Alright, makers. Think you know all there is to know about turning designs into reality with a little filament and a lot of ingenuity? OK, here’s a challenge for you: build your own RepRap 3D Printer so you can make your new creations on the machine you built (how meta is that?).
Fair warning: this is not a project for the fainthearted novice. You’ll need some traditional engineering skill, familiarity with both Computer Assisted Design (CAD) and Computer Assisted Modeling (CAM), an electronics tinkerer’s soldering kit, solid experience already with 3D printing and most likely, a professional electrician’s license (we’re not kidding about that, either).
BUT if you’re up for the challenge, the Instructables blog has laid out the complete instructions for building your RepRap 3D printer, building off the Prusa i3 model.
Even more helpfully, they’ve provided a bit of a support section via the comments section of the blog post, helping makers get through some of the more complicated bits of the process.
But let’s back up a second. What exactly is a RepRap Printer – and why would you want to do this, instead of just buying a consumer 3D printer off the shelf?
History of the RepRap Printer
It all started about 10 years ago, right around the start of the 3D printing revolution, with Dr. Adrian Bowyer, a Senior Lecturer in mechanical engineering at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom (according to Wikipedia). It began with a big idea: make a 3D printer that used 3D-printed parts that it built, essentially creating a machine that could replicate itself (RepRap stands for Replicating Rapid Prototyper).
Over the years, designers have shared their workflow, so that we’re not just talking about replicating machines, but evolving them through trial and error by makers around the world. Along the way, they’ve tinkered with new ways of getting to the end product by utilizing new filament materials, such as silver and carbon-filled polymers.
When the process becomes tried-and-tested enough, we’ll ultimately end up with cheap 3D printers that can be used not just for run-of-the-mill printing of your favourite designs on Pinshape, but potentially also for specialized industrial use.
Of course, ‘cheap’ is a relative term. Assuming you’ve got the skills to pull this off, you’re probably billing minimum $350/hr thanks to an MIT-level education and its related tuition. Your time alone might just outweigh the cost of buying a top-of-the-line 3D printer off the shelf. But hey, you’re a pioneer – and people keep telling you that you need a hobby…
Where to Get the Parts for Your RepRap Kit
For about $580 US, you should be able to get all you need to put this RepRap Printer together.
The Instructables blog post helpfully lists all of the parts you’ll need, from the frame and printed plastic parts to pulleys, belts, idler bearings and more (14 categories in all), along with the toolkit you’ll need. Some of the basic can be obtained from your local hardware store, but for the custom plastic molded parts, you may need to do some digging on eBay, or a 3D printer vendor.
Thanks to Instructables for a fine, one-of-a-kind tutorial. Good luck, makers!
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Until next time, Pinshapers!
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