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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Design 1900 to Now, Room 76

Thing-O-Matic

3D Printer
Artist/Maker

The Thing-O-Matic 3D printer by MakerBot was the first desktop 3D-printer to be widely manufactured at a relatively affordable price for consumers. The Thing-O-Matic was marketed to hobbyists and ‘fab labs’ (Fabrication Labs) rather than to the commercial sector which required larger, higher quality prints.

The Thing-O-Matic 3D printer was introduced by MakerBot in September 2010, at Maker Faire NYC in Queens, at a price of $1225. It was the company’s second release after the Cupcake CNC. The design was open source and files were made available on MakerBot’s object repository Thingiverse. The Thing-O-Matic was discontinued in the spring of 2012, introducing the Replicator in its place. MakerBot is an American desktop 3D printer manufacturer headquartered in New York City. It was founded in January 2009 by Bre Pettis, Adam Mayer, and Zach "Hoeken" Smith to build on the early progress of the RepRap Project.

The Thing-O-Matic exemplified MakerBot’s approach to the open-hardware and open-software, part of the open-source movement, with the entire system designed to be assembled, modified and manipulated by users. Open-source allowed for users to have direct access to the source code and hardware specifications for the Thing-O-Matic, enabling users to modify the printer to their own specifications. For example, users could adjust the outer casing to detach in order to more easily troubleshoot problems, or to extend the build platform to enable larger printed objects. The software for the Thing-O-Matic was often a collaboration between users, with files shared frequently on the Thingiverse community platforms.

The Thing-O-Matic was sold for self-assembly as well as fully assembled at the higher price of $2500. The outer case is made of laser-cut plywood, containing the electronic components and Automated Build Platform (ABP). The Automated Build Platform was an innovation introduced to the Thing-O-Matic, a moveable belt system which allowed for multiple objects to be printed in succession without the need for human intervention, with the machine clearing the build surface between objects in the print queue.

A 3D printer creates objects by extruding layers of plastic onto a platform through a heated nozzle. In the Thing-O-Matic, the build platform moves along the x and y axes relative to a print head. The print head is raised and lowered along the z axis. Parts are fabricated with the Thing-O-Matic using acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or polylactic acid (PLA) with an MK7 extrusion head on a z-axis mobility and a plate with x- and y-axis mobility. Objects are printed from the .STL file format (an abbreviation of "stereolithography"), designed with programs including Blender and Sketchup, with many designs available on MakerBot’s Thingiverse website.

The Thing-O-Matic holds importance for the Museum’s collection in evidencing early at-home and hobbyist 3D printing design communities and their link to open-source as a means of innovation. The printer forms part of the museum’s growing collection of objects addressing the issue of 3D printing in contemporary design including the Bolide HR Handlebars, The Liberator, and Radical Love by Heather Dewey Hagborg.
read Digital art & design dictionary The V&A has a long history of engaging with contemporary modes of creative production. Since its foundation in 1852, the museum has been actively collecting the latest examples of art, design and manufacturing to showcase not only the newest creative thinking, but also the cutting-edge tec...
Object details
Category
Object type
Materials and techniques
Electronics, plywood, plastic.
Brief description
Thing-O-Matic by MakerBot; A fully assembled 3D printer in a plywood outer structure with electronics, made by MakerBot.
Physical description
The outer case for the Thing-o-Matic is made of laser-cut plywood, containing the electronic components and Automated Build Platform (ABP). The Automated Build Platform was an innovation introduced to the Thing-O-Matic, a moveable belt system which allowed for multiple objects to be printed in succession without the need for human intervention, with the machine clearing the build surface between objects in the print queue.
Dimensions
  • Height: 44cm
  • Depth: 30cm
  • Width: 30cm
Gallery label
This object sits in the "Data and Communication" section of the Design 1900-Now gallery, opened June 2021 Open-source innovation The Thing-O-Matic 3D printer can be built using open-source hardware and runs on open-source software. All the required parts are either available off-the-shelf or can be made using plans freely downloadable online. Aimed at hobbyists, MakerBot launched the printer at the 2010 New York Maker Faire. It marked an early, affordable entry into the 3D printer market. Self-assembly 3D printer Thing-O-Matic, 2010 Designed by MakerBot, USA Laser-cut plywood, plastic and electronic components Museum no. CD.27-2018
Summary
The Thing-O-Matic 3D printer by MakerBot was the first desktop 3D-printer to be widely manufactured at a relatively affordable price for consumers. The Thing-O-Matic was marketed to hobbyists and ‘fab labs’ (Fabrication Labs) rather than to the commercial sector which required larger, higher quality prints.



The Thing-O-Matic 3D printer was introduced by MakerBot in September 2010, at Maker Faire NYC in Queens, at a price of $1225. It was the company’s second release after the Cupcake CNC. The design was open source and files were made available on MakerBot’s object repository Thingiverse. The Thing-O-Matic was discontinued in the spring of 2012, introducing the Replicator in its place. MakerBot is an American desktop 3D printer manufacturer headquartered in New York City. It was founded in January 2009 by Bre Pettis, Adam Mayer, and Zach "Hoeken" Smith to build on the early progress of the RepRap Project.



The Thing-O-Matic exemplified MakerBot’s approach to the open-hardware and open-software, part of the open-source movement, with the entire system designed to be assembled, modified and manipulated by users. Open-source allowed for users to have direct access to the source code and hardware specifications for the Thing-O-Matic, enabling users to modify the printer to their own specifications. For example, users could adjust the outer casing to detach in order to more easily troubleshoot problems, or to extend the build platform to enable larger printed objects. The software for the Thing-O-Matic was often a collaboration between users, with files shared frequently on the Thingiverse community platforms.



The Thing-O-Matic was sold for self-assembly as well as fully assembled at the higher price of $2500. The outer case is made of laser-cut plywood, containing the electronic components and Automated Build Platform (ABP). The Automated Build Platform was an innovation introduced to the Thing-O-Matic, a moveable belt system which allowed for multiple objects to be printed in succession without the need for human intervention, with the machine clearing the build surface between objects in the print queue.



A 3D printer creates objects by extruding layers of plastic onto a platform through a heated nozzle. In the Thing-O-Matic, the build platform moves along the x and y axes relative to a print head. The print head is raised and lowered along the z axis. Parts are fabricated with the Thing-O-Matic using acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or polylactic acid (PLA) with an MK7 extrusion head on a z-axis mobility and a plate with x- and y-axis mobility. Objects are printed from the .STL file format (an abbreviation of "stereolithography"), designed with programs including Blender and Sketchup, with many designs available on MakerBot’s Thingiverse website.



The Thing-O-Matic holds importance for the Museum’s collection in evidencing early at-home and hobbyist 3D printing design communities and their link to open-source as a means of innovation. The printer forms part of the museum’s growing collection of objects addressing the issue of 3D printing in contemporary design including the Bolide HR Handlebars, The Liberator, and Radical Love by Heather Dewey Hagborg.

Collection
Accession number
CD.27-2018

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Record createdMay 16, 2018
Record URL
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