In April 2011, Fiddian put out a call over Twitter for people interested in purchasing a 3D printer. A couple of days and 12 responses later, the MakerBot was purchased and is now a regular (noisy) feature in the Soda studios.
We host monthly get-togethers for the Makerbot collective, who come and experiment with 3D software, make prototypes and push the boundaries of this new and rapidly changing technology.
In March 2012, Fiddian printed some parts for a sensor built into an exhibit in the V&A’s British Design show, and many other useful (and less useful) objects have been printed.
This work was an inspiration for Fiddian co-founding Makers’ Guild, a group for supporting personal fabrication and makers of all flavours.
We’ve recently moved studios to Erlang House on Blackfriars Road, where we now have room to spread out and build bigger stuff. As a result, a lot of Soda’s history has recently come out of storage, including this little gem.
Reflections on 18 months of organising a 3D printing cooperative
In Spring 2011, Fiddian put out a call to see if anyone would be interested in buying shares in a Makerbot Thing-O-Matic 3D printer. He quickly received a lot of interest, and a few weeks later, with ten people on board, we ordered the Makerbot.
While we waited, we hit our first snag: most of the ten paid their share, but a few people changed their minds and dropped out, meaning that Soda ended up owning more than a tenth share in the printer. If you’re considering starting a similar cooperative and cost is an issue, make sure you get the money before you send the order.
Within a couple of weeks the Makerbot arrived, and we organised a few sessions for building it. With help from two other members of the group it took us around 40 person hours to build it.
The first test runs were really exciting, although a lot of time was spent getting to grips with the software. We found the free Tinkercad software had the shallowest learning curve, along with Autodesk 123D and SketchUp whereas Rhino (free Mac beta version) was really complex. Fiddian took some training courses at London Met to get up to speed with Rhino, but if you’re looking to get started more cheaply and easily, Tinkercad does the job.
After some very lively early sessions, interest waned slightly. We put this down to several factors:
people having very busy schedules and not being able to make all the monthly meet ups;
the fact that there were quite a few people in the group meant that no one really felt entitled to use the Makerbot (it was also situated at the Soda studio, so not always accessible);
the length of time it takes to print an object is a factor, limiting the number of objects we could print in any one session. Frequently the first object would have issues and need to be re-printed, which made it unfeasible for more than one person to achieve anything in a two-hour session.
materials - we had limited success with PLA which we would rather use
Replacing the ABP (Automated Build Platform) with a solid bed will be next tweak. The belt wrinkles and TBH you cannot leave it on its own to churn out loads of models so the ABP’s a bit redundant.
Lately interest has picked up again. We’ve let the Bot out of the studio, and Paul Harter, one of the cooperative members is taking it to the 3D print show later this month. He has created the brilliant ‘Printcraft’ which enables you to make 3D models within Minecraft and print them out. Paul is showing off printcraft using the Thing-O-Matic at the 3D Print Show this October. A wonderful way to get young folk into 3D printing.
The printer co-operative was in large part the inspiration for Fiddian to form the Markers’ Guild
The printer will probably go on a school visit after that.
What we’ve learned:
- get the money from each member upfront - don’t make your cooperative too large - share knowledge about what works and what doesn’t - spend lots of time on your design before going to print - if you’re buying a 3D printer, members will probably need to take turns having it in their own space, in order to really get best use out of it. A shared group calendar can really help with this.
Soda were commissioned by a major UK charity to provide 6 sculptural LED totems to entertain and inform visitors to the Olympic Park throughout the Olympics and Paralympics.
Our most recent event was ‘Making sound’ at the V&A, where we gained an insight into the explorations of makers in the production of instruments and forms of sound.
Founded by Fiddian and Rachel Coldicutt from wearecaper, Makers’ Guild is a membership organisation devoted to raising awareness of and assisting makers of all kinds: from 3D printing studios to textile crafters. Makersguild is curating and hosting a series of talks at the V&A throughout 2012.
You can watch a video of the Makers’ Guild launch event at NESTA here.
In spring 2011, Fiddian put out a call via Twitter and quickly had ten people willing to invest in a share of the Makerbot 3D printer. Six weeks later, and after a couple of long evenings of assembly, the Makerbot was ready to go.