CRT. And we all (well mostly) should know we can scan in the 10's of kHZ so printing can be very fast. A 60kV power supply of about 5-10mA would suffice (about 600W). All you would need to do maintenance wise is keep a stock of filaments, keep the chamber door seals clean, ensure your vacuum pump oil level is good and have plenty of powdered metal. The expensive part is the vacuum system could cost well over 10 grand.

Meat Thermometer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46715331)

How come all cheap meat thermometers suck.

Seriously, how come you have to pay like $100 to get something that can actually give you the temperature of something you are cooking in less time than it takes to turn your steak into a brick of charcoal? I don't mind paying the money, but it just seems like a stupidly simple problem.

How much? (1)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 10 months ago | (#46715341)

How much did you pay to get a Slashvertisement?

If Apple made a 3D printer... (1)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | about 10 months ago | (#46715345)

Do you think it would mop the floor with the competition simply because they'd make it so that any granny could pick it up and use it easily?

Re:If Apple made a 3D printer... (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 10 months ago | (#46722115)

Ideally you'd want the combo printer-scanners [3dprint.com] that are starting to come out, combined with something as simple and intuitive as SketchUp [sketchup.com] (but volumetric "clay" instead of shell/boundary) to let users modify the model by stretching, patching, or copying elements. That might have been something that Jobs' Apple could have done, but Jobs is dead.

Why are build envelopes so small? (2)

scorp1us (235526) | about 10 months ago | (#46715367)

Many of the things I want to build with a 3D printer are not complicated but are outside the build envelope of the printers out there. Like my truck grill which is about 48" wide, 12" tall and 3" deep.

Why don't we have bigger print envelopes? This should just be a matter of more steps of the stepper motor.

Re:Why are build envelopes so small? (2)

DRMShill (1157993) | about 10 months ago | (#46718589)

This physics of melted plastic are the limitation here not the robotics. To get good quality prints with anything larger than what most printers usually offer you'd need a well regulated heated build chamber surrounding it which is actually patented by Stratasys.

Re:Why are build envelopes so small? (1)

scorp1us (235526) | about 10 months ago | (#46724333)

They patented an incubator or heat lamp?

Re:Why are build envelopes so small? (1)

DRMShill (1157993) | about 10 months ago | (#46726567)

They patented enclosing the build area and heating it. Yes it's a ridiculous patent.

Re:Why are build envelopes so small? (1)

scorp1us (235526) | about 10 months ago | (#46726289)

I'm very interested in this problem. Why does it matter?

Re:Why are build envelopes so small? (1)

DRMShill (1157993) | about 10 months ago | (#46726627)

A printer uses heat to melt the filament then extrudes it. The object as it's being printed dissipates that heat at the edges and the center of the object tends to be warmer than the edges. As the edges cool the plastic contracts which cause the edges to curl up. On a small print this problem is much more manageable. On larger prints it's crucial to make sure the object cools down uniformly. Hence the heated build chamber.

Re:Why are build envelopes so small? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46723601)

well makerbot is coming out with z18. Too bad the sw for the new models is both closed aource and shit. Wifi doesnt yet work at all and after a week the extruder needa replacement. Anyways, bre lied to me before i bough replicator dual so fuck him and fuxk his company, just buy a decent reprap instead. Furthermore bre has never engineered or invented anything.

These things need to print from raw materials (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 10 months ago | (#46715375)

When will I be able to make my own space rocket from a pile of rocks to a finished product?

Still on the list (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46715377)

Arn't the makerbot guys still on the /. hivemind hate list?

Has public opinion changed since they closed up their designs? Personally I'm still a little sore.

Stratasys (4, Interesting)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 10 months ago | (#46715401)

Stratasys acquired Makerbot a few months ago. Has things changed on the hardware or software side? What changes await for the future?

Will Makerbot release a cheaper FDM 3D printer?

Does Makerbot have any plans for an UV 3D printer, either laser-based or projector-based?

How much $ could facebook buy you out for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46715455)

1 billion? 2 billion?

Reliability (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46715481)

I have heard from the BBC, forums and other internet hangouts that 3-D printers are unreliable. You can start to print something and the printer errors, or the process is somehow falters , causing you to restart all over again.

I this true, and do you expect as the tech captures more attention, so will reliability?

Future Replicator 2 Upgrade Kit Plans? (3)

mandark1967 (630856) | about 10 months ago | (#46715539)

I note that the Replicator 2 and Replicator 2X share many components.

Will there ever be plans to release an upgrade kit for the Replicator 2 which adds a more powerful Power Supply, Heated Build Plate, and/or a second Extruder Head Assembly?

It would be nice to be able to add those options to the Rep2 in order to print ABS and other materials, or to do multi-color prints.

Follow up Question relies on the proviso that an upgrade kit is planned....

Will you shut up and take my money already?!

Re:Future Replicator 2 Upgrade Kit Plans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46723609)

you can do the upgrades but buy from 3rd part. on new 5th gen you cant do shit. Check makerbot google group for alu parts

Corporate Communication (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46715541)

How much do you spend on pomade every month?

Feasibility of Printing Massive Domes (1)

BorisSkratchunkov (642046) | about 10 months ago | (#46715669)

I heard that you lived in Ithaca at one point in your life. As you might know then, it can be quite snowy in Ithaca. Do you have reason to believe that superstructures (in the style of Buckminster Fuller) could be built using 3D printing in the future, or are the technical challenges too great? Could a dome be printed? Is there any hope for keeping out at least some of the snow (perhaps not all of it as it is sometimes quite nice)?

Re:Feasibility of Printing Massive Domes (1)

Anrego (830717) | about 10 months ago | (#46717595)

Nothing to do with 3D printing, but still pretty cool and possibly of interest: http://www.concretecanvas.com/ [concretecanvas.com]

It's basically a concrete building in a box that two people can set up with water and an air compressor.

beyond novelty (4, Interesting)

globaljustin (574257) | about 10 months ago | (#46715755)

Mr. Pettis thanks for taking the time. Your 3D printers are nice.

My question:

What is needed to take consumer home-based 3D printing beyond novelty items? Specifically everyday home consumers not pure hobbyists.

Of course 3D fabricators are used for more than "novelty items" in several commercial and industrial applications, but for several reasons, not the least of which is cost of the 3D fabricator, most of what people make is just knick knacks, novelty items, and bric-a-brac.

What will we need to see technologically to take consumer home fabrication beyond things like action figures? Ex: making something like a flashlight or toothbrush

Mainstreaming 3D printing (2)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 10 months ago | (#46715937)

How close to mainstream will 3D printers become?

I've talked to makers who predict everyone will have a 3D printer in their home. I've heard other opinions that 3D printing will become a common hobby like building model railroads, astronomy, or programming. Yet others believe it is a fad and it will return to being a tool for professional engineers only. What do you think?

Tell me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46715953)

Why did you betray the very same open-source community that helped you get off the ground by making the Replicator 2 and onward closed source? You wrote two lengthy blog posts, but all I've gotten out of them was you dancing around the question and contrasting yourself to Adafruit. In my opinion, you could've kept the replicator open and sold pre-built ones, parts, filament, attachments, or more but you decided to do the one thing to invoke peoples' ire.

Re:Tell me... (1)

Anrego (830717) | about 10 months ago | (#46716569)

I highly doubt they'll answer this, but I'd be curious to know what kind of impact they actually felt from doing this. Did they actually see a drop in their sales? Personally they lost a potential customer in me, but I get that nerd range as a thing tends to appear more wide spread than it actually is.

Hype (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 10 months ago | (#46715975)

What do you say to the many articles that are along the lines of "3D printers in every home will print anything"? Today's 3D printers have nowhere near that capability. The materials available are quite restrictive and the output is relatively crude. I have read many articles making outrageous claims that home 3D printing will change the face of manufacturing very soon. When I look closely at the claims, such as printing electronics, I see they are impossible. It has gotten to the point that I don't believe anything coming out of the 3D community. They have cried wolf too many times. What do you say on that subject?

Advantage over mass-production (2)

Warbothong (905464) | about 10 months ago | (#46716003)

What kinds of useful objects do you envisage being printed which aren't available from a local store? I've been following 3D printing for a while and have helped build a few machines, but the only objects I've seen printed are either purely aesthetic (eg. keyrings) or could be bought from a local shop in less time than the print takes.

Re:Advantage over mass-production (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46719555)

MOD DOWN IMMEDIATELY!!!! Luddite comments must be PURGED!!! The species must colonize the galaxy and 3D printing is the enabling technology of the FUTUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURE!!!!!!

Just a random thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46716181)

Everyone here knows the limitations of 3dprinting; there is quite a lot you can't do with low-tensile plastic that is full of fatigue points. But the whole concept of a 3d-printer seems like it could be taken in more than this limited direction- what you have is a reasonably precise x-y-z servo table that's easy to program and can even be built in a garage if you're up to it.

Something I'd like to see in the future is a device more reconfigurable. E.g, swap out the plastic print head for a milling attachment, laser/plasma cutter, maybe way down the road a sintering variant.

Have you ever considered a swiss-army machine of this nature? It would obviously be costlier, but would be way more useful than what we have today.

Re:Just a random thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46718501)

And then we could take that machine and hire a specialist to run it, and then make many thousands of the same parts to reduce costs, and sell them in stores so people can get them right away. You know, completely different from how things work today and a revolution.

Parts to finish a 3D printed design (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | about 10 months ago | (#46716531)

Many useful items that one could build require some metal bits in addition to 3D printed parts. I've recently encountered this situation when trying to make a little gizmo with motor drive. Small gears, shafts and so forth are very hard to come by. Have you considered starting an ancillary industry that provides the sorts of things that the company Small Parts used to offer, before Amazon killed them?

3D Printing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46716805)

As much as I like 3D printing using what I call a "goop nozzle", I am wondering when the patent will expire on the method of aiming a laser beam into a pile of metallic dust and then pulling out a fully functioning tool, which seems more fun.

I think the "goop nozzle" approach is fine for plastic, food and organ or body part printing though.

Re:3D Printing (1)

Anrego (830717) | about 10 months ago | (#46718237)

Besides patents, there's a lot of other obstacles to home laser sintering based printers.

Sourcing that metal powder, sourcing the inert gas you need to use, the cost of the laser (though some of that comes down to patents, it's still not as cheap as a "hot metal thing"), safety concerns, fumes, etc..

I think the truth is that the robotic glue gun approach is going to be the best we get for a while.

Fuck petis (2)

AndyKron (937105) | about 10 months ago | (#46716971)

Fuck turncoat Petis. I don't want to ask him a god damn thing.

Re:Fuck petis (1)

nietsch (112711) | about 10 months ago | (#46719121)

eloquently said, I agree somewhat!

3D Printing Quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46717121)

Mr. Petis,

First off, thank you for publicizing 3D printing to such degree that now the general public is very well aware of it, and also for creating a "reasonably priced 3D printer." In doing so, you have raised the expectations of what can be printed with these devices, and I would like to know whether it would be good to also try to educate the public about the limitations, and the "gotchas" of 3D printing.

For example, if one is to print a finely detailed object, chances are, most of the details won't come out unless the scale of the object is large enough for them to be visible. Most people have a hard time understanding what the x/y resolution vs. z resolution is, and also are not aware of the possible warping that may occur.

Do you have any plans to explain in details these things, just like you did with the general technology?

Re:3D Printing Quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46717719)

Hehe, silly :)

Is welding (MIG) on the horizin? (1)

Lab Rat Jason (2495638) | about 10 months ago | (#46717221)

Similar to the metal powder sintering question above... MIG welding is an additive process that could be used to make 3D parts, similar to the way a plasma CAM cuts out parts.... is there any hope that 3D printing will go this direction or is it too imprecise to make decent parts?

Do you ever get tired? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46718119)

Of endlessly promoting a fantasy and making hyperbolic promises about a technology that is completely underwhelming?

Re:Do you ever get tired? (1)

Anrego (830717) | about 10 months ago | (#46718665)

We said that about ebook readers for _years_ until they finally did become decent.

Not claiming 3D printing is anywhere near practical yet, or will be in the near future.. but comparing what you could do with a 3D printer a few years ago to now, you definitely see real progress.

We still haven't hit the limit of what we can do with robotically controlled glue guns yet. The coming wave is multi-headed printers with dissolving materials that can be used as temporary filler, allowing the printing of complex inner workings and eliminating one of the biggest problems we currently have: dealing with gravity.

Re:Do you ever get tired? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 10 months ago | (#46718925)

Those are great advancements but what is the solution to the inability to produce a smooth surface using the glue gun approach? It is a problem with extruding out of a round nozzle that the surfaces will always have ridges. Round nozzles are needed to be able to print in any direction.

Re:Do you ever get tired? (1)

Anrego (830717) | about 10 months ago | (#46719473)

No idea, but that doesn't exactly seem like an insurmountable problem. Rotating nozzles maybe? Or some kind of finishing process (maybe laser based?), or just variable diameter nozzles that can go down to ridiculously fine sizes.

To be honest, smooth printing has never been a huge concern to me. The material selection is the wall that we'll eventually hit. There's only so many materials that can be used in this manner, and that's the big limiting factor that I don't see this tech ever overcoming. That said, you can do a whole hell of a lot with plastic.

Re:Do you ever get tired? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46720195)

We said that about ebook readers for _years_ until they finally did become decent.

And all ebook readers need to do is display information. I wonder why you think that's relevant to something physical? It's like saying "hard drives got better therefore I expect jet engines to get a lot better too".

Re:Do you ever get tired? (1)

Anrego (830717) | about 10 months ago | (#46720349)


Not even sure if trolling at this point. The primary tech behind those readers, "electronic paper", has been an ongoing development effort since the 70s. It went from a very primitive technology to pretty damn good, at which point it developed mass appeal and caught on.

Re:Do you ever get tired? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46720887)

OK. Great. I agree. e-paper got better. But how is displaying information relevant to the technologies required to work with matter? How is asking you to clarify that "trolling"? Is your argument of the form: "something got better, therefore everything will"? Don't you see that's wrong?

Re:Do you ever get tired? (1)

Anrego (830717) | about 10 months ago | (#46721111)

My argument is more along the lines of most technology started out as shit and then got better. If you think about it, it's pretty rare for a technology to develop strong interest and not improve over time. Bad ideas usually die quickly. Good ones tend to hang in there until they eventually pan out (or hit some kind of insurmountable obstacle).

More to the point, there is an obvious trend of improvement, and a visible horizon where ideas are currently "being worked on" with no reason to suspect they won't eventually happen (like the water soluble support materials thing). You can very clearly see progress from where this whole thing started, to where we are now, to where things are heading. I don't see anything indicating that's going to stop.

Ultimately though I wasn't arguing specifically that 3D printing is going to be a huge success based on the fact that ereaders were. I was arguing that it's too early to call it. Just as ereaders initially sucked then got better, so could 3D printers. Wasn't meant to be an argument that they would, just that they could.

How big is your ego? (2)

nietsch (112711) | about 10 months ago | (#46719221)

You started out as a 3 man company, but somehow you have 'lost' the other two founders. Was the size of your ego to blame for that?

And: why are your printers not allowed to print during shows and conventions? Too much chance something goes wrong with them?

Re:How big is your ego? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46719781)

Bre Pettis is a psychopathic, attention-seeking manipulative asshole.

printing at conventions / shows? (1)

timothy (36799) | about 10 months ago | (#46720961)

Perhaps something's happened in the meantime, but I've seen Bre demonstrate Makerbots at a couple different conventions over the last few years -- printing away ...

Re:How big is your ego? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46765695)

Zach "Hoeken" Smith's comments when he was forced out of MakerBot Industries:

Hi! (1)

buttfuckinpimpnugget (662332) | about 10 months ago | (#46720487)

Fuck off Cunt. I can't blame you for selling out to make money, I honestly would have probably done the same thing. But I didn't and you did. Fuck you. I always thought you were a twat in those make magazine videos, but could never put my finger on it. Turns out my gut was right. Enjoy your millions, shitbird.

open source / source code (1)

timothy (36799) | about 10 months ago | (#46721067)


In the larger world of 3-D printing, obviously there are manufactures who have never been particularly maker-friendly. You started off, though, with very affordable kits, and a connection to the RepRap foundation, which emphasized open source code, reproduceability, openness, etc.

(Wikipedia's a bit out of date on this front, but as of this moment, the entry there says "MakerBot Industries' products are designed to be built by anyone with basic technical skills and are described as about as complicated as assembling IKEA furniture.[8] The printers are sold as do it yourself kits, requiring only minor soldering.")

  A lot of the excitement that I had when I first saw MakerBots (at Seattle's Metrix CreateSpace) derived from the fact that one of the Maker Bots they had was built with pieces printed by the other, RepRap style. It seems like a lot of the innovation in the earlier models was based on shared enthusiasm and tinkering. The company has since moved away from the open source hardware model. Do you have any regrets about this? Are there open source contributions that the company is making but that just aren't well known?

3D printing success (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46721201)

Could I also become successful in the 3D printing world by stabbing my friends in the back?

Changing markets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46721779)

Early MakerBots I know went to a lot of hackerspaces / makerspaces, and also to individuals who just had to have one.

As the size (and price!) have gone up (I don't even know by how much --- I saw an ad for the latest models that just said to ask for a quote; I think that means "If you have to ask, you can't afford it."), has your intended customer changed, too? What kind of people (what kind of businesses, might be the better way to put that) are buying MakerBots now that it's a slightly bigger commitment? (Workshops? Still home users? Schools? Doctors who want to do another full-skull transplant? Beekeepers? )

Well Bre... (1)

mnt (1796310) | about 10 months ago | (#46722955)

How did the transition from being an open source darling to a danger to the whole 3d-printing community work out for you? How do you feel about kicking out your two co-founders because big money demanded it?

Dark Side (1)

slash_tat (876704) | about 10 months ago | (#46723287)

Dear Mr. Pettis, Why did you join the dark side of the force ?

I wanna know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46723559)

How do you make everyone think 3D printing is such a big deal?

Open Source Traitor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46724765)

Don't support Bre.

Ask Bre Pettis About _T_aking Things (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#46765729)

Isn't this a GPL violation?

I guess you've lawyered up with the acquisition by Stratisys. $403M would keep any challenge tied up in the courts for years.

How are people still giving your company money in clear conscience?

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