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Petting zoo

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- MakerBot Industries has become one of the most high-profile players in the increasingly crowded 3D printing space, and its new mass-market-oriented Replicator is one of the reasons why.

At the company's offices, dozens of Replicators are humming at any given moment, churning out all kinds of 3D printed objects. Many are simply test objects to make sure the devices are properly aligned and ready to be sent off to a buyer. But right now, the company is also slowly turning out the parts for its first-ever "Robot Petting Zoo," a display that will make its debut at Maker Faire in San Mateo, Calif., next month.

On a shelf at the company's Brooklyn offices, workers have stored a number of 3D printed robots, each of which is awaiting the thrill -- if robots can have such emotions -- of delighting kids and adults alike at Maker Faire.

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Button bot

This is Button bot, a member of the Robot Petting Zoo. Each of its arcade-game-like buttons will do something different, but there will be no labels, meaning that kids (and some adults) will have to play with the robot long enough to figure out what the buttons are for.

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Inside a Button bot head

This is the inside of the 3D printed head of a Button bot.

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Petting zoo robots in progress

Here, two new robots are being assembled, part by 3D-printed part at a time.

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Botcave

Behind the doors of the so-called Botcave, MakerBot assembles between 30 and 40 Replicators a day. And that number should soon double, said co-founder Bre Pettis.

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Bot farm

This is the MakerBot Bot Farm, a place where the company runs almost continuous tests of the low-cost 3D printers, making sure that they work as they're supposed to, and at the same time, printing out a number of objects the company will use for its own internal purposes--such as the petting zoo robots.

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Stack of face plates

Inside the Botcave, a number of the panels used for the frame of a Replicator are stacked up and awaiting use.

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Many Replicator bodies

This is a stack of Replicator bodies, awaiting the addition of the electronics.

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Inner back plates

This is a bin-full of Replicator inner back plates inside MakerBot's Botcave assembly area.

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Extruders

Prior to be integrated into brand-new Replicators, these extruders -- or print heads -- sit on a work table, awaiting their fate.

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Bin of parts

Another bin of Replicator parts, seen inside the Botcave assembly area.

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Spools

Each Replicator can print in two colors, using these spools of ABS plastic.

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Making a Replicator

Inside the Botcave, a MakerBot employee builds a Replicator.

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Bins of components

Workers assembling Replicators pull from these bins full of electronic components.

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Alignment

When testing out a new Replicator, a MakerBot employee will ensure that the machine turns out one of these pieces of plastic, in which the lines come out properly. If not, the machine is not ready for prime time and may require some minor adjustments.

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Printing

A Replicator at the MakerBot offices works on printing out some test items.

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Making bunnies

This Replicator is printing out rabbit heads.

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Bre creature

This odd 3D printed creature features a head that resembles MakerBot co-founder Bre Pettis.

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Robot

A 3D printed robot made using a Replicator.

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Printing unusual shapes

If you can come up with a 3D model for an item, you should be able to 3D print it. Here, a Replicator works on turning out some rather odd shaped objects.

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The objects

These are finished versions of the objects being printed in the previous image.

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Selection of 3D printed items

To show off what a Replicator can do, MakerBot displays a series of objects.

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Three Replicators

Three Replicators sit on a table with a few objects printed on the new machines.

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Ready to go

At the end of the process, MakerBot puts the 3D printers in a box and ships them off. Somewhere, sometime soon, someone will be opening these boxes and pulling out their new Replicator.

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