Friday, February 15, 2008


Software Outside The Box (Updated)

One of the frustrating things about developing the RepRap is the need to focus on making it actually replicate. I've had a few great ideas about RepRap pass me by for this reason, so I thought I'd better document them.

1. Make it print braille. In theory, easy. In practice, it needs someone to convert braille into STL (mistakenly called SVG earlier by torpid author).

2. A spooling device driver for the RepRap GUI. If we can produce pre-processed files, a much simpler production program is needed. This would allow RepRap to be driven by primitive controllers, PDAs and the OLPC.

3. A Logo turtle driver for RepRap. Logo is well understood in the educational sector, and runs on the OLPC. It would enable novel fabrication techniques to be developed by the young and inquisitive.

Pick it up and run with it, folks.

Vik :v)

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Re: spooling - I'd love to do that; it's an idea I had myself a while ago. The only problem is, I have neither the skills nor the money to actually build a reprap, though I should be able to get one bought by my university.

Is anyone selling premade, functional repraps yet?
All great ideas VIC I have been wanting the smaller "print spooler idea for a long time then it fits in lands with less computers and what I think will help us grow in those places the OLPC laptop..
baughn: You can get kits, yes. See and I'm working on making Toby's plywood design available. Hopefully I should have the first cut back by the end of next week; some changes were needed before it could be printed.

bruce: Can you code it? If not, know anyone who might do it for a project etc.?

Vik :v)
For spooling, Mellery, Chris and maybe others are working on a g-code Arduino parser, as mentioned on the forum at:,9459

If you had a parser; then the Arduino, maybe with the help of a small host program, should be able to read and extrude a g-code file.
I too was thinking that possibly the Arduino could work as a spooler. A spool does not have to keep the entire part in the spool, but it would be nice. A PIC would work too.

Possibly with a SD card attachment, we could just load up an SD card with files and tell the controller through a couple of buttons and a small LCD display to select the file to 'print'. To do this, I could see a separate controller that would plug in where the 'pc' currently goes in the system. Allowing a bit more flexibility. It too could act as a spooler 'in line' from a PC, with the option to capture the part on to the SD card for reprinting. Or even put a 'read only' flag, so it could not be purged as cache might be (using FIFO or LMRU (least most recently used) methodology).

Just thought.
Wikipedia has SVG for each braille letter when you click its picture.

Some guy assembled a single file here: Braille in SVG with line wrapping.

OLPC's Sugar framework seems to use some SVG natively for icons and other GUI. Logo would be fun for creation but Python or another XO embedded tool might be more useful on the production and print driver side.
Servant74: I like the idea of an SD card, but I think that something that runs on an OLPC is going to be of more immediate benefit - and will provide a method of creating RepRappable designs on that platform too. This is just what we need to do - drive the evolution of the design. OLPC Users are generally in a tight spot, and they need to be able to drive the evolutionary design more than most.

Vik :v)
I love the SD card idea too. And the OLPC has one in it! (One the bottom of the screen also 2 USB ports).

One problem with the OLPC, is it is supposed to be 'turned in' when someone 'graduates' so another child can use it that is just starting their education. ... At least that is what I was told at a presentation by OLPC folks this last week.

The RepRapers need a more 'continuing solution'. Something like the OLPC would be great, but we may need an alternative without having to have a 'full blown' PC as well, just as another solution.

Getting to play with an OLPC really makes me respect what they have done in development of both hardware and software. They are really focusing on their target audience, education in 3rd world countries. Even getting them in 1st world countries seems to be an issue. But I have heard of a few available on eBay.

I really WANT my Linux machine to be able to network half as easily and well as the OLPC does!
Regarding the spooling device driver: It might be good to write a hardware-level RepRap simulator that takes the same input language the Arduino takes, and produces a VRML or PovRay file of the product which can be checked for correctness. This could be useful for more than just driver development, it might also be possible to use it to predict the behavior of different-sized extruders or different arrangements of stepper motors, or other such hardware variations.
Damn, I mistooked. I put SVG instead of STL. Back in a tick...

Vik :v)
On the topic of braille-by-reprap,

I don't want to sound sour, but actually printing braille via reprap sounds like a generally bad idea. Maybe printing a machine that prints braille could work, but having a book made of millimeter thick plastic at 3+ hours per page doesn't sound practicable.

Many people have made great machines to output braille, and reprap might make those more available, but actually printing plastic dots doesn't sound usefull, unless you're making those signs commonly found near bathrooms.

Even if you're thinking of adding a special "braille head," the reprap would still be too expensive and prohibitively slow. Most people like printers that print faster than they read.

It is very easy to find "usb braille displays." Most are very expensive, but it shouldn't be hard to design one that just has 6 pins moved vertically via solenoid, connected to a computer via usb. These machines should not require plastic, electricity (other than the usb port), space, time, STL files, or $400 dollars worth of reprap. Thus, they are more reasonably economic for even the poorest of people. Not the $4k models, of course, but a $30 dollar braille output device, possibly designed, prototyped, and maybe even manufactured on a reprap, seems more than a reasonable alternative.

Interesting idea though. Maybe there is something similar in importance to braille that hasn't been invented yet because of the unavailability of said plastic printing reprap?

This can be moved to the forum for further discussion, if you like.
Samuel: I have to make this happen, not figure out reasons maybe not to do it :) Printing a sheet of braille goes a lot faster if you print the dots, not the page, for instance.

Have you used a braille display? They have a lot more than 6 pins - they are read in parallel, as we read words on a line rather than letter by letter.

Vik :v)
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