As a part of a larger project I am working on at the moment, I have decided to invest in some new equipment for manufacturing / fabrication. This is the third in a series of posts where I will discuss some of the equipment I am looking at.

Today I will look at the topic of 3D printer.

3D Printer

From Wikipedia:

"3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing technology where a three dimensional object is created by laying down successive layers of material.[1] 3D printers are generally faster, more affordable and easier to use than other additive manufacturing technologies."

Since about 2003 there has been an increase in the number of different 3D printing products and technologies, as well as a decrease in the price of units. In the last year or two it is now getting to the point where it is possible and cheap enough for home hobbyist to consider obtaining 3D printing equipment. There are many choices out in the market today for 3D printing solutions, ranging from high-end commercial machines down to the home hobbyist (with the associated range of prices). One of the more well known names in the smaller end of the market is the Makerbot range of products. Their Thing-O-Matic kit gives you everything you need to get up and running for USD1299.

In my case, I have chosen to go a slightly different route.

One of the other well known names in the 3D printing world is the RepRap Project. The RepRap Project has 2 main versions of their machine (although there are many variants). The first generation machine was called the Darwin.  The second generation machine is called the Mendel. My plan is to build a Prusa Mendel (a newer variant on the basic Mendel design).


(Image courtesy of RepRap.org)

Now you may have noted that I said build, instead of buy.  The reason for that is that the RepRap Project does not actually sell any hardware. Instead that is left up to 3rd party manufacturers. You can think of the RepRap Project as producing reference designs for others to implement. While there are a number of companies that produce Mendel's (either as per the original instructions, or their own variants) I have instead chosen to purchase the individual components myself from different suppliers.

There are 2 main reasons for this.  Firstly, the cost of the commercially produced machines tends to be higher (starting at around USD 800 and going up from there). Secondly, due to the nature of the RepRap Project, the design is constantly evolving and improving.  So the machine I am planning on building will not be a 'pure' Prusa Mendel.

(As a side note, the Prusa Mendel is a result of someone trying to improve on the classic Mendel design)

I will provide further details of what I am planning on building in future articles.

Now, I do have to point out that (as with the CNC mill) at the time of writing this, I do not yet have my kit. All the parts have been ordered and I am just waiting for them to be delivered. Once I have taken delivery of all my kit I will post more information.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below.