Marcin Jakubowski, Founder of Open Source Ecology, coming to Milwaukee!


Open Source Ecology is a non-profit organization with the goal of designing 50 industrial machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts. The idea is that true economic power can be unleashed in developing countries when they gain access to the CAD files, how-to videos and other engineering specs required to make tools to build civilizations. You see, most tools can be made from natural resources that everyone has access to. But due to the proprietary nature of most advanced technologies, in the form of patents and trade secrets, companies have introduced this notion of artificial scarcity.

The reality is that intellectual property often prevents motivated individuals from creating their own tools, especially those individuals that need it the most. By “Open Sourcing” the designs of these 50 tools, any developing country can essentially create a modern civilization by gaining access to the “recipe.” In this case that recipe is called the Global Village Construction Set, and with enough help by enough volunteers we can essentially give this recipe to any country in the form of 1 single DVD.

Open Source Ecology had it’s first big break when Marcin gave his famous TED talk, which you can watch right here:

If you’ve ever had the desire to make a difference in the world, this might be a cause worth contributing to. Rather than building houses for the less fortunate, or serving meals for the poor, why not help them become self-sufficient? Like the old saying goes “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

There are 3 chances to see Marcin’s lecture, the events are free and open to the public. Each event will be followed by a networking hour where you can interact with him personally: Find out how to get involved, ask him any questions, or just give him a pat on the back. After all, Marcin has built this astounding non-profit for the common good of the world without asking for anything in return. He at least deserves a good beer while he’s in Milwaukee :)

MSOE Lecture
When: Tuesday, February 18th at 7pm
Where: 1025 N Broadway St. Milwaukee, WI 53202
Multi-Purpose Room, Campus Center Building, 3rd Floor

UW-Milwaukee Lecture
When: Wednesday, February 19th at 12pm
Where: 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd. Milwaukee, WI 53201
ANSYS Institute for Industrial Innovation, EMS Building, 1st Floor

Marquette University Lecture
When: Wednesday, February 19th at 8pm
Where: 1637 W Wisconsin Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53233
Wisconsin Energy Foundation Classroom, Engineering Hall, 2nd Floor

OSE Flyer

Jesse DePinto

Chocolate 3D Printer using FireBall CNC platform


I just finished this project and I wanted to share how I made it so that others can replicate and improve upon this project without having to re-invent the wheel. This is a derivation of RichRap’s Universal Paste Extruder.

CAD Files:
Source Code:

3D printing is currently revolutionizing the way that products are manufactured. With a low-cost 3D printer, the world now has access to accessible prototyping and manufacturing equipment that is easy to use and well supported. More importantly, 3D printing is allowing designers to cost-effectively produce one-of-a-kind products, including but not limited to: mechanical parts, kids toys, 3D portraits of people, custom houses, human organs with complex passageways and highly efficient radiators with maximum surface area. The idea of 3D printing a chocolate masterpiece can be desirable for a wedding cake topper, a customized gourmet gift for a friend, etc.

Our team decided to repurpose a Probotix FireBall CNC system into a chocolate 3D printer due to the existing X, Y & Z motor controls. The goal of this specific project was to create a 3D printer that could produce a pre-defined 3D geometry using chocolate frosting as the extrudant. With safety of operation in mind, the printer must have limit switches to prevent damage to the linear motors/ lead screws and a pressure sensor to shut down the extruder motor when the syringe runs out of chocolate material.

The following parts list shown in Table 1 below was purchased with the project budget either through Amazon, Ace Hardware or Home Depot. Throughout the project, there were many more parts that were needed and were found either in the mechatronics lab or at the Milwaukee Makerspace.

Table 1
Table 1: Parts list

The parts list was a modification of the parts list found on the open source hardware project on The 3D printing enthusiast RichRap was from Europe, so most of the metric size hardware was not available to the group for this project. Therefore alternative supplies were necessary to compensate. The majority of the CAD files for the project were found on the same website, found in section XI. The STL files needed to be converting to a machine-readable gcode file in order to send it to the 3D printer. The parts were fabricated with an UP!Mini 3D printer ($900) within 20 hours for under $20-worth of raw material. The final extruder assembly is found in Fig. 4 below. The motor turns a primary gear, which is connected to a larger secondary gear that reduces the speed and increases the torque. The secondary gear is connected to a tertiary gear for the same reason. More torque is necessary to ensure the chocolate gets squeezed out consistently, and a lower speed ensures that the XYZ head can keep up with the rate of chocolate extruded from the syringe needle.

Fig. 4
Fig 4: Front view detailed drawing of the extruder assembly

The extruder assembly needed to be mounted to the XYZ head on the FireBall. A mounting block was created in PTC Creo, the sketch and detailed drawing is shown in Fig. 16 & Fig.17 in the appendix. Fig. 5 below shows the extruder assembly and mounting block attached to the FireBall XYZ head, revealing the pulley and the tensioner assembly. The extruder functions by turning a stepper motor, which is connected to a pulley that pulls a belt either in the –X or +X direction. When the pulley turns the belt in the +X direction (counterclockwise), the belt tightens since it is fixed on the left end. Similarly, when the pulley turns the belt in the -X direction (clockwise), the belt loosens. When the belt tightens, it pulls the pressure cap downward to translate rotational motion of the motor into linear motion of the syringe to squeeze out the chocolate consistency.

Fig. 5
Fig 5: Top view detailed drawing of the extruder assembly and mounting block attached to the FireBall XYZ head

Fig. 6 below shows a detailed drawing of the overall mechanical system. The X, Y & Z axes are controlled by motors that turn a lead screw on each axis, again to translate rotational motion to linear motion. The extruder assembly is mounted to the XYZ head, which translates according to an initial geometry that is found in the code. Each axis includes a limit switch that act as interrupts to shut the motors when initiated. The limit switches prevent the XYZ head from ramming into one end, the other end is still susceptible to injury. Instead, the limit switches are meant to “zero out” the XYZ head. Once the program is initiated, the XYZ head will move to the zero position first to calibrate the position, then it moves to a pre-defined location, such as the center of a birthday cake. More details are found in section VIIc.

Fig. 6
Fig 6: Isometric view of the entire mechanical assembly

The pressure sensor is located in between the pressure cap and the syringe plunger. Once the pressure sensor reads an analog input exceeding 750, the software considers the sensor as an interrupt and immediately turns off all motors. This indicates that the syringe shaft is empty and needs to be refilled before the plunger gets forced into the bottom wall of the shaft and causes a failure in the syringe mechanism.

The block diagram below in Fig. 7 shows the four digital outputs, five analog inputs and four digital inputs. The outputs are used to control the four stepper motors for the X, Y & Z axes, and the extruder motor. The inputs come from the X, Y & Z endstops, the pressure sensor, the pushbutton and the four potentiometers to control the device in manual mode.

Fig. 7
Fig. 7: Block Diagram

This section will be divided off into three sub sections. Theses sub sections are correlated with the three different power supplies for the experimental breadboard: 5+ Volts (Arduino), 5+ Volts (Fireball), and 12+ Volts (Extruder step motor). The report will be referencing the content found in Fig. 18, the schematic of the electronic system. All of the electronics, and pins used on the Arduino, are corresponding with the pins noted in the software-coding portion of this report.

Fig. 18
Fig. 18: Schematic Diagram

5+ Volts (Arduino):
Most of the electronics are running off of the same constant 5+ volts power supply. This includes the list of the following components: Potentiometers, Force Sensing Resistor, Limit switches, Light Emitting Diodes, and Push Button. A 5+ volt power supply is also used to help the Arduino communicate with the 3540 MO Step Motor Driver, as shown in the Fig. 18 as the COM power supply. Looking over Fig. 18, and starting with at the top left corner of the figure, the four potentiometers connected to the Arduino’s analog pins 0-3. 10k Ω potentiometers are used because they were readily available to use, and gave the desired sensitivity when controlling the motors. Arduino analog pin 4 is the force sensitive resistor (FSR). From this sensor an analog reading is obtainable that is proportional to the amount of force between our extruder head, and the top of the syringe. It was planned on using this reading as a limit to protect the gear assembly from having too much torque. Next is the standard single-pole, single throw (SPST) push button. This is used to run the automated print function found in the software portion of this report. Moving to the bottom of Fig. 18, the limit switches are using the Arduinos digital pins 30-32. The use of these limit switches is to bring the printer to a “home” reference point before printing an object. The limit switch configuration was installed using the schematic drawing found in the Lab 3 handout. The last components that are using the constant 5+ volt power supply are the four indicator light emitting diodes (LEDs). The LEDs are powered using the ULN2003 driver as shown in Fig. 18.

5+ Volts (Fireball):
This section is focused on the adaptation of the Fireball system with the Arduino Mego microcontroller. The Fireball has its own unique driver and power supply system that is built to control three stepper motors. In order to control one of the stepper motors, the Arduino must send two controls. This means that the Arduino must send a control for the stepping function of the motor and a control for the direction of the motor. In order to control the three fireball motors, the six outputs are then using the Arduino’s pins 8-13. Since the Fireball has a power source included in the driver box, the fireball’s 5+ volts supply inputs are used to communicate the commands and is shown in Fig. 18 as 5+ Fireball, and GND Fireball. As shown in Fig. 18, we are using H11L1 optoisolators between the communications of the Arduino to the Fireball. This is to protect or Arduino from a potential short in the Fireball that could send up to 48+ volts, and destroy the Arduino. This isolation is the main reason the Fireball’s power source was ensured to be kept separate from any other components.

Fig. 9: Detailed drawing of the electronic assembly

12+ Volts (Extruder Step Motor):
The Process to power our extruder was long and tedious, and resulted in “frying” many components. The stepper motor requires 1.7 A/phase and 3 V. This initial driver that we purchased was said to be able to supply 2.0 A/phase, but was found to overheat at the required current output. The second step in the process was to use a L293 Quadruple Half-H driver configuration as given in the L293 datasheet and shown in Fig. 10. This however was proven to not be able to handle to power needed to run the stepper sequence. After searching through his laboratory, our Professor Thomas Consi was able to find the driver to fit our needs, the Applied Motion Products 3540 MO step motor driver, shown in Fig. 9. This driver was found to easily handle our power requirements, and also included microcontroller that made the process of controller our motor much easier. Instead of having to use a sequence of commands from the Arduino we are able to use basic high and low digital commands. Also the driver is setup to protect the Arduino from any shorts in the much larger supply needed to drive the motor. Another benefit gained from using the 3540 MO driver, is that it has built in potentiometers that can be used to controller the speed of the stepper motor. The driver also allows us to send a controlled 1.7 A/phase to the motor, which was easily set using calibration switches on the driver. The driver also has many over uses, but we decided to use it for its basic operations.

Fig. 10
Fig. 10: L293 Quadruple Half-H driver with bipolar stepper motor

Pressure Sensor:
The FSR (Force Sensitive Resistor) is a 7.62 mm diameter pressure sensor that interprets its values based on resistance. The harder the force, the lower the resistance will read. The pressure range results in a resistance range from (1M ohms to 2.5K ohms). The force sensitivity ranges from 0.1N to 10N, meaning it offers a nicely usable range for our application. The sensor converts resistance to voltage, which is inputted as an analog input ranging from 0-1023. A higher resistance value indicates a higher pressure. Fig. 11 and Fig. 12 below show the calibration chart provided by the manufacturer and the underlying resistive equations.

Fig. 11
Fig. 11: Graph of Force vs. Resistance for pressure sensor

Fig. 12
Fig. 12: Vout equation

The pressure sensor will be inserted between the syringe plunger and the head depressor, which is connected to a stepper motor, which drives a belt mechanism. It will read the pressure exerted on the syringe, which should be relatively constant over the duration of the extrusion. When the extrusion is complete, or when there is an issue (such as a blockage) the pressure will increase over a specified level, which will cause a shutdown of the extrusion motor.

Software Design
The software system’s purpose is to electronically control the mechanical portion of the Fireball 3 axis router, the 3 axis limit switches, and the chocolate extruder head itself. The code will control the printing procedure of chocolate, as well as the geometric shape desired, incrementing in height after one cycle. This is to be done through programming in the Arduino software. The specific operational goals are to make the system both manually and automatically controllable, with a pushbutton in charge of changing modes. Individual potentiometers will be used to manually control each axis, including the extruder stepper motor.

The main controlling features in the software are loops and iterative counters to act as pre loop qualifiers, telling the Arduino whether to enter the loop or not. Upon uploading of the source code to the Arduino, nothing happens. Movement of the axes will occur one at a time when the corresponding potentiometer is moved to the right or left. A corresponding LED will illuminate when an axis is in movement, acting as a warning light of sorts. Additionally, the autonomous program will light an LED when it is running to notify the user of the status of the system. The pushbutton will initiate a series of calibrations and initialization steps when pressed. First, the X, Y, and Z axis will travel one after another until they each hit their respective limit switch. This ensures the extruder head is starting from a known location before each run. After each axis hits its limit switch, an axis-specific counter is incremented so that the loop cannot be entered again (conditions to enter the loop are such that the counter = 0). After home initialization, a centering loop will be initialized only if it has not been run before (same method as the limit switch counters). After the head is in the center of the work surface, the extruder head is switched to a LOW state (motor off == HIGH for this motor). The shape is produced through controlling digital directional signals and through the use of the tone/noTone functions. This function sends a specified frequency to a specific channel, which in turn moves the motor, a specified direction and speed. After one cycle, the head will stop and wait for further instructions. If the pushbutton is pressed again, the same shape will be printed again. If the pushbutton is held, the shape will continue to be made until the button is released or the pressure in the extruder head has exceeded a certain value (meaning it is empty).

This pressure sensor is located between the pressure cap and the plunger, where your thumb would go. Inside the pressure cap there is a metallic leveling surface, as the surface left by the 3D printer is not smooth enough for the pressure sensor to operate reliably. The metallic object is hot glued in place and the FSR is hot glued to the metallic object. This particular FSR was chosen due to its small physical size and due to the fact that it had an appropriate load value for our application. Comparable FSRs were either square or larger in diameter (1/2”) or had a tail that was too long. All of these reasons made our FSR the logical choice. The FSR (Force Sensitive Resistor) is a 7.62 mm diameter pressure sensor that interprets its values based on resistance. The harder the force, the lower the resistance will read. The pressure range results in a resistance range from (1M to 2.5K ohms). The force sensitivity ranges from 0.1N to 10N, meaning it offers a nicely usable range for our application. The sensor converts resistance to voltage, which is inputted as an analog input ranging from 0-1023. A higher resistance value indicates a higher pressure. After testing, it was shown that the forces seen during operation range from 0-950, which means it uses the entire range offered by this FSR.

After a large amount of understanding has been achieved with the current system, expansions based on it are much easier to approach. Larger, more complex shapes are simply achieved through a modification of one small portion of the code, or the size of the existing shape can easily be controlled through one or two input variables. Making processes distinct from each other can easily be achieved through the use of delays and help to dissect the individual operations in the code. Although part of the original idea, gcode was not implemented into the final design. This was not pursued due to the additional components and resources used. The Arduino platform is not the most straightforward for implementation with a gcode source. Since the current platform is stable, an extension into gcode would be more feasible.

It is also recommended for future directions to calibrate the amount of chocolate extruded and the rate of extruding to a higher degree of precision. For demonstration purposes, the chocolate 3D printer was successful at creating an artistic-looking, 4-walled structure. However, if the printer could not be used to create edible wedding cake toppers depicting the bride and groom with a gcode file of their 3D scan in its current form. The extruder motor pumps out chocolate at a faster rate than the XYZ head can keep up with, causing an excess of extrudant and therefore a messy cake topper. Calibration in the future can be achieved by printing multiple cubes with different extruder speeds and a known height to determine which extruder speed created a cube with a flat top. This is how low-cost FDM (Fused deposition modeling) 3D printers are calibrated. If the top is convex the extruder needs to slow down; if the top is concave, the extruder needs to speed up.

The final extruder assembly is shown below in Fig. 13 during operation. The idea of a 3D printer than can print chocolate is transformative. This same process could be used with other materials such as ceramic to create food safe 3D-printed dishware.

Fig. 13
Fig. 13: Front view of the final, operational chocolate 3D printer extruder assembly


RichRap. (2012, April 6). Universal paste extruder – ceramic, food and real Chocolate 3d printing…
Retrieved from


Team: Justin Peters, Ethan Gaynor, Bibek Wagle & Jesse DePinto
Mentor: Professor Thomas Consi, Mechatronics
Facilities: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Mechatronics Lab

5 Reasons Why the Makerbot/ Stratasys Merger Matters

Yesterday is a day to mark in history for the 3D printing industry as a whole. New York startup, Makerbot Industries, announced a merger with publicly-traded 3D printing giant, Stratasys Ltd. (NYSD:SSYS). What does this all mean for the future of 3D printing tech?


1. Hope for hardware startups

Makerbot incorporated in 2009 with 3 founders and $75k seed funding from friends. Within 4 years they have grown to over 150 employees and counting, accepted $10 million VC financing led by the CEO of Amazon, and merged with a publicly-traded company. This type of story is common in the Silicon Valley software arena, but it is highly uncommon for hardware startups due to many larger barriers to entry such as a high risk of inventory and high costs associated with manufacturing.

2. Duopoly controlling consumer 3D printing

3D Systems Corp (NYSD:DDD) acquired a consumer-grade 3D printer manufacturer in 2010 named Bits for Bytes. They have continued selling the BFB line to labs and universities, along with releasing their even cheaper Cube line of printers. 3D Systems has been threatening Stratasys’ high-end FDM 3D printers for a few years, and now Stratasys has the wherewithal to strike back. Similarly, Stratasys merged with Objet in 2012, an Israeli company who perfected the polyjet technology to make prototypes with high-quality finishes and multi-materials. 3D Systems invented around their patents to create their own pro-jet technology, which is hardly any different.

3D Systems and Stratasys are the 2 giants controlling the consumer 3D printing industry, which could lead to widespread consumer adoption. But with widespread adoption comes corporate trickery. It is very likely that Stratasys will force Makerbot to make their filament proprietary to create a “razor-razor blade business model”, similar to the high cost consumers pay for replacement ink compared to the low cost of the actual 2D printer.

3. Stratasys can reclaim FDM technology

Scott Crump invented FDM technology in the 1980′s, the same technology almost all consumer-grade 3D printers use, and founded Stratasys with a patent in hand. The original patent expired in 2009, opening a wave of innovation for the entrepreneurs in the open source hardware arena, specifically RepRap. RepRap was an initiative started to make a self-replicating machine, which chose to release the design files with an open source license. Makerbot capitalized on the original open source designs, and has drastically eaten into Stratasys’ market share.



4. The prosumers can’t be ignored

Wohler’s Report industry analysis reported that the DIY segment only accounted for 6.5% of the $617million market. He argued that healthcare, aerospace and automotive accounted for most of the 3D printing market value. However, Makerbot has sold over 20,000 printers since it’s humble beginnings 4 years ago. Makerbot sells to the DIY market, but they also sell to the industrial market. While I was reselling Makerbot Replicators with my last company 3D Creations, we sold to Fortune 100 companies, artists and everywhere in between. I even had a Stratasys reseller ask me a series of fearful questions that proved his $50k Dimension printers were really no different than Makerbot’s $2,000 printers. He eventually told me “Gosh I HATE those guys.”

Makerbot essentially duplicated Stratasys’ Mojo line of relatively inexpensive 3D printers (around $10k) and found a new market for it: The prosumer market. Prosumers are any consumers, hobbyists and entrepreneurs who use professional-grade equipment for their hobbies. Being the early-adopters of consumer 3D printers, and stated by name in the press release this morning, the prosumer demographic is not one to be ignored.

5. Makerbot losing their original fan baseBre Pettis Makerbot Replicator 2 Closed Source

Makerbot began as a open-source hardware company. Their wealth was gained from open source designs, and they even improved the designs for other hobbyists to use for free (and also capitalize on). Their early adopters had a “stick it to the man” motif, remaining loyal to Makerbot for their non-corporate, open nature. Once Makerbot received VC investment in 2012, they were most likely persuaded to create proprietary technology to make their IP portfolio a desirable asset in the case of becoming acquired. Once they announced they were a closed-source company, they lost many die-hard fans. After merging with Stratasys, who some view as a sleeping giant who’s unable to innovate themselves, you can be sure that the few open source fans they still have will now disown them. Although if Makerbot does in fact operate as an independent company like Bre Pettis claimed in the press release today, they are likely to accumulate more fans in the prosumer market at the cost of their open source hobbyist following.

Press Release Video Link:



by: Jesse DePinto, CEO at Voxel Metric, Inc.

Voxel Metric, Inc. is a 3D scanning software company based in Milwaukee, WI



Advancing Manufacturing Jobs in Wisconsin with 3D Printing

Amidst the job crisis in the US, Wisconsin is facing a peculiar flavor of the same crisis. It appears that there are a surplus of manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin, open for hire, and at the same time there are still many citizens without a job. This paradoxical job crisis is a result of an unemployed workforce lacking the skills that are in demand today, specifically in manufacturing when looking at Wisconsin.


Wisconsin’s Skill Gap

Jeff Engel, journalist at the Milwaukee Business Journal, frequently writes about the state of manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin. Jeff believes that part of the problem is the psychological appeal for a career in manufacturing, or lack thereof.

Local executives and industry advocates agree — manufacturing has an image problem and needs to reach out to young people to get them interested in the industry again.

Why is manufacturing so important? Well in 2010, it accounted for 12.9% of the total jobs in Wisconsin, ranking the state as the 2nd highest percentage of manufacturing jobs in the country. Even on a national level, there is a huge push to revitalize manufacturing in America for reasons such as: stimulating job growth, increasing the amount of goods exported out of the country and decreasing our reliance on overseas manufacturers who are notorious for neglecting hard-earned intellectual property.


The New Face of Manufacturing

While the statistics show that interest in manufacturing is a problem, I would argue that it’s taking a different form, a digital form. The advent of personal fabrication equipment has given hobbyists and garage tinkerers the ability to create their own products by simply downloading the digital file. The decentralization of production tools have caused a change in the way products are purchased, and we’re only seeing the beginning of it. Some of the tools responsible for this new age are laser cutters, desktop CNC mills and of course… 3D printing!

3D printers allow anyone, even children, to download a 3D model online and hit “print” to queue their robotic appliances to assemble the atoms on their desktop instantaneously! This disruptive technology has only just begun, and it’s already spawning a revolution. We are watching this revolution take place locally by observing the astounding growth rate of the Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup.March meetup_8542558941_l

March meetup_8542547253_l

The meetup group has grown from 5 members to over 95 in just a few months. The attendees are all like-minded techies, deeply interested in the world-changing opportunities that 3D printing presents. Just like the Homebrew Computer club that gave Jobs and Wozniak their start, this group understands that the technology is the next big thing, and they just want to have a part in shaping it’s destiny.


3D Printing Revolution

My point is that 3D printing is cool, super cool. It’s found in music videos with Brittany Spears and Nike commercials with Kobe Bryant. This technology is the type that kids find interesting and parents find nourishing. Students at STEM academies are using 3D printing everyday because it truly stimulates their learning experience; even if they don’t quite understand the huge potential of the technology, they would be open to highly-advanced, cutting-edge manufacturing jobs. In fact, Obama mentioned it in his State of the Union Address:

[3D printing] has the potential to change the way we make almost anything

The Obama administration is investing $1 billion in additive manufacturing (3D printing) technology through the NAMII, National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, because they understand that this will give our nation a competitive edge in the manufacturing sector. Last year,  the first additive manufacturing hub was initiated in Youngstown, OH, and Obama plans on strategically placing 14 more hubs throughout the country. Why not Wisconsin? Why not use the right resources to train the new workforce in Wisconsin to leverage their strong roots in manufacturing while taking advantage of this cutting-edge technology? Why not integrate the rapid production of 3D printing with the plethora of Wisconsin manufacturing plants to supplement their efforts in lean manufacturing?



I don’t know, but I am going to find out. I am on a path to determine what it will take to set up a 3D printing hub in Wisconsin. I know we have what it takes to revolutionize manufacturing, and with our committed supporters and evangelists, I know we can make it happen. Contact me directly if you can lend a hand, and please help us spread the word. Thanks for your support!


by: Jesse DePinto, CEO at Voxel Metric, Inc.

Voxel Metric, Inc. is a 3D scanning software company based in Milwaukee, WI

STEM + Entrepreneurship

I had the amazing opportunity yesterday to check out the Waukesha STEM Academy for their 2013 Invention Convention. I gave a talk to the students about STEM and entrepreneurship, and how inextricably linked the two are. Specifically, I shared valuable information about how 3D printing can allow them to become entrepreneurs in grade school, so I thought I’d share my thoughts here.

Waukesha STEM Academy


But first let me say how impressed I was by the students and by the school in general! These students are mostly 6th graders, and they all already know how to design in 3D CAD  with Autodesk Inventor! I was expecting to come in and spend 10 minutes explaining what a 3D printer is, but as soon as I started talking about it, a student showed me the keychain he made on the school’s Uprint 3D printer! Amazing, and slightly scary; I hope I’ll still have a job when these kids graduate.

The STEM Advantage with Entrepreneurship


We all talk about barriers to entry in business – any obstacle that prevents companies from succeeding. The trick is not to find a business plan with low barriers to entry, the trick is to find barriers that are more surpassable by your company than your competition. Here’s how I described it to the STEM students, referencing the photo above.

Here’s the path of entrepreneurship, going from an idea to a bag of money. There’s a maze of obstacles in your way. Each dead in the maze is a failure: a failure that teaches you enough to re-direct your path and get back off the ground. Failure is good, and failure is necessary to success, so the real trick is to fail faster than your competition. The faster you can get through this maze, the more well-positioned you’ll be for success.


Now the other trick is not to search for an easy maze, because of course there will be thousands of other entrepreneurs also looking for easy money. Get rich quick schemes and everything else that sounds too good to be true, probably is. The strategy lies in finding a maze that is tricky enough to ward off competition, but just barely easy enough for you to get through. The way to do this is using your STEM education to your full advantage. Find a maze with high technology, and also a high market. Learn the technology quicker than anyone else, and fail faster than everyone else.


3D Printing and STEM

How do you fail faster than everyone else? Experiment faster! Business has been broken down into a science through the Lean Startup method that’s taking over Silicon Valley and the rest of the startup world. If you can set up micro-experiments, testing your value proposition with your customers early and often, you will be able to learn from your failures with almost zero risk.

Inventions that don’t involve software pose a problem setting up micro-experiments, because typically products are manufactured in large quantities to take advantage of economies of scale. However, 3D printing allows inventors to not only prototype their inventions for themselves, but also for others to test. They can make 10 products in one day, and hand them out to their friends for beta testing. Once their friends reveal their comments and critiques, the inventor can tweak the design and release another iteration of the physical product the next day!

3D Printing and Entrepreneurship

Here’s the kicker, an inventor/ entrepreneur doesn’t even need a 3D printer of his own. He can upload the CAD files to certain websites where other 3D printing users download the designs and give immediate feedback! This is completely new, and has only been reserved for software up until the 3D printing age of today. Not only can one upload their designs for market research, but they can also make money on the design alone!

Below are some useful links to explore the possibilities of becoming an entrepreneur of physical products without manufacturing anything personally.

3D Model Databases  (For money)
Free 3D Modeling  (Online application)  (Software download)
SInexpensive 3D Printers
Below is my presentation slideshow. I am happy to give this presentation again to any interested STEM educators.

[slideshare id=17038722&w=427&h=356&sc=no] <div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”” title=”Stem presentation” target=”_blank”>Stem presentation</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”″ target=”_blank”>Jesse DePinto</a></strong> </div>


by: Jesse DePinto, CEO at Voxel Metric, Inc.

Voxel Metric, Inc. is a 3D scanning software company based in Milwaukee, WI


Traditional Manufacturing Meets 3D Printing

100 micron layer height? 50 microns? FDM printers are getting better resolution every day, as a result of open source collaboration, customer demand, and big R&D budgets. But it’s safe to say that this rate of innovation won’t last forever, and we have laws of physics to blame for this. Moore’s law doesn’t apply to physical goods, only computational power. There comes a point where we need to re-think 3D printing, and we believe it’s near.

Turning a 3D printed part on a lathe


Traditional Manufacturing

CNC routers and mills, CNC lathes and laser cutting are all forms of traditional manufacturing that have undergone high-tech advancements as a result of computational advancements. Combining the age-old drill bit with intelligent machinery results in precision manufacturing that competes on labor cost with overseas wages. So why not combine 3D printing with other manufacturing techniques?

Turning a 3D printed part on a lathe

As you can see above, a lathe can be used to drastically smoothen out a metal part, so we tried to replicate this process with a 3D printed part.


3D Systems BFB-3000

We decided to help out our finicky friend, the Bits For Bytes 3000 by 3D Systems. As you can see below, the accuracy is terrible and the resolution is just as bad (around 300 microns). This is the standard, out-of-the-box look for most 3D printer kits under $1000.

Turning a 3D printed part on a lathe

So we turned the prototype on a lathe…

Turning a 3D printed part on a lathe

Flipped it around, and did the same to the other side. Eventually, we ended up with this result below. A crayon-looking prototype, which is almost indistinguishable from an injection-molded part.

Turning a 3D printed part on a lathe


Turning a 3D printed part on a lathe

Left a bit of a mess, but it was completely worth it to tell someone that this cylinder a result of a 3D printer. I encourage you all to try this yourself with a laser cutter, CNC router, sand paper, or anything that meets the new with the old.


Something old, something new, something borrowed, something… green.



by: Jesse DePinto, CEO at Voxel Metric, Inc.

Voxel Metric, Inc. is a 3D scanning software company based in Milwaukee, WI

Artists: America’s New Workforce in the Next Industrial Revolution

The ROBOTS TAKE OVER! They’re coming for your job. And you’ll be glad they did” – WIRED, January 2013

Wired jimmy fallon

The article in WIRED magazine gives us an insight on the future of our workforce. The man vs. machine debate has always implied that autonomous machines will take our jobs, and eventually our world. The question remains: What will our jobs be?

Statistically, disruptive industries that eliminate jobs actually create more jobs, in different industries. WIRED uses the example of American farmers; In the 19th century, 70% of Americans were farmers for a living. Now that 69% of those jobs have been replaced by automated farming equipment, American workers have moved to the cities to manufacture the automated farming equipment that stole their jobs, but they also have to design, assemble, test, program, market and advertise the machinery to sell it.

Automation vs. Art

Blockbuster Closing 1

Think of Redbox and the fall of Blockbuster. The goal of almost every job should be to create an automated process to replicate the result without human aid, because if you don’t then someone else will. Once we learn to program our machines to replace our jobs, we still have to watch the machines, babysit them and implement changes if and when an error occurs. But what happens once they are 100% accurate doing our job? That’s when we move on to bigger and better things that a robot can’t replicate in order to feed our families, which is what I call “Art.”

Art is something that is inherently human and cannot be replicated by machines. However most of us are oblivious to the fact that it’s only a matter of time before we turn the art into a science, and figure out a way to automate what we once called art. Therefore, art is simply a job that has not yet found a science to describe its process. For example, medicine used to be an art because snap judgements of unforeseen events is a necessary feature of a good doctor. Now that we have data on millions of Earth’s inhabitants, experiencing behaviors that can be more accurately predicted due to better analytics, medicine is turning into a science. It’s only a matter of time before our open-source robot doctors are better than today’s Harvard PhD’s.


Flourishing Society

Michio Kaku, co-founder of the string theory and world-renowned physicist, alluded to this future job market in his book, Physics of the Future. Needless to say, Michio Kaku knows science. Michio describes the future jobs losers as “blue-collar workers [...] who perform purely repetitive tasks because robots excel at this.” Michio Kaku describes the stages of civilization growth, which transitions from survival to sufficiency to flourishing. This refers to the abundance of necessities: We are approaching the age where food and energy are practically free. More importantly, he says:

This means workers involved with creativity- artwork, leadership, analysis, science, creativity-qualities that “make us human.” People in the arts will have jobs, since the Internet has an insatiable appetite for creative art.

Michio Kaku

Again, artists are not simply painters, they are creative individuals who challenge the norm and think differently. Artists can be paid handsomely, shown by the rising popularity and accessibility of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are taught to fail, time and time again, until they find a fantastic solution to common problems that has never been tried before. That is why starting a business is so risky, entering into a market involves constant idea creation and execution in the face of uncertainty.

The Connection Economy

If our society is beginning to flourish in terms of energy and food resources available, and our jobs are already being replaced by robots, then where are all the artists today? Seth Godin, business marketing thought-leader who sold a to Yahoo,  says that “Art is the unique work of a human being, work that touches another.” Seth Godin challenges the rules and social behaviors of our industrialized world in his newest, disruptive book entitled The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? 

Seth Godin Icarus DeceptionSeth bravely criticizes our educational system as a system whose purpose is breed factor workers and military men who blindly accept authority. He highlights the obvious mistakes in the corporate culture of the United States, and he suggests an alternative career option that revolves around what he calls, the “Connection Economy.”

Emotional labor is the labor that’s in demand today. Not the grueling work of toiling in the sun but the frightening work of facing our shadows.

Seth Godin challenges all of us to be artists. He even ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund this book, just to prove that connected individuals on the Internet will pay for art. He argues that our industrial economy, full of incentives and security, is no longer secure. The job market in the United States took a fall, and the few jobs that remain are becoming replaced by robots every day. Seth argues that one way of getting a job is by creating one, appointing yourself rather than waiting to be selected.

Workforce of the New Age

Bike Light

From highly respected thought leaders in the areas ranging from science to marketing, a common theme is repeated: Our society is entering an age of artistic demand. In an age where a food, clothing and survival is almost expected, we demand human connection and artistic expression. The human ability to imagine, explore and create is what separates us from the machines that steal our jobs. We shouldn’t be threatened by the new age, we should embrace it! Our society needs us to express our creativity, and so do we.



by: Jesse DePinto, CEO at Voxel Metric, Inc.

Voxel Metric, Inc. is a 3D scanning software company based in Milwaukee, WI

3D Printer Review: Rostock Max

We got a real treat for you this time, the Rostock Max Delta 3D Printer by SeeMeCNC! These guys stopped by our Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup this month with fellow hackers at Pumping Station 1, check out more photos here. We decided to continue to review our 8th 3D printer in light of the popularity from our last review of Lulzbot AO-100.

Other than the crowds it draws in, the first thing you’ll notice is how clean the design is. Most of the components are made by the company, which is most why they are able to control the design so well. They began as a small CNC shop named Blackpoint Engineering, with a few operators and little work, and made the decision to transition into 3D printing. I don’t think they ever regretted that decision.

Starting with the electronics, they simplified the components by integrating a RAMBo Board from Ultimachine, replacing the previous Arduino/RAMPS/Pololu board typically used.

There’s also a nice LCD on the printer, and an SD slot. No, not the annoying little micro SD’s that are so easy to lose, the full-size SD card.

The spool holder is cleverly placed and packs up nicely.

And of course you have the Bowden extruder. The allows the extruder motor to be located away from the hot end, giving you higher accuracy and faster print times by decreasing the moving mass. The gear train is pretty unique on this machine, it’s basically a transmission, giving you various speed reduction as necessary.

Both the gears and the rods are made of injection-molded glass-fiber nylon, which is very important for high strength parts. This is a huge advantage of SeeMeCNC, they have access to all this equipment, ranging from small to large scale injection-molding capabilities. They say that’s why they can sell the kits for so cheap, which makes sense considering it’s under $1k for the kit.

The roller bearings are custom-made and extremely smooth. Also, the pulleys are 15-teeth GT2′s. 15 is the minimum amount of teeth that are physically acceptable, while providing the highest level of precision in the X, Y and also Z direction in this case.

But of course, the coolest part of the Rostock Delta design is the theoretically-unlimited Z height. Stock parts give you 14.75″ Z height, but increasing that is only a matter of extending the 3 legs and a few cables and belts. The circular build plate gives you a max diameter of 11″, totaling in a build envelope of over 1400 cubic inches. Compare this to the new CubeX 3D printer that boasts double the size of it’s original build volume, and is still barely over 1000 cubic inches (eat that 3D Systems)! Finally, this printer uses the first round PCB heated bed called the Onyx, powered by a 12V power supply for standardization. The Rostock design is one of the next frontiers in the RepRap community, and SeeMeCNC seems to be the first to master it!


by: Jesse DePinto, CEO at Voxel Metric, Inc.

Voxel Metric, Inc. is a 3D scanning software company based in Milwaukee, WI

3D Printer Review: Lulzbot AO-100

This makes the 7th desktop 3D printer that we’ve had the pleasure of playing with and reviewing. To put this in perspective for you, the other machines we’ve build & hacked are the Printrbot LC, Mendelmax 1.5+, Solidoodle 2, Replicator 1 & 2 & BFB 3000. This model is a derivation of the MendelMax 1.5 design by Thingiverse member, Kludgineer. As always, there are advantages and disadvantages to every printer, it all depends on your experience and your needs.

First I want to say thank you to for donating a 3D printer to our local hackerspace, Bucketworks. Jeff and the guys at Lulzbot are up to some really cool stuff such as the AO-101 and the TK-0 3D printers, and they’re helping us develop the software for our open source 3D scanner, but that’s a story for another day.

On to the review.. this printer surprised us. I think a lot of people connotate open source with lacking professionalism, this was not the case. After speaking with Jeff Moe (Aleph Objects/Lulzbot founder) it was obvious that the reason his product stands out as one of the most professional open source 3D printers out there is because they use a well-known contract manufacturer in Colorado to assemble the printers (in conjunction with their awesome BotFarm, you have to see this). As you can see, the printer comes with a very accurate and well-written, full-color user manual, records of quality inspection and a useful toolkit!

Upon registering your printers serial number, you get a 90 day warranty and 1 year support. The toolkit comes with allen wrenches, combination wrenches, pliers, tweezers, exact knife and blades, dental pick and bristle, drill bits, and an acetone safe bottle and label

One noticeable different are the plastic couplers, which i was doubtful of at first, but they really do the job well. You can also see an easy-to-use, spring-loaded Z-height adjuster behind the lead screw. This triggers the endstops, which are also much higher quality. They don’t have the annoying hinge in typical mechanical endstops, and they’re far more reliable than the optical endstops found in the 3D Systems BFB-3000.

Viewed from the bottom, you can see the custom-machined y-carraige along with a sturdy bed-leveling system. We didn’t even have to level our bed out of the box. On a similar note, Lulzbot uses 3M PET tape, which I have very little experience with, but it seems to be a clear choice. It’s thicker, meaning it’s easier to apply and lasts longer, and the ABS adheres to it better, only slightly.

Also, the pillow block bushings provide a much smoother, quieter translation than your typical steel bushings. Although they have tough competition with the Replicator 2′s new oil-infused bronze bushings.

The Budaschnozzle is a very nice hot end, and you get a .25mm, .35mm & .5mm nozzle included in with AO-100, along with Slic3r configs for each. When we built our MendelMax 1.5+ there was a lot of time spent fine-tuning the Slic3r config. The configs that are found on are tuned perfectly for this machine which saves you a lot of time and frustration, most likely due to the fact that Lulzbot has supported Alessandro Ranellucci financially for his open source developments of Slic3r, which is commendable in itself.

The GT2, 36-teeth pulleys are a slight downgrade from the MendelMax design. Having more teeth results in less precise x-y movement. However, Lulzbot has an 16 teeth upgrade kit on their site for under $20. We used the GT2, 20-teeth pulleys in our tutorial for upgrading the Printrbot LC and they prevented backlash just fine, just don’t use plastic, 3D printed pulleys!

The biggest surprise is that it actually looks decent. With flexible wire conduit and a 3D printed electronics board attachment, it’s an aesthetic improvement from the MendelMax 1.5 kit. It uses RAMPS 1.4 with 4 Pololu Stepper drivers and an off-brand Arduino Mega, the Tosduino, which is almost indistinguishable.

It comes with a RAMPS Micro SD Card reader, 2 GB micro SD card and an adapter. We use this a lot considering our seemingly-endless print queue. It also has a built-in power switch just in case you need to kill a print in a hurry.

Lastly, it comes with a very robust filament spool holder. This has advantages over the standard spool rollers that most people rest on top of their RepRaps. For one, you don’t need a spool, loose filament works just fine and is typically a lot less expensive. I’m not sure if this was the intent, but it most likely helps prevent the 3D printing industry from building a monopoly on proprietary materials, mounted on proprietary attachments.



There is also a PTFE filament guide that works great, I suggest this upgrade regardless of which printer you’re hacking, here’s a tutorial on how easy it is to equip a filament guide to a Solidoodle. Lastly, this printer is able to feed 1.8 mm filament with a little extra work, the parts are even included.


In conclusion, $1,725 is the best deal we have come across yet for a reliable, desktop 3D printer. Just to clarify, this is not a plug-and-play solution that children can print out of the box, there is a bit of assembly still required for hardware and software. But it hails in comparison to the alternative open source options in the RepRap world.


I disagree with MAKE Magazine’s review of the AO-100 in their Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing. They blamed a lot on the software, which is not fair considering the same software, Slic3r & pronterface, is used by almost every open printer in the market. Also, they quoted $2,500 for the AO-100, which is obviously not the case anymore ($1,725). If your time is worth anything, and you don’t consider 3D printer de-bugging a fun time, I suggest the AO-100.


by Jesse DePinto with 3D Creations



by: Jesse DePinto, CEO at Voxel Metric, Inc.

Voxel Metric, Inc. is a 3D scanning software company based in Milwaukee, WI

Update of Milwaukee’s 3D Printing Meetup

It’s safe to say that 3D printing has hit its mainstream moment. Makerbot opened a 3D printing retail store, Staples has announced that beginning of a 3D printing service, and even featured a consumer 3D printer in his latest music video! But where are the people who actually own a home 3D printer? Well, there are more than you’d think, even in Wisconsin.

We started a 3D printing meetup with our friends at the Milwaukee Makerspace and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee back in July. We now have a consistent schedule, with a new meetup on the first Sunday of every month, and the momentum is growing! The first meetup was at the Kenilworth building in the class where Frankie Flood teaches his 3D printing classes, and he amazed us with his massive CNC along with all his 3D scanners and 3D printers. The second meetup was equally impressive, that time at Bucketworks.

My favorite meetup yet was soon after at the 3D Printing Camp Wisconsin, which had the highest turnout yet. We went to Madison’s makerspace, Sector 67, and had over a dozen printers there for a full day unconference. Between the Sketchup tutorials, calibration tips and visit from Ben Heck and his briefcase 3D printer, I think we all learned something.

After a few months of rest, the 3D printing gang made an appearance at BarCamp Milwaukee, giving 3D printing and 3D scanning demos. After realizing it had been months since the last meetup, we agreed to regain the lost momentum and consistently schedule the monthly 3D printing meetups for the first Sunday of every month, from 1-4pm at Bucketworks.

So far we’ve had 2 officially meetups, with new faces every time. Whether people bring the curiosity or a 3D printer that they need help with, it’s nice that the Wisconsin 3D printing scene is starting to see major collaboration. What we all have in common is that we all know that this technology will change the world as we know it; Just check out the member responses below:


Why are you interested in 3D printing?

“It has the potential to transform manufacturing.” – Jeff

“Sounds like an up-and-coming new technology.” – Herbert

“It’s the future, and I’m a maker.” – Pete

“I am thrilled about the 3D printing potential.” – Rogelio

“I feel that 3D printing will be a big part of our future society.” – George

“…we now have the oppertunity to ‘print’ whatever we can think up.” – Dan

“Why wouldn’t I be? :P ” – Gary

“I enjoy pushing the capabilities of the technology…” – Blue

“Because it’s going to change the nature of manufacturing as we know it.” – Ed

“I think it is the future of commerce” – Christopher

“I’m interested in 3D Printing because it’s the cutting edge of technology, and it’s going to revolutionize manufacturing.” – Jacob

“3D printing is emerging as one of the next big things.” – Clinton

“Interesting topic that could change the way products are created and distributed.” – Lee


Join the Revolution!

But we need your help! We’re getting more attention but less printers at each new meetup. A 3D printing meetup without many many printers is retrograde. So if you have a 3D printer, bring it by whether it’s working or not.






by: Jesse DePinto, CEO at Voxel Metric, Inc.

Voxel Metric, Inc. is a 3D scanning software company based in Milwaukee, WI