Tuesday, June 10, 2008
A RepRap sprouting in the midwest - Intro
This is the beginning of my blog contributions, whose goal will be to document the building, using, maintenance, and improving of my RepRap machine. Hopefully, doing so will be cathartic for me, help build community around the RepRap project, and enhance the flow of feedback necessary to continually improve the design.
I first heard about the RepRap project from a Slashdot article in the beginning of April, 2007. I was hooked. I've always wanted a rapid prototyping machine, I am a huge fan of open-source initiatives and the service they do for the world, and the thought of such a useful machine subject to a potentially exponential growth inspires awe in me. Furthermore, a well-designed future version of the RepRap has the potential to bring to much of the have-nots (at least 90% of the world) the production capability now reserved for the wealthy. If this project even slightly narrows the gap in "wealth" between the rich and those less fortunate, it will be a huge success.
Shortly after catching the RepRap bug, I looked at securing the parts for my own machine. While the RepRap parts lister is a great tool, I found it difficult to determine which combination of suppliers would provide the needed parts at the lowest cost. I spent about a week trying to figure this out before concluding that the Bronze Mechanical Kit from Bits from Bytes was about the same price as if I got all of the mechanical parts individually, and therefore would be a better value. Part of the reason for this is that many of the hardware (like bolts) need to be bought in quantities of 100, even if only 3 are used, significantly increasing the cost. About $1100 later, I had all of the mechanical and electrical parts for a RepRap. This is significantly above the $500 price point quoted all over the place, so I must have made some poor purchasing decisions somewhere. Either that, or the extra parts I have are worth a lot of money. :)
I shared my excitement with a few friends and got a small team together to build a RepRap together (8 of us, 3-4 of which are available on any given weekend. Some bribery in the form of food and at-cost printing of parts was offered. :) ). So far, we've had five six-hour builds. The first two were spent teaching people how to solder and soldering up the electronics, and the last three were spent building most of the cartesian robot and thermoplastic extruder. Much of that time was spent decyphering the directions (which were actually quite good) and trying to iron out discrepancies between the parts referred to in the instructions and the molded parts supplied by Bits from Bytes, which were in some cases different. It's probably quite difficult to keep production in sync with an ever-changing design.
I look forward to posting about futher developments tomorrow. Please leave comments about all or any of these postings. I'd love to hear what you have to say. :)
As to your costs, when I started working with the reprap project I reasoned that I needed a nice vice and it would be no more expensive than smoking or drinking. After two years I've found that supporting my reprap habit costs about as much as smoking AND drinking. :-D
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