For our next series of posts, we will be spotlighting MAKEiT Inc., a 3D printing company. 3D printing is a rapidly growing industry so it was only natural to dive into the design of them. In each of these posts, we will cover the history, designs, designing with MISUMI parts, advantages, and even the future of 3D printing. Subscribe to stay up to date weekly!
Q1: Tell me about the history of MAKEiT, Inc.
MAKEiT, Inc. started in a garage in Pasadena, California. From the beginning, we’ve focused on making 3D printers suited for the demanding applications of manufacturing and precision engineering. With so many exceptional institutions in our local area, we had no trouble finding experienced and demanding early adopters to aid our development. Our earliest testing partners became our first customers, and in 2014 our earliest machines found permanent homes at California Institute of Technology and Art Center College of Design. Today we have multiple product offerings and a unique market niche, serving some of the most well-known names across various segments including Lockheed Martin, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, MIT, Boston Scientific, Kia Motor Company, etc. More information can be found at www.makeit-3d.com.
Q2: Give an overview of the L&M machine, specifications, capabilities, etc.
All MAKEiT printers use “Fused Filament Fabrication” printing technology. This common type of 3D printing is favored for its comparatively low cost and a wide range of functional materials including plastics, nylons, elastics, and more. MAKEiT printers are designed specifically to meet the demands of industrial applications. Our two printer models are the Pro-M and Pro-L, which differ only in the overall printable area. Both printers deliver ultra-fine precision, with printable layer resolution and horizontal positioning accuracy as fine as 10 microns, made possible in part due to MISUMI’s smooth linear bearings. Both of our printer models have dual extrusion capability, meaning you can combine multiple materials together into complex designs, print with soluble support material, or print two identical copies of a part simultaneously to cut down on batch production times. Our printers are made in the USA with high-quality aluminum and steel construction, enhancing rigidity and ensuring a long operational life. This compact-yet-durable design allows another innovation of the Pro-M and Pro-L printer: our wall mountable system. This allows users to save space by mounting their printers on a wall, a feature especially beneficial to customers with limited office space or businesses that need multiple printers to meet their production capacity.
Q3: What is unique about your design of the L&M machine?
- The option of desktop vs. wall-mount setup provides users with more control over their working environment. Printers can be ergonomically placed at comfortable work height and simultaneously save space. The wall mount side panels are designed to fit into commonly available dual track shelf-mounting standards, which are available in most hardware stores.
- Our hotbed is made of cast aluminum plate, which reduces heat variation, enabling better print quality and less warping. Our hot bed also uses a unique dual-circuit heater, shortening the time it takes to reach print temperature, then reducing electricity cost once temperatures are met. We also use flexible build plates that allow users to switch plates easily between print jobs, speeding up overall workflow.
- Snap-on/snap-off magnetic print head lets users quickly change between print heads. This is extremely beneficial if you often switch between multiple materials and want to dedicate a print head to a specific material or color.
- Duplication mode. As mentioned before, the ability to print two small parts at once can cut batch production time in half. On the MAKEiT Printers, a user can fill the entire print bed with parts and produce small batches of parts as needed. Duplication mode helps users achieve On Demand manufacturing for their businesses.
- Superior print quality. The 10-micron precision allows for spectacular parts. At 20 microns or lower, layer lines become invisible to the naked eye, at more common printing resolutions (150 microns and above) layers align perfectly for smooth vertical accuracy.
- Easy maintenance is made possible by modular design and open access.
Q4: What MISUMI parts did you use and why?
In the past, we have tested various bushings, including plastic and brass bushings at different price levels, none of them met our expectations. Some didn’t glide smoothly or had too much play between shaft and bearing. Bearing smoothness is incredibly important in 3D printing since any tiny movement in X and/or Y direction can negatively affect print quality, and over time that added motion can cause premature wear to other components. Since we switched to Misumi bearings and shafts the headaches of inferior bearings are gone. We no longer spend extra time testing to find bearings and shafts with matching tolerances. Every MISUMI shaft fits perfectly with every MISUMI bearing. Thus our printer quality is ensured and we can meet our goal that every MAKEiT Pro-L and Pro-M can produce outstanding prints repeatedly for a long time.
Q5: What was the biggest challenge in designing the L&M machine?
Improving our final product quality is a constant endeavor for us. The consistency of our printers’ performance depends on the consistency of their components, so we are always looking for even the slightest advantage. With machines that are intended to run for such long periods of time, many problems only show up after a year or more of operation. Over that scale of time, even the smallest flaw can eventually lead to a cascade of problems. Going from our long-term prototypes into full production required a lot of patience to identify and solve those problems. Our bearing and shaft choice is a great example: Switching to MISUMI parts benefited us by streamlining our production, and also benefited our customers by providing them with a more reliable, quieter, and smoother performing 3D printer.