Assembling My New Makibox 3D Printer

In early 2012 I was working at Boot.hk, a co-working space, which at that time was located in Wanchai in Hong Kong. Jon Buford, who ran Boot.hk, had been developing a consumer 3D printer with the concept of bringing out a quality printer at a low-end price. So when he announced that he was seeking crowd funding for the new Makibox printer I immediately jumped in with my credit card and became order #1. This was on January 31, 2012.

For me this was not a blind leap of faith. Jon has been heavily involved with the technical start-up community here in Hong Kong for some years and acquired a reputation as someone who had hardware experience and delivered. He also sold me on his vision that localized manufacturing was starting to happen and that Makibox was part of the road to that future. Jon's estimates for delivery was a "few months", but it was to take a bit longer. Designing and manufacturing a 3D printer from scratch (and doing it right!) was in retrospect not that easy.

Fast forward some 18 months and I got a message from Jon that my A6 high temperature printer with stainless steel casing was ready to go. I was offered to have the kit delivered or to assemble it at the Makible offices. Needless to say that I chose to take a few days off work and head over to Makible in lovely Kwai Hing.

Kwai Hing is known for public housing and factory buildings and not much else. However for a start-up in need of a large industrial space at a low rental price this is a perfect place. Makible HQ has an office area, meeting room, pantry, workshops, storage and packaging areas. After being given a work area to assemble on the printer parts arrived in a plastic tray. All components were packaged nicely in cardboard or in plastic bags. Assembly instructions were provided by a component manual and an assembly manual. The kit also includes a 3mm and 4mm allen key and nothing else is really needed.

Both assembly and component manuals are in the form of illustrated diagrams without text (much like Ikea flat packed furniture). Apparently this neatly sidesteps the nightmare of having a dozen translations. My work flow was to find the parts needed for a step in the component manual and then assemble that step as shown in the assembly manual. On the whole the manuals were clear and there were only a few areas where it was hard to figure out.

Makible have also put together an excellent online assembly resource which I would recommend all new builders to look at.

In the middle of my Makibox build all the staff and myself helped to unload some 50 boxes of parts that had just arrived from the factory. As Makible's offices are located in a busy street and the truck was double parked it was a matter of some urgency to unload the shipment.

Jon jumped straight into the back and wanted to us all to form a line so that we could pass the boxes along. The driver was having none of this and insisted that we pile the boxes on top of pallets and move it that way. After some heated discussion in Cantonese we eventually followed the drivers instructions to avoid further delay. Makible is rapidly ramping up production and this is just one shipment of many.

I continued my build and finished it in about 8 hours, though I think if you look at the online assembly resource this can be cut down as it answers many of the questions you will inevitably have. The whole process allows you to get familiarized with the hardware and this will likely come in useful for adjusting the printer once I start using it. My impression of the Makibox is that it is a well executed piece of industrial design. The parts are good quality and generally fit together well without any obvious mistakes or compromises.

The only issue I had was connecting some of the injection moulded parts where they clip together. Some filing and gentle tapping with a soft mallet was needed to coax them together. This apparently is due to too much material being applied by the injection moulding factory and will be fixed in the next batch. However the extra effort of putting these panels together also means there is no apparent flex once all the components are assembled. The parts in question are the clear plastic panels in the image on the right (vertical panels holding X, Y and Z motors and the base panel).

The final step after assembling the Makibox (and before printing) is to calibrate the printer. Elliot hooked the printer up to a computer and power supply and then tested that the motors moved the head to the edge of all the axis. One problem quickly emerged that I had mis-connected one of the overrun sensors. Quickly shutting off the power and reconnecting the sensor solved the issue.

Elliot also tightened the housings that go over the worm gears. Apparently there is some trick to this so that the head moves smoothly diagonally across the XY axis but not too tight, Elliott reckons that experienced users can judge this by the pitch the motors make when moving the head. Finally I was left to calibrate the base plate which starts with the plate screwed down as low as possible, I still have not finished this. Moving the heads around was accomplished using Elliot's excellent 5D Print Chrome App.

Look forward to starting the test prints. Again thanks to Jon, Elliott, Sarah, James, Martyn and all the other staff at Makible.


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