I highly recommend the MakerBot Cupcake CNC, a very cool tool! I’m an engineering student and worked as an intern for MakerBot last summer, which gave me the opportunity to play around with their bots a lot. I got one for myself, and am very happy with it. For those unfamiliar with the MakerBot Cupcake CNC, it’s a desktop 3D printer that takes digital design files and builds objects up to approximately the size of a large cupcake by laying down many minute layers of ABS plastic.
The MakerBot comes as a kit requiring assembly. All you need to put one together are some basic tool skills, and a few days of work. It took me a weekend of on-and-off work to get mine from boxed-up to printing. The most complex, and definitely the process requiring the most adjustments, and a little bit of basic soldering, is the construction of the extruder. Once your bot is built, it shouldn’t take you more than an hour to get it printing.
Since building a MakerBot is a large DIY project, some things will not be perfect and will require some tinkering on the builder’s part. You might come across some problems such as loud, shaky X- and Y-stages, an angled Z-stage, or an extruder that clogs, but MakerBot has lots of solutions to the most common problems on their wiki.
There’s nothing else similar that’s readily available for purchase. The RepRap is in many ways the antecedent of the MakerBot, but it’s not for sale as a kit, as is the MakerBot. Since the RepRap project and all of MakerBot Industries are completely open-source, they have worked together. All the boards used to run MakerBots are actually used to run RepRaps, and many of the parts sold in the MakerBot store, such as motors and electronics, can be used to build a RepRap.
I’ve used my MakerBot to build a 7-piece block puzzle and Owl Headphone Wraps (pictured), and in the future I plan to build a refrigerator clip and a small puzzle box with my MakerBot, among other things.
I would also highly recommend looking at all the cool stuff on Thingiverse.com. It has a lot of free design files of things you can print with your MakerBot. The website was created by Bre Pettis and Zach Hoeken, two of the three MakerBot co-founders.
Printing the Statue of Liberty on a MakerBot 3D Printer!