This post should help restore some geek balance to the “farmgeek”. We had the pleasure of a visit from our friend Dave this weekend and as a result of some logistical issues I was lucky enough to have possession of his reprap for a few days. What is a reprap? From the reprap Wikipedia article:
The RepRap Project is an initiative aimed at creating a largely self-replicating machine which can be used for rapid prototyping and manufacturing. A rapid prototyper is a 3D printer that is able to fabricate three dimensional artifacts from a computer-based model.
In other words, you can print three dimensional stuff, and it’s about the coolest thing ever. The plans (and many parts) are avialable online so anyone can build one.
All the circuit boards, rods, wires and chains are the support and control system for the extruder – like a printer head crossed with a hot glue gun. Plastic resin is heated up and squirted through the nozzle while the head moves in 3 dimensions to build your object layer by layer.
With three stepper motors grinding away it makes quite a bit of noise (but no worse than the old dot-matrix printers). Fizz was not too impressed this thing had disturbed her sleep under my desk.
The finished item! It’s traditional to print a shot glass as your first object so you can toast the reprap. While this shotglass is made of resin, other builders are experiementing with metal/epoxy mixes and even ceramic paste so the future of 3D fabrication looks pretty exciting. Building one of these is definitely going on my list of wet day projects but it’s a long list so hopefully I’ll have one of these by about 2012.