I recently upgraded my RepRap prusa. I moved to manufactured pulleys that are “perfectly” round. I can now print perfect circles! Since I had error in my pulleys, I could never print a circle — I’d always get an elipse. I hate my reprap, but I still use it. Makes no sense?
It’s the only tool I have that lets me take a drawing and turn it into a part when I’m at home. It’s the only tool that lets me create oddly shaped parts. But I still hate the tool — it’s just that nothing better exists and is cheap like the RepRap.
But, it’s getting closer. I do see the appeal of it. I have a dream. A couple of them, actually.
My dream is not for the RepRap. It’s for the “inventor’s backpack.” Imagine this — you put on a backpack. Inside is a “miracle box” that lets you make shapes, a computer of some sort, some electronics. You can go to your local library or coffee shop with this backpack. You can come home with a new invention. Say, a lawnmower, or a robot dog, or even a new phone! Sure, maybe it takes you more than a day. Maybe it takes you a year. The point is that you can take all you need to develop your invention with you. Hence why I call it the “Inventor’s backpack”.
But it doesn’t exist — yet. Repraps are getting small. They may never fit in the miracle backpack — but if they’re light enough, the concept could still work ( Miracle box? ). And they are reaching that point. Electronics already have. You can easily take an Arduino or Pic or a BeagleBoard along with you and use it as the brains of your inventions. USB logic analyzers/scopes and digital multimeters easily come along. Even motors and power supplies easily fit. The missing piece is the ability to manufacture on-the-go.
The other option is the flexibility and speed to do things. I have a 1 year old child. I often can’t babysit my machine while it’s printing. And I have to. Wires fall out. Filament gets stuck. My CNC mill, when I get one, will 95% of the time be a 3d printer, and only rarely a mill. I can’t safely do milling at home! I have to do it at our local hackerspace, which has terrible parking. I end up walking 1/2 a mile from parking to the hackerspace pretty often. Fine if you’re carrying 5-10 lbs in your arms. Terrible if you’ve got 15 lbs and have to keep the thing in a certain orientation, lest the Z stage fall of its support nuts, then spend the first 30 minutes repairing the bot from transport related issues. Then comes the entire software and support( the printed kind, you know, for overhangs ) mess. Pronterface crashes every once in a while, and takes down the USB host, forcing a reboot of my Mac. Slic3r — I still can’t configure it to print cleanly, giving me huge ooze problem; only SF-ACT gives me good quality. Neither of these have support functions built-in. Which makes little sense for SF-ACT, as skeinforge does have it, and SF-act is a fork…
So, most of the time, I’m stuck with a tool that I hate — for its speed, complexity, weight, and fragility. I want to get to “It just works”. This is why I started designing my own printer. I wanted something easy, powerful, flexible.
I’m waiting on a few parts to arrive to build Alpha 1 of EasyRap. A coupler and some short screws. Amazingly, Tacoma screw doesn’t have M5 screws shorter than 10MM, and the Misumi 90 degree conenctors do not work with Makerslide “short” face — too wide, interfere with the v-rail. Only 80/20 connectors work, as they’re the right “width”. But — they require 8mm long M5 screws — something I can’t get locally, and have to mail-order.
Think about that. I have almost all the parts I need except for some screws and a single coupler. In China — I could walk along reclamation road in Mong-Kok and get these the same day, without knowing any chinese! In America, I have to wait a week and pay double the price for shipping — and I live near several specialty fastener stores, and near a major screw manufacturer!! And I can’t get M5 screws shorter than 10mm locally?!? Or even M5 square nuts. Or channel nuts…. 50, 60 years ago — I could have gotten all of those locally. We had manufacturing in every city in the US. There was enough demand to justify these things as normal inventory.
I recently read an interview with Steve Jobs where he said he would never manufacture in the US. In China, they can wake the workers from their dorms and force them into labor @ 5am, giving them great flexibility in manufacturing. You know who else you can round up from their homes and force to work in dangerous conditions early in the morning? Slaves. Apple was bragging about owning slaves. And they are slaves — living an cages! We Americans don’t want to be slaves. It’s time for import tariffs. Without them, we’re literally creating slaves, and destroying our economy to do so.
Oh well, keep your stick on the ice.( I love the Red Green show, but sadly, can’t get it here. )