Sunday, February 17, 2008


Objects.RepRap.Org - Any volunteers?

As some of you know, the mediawiki we'd used as a template for has been infested with spammers for some time now. I've frozen the site in a spam-free but untinkerable state and will be mucking about with a cms-based replacement. I'm bringing this up because of an email from Tom Owad:

The Google 3D Warehouse has reached 300,000 objects, while the RepRap object library remains at seven. That size, coupled with the ease with which SketchUp and the 3D Warehouse integrate, has the potential to shut out open source software and place the world's object library in Google's hands. While I don't have a specific problem with Google, but I don't think a for-profit corporation makes the best library curator. There's great potential for things to go downhill at Google, especially after the founders die.

The Fab@Home project and all sorts of cnc projects all have their own independent libraries, none of which amount to anything substantial. I think it would be beneficial to see an organization dedicated to being a public _library_ for objects, separate from any specific hardware project. I think it may be outside the RepRap project's scope to build an object library that can compete with the likes of Google, but it would seem to me that this is well within the abilities and the charter of the Internet Archive. Perhaps it might be possible to collaborate with the Internet Archive to create an open object library?

Tom Owad

If people want to take on this project and build a site to do this, please read further on for the project requirements. And please hop into the forum with your ideas and expertise:,9504

My take on it is that it would be useful to use a CMS, like plone.
I'll be tinkering on something to do this, but I don't know if it will work. Volunteering to help? Introduce yourself:,9504
or email me at

I know what I want it to look like, which brings me to...

Project Requirements:

A standard wiki isn't suitable for this project, because of their 'everything goes' permissions model. This is fine for an anonymous article, but if you're putting up an artwork, or your group is working on a project, you don't want people stumbling along and tweaking or deleting it. (I'm not ruling out 'everything goes' projects, but most people will want more control over their projects, the way the linux kernel team won't let random users check in changes into the main code base without looking the changes over. This is also true if you have a flickr account.)

What we want in an objects library:

1) We want the obvious definition of an objects library. A straightforward hierarchical archive of files.

2) We want much more than an objects library; we want a site that can host RepRap and similar projects. Like instructables or the reprap docs wiki. Otherwise, it's just another file archive, which Google 3D Warehouse can do better than we can.

3) Along with the communal area, we want people to be able to own their own personal and group subsite. Myspace or your own favorite online community is a good model for this, in as much as it reveals how people like to use the web.

Example usage patterns:

A: General random files. "Hey, I caught a frog and scanned it. Here's the scan. Oh and here's a windshield washer reservoir cap for my Range Rover, and here's a wrench." We need a way to store these files, and a way for people to find them.

Priority: High.

B: We want to be able to host the RepRap 3D Printer files on it. Along with the .stl, .aoi, and .etc files, we want our documentation to be up there as well. where they'd have documentation, files, and so on. Just like we're doing with currently.

Priority: Middling High. We need this in order to offer more to users than just a place to dump files.

C: The user 'Jane' might have a page like:
where she puts up her projects and files, and people can comment on them, and say hi to her if she wishes. Jane needs to be able to do this: "This lamp was my senior design project. You need to print _these_ out, drill here, and solder _this_ like so. What do you guys think?"

Priority: Not as High, but if we don't do it, someone else will, and everyone will end up using their site instead of ours.

Hi folks,

We here at Instructables would love to support RepRap - we've got a few new features that would do most everything you've listed above.

I'll drop an email to the address listed above; feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions.

Christy Canida
Here are a couple of links that might help you with spam on a mediawiki. I hope you find these useful.$wgSpamRegex
There is a subtle - but important - difference between what Google is doing - and what RepRap needs. Google's models are 'surface models' - they contain information about the surface of the model - it's color, texture, etc - but tell you nothing about the volumetric information. Their models probably have holes in them and intersecting parts.

Hence RepRap NEEDS a 3D repository of it's own.

The only alternative might be to talk to the Wikipedia 'WikiCommons' people - for whom the storage of 3D models would probably be considered an appropriate use of their resources.

As for the site - the MediaWiki approach is not a bad one - but vandalism of open Wiki's is always a problem until you have enough regular users to patrol the site and revert spam quickly.

While our user base is small, Spam and general vandalism will continue to be a problem. The easiest way to shut down spammers on MediaWiki sites is to remove the ability of people to create or edit pages without creating a user ID. That's not 100% bullet-proof but it's fixed the problem on the Wiki that I run. If you have more sophisticated spammers who go to the trouble to create their own user ID's then consider first requiring an email confirmation before granting an account - and if that's not enough, remove the ability of users to create their own accounts - forcing them to ask the site admin person to create them.

I think the root of the problem at this point is that RepRappers with working hardware are a TINY number of people - so the rate of production of new 3D models is also tiny. We're not going to see a vast repository of 3D models until there are a vast number of RepRappers out there to generate them.
Some friends and I about a year ago now created an alpha version of a site that included all of the features you're asking for - our roadmap was very very similar to yours! We got busy with other things and development has stalled, but I'll shoot an email off to them and see what they think about putting a bit more polish on it and opening that code up to the RepRap project.
IMHO, the Wiki way of doing things is what we want here.

* A means by which by uploading a model, you are forced to grant rights to the community.
* Whereby someone (anyone) can come along an fix a design flaw or add an improvement.
* A means by which every change is automatically tracked under version control so it can be backed out if it proves to be incorrect and so we have a papertrail in the event of someone accusing us of copyright violations.
* A means to write about the object (eg an instruction manual, some guidelines on how to construct it, a picture of the finished item).
* An off-the-front-page discussion area to talk about each object.
* A means to easily link to related designs and to categorize objects in several different ways.

All of those things are exactly the kind of thing we want - so a MediaWiki server makes a hell of a lot of sense.

IMHO, we have two problems with MediaWiki:

1) Security - protection from idiots. In my opinion, this can be made to run itself once the community is large enough. Vandalism and spam gets fixed pretty quickly on Wikipedia - but that's because most articles have at least a few people who have the article on their "watch list" and check up on it most days. We won't get that for a LONG time - so to start with, we need controlled access and explicitly granted permissions. MediaWiki can easily do that right out of the box.

2) 3D files need to be automatically rendered either as a set of still images or perhaps as a short movie showing the object slowly rotating. MediaWiki does something similar to that with 'SVG' files for browsers that don't support SVG rendering locally - so probably we could hack the sources to make it render 3D objects in a similar way.
I agree there needs to be a separate RepRap object archive, for reprap-only objects. Perhaps in the distant future, a homogenous project that lets people store all kinds of object under all kinds of license and with all kinds of attached meta-information could be created. It might even magically convert between different needs so you could download the same model of a dwarf as:

* An animated lightmapped low-poly game model, with limbs, bones, animation, texturing, normals, materials and any polygons larger than the local luxel size split in two;

* A high-res posable model for render ing;

* An untextured shaded-poly google earth model;

* A closed, volumetric 3D printing model with all 2-D planes (cloaks etc) thickened to one pixel, intersecting shapes resolved, all methes closed, and the model detail scaled to the desired print size and the resolution of the printer.

But that day is not coming soon.

I'm working on the early stages of a "user created content" MMO in which all objects will be public domain. I would *love* if my work helped RepRap. But I just can't see how anything I made would be useful to you, or vice versa.
I came across this several weeks ago but it appears to me there's at least one community resource we may find useful to try and get more models.

Some of you may have heard of Shapeways who are a business unit of Philips research who offer commercial 3D printing services. If you haven't checked them out in a while, I've noticed that they seem to have a decent community of modelers, take a look at some of the top rated designs for example

Cream Robust material is printed using FDM so in theory anything (and perhaps more) which their software allows you to print with that material may one day be RepRappable. Of course it doesn't tell you what it looks like but it's still an interesting resource.

The one big trouble is all models I've seen do not allow copying which means there's no way we can get the models. Actually I'm not sure if we'd be able to even if they did allow copying (I'm guessing it's primarily so people can modify the models) but in any case it appears the reason all models are like that is because the feature is currently unsupported .

While some of the modelers are selling their models (there's an option to open a shop where I guess you get a percentage of every copy sold), I'm guessing there are some modelers who would be willing to contribute their models, worst case perhaps under a no derivatives, no commercial license since it seems to me some are more interested in the modelling then any profit they can make.

Perhaps we should reach out to modelers to contribute to us? Shapeways have a forum, and I'm guessing they won't mind if we ask to see if anyone is interested in contributing to us (provided we don't try and take over their forums). I think the primary purpose of Shapeways is to help them develop and get people interested in 3D printing and they seem somewhat supportive of open source (some of their software is ) and I've also seen us mentioned in their blogs before.

So all we need is somewhere for them to contribute models (and a relatively simple means to do it :-) )
Uh sorry didn't notice the 2008
No worries, some of us are still subscribed to the thread, because it's interesting :)

The site itself exists, created by Logan, at, but as you point out, getting the models is the main problem. The site currently has a grand total of nine models.

Could just be because nobody knows about it? I dunno. That there are only two posts in the forums (both by Logan) does rather support this.
The thing is that with so few RepRaps out there 'in the wild' - very few people have need for models. Hence very few are made. Since there are no models at the site, nobody much goes there.

I think this will get better once there are hundreds of RepRaps out there rather than the (maybe) dozen or so there are now.

Also, RepRap has to get past the stage when people are building them for the fun of building them and experiments - and into the hands of people for whom it's just a means to an end.
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