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A guide to getting into RepRap (only my opinion)

I am always seeing people trying to get into RepRap Printing, but there is always the question of price.  I am no expert, but I wanted to lay out in a Post what I have seen.  I will go from the lowest price to highest price.

Community!

Cost: Free  up to your 1st born child
Difficulty: depends
Reliability: depends

My 1st suggestion to every person trying to get into RepRap is to try to find a local RepRap/RepStrap owner.  There are several ways to track these people down, but some of the best resources are:

The RepRap Map
The Makerbot Map
Remember both of these have multiple pages, so look though all the pages each has different pins!
Regonal User Groups Sebastian over at the Wiki and forums has been nice enough to start a Regional User group for almost every area in the world (how does he find the time?).  If you have a printer, or want a printer update the RUG page in your area.  You never know who you might find!
The Hackerspace Map (They don’t always have RepRap/Repstrap, but they will likely have some of the tools you need)

WolfStrap

Cost: There has been talk that this can be put together for $3-400 dollars, I have only seen the original
Difficulty: Home made Repstraps are always an adventure
Reliability: Depends

The wiki page shows some details, but this is looking like the “official as it gets” RepRap.org RepStrap. 

The Wild World of the Mendel/Sudo-Mendel

This is the contentious section of any list. EVERYTHING is debatable because no one to date has really built up a track record.  To keep the price comparison reasonable I am only going to compare the prices of their RP parts replacements.  Keep in mind that Once yo have your RP part replacements you still need your electronics, hardware, motors, belts and lasercut parts.  All these together will be $557 plus shipping if you  spend $260 for your hardware, belts and bearings at Ultimachine, Get a Wades extruder off Ebay (there is usually at least 1 up at all times now) for $30, Thick Sheets from Techzone/Botmill for $37 and $230 for electronics (4 major sellers of electroncis now, of varying levels of quality, check them out before you send them money!).

Remember add $600 to any of these prices to arrive at what your cost will be for the printer (using conservative estimates)

RepRap forum, Ebay, Etsey or Sellsemp.ly RP parts printed on another RP printer.

Cost: $60 – $400
Difficulty: Parts are usually printed in either ABS or PLA (HDPE has went out of style).  Easiest parts to put together.
Reliability: The VAST majority of all Mendels to date are made made this way.

If you can get these parts, they are the best to go with, but the supplies are VERY limited because they take 40-60 hours to print, and that is a challenging amount of time.
Folon Labs on Ebay

Cost: He has sold parts for $65 – $297, but the price is usually $150-$200
Difficulty:  The parts are Resin cast, so you will have to process them, and I have heard both good and bad things about his product (you always do).  I have not seen one assembled in the wild to date.
Reliability: Not enough info.

His website is Fotonlabs, and he usually has at least 1 set of cast parts up on his webstore.

BotMill/Techzone

Cost: $199 – $202
Difficulty: Parts are made to be drop in replacements for Mendel, but I have seen many people have issues with the assembly.  I have not seen a blog entry to date of one built “in the wild”

Reliability: Not enough info

There are 2 variaites of these parts, the processed, and the unprocessed.  Unproccessed parts are sold at Botmill for $199, and the processed parts go for $202 at the Techzone Ebay site (These are the same parts, Techzone sells parts to Botmill).  From comments in the forum the processing is quite intensive, and if you don’t have a wood shop, you might want to get the proccessed parts, or go for the full kit (later in this post).

Fleming cnc Isaac Mendel

Cost: $245-$270
Difficulty: These parts are made on a CNC, not a laser cutter or cast.  The parts SEEM of a higher quality than all but the RP parts (which vary wildly in quality).  They should not require processing, but I have not seen anyone blog a build in the wild)

Reliability: Not enough info

FlemingCNC has been selling their kit, the Isaac Mendel, for a few months now.  I have not seen anyone blog a build, but the kit has changed material, and included the belts and gears.

The “other ways”

Ponoko Darwin You can still get the parts for a Lasercut Darwin (the daddy of the BfB Rapman printer), for free or for a small donation to one of our favorite designers Vik.  It costs between $300-400 if you have Ponoko cut the parts, or between $200-$300 if you use BigBlueSaw.

Cut your own Techzone Mendel This should be possible considering they have uploaded the source files.  I don’t think anyone has done it to date.

Laser cut Mendel by Decru This lasercut Mendel was Decru’s master’s thesis.  I dont’ know if it ever printed, but again, you can upload the files to BigBlueSaw, Ponoko, or your local laser cutter and give it a go!

Cut your own Makerbot.  It can be done using Charles Paxes Muffin, The Makerbot svn, or the Routerized Cupcake CNC Body Panels by pandelume.  ( Believe it or not I have seen many more non Makerbot sourced Lasercut parts for Makerbot produce working printers than I have seen non RP Mendels print.  But that makes since in a way because Makerbot is the only lasercut design designed from the ground up TO BE LASERCUT.  All the other designs are coping a printer designed to be printed and shoehorn it into a laser printer ).

I don’t know of any other RP replacements, if I missed one please Email me and I will update this post and repost!

The Kits:

I am only including full kits, with basically everything you need in the box.

Botmill/Techzone Lasercut Mendel

Cost: $799
Difficulty: I have only seen one printer put together in the wild, and the guy said it was a hard printer to assemble (I can’t find the link now, sorry). 

Reliability: Not enough info.

Botmill sells them at their webstore, and Techzone sometimes puts the same kit up for sell on Ebay, but they are always available at Botmill.  They are the new guys to the game.  They seem to be having more issues than Makerbot did with Batch 1, but that is to be expected with any new kit.  I personally wouldn’t buy it, but I am also the dude that had cash in hand when batch 1 went on sell from Makerbot, and STILL waited till batch 9 to buy.  $500+ is serious money.

Makerbot CupCake

Cost: $950
Difficulty: The easiest printer to put together, It would have took me 9 hours if I hadn’t shot video.  The cartiean bot is almost perfect, but the Mk4 extruder can give you head/heart ache.  I love mine, but be preparts to buy some replacement parts! :)
Reliability: Very once you learn to use it, till then it’s evil

The full kit at Makerbot has been $950 for a year now, which is great because their demand is though the roof.  They could price gouge, but they haven’t yet.  For me it was a toss up between the RapMan and Makerbot.  I chose the Makerbot because it was smaller, and had a stronger support base in the US.  I have regretted that decision at times, but in the end I love my Makerbot (30 hours not shut downs at this point woho!).

Bits From Bytes Rapman 3.1

Cost: $1,270 at current exchange rate
Difficulty:  More difficult to assemble that Makerbot, due to it’s larger piece count, and acrylic material (don’t over tighten those bolts!).  Able to print 4 times as large of area, and is significantly more acurate than Makerbot.  Also it can print independently of a computer (it has a LED screen where you can print your stl directly)

Reliability: Very once you learn to use it, but not as steep of learning curve as Makerbot

Rapman by Bits from Bytes was the 1st Commercial RepStrap, and is very much based off the RepRap Darwin.  It is still being sold, and is a rock solid printer.  The support base is thin inside the US, and even in Europe it doesn’t seem to have sold nearly as well as the Makerbot.  Any person that considers a Makerbot, should also consider this printer, It’s definitely worth the $300 difference if you can afford it.

Up! by pp3dp

Cost: $1,500 (will rise to $3000 once they have sold 100)
Difficulty: They seem to sell it as a out the box printer.
Reliability: Not enough information



PP3dp is selling their printer for $1500 for the 1st 100, then raising the price to $3000.  You can’t use a standard web interface to purchase, they have to send you a purchase order.  They have only been our for 1 week, so I really would be very warry, but their printer does look awesome!

Shappercube

Cost: $2,565 at the current exchange rate
Difficulty: They come mostly assembled, but I can’t say

Reliability: I have seen them print online, but there have been only 12 so who knows.

RepRapSource sells this kit on their website, and honestly it’s sexy as heck.  It’s the only all metal RepStrap, and looks mean as heck.  I don’t know much about it, but just look at it!  :)  It needs rally bars.

BFB 3000

Cost: $3,185 at the current exchange rate
Difficulty: It comes mostly assembled.
Reliability: It’s a Bits From Bytes product, so likely pretty good.


This is currently the most expensive RepStrap avialable, but your likely getting what you pay for.  This machine looks like someone over at Bits from bytes took the joke Apple 3d printer a little too seriously:

If budget is not a consideration, this is likely the printer for you.  This is the machine that likely the folks over Stratasys where really hoping would not happen.  Good job guys, way to make the Mercedes of RepRaps, or I guess since they are British, it would be the Lotus.

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And here come the Chinese.

Degroff over at the Makerbot Google pointed out this video.  The company Personal Portable 3d Printer is offering a “RepStrap” with a heated build plate, stepper extruder, and metal frame for $1500 to the 1st 100 orders, then the price goes to 2,999.

I love the design, but wow this is a shot across the bow of Makerbot, Bits From Bytes, Techzone, and the other commercial 3d printers.


Here’s the fun part.  To order you have to fill out a purchase order, email it to them.  Then they will email you back to confirm the order and tell you how to pay.  It’s shaddy as heck, but  this is likely some dude in a small village. :)

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I need design advice? And who better to ask than a community of Developers?

I have a choice, and I can’t really figure out which direction to go.  If I keep the build plate 6 inch, and continue to use 608 skate bearings, & place the extruder on the X trolley, Brutis will only have +- 50mm travel in the Z axis.  I could very easily end up with only 40 mm in the Z axis by the time I give myself some margin.  This is enough travel to be able to print all the Mendel parts, which is the main design goal, but it would give a build area of 150mmx150mmx40mm which looks really sad…

I see a few directions I could go here, any advice?

a. Since the top vertexes are already different than the bottom axises, I could make those vertex much bigger (same size as the Mendel, but with only 6mm/ 1/4 rod), and turn the gear motor sideways and design a whole new extruder that can fit between the upper threaded rods.

b. Forget having the extruder on the trolley and just go back to assuming bowden extruder (which adds cost, reduces print quality, and makes this harder to calibrate).

c. Make the build area bigger, therefore adding 5mm in the Z for every 10mm I add in build area.  I have to be careful here because the point here is to keep the print time below 20 hours.

d.  Since 40mm is enough for Mendel say the hell with it and just let it be.

e.  Something that I am missing that you would be kind enough to share?

I know I need to alter the placement of the Y motor (needs to go lower), to allow more room for the smooth rod supports.  Also I need to move the cross beams that support the Z axis down below the side bars to again allow more room for that y stage.  But she is looking good in my opinion.  But I am at a point where either I have a lot more work to do, or I get to start making printed prototypes on Monday.  What do you say?

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How many different ways can you mess up a Z axis? 9 so far.

Brutis, my Mini Mendel rework is coming along nicely.  Because all the parts are so small, I can change the design, print off the part and attach to my test frame 20 minutes later, then throw the off part into a vat of Acetone to punish it for it’s insolence.

I have settled on a different form of idler than I have ever seen for the Z axis, hope it works once I cut my belts.  The motor bracket floats on 2 parallel threaded rods, one only attached to the Z base, one that is the frame side bar.  To tighten you will just  tighten 2 wing nuts to move the motor bracket further from the Z base.  It’s a knock off the Mendel Z Leadscrew Base with Motor Belt Tensioner by nicholasclewis, but in 2 parts instead of 1.

I was going a complete different direction with the X trolley, then I saw the rhys-jones’s Mendel Multi Extruder Carriage.  I will have to rework my trolley (that’s why you don’t see it in the pic) because his would add 10+ mm in the inside capacity of the trolley.  Might just be enough to put the extruder on top of the trolley :).  Considering this project is only concerned with making a self replicating printer, if I only have 70 – 80 mm in the Z axis I don’t care as long as it can print all the Mendel parts.

My run of trouble free printing ended.  My hot end started acting up.  Funny thing was Rick over at Makergear got a little perplexed, because he had never seen PEEK have a flowback issue with ABS, and all but demanded I send it too him to let him take a look.  So I sent him my hot end and went to a backup.  There’s something profoundly embarrassing about letting another person look at your nozzel, but I think my constant issues with the Mk4 hot end has finally made him snap (he claims that his hot end is Gremlin proof, we shale see :)  He has never seen Gremlins like mine..

Also I just ordered the Power Resistor Heater Block from Makergear (hot end the Nophead way baby!). I personally didn’t like his ceramic heatercore, fire cement and I just don’t get along (which hurts because everyone else who uses them LOVES them… go figure), and the workings for a new hot end (big head nozzel, barrel (turned down on both sides?  never seen that), and a new PEEK thermal barrier.  Wife and kid will be out of town next week, so it’s just me Makerbot, and my 3 half finished Mendels. 

In other news HeeksCAD just released version 0.14.0, and this one is great for our community.  Now STL don’t cause the huge memory leak, or crashing if you hit undo.  I have managed to run it now for 5 hours straight without a single crash, also the colors look a little better.  Dan & his group did a lot of work on this one.

It warms my heart to see Tony Buser has really ran off with my Printable Filament spool over at the RepRap wiki.  I like how he has made the sides stronger, and moved it over the Openscad,  Can’t wait to see his setting under his Mendel!

If you ever get bored and want some good reading, check out the Recent Changes at the RepRap wiki.  They are now up to like 20-30 updates a day, there’s a lot more than just Mendel instructions over there now and days.  Ohh and check out the Wolfstrap, and Eiffel repstraps.  Those projects are quickly becoming the new and improved Mcwire.

That’s all for this week, well besides did you see Adrian’s Ninja electronics set?  I swear I didn’t know it was even possible for a RepRap to be that quite.

Edit  Just saw this. MSC industrial has PFTE tubing CHEAP, like $2-3 a foot cheap.  Lots of other goodies over there also.  Good job tesla893 over at the reprap forum!  Edit further..  PTFE tube bearings for a buck?  God they have EVERYTHING cheap.   I am in heaven.

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Death by Wife

I am SO dead.  I purchased 6 foot of the PTFE Tubing, and a 6 foot stick of 6mm smooth rod without consulting the wife 1st.  $40 will be noticed :).   Even though I don’t plan on using my Mini Mendel, other than as a base for my own build, I am going to start uploading videos to Youtube of the build, and I don’t feel right not doing everything by the book if other people are going to use it to help them build.

 By the end of next week I hope to have a fully assembled Mendel, & Mini, and a 1/2 completed Brutis.  Let’s see how far I get.

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A week like no other.

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