CraftingDigital ArtRoboticsSculpture

MadArtBot: Birth of a 3-D Printer – Part 1

BOO! Ben Franklin is scary, right? Today’s Halloween post is below this one, so be sure to check that out first. Then come back to see why Ben is looking at you disapprovingly. Back? OK!

When Benjamin Franklin invented Linux in 1772, he never foresaw the stir that, once the personal computer was realized by Guglielmo Marconi in 1902 (“Look, floppy drives are hard, man!” – Marconi), the personal technology revolution would bring about. Personal computing by and for the people – as laid out in the U.S. Constitution’s ‘lost clause‘ – where mankind could free itself from the shackles of corporate dictate about what kind of cat their desktop wallpaper could show. Information begged to be free and the personal computing revolution followed by the Open Source movement didn’t like to see anyone beg. Especially information. (And there’s a whole thing about free beer, but that’s another story which we’ll get to later.)

So what’s next? How can the lowly human take hold of its destiny even more firmly? Where is the man sticking it to you and how can it be… um… un-stuck? The information and personal automation revolution is upon us like a lion in a Youtube video. We’re now free to expose all our personal details to Facebook as much as we like; to tweet our lunch menu as we please. We have phones that could, quite literally, fly a dozen Apollo lunar modules simultaneously. So… what’s next? My friends, the answer to this question is pretty nearly in your hands: the personal manufacturing revolution.

And seeing as we here at Mad Art Lab are on the trailing edge (I used that correctly, right?) of revolution (#OccupyInternet) and technology, we’re going to give you insight into this coming revolution. We’ve bought a 3-D printer (well, Steve and Amy and I have – IRS please take note & leave everyone else alone) and we’re going to bring you along for the ride to not only introduce you to the coming personal manufacturing revolution, but to let you play a part in our small contribution to it. Steve, as you may have noticed from his RepRap post, has some experience with this (and owns a Makerbot ‘Cupcake’), so we’ve got a head start.

tl;dr version - We bought a 3-D printer. A MakerBot Thing-o-Matic, to be specific. We're gonna make #*$@ and let you get involved.

SO! Here’s the plan. I’ll be putting together… did I mention you have to build this thing? Anyway, I’ll be putting the printer together and documenting the process along the way. As it comes together I’ll try to help you both learn how the printer works and why/how this simple machine is at the forefront of a revolution in the way we approach ‘made’ items. Like Turtle Shell Racers. As we approach a working unit, we’ll talk about ways you can get involved (and get something made!)  and, once it’s up and running, we’ll also let you watch it in action live at

In the meantime, here’s a quick video where our little 3-D printer gets unboxed.

Please note: I’m being told my accounts of the roles of Franklin and Marconi in the personal computer revolution are not quite accurate. Given that there are absolutely no sites on the Internet where I might check such facts, I’m leaving it as is.


I'm a technology nerd, sometimes artist and a science geek. I work at [redacted Ivy League university] where I run the Physics computing group. I'm also an organizer for the Boston Skeptics, a video nerd and I draw and read comics; mostly read these days. I like my beer like I like my science. That is, if science were pulled from a Guinness tap, which it is not. So... yeah. That last bit's wrong. You can find out more about me at and read my webcomic

Related Articles


  1. Oh hell YES! My jealousy needs log paper in order to be graphed. Very much looking forward to seeing your creations and really interested in what it can and can’t do.

  2. Wee! I’m so happy that this project is finally up and running. A round of shots in 3D printed shot glasses for all!

Leave a Reply

Back to top button