Monday, January 05, 2009



Is it me or does all of this look strangely familiar............

Even the pictures used to advertise the product look familiar too.

A bit skeezy, perhaps, not to give us credit on the web page -- but can anybody verify that they don't ship with source code? If they do, then it's 100% within the bounds of the GPL.
I see a minimal attribution, in the fourth paragraph, just above the first photograph:

"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.
What is perhaps somewhat more disturbing are the pictures entitled RepMan Samples which are clearly not RepMan samples at all but pictures of experimental RepRap Samples, miss attributed.
One minor note:
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.
Actually it's all above board - this is simply another distribution channel for RepRaps. Check out this forum post:,20024

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.

GPL fine, no problem.
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.
This seems fine with me. I'm imaginging that this version is alot like people who buy fedora or ubunto brands of linux. Linux is the main thing, but each producing group makes for a seperate flavor/distribution with some minor variation that forms an options cloud around the core machine that the developers push forward. Ian's lasercut version is a type, as are half of the variable machines that are being tried out out there but aren't for sale.

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.
This rocks!

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.. :-)
These guys are definitely on the up and up. Ian Adkins of Bits and Bytes has been working closely with them.

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
Bah! Yes, it is legitimate that they use the product. However, give a bit more credit and don't say it's derived if we can't see any derivative work. Post a link to the original site doing the work and mention very clearly that this is an Open Source project covered under the Creative Commons and GPL. That is my problem with it.

As to them disseminating the RepRap...that'll happen with or without them. Faster with than without. Meh.

I think the derivative work in this case is the difference between the original Darwin extruded design and Ian's laser cut design. That's hardly an inconsequential change. And Ian's never really come up with a new name for that design, that I'm aware of. Sounds like he has now though! :)
The last thing we need to start doing is trash talking people like Darwin and Ian who are making Darwins never mind what they call them or if some of us don't feel like they've paid enough homage to the design's origins.

We need those people. Don't disrespect them, to use a perfectly horrible Americanism.
Hmm kind of seems like a parent sending off a kid to their first day at school. A little scary to let them go into the public all alone but its for their good. I hope it goes well for them.
The need is bilateral.

(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 agree with Andy and Demented. Right now Unimatic is not complying with the spirit or letter of the Creative Commons license or the GPL.

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.
I've just asked Unimatic to put a link back to from their site and they were happy to agree.

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.
Okay, I'm happy now! That's all I wanted.

Unimatic contacted us about 1 year ago regarding supplying the Bits from Bytes "RepStrap" into schools we have now nearly finished a V 3.0 laser cut design which has been heavily modified to suit the skill level and class time available to allow a school student to build it within a design & technology course.

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
Thanks Ian & Adrian. I can certainly live with this.

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.
Great stuff, Iain! We really owe you for making this happen with Unimatic. Thanks!
Hi, I’ve been watched the open source software world for some time and I just wanted to say congratulations on your first, official, distribution. As mentioned by letsburn00, this is exactly the way things work in the Linux world. Linus Torald (creator of the Linux kernel) and the rest of the kernel development team develop the core new tech that goes into the OS while the distributions free them from having to worry about all the “non core” things such as interface, documentation, advertising. I can even see a parallel between your first distribution being a small educational supply company and the original, bare bones, Linux distributions. Of course, there will always be issues of license obligations for the GPL and Creative Commons but these guys seem to be trying to make good on it. Hopefully, Reprap will, someday, have distributions as large as Fedora and Ubuntu are today.
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