With another guy from my Gospel Community in Sheffield, I have started building a 3D printer as our manly do-something-together geek summer project.
Since 2005, led by Dr. Adrian Bowyer of Bristol University, the RepRap community (REPlicating RAPid-prototyping machines) has been working to turn 3D printing from something costing 6 figure sums to something costing 3-figure sums, and also to make machines capable, as much as possible, of manufacturing copies of themselves. They use extruded plastic as a way of constructing physical objects out of virtual designs.
In 2012, the “Ford Model T” of 3D printers is the Prusa Mendel, the 3rd generation of designs after the original Darwin and then the Mendel. When I was in Brazil for FISL recently, I spent some time building a Prusa variant with Metamaquina, a 3D printer company started by a Felipe Sanches, a Mozilla contributor in Sao Paulo.
However, there are several valid criticisms of the Prusa design. As outlined by “Nophead”, a 3D printer hacker from Manchester, they are:
- The rod-based frame is easy to get out of alignment
- It doesn’t have structural strength in the direction of movement of the X carriage (left/right)
- The maximum height is limited by the extruder colliding with the supports
To solve this, he did a design he calls (perhaps with a minor failure of imagination) the Mendel90, as it uses 90 degree angles for everything. This is built on a solid sheet frame – MDF, acrylic, polycarbonate or (most recently) Dibond (aluminium-skinned plastic). We are building a version using MDF. When it’s done, it’ll look something like this, except that this picture is of an earlier iteration of the design, and ours will look a lot smarter, as it’ll be painted red):
Look for more posts about this in the coming days :-)