Monday, January 05, 2009
Even the pictures used to advertise the product look familiar too.
"Derived from the RepRap, developed by Dr Adrian Bowyer of Bath University, you can engage with the work being carried out by a global on-line community of developers."
However (and aside from the run-on sentence), these folks haven't linked to any of the reprap webpages.
Interestingly, they claim that their machine can extrude two plastics that (so far as I know) no reprapper has reported extruding -- uPVC and polycarbonate. So far as I can tell, polycarbonate would need an extrusion temperature at/above 300 deg. C. (!!)
Although I find polycarbonate interesting (because it's so strong), Im wary of any form of PVC (poly vinyl *chloride*), because of the risk of toxic gasses.
RepRap files fall under GPL, and the RepMan page states that it's derived from the RepRap (which is obviously the case), so all modifications (if they done anything at all) fall under GPL, and shall end up at the community.
I think the idea is to provide a more expensive, but complete kit for those people who don't want to deal with a lot of fiddling around sourcing parts. I know I burned a lot of time sorting out all the orders from different places, even with the most excellent parts lister we have. Sounds like the electronics are built and tested as well.
Creative Commons fine, no problem.
Marketing a ready made item, great, also no problem, the more the merrier. (Providing GPL and CC under which the sources are made available are adhered to)
Clear and unambiguous attribution is required. (See Creative Commons)
Source distributed and attributed (See GPL)
The magazine article published in D&T News (The termly news letter for the Design and Technology Association) suggests that the RapMan is synonymous with their SD300 and aimed at the educational market (not at all, its a different machine altogether, according to their web pages)
This is what drew my attention to the web site.
What is not clear is whether this is commercial spin or lack of grip.
As far as I see all this, this is the rapman flavor reprap(made by ian, rebranded by these guys), and all the changes they make are open source (which is almost certainly true, given that Ian is the producer and will post any developments that he makes on his site as GPL like he currently has). They aren't involved in the developers community or anything, but they are still using it all and as long as they definately know that this is an open source project this will be fine.
That said, I'm not surprised that the group to first start reselling repraps is an education supply company and not a normal rapid prototyping hardware supplier. This company will make alot more money if there are 10,000 machines in the wild reproducing(and lots of people needing training books and courses) vs a normal supply company who would be happy with 500 buyers but not happy if suddenly their entire hardware sector collapsed in the face of quick replication. The commercail linux companies make money off of support, while they push their own products (and the main project) forward in order to make more people who will call their phone line.
In general terms this seems perfectly fine, and is actually very desirable. Taking an open source project and packaging it up is a acceptable and good way to do business. Given that they just started I'm sure there is some detail that has been missed in license compliance and we should judge them by how fast things are corrected not any initial warts. Active participation in the community is nice, but not required. We will benefit from any improvements anyway through the GPL. If it turns out there is a large market where you can sell an unmodified RepRap and make a decent profit that is a signal for others to pile in.. :-)
I just spoke with them about the variety of filaments that they are offering and discovered that they have, indeed, not certified the extruder for all of those polymers. As a result of our conversation, I suspect that that aspect of their advertisement will be sorted out very quickly.
You must cut Unimatic some slack. Their ad page on Rapman is very new and as with any new web page there are little tweaks that have to be done to it to get it all right. Give 'em a few weeks.
Unimatic are not trying to sell you a bill of goods. They are a good, reputable firm that are very well positioned to market the Reprap technology to the educational sector.
Can you imagine how fast the Reprap technology will take off when Unimatic gets a few thousand generic Darwins into schools and universities? The whole point of the Reprap project is to make affordable 3D printing widely available via self-replication. Unimatic are helping us with that, big time. If they make a handsome profit at the same time, good on them I say! :-D
As to them disseminating the RepRap...that'll happen with or without them. Faster with than without. Meh.
We need those people. Don't disrespect them, to use a perfectly horrible Americanism.
(Two way street)
Without a product no sale is possible.
Homage is not necessary for me.
Attribution to the project I freely contribute to is.
I understand that this is their first announcement and they are a reputable firm, so I will cut them slack and not raise this point again. However the sooner they attribute their pictures correctly, add a link to the reprap site, and add a link to the source code; the better.
They are friendly and cooperative; I'm pretty sure that they'll do any reasonable thing that I ask. As time progresses I'll make sure that they are GPL compliant. Given the choice, I'd rather they spent tomorrow selling machines and next week getting compliant rather than the other way round.
One of the main reasons we chose Unimatic was not hard-headed commercialism but the fact that they are committed to the education sector and contribute a significant amount of time to non-profit activities in this sector. They are a business, as are we, but not all businesses are driven purley by profit :-)
Any misrepresentation is I believe just that Unimatic are new to the RepRap world, and I have been too busy to keep a very close eye on everything said on their website.
With regard to PC and Upvc, Upvc is dangerous to laser cut or burn but melting is to my knowledge not a problem, PC runs at about 280°C we haven't made parts with it but have extruded it.
Part of the reason for the name change was simply it isn't a RepRap Darwin and the norm seems to be to change the name when the design differs significantly (as this does). We tried to keep it common sounding to maintain a cognitive link.
Ian Bits from Bytes
As I am currently retraining as a Secondary D&T Teacher (Engineering & Systems) I was looking forward to promoting RepRap and open source hardware as a classroom solution.
Where reputable educational organisations are working cooperatively with the project this can only be for the better for me.
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