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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 15th: 3d Printer

Those who know me can attest that I have a serious fascination for anything CNC. I've wanted a CNC router, CNC plasma cutter, and a CNC mill for some time. All of them take raw material, remove the excess and leave a finished product in wood or metal. These machines are generally large, loud and create LOTS of dust. I have notebooks full of ideas, just waiting for such a tool.

For the past year, I've also watched the reprap project (www.reprap.org) create a machine that starts with nothing but a roll of plastic filament and create THINGS. The reprap first generation machine was known as the "darwin" (~$1000), and the second generation is called the "mendel" ($800). An even simpler version of the mendel - the "prusa mendel" can now be constructed for <$600. By using the 3d printer to then print the parts needed for the next printer (reprap is an abbreviation for self-REPlicating RAPid prototyping maching), subsequent printers can be made for <$400.

 The reprap is clearly the hard-core open-source hardware DIY option (although kits are available). A more commercialized version is available. Makerbot (www.makerbot.com) commercialized the reprap machines, first with the "cupcake" and now the "thing-o-matic". These 3d printers have laser-cut wood sides and are designed for easy portability. (Who doesn't want to borrow a 3d printer?!)

Other commercial options are available - the UP! printer (http://pp3dp.com/) is the most turn-key. You remove it from the box, plug it in and start printing. The Ultimaker (www.ultimaker.com) promises faster printing and a MUCH larger print area, but hasn't been released.

As you can tell, I'm all about the research right now. I'll use this space to store some links and my thoughts as I think through this adventure in learning. In the meantime, I think this video says it all...




2 comments:

SOOCH said...

Ditto. I am fascinated with the possibilities that this machine offers a person who has a lot of one off projects that require small plastic parts. I am really excited to jump in a help document this process through blog entries and hopefully some video of our journey of building a 3D printer. Hopefully, we can create a team of people with specific interests, ideas, or strengths that can make this process a fun and informative journey.

Items that are hugely important to consider:

1) axis rails
2) print head

My first impression is that these parts need to be the best quality in order to maximize speed and accuracy, but I am pretty new to this technology so I may be very wrong on this issue.

Ian Cole said...

I really wish the "Ultimaker" was available. I like the design, especially the increased build volume.

From all my reading, the innovation is proceeding at such a pace that any machine will be followed in < a year by one that is more accurate, faster, and less expensive - so I don't want to get too hung up waiting for the perfect thing.

I do like the idea of a kit - sourcing everything individually seems like it will be frustrating - getting time to build then realizing a part is missing or wrong / incompatible. I like the "here is everything you need, and here are the instructions" method. If it is an open system and can then be modified from there, perfect - but I don't want to spend months just trying to get out the first good print.

BTW, found another exciting open source project - I'll create a new post about it :)