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2017/14/1 User assembled 3D printer, ‘Cupcake CNC', and accessories, wood / metal / circuitry / wiring, designed by MakerBot Industries, New York, United States of America, 2009, made and owned by Gavin Smith, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2009, used by Gavin and Robots and Dinosaurs, Sydney. Click to enlarge.

‘Cupcake CNC’ 3D printer by MakerBot

The 'Cupcake CNC' is from the first release of 3D printers by MakerBot Industries and was designed and developed in a maker space. At the time of its release this printer was the only accessible and affordable option for individuals and community groups with limited technical skill or knowledge. Its release marked a shift in the 3D printer market from high end industrial rapid prototyping to small scale experimental design and production. As demand increased other companies developed consumer offerings, many of which were based on the open source plans and coding of the MakerBot 3D printers.

In 2009 the concept of printing in 3D was foreign to many people. As a new technology it had many flaws but still managed to capture the imagination of a range of users. 3D printing technology was quickly adopted by makers and tinkerers as well as architects and designers.

Nina Earl, Assistant Curator, Janurary 2017


Object No.


Object Statement

User assembled 3D printer, ‘Cupcake CNC', and accessories, wood / metal / circuitry / wiring, designed by MakerBot Industries, New York, United States of America, 2009, made and owned by Gavin Smith, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2009, used by Gavin and Robots and Dinosaurs, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2009-2012

Physical Description

The printer is comprising a plywood frame that slots together and is held in place by screws. The power supply is located on the right hand side and the majority of the circuitry is affixed to the back. All circuit boards have been assembled and wired together by the donor. There is a metal print bed, on which the 3D print is formed and a heated extruder above through which plastic filament is pushed and melted. The extruder is housed in a plastic frame attached to four runners. The print bed can move from side to side and the extruder is moved up and down. There are a number of computer controlled pulley systems that control the movement of these parts. A number of levels can be seen internally as ensuring the extruder and build platform are flat increases the success rate of a print. At many locations across the printer are marks indicating directions for ease of assembly. On the circuit board a number of handwritten marks have been made to assist in replacing wiring when these need to be moved. The serial number has been handwritten on the replaced back panel after the original panel was damaged.

This 3D printer uses the fused filament fabrication process.

The 3D printer lays down melted plastic onto its build platform layer by layer to construct a 3D object. The shape of the object is determined by a design created in a CAD program, which is then converted in ‘slicer' software into a format understood by the machine.
Included with the printer is an automated build platform, released with the second generation 3D printer from MakerBot (Thing-o-matic). The accompanying 3D printed shapes show clear print layers and include examples of printing rafts and issues with printer head alignment. A spare printer head has been included which comprises the stepper motor and cooling fan attached to a metal and plastic frame which is used to attach the heated print nozzle to the printing platform. The nozzle is wrapped in insulation and Kapton tape and all necessary wiring is attached.


No marks



430 mm


450 mm


240 mm



Kit designed by MakerBot Industries, New York, constructed by Gavin Smith (the mechatronics guy).

In 2009 ordering a 3D printer ‘Kit' did not supply you with an easy to assemble machine. The MakerBot ‘Kit' contained the laser cut wooden frame, power source, wiring, electronic circuit board kits (these were not pre-assembled), some plastic part structures and materials to make an extruder. The donor first constructed the frame by slotting together each of the wooden components and carefully measuring the placement of the bearings that would control X and Y movement of the extruder. He then assembled the movable platform for the print bed, which controls the machines Z axis. After this he had to assemble each of the printed circuit boards (PCB), by surface mount soldering all of the components to each PCB. In order to solder the PCBs in the kit the donor made a ‘reflow skillet', which was the method suggested by MakerBot. He attached a control electronics unit to an electric frying pan that allowed him to control the heat uniformly across the circuit board. Once this was working he was able to lay down soldering paste using a small syringe and place each of the circuit board components using a pair of tweezers. The solder paste holds the components in place as the board is transferred to the pan, and once heated up the surface tension of the melted solder helps each component to self-centre onto their pads.

Once the printed circuit boards were complete then components had to be assembled and wired together. After successfully assembling the circuitry it took the donor a number of weeks to trouble shoot all of the electricals to make sure that all of the components were running correctly.
Most desktop 3D printers work by heating up a plastic filament and extruding it through a nozzle. In order to do this a motor grips the filament and pushes it through the heating element. To make the heating element the donor wrapped a fine copper wire around a tube and secured the filament in place using Kapton tape (this is used in applications where high temperature insulation is required, 400oC). This filament then had to be wired to the heater and the sensor in the correct way to ensure it would work. After this was all assembled in place a successful extrusion, melted plastic filament moving through the heating component, was achieved.

After successfully assembling the Kit there were still many ongoing tweaks. The tension mechanism that controlled the filament feed needed to be constantly tightened. This involved about 20 minutes of work to remove a number of circuit boards and tighten the small screw that controlled tension. If not done carefully the spanners could short out surrounding circuit boards. The power supply had a switch that allowed the user to set their power region (240V or 110V). The donor had to source a replacement power supply after leaving it on the American default when he first connected it in Australia. There was a pulley that kept the filament tightened and it had a small notch from the laser cutting process in New York. As it was not a perfect circle it would stop and slip at that point. To fix the problem he machined the notch down using a lathe.



The kit for this machine was purchased by the donor in 2009. This was his first attempt to build a 3D printer. He had been interested in the technology for some time but at that stage the only printers available for makers were the early RepRaps. These were extremely difficult to build and required a certain amount of technical skill. Although MakerBot's Cupcake Kit still required experience to assemble and trouble shoot, it was a much more manageable task as they supplied all the required components and comprehensive online support forums.
One of the donor's goals for getting the printer up and running was to demonstrate it at the first meet–up of a local maker community, ‘Robots and Dinosaurs'. He succeeded in having the machine running and robust enough for travel. Setting up the machine required transporting the printer, laptop, filament and the tools required to run maintenance. The donor says it was great to share the printer with the community as many people were considering getting their own, so they were able to use his and decide if they wanted to commit. For the first year of its life the printer was operating at his house during the week and at ‘Robots and Dinosaurs' maker space over the weekend. This travel resulted in a lot of wear and damage to the machine, but the donor says it was “good for people to be able to play around with the printer and test it out”.

Robots and Dinosaurs is a community that the donor describes as two things: a community of people who make things and a place where people can come to use equipment to make things. When introducing the space he likes to lead with the people, but acknowledges that the equipment had to come before the community could develop. In the early days of the community many members brought their own equipment to share. Since then they have acquired a whole range of equipment from laser cutting and 3D printing to more conventional craft like wood working and metal working. They also have ceramic equipment, including kilns, materials and supplies for glass working. They have run stained glass window workshops and created fused glass pieces in the kiln and in a microwave. They also have sewing and knitting machines making the community a place where all makers can work and share knowledge.

MakerBot established itself as a company committed to the philosophy of the Open Source Hardware movement. This commitment saw it held up as a new business model, where you could make profits of Open Source hardware and by building on the contributions of your user base. In late 2010/early 2011 MakerBot was ‘the' 3D printing company with a huge loyal following. They had received around $10 million in venture capital funding. In 2012 a Kickstarter campaign for an almost identical 3D printer was released. One month later MakerBot had begun patenting their designs and had moved away from Open Source software and hardware.


Credit Line

Gift of Gavin Smith, 2017

Acquisition Date

23 March 2017

Cite this Object


'Cupcake CNC' 3D printer by MakerBot 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 26 November 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title='Cupcake CNC' 3D printer by MakerBot |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=26 November 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}


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