Thing-O-Matic 3D Printer: Part 2 – Fully Operational

Printing a spool holder

I spent about 15 hours assembling the Thing-O-Matic last week and on Friday night was able to make my first 3D prints!

Printed filament spool holder installed on the Thing-O-Matic

During assembly, I really got to understand how the whole system works and through the course of trial and error over the weekend, was constantly fine tuning the machine. Part of the issues were related to using the software and others were related to my assembly of the machine. The biggest pain is dealing with the tension of the X & Y belts and the electronics bay in the bottom of the machine being incredibly tight to fit all the wires – some of which weren’t quite long enough to be routed the way the assembly instructions stated.

Eventually I was able to solve most of the issues I was having and finally printed a few things to make the printing process better, before I start printing the really fun stuff.

First up was a clip for the safety cutoff switch. The Thing-O-Matic build called for me to drill some holes in the wood cutouts and I didn’t want to do that and thankfully someone posted a simple design to just clip the circuit board onto the platform.

Safety Cutoff PCB clip

It printed reasonably well…except that the back and forth motion of the printing process caused some wobble in the automated build platform so it got a little smooshed on one side…it’s just a simple clip so it doesn’t matter that much.

Next up is a filament spool holder. I had my spool just sitting on my desk and it worked okay to feed the material into the Thing-O-Matic but the spool holder makes much more sense:

Printed filament spool holder

Here’s a video of it printing (listen to the cool noises it makes while printing):

It actually printed the best so far of anything I’ve printed…until once again, the automated build platform came into play. This took nearly 2 hours to print and towards the top (and end of the print) the bottom of the object wobbled loose from the conveyer belt and the extruder head knocked it around and out of alignment. So I stopped the print. Fortunately, it was close enough to being done to still be usable when mounted on the top of the Thing-O-Matic:

Printed filament spool holder

Now the filament easily feeds itself right into the extruder with no fuss…I love it when simple solutions work so well.

Here’s some more photos from my Flickr set of the assembly and operation of the Thing-O-Matic, which I’ve named TK-421:

MakerBot TK-421: Fully Operational

MakerBot Electronics installation

Thing-O-Matic mechanical build nearly complete

Thing-O-Matic build

Thing-O-Matic build

Thing-O-Matic mechanical build nearly complete

Printing! In 3D!

During the assembly, I did feel a little over my head sometimes and wished I’d opted for the fully assembled version (an additional $300 to the cost of the machine) but was able to figure it out and now have the knowledge of how the whole thing works….kind of like if you bought a motorcycle in kit form. Ongoing maintenance should be easier with the assembly knowledge I gained and it was pretty fun & challenging.

So what’s next? I still have some final adjustments to make to the Y axis as well as rerouting some wires. Once I take apart the electronics bay tonight, I should be truly fully operational! I’m also expecting some LED lighting to arrive shortly that should help in taking better photos and video of the printing process once installed inside the MakerBot.

Stay tuned for part 3 once I have some decent 3D objects printed.

Bonus video – MakerBots on CNN this past weekend:
Update: Just found this cool map of all the MakerBots around the world – I added TK-421 to the list.

View Makerbot Operator Map in a larger map


  1. Dude, this is awesome! I really want to get a Maker Bot of my own. Just have to get a house, something to build and more time first. I have major nerd envy right now.

  2. Tyler says:

    That is cool! What sort of knowledge would you say one would need to put one of those together?

    Could you be like a complete eletronics noob and have never picked up a soldering iron before.. or do you need to know how to tell the resistance of a resitor based on the coloured bands sorta thing?

    What are you going to make next? (ya need to do like sorta thing ;)

  3. Jon Jennings says:

    Super sweet! Not heard of MakerBot before but seems it’s based on the RepRap project so there should be stacks of support.

    And you’re so right… building it yourself has to be the way to go… makes you twice as proud (justifiably) and maintenance much less daunting.


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