I was very fortunate to win a 3D printer, Makerbot Mini, at a developer conference. I think 3D printing technology is amazing, but never had a really good excuse to purchase one. Now, I don’t need excuses!


Here are my first impressions:

If you have a 3D printer at your desk at work, people will come and check it out. Best cubicle toy ever!

Assembling out of the box is fairly easy. After reading the less than helpful printed instructions, I combined them with a YouTube video and was able to stick parts into mostly the right places. Keep in mind, there were only 4 or so parts to put in place, no tools required.

After assembling the printer, I needed to download the software. I did through the usual install for macs, nothing fancy or tricky there. There appeared to be a few hiccups in the software, as it did not immediately detect the printer, and not immediately prompted me for my first print. Eventually, the software and the hardware were on the talking terms and now I was ready to print!

Being fairly technical, I assumed the instructions were not meant for me, so I tried printing without upgrading the firmware. The result was fairly obvious, the only thing to come out of it was frustrated audience patiently awaiting the first 3D thing. Do yourself a favor, read and follow the instructions- they were pretty clear that I needed to update the firmware. The software may prompt you for upgrade a bit too late, so be sure to cancel the print job and do the upgrade first.

Upgrading the firmware took a while. After all was set in place, I loaded octopus sample file that came with the software and tried printing. After taking its sweet time warming, calibrating, targeting, and all the other things that printers do, it finally lifted the little plate to the nozzle and the nozzle started to frantically move back and forth trying to do something. While this was a lot better than before, the object it was printing was invisible. At this point, I cancelled the print, took out some parts and re-threaded the filament with a lot of force, instead of just a little (it really needs to go deep in there, not just a little). Feeling hopeful, tried again. Now, the printer could not find the bottom plate! The plate was obviously there, so i tried moving it. That did the trick, and when i pressed print again, it actually started printing! After warming, calibrating, targeting, etc, etc, etc.


Now that the printer could correctly locate all its parts, it was chirping and humming and making other sweet printing sounds. It was making them for about 50 minutes, and in the end, I had a little plastic octopus, all of my own. I called him Nugget and gave it to my husband for safe keeping.


I still don’t have a good reason for a 3D printer, but I sure want to be printing things with it, and I keep thinking of all the things I can make!

If you would like your very own 3D Makerbot Mini, you can get it here.