Friday, October 03, 2008



Well, I finally did it: I've printed my first minimug. This may come as a surprise, but the Director of the RepRap Research Foundation has never printed anything, UNTIL NOW! (Hey, I never said I was *good* at this stuff, just that I love working with it.)

I'm really excited about how this build turned out. Here's my current setup:

3-axis system: Darwin
Extruder: Lasercut Extruder (variant on design)
Electronics: Arduino + rotary encoder
Firmware: GCode Interpreter
Slice/Dice: Skeinforge
Control Software: ReplicatorG

I'd like to take this opportunity to reflect on the past few years of work (wow!) and say that I've thoroughly enjoyed working on the project and I look forward to working on it even harder in the coming years.

When I first started working on RepRap, I was a wild-eyed college student with dreams of 3D printers and being able to whip together a 3D printer in a few days and start changing the world.

Of course a few days turned into weeks, which turned into months, which turned into years. I've learned a *ton* along the way though and have had my share of mis-steps as well. I've come from basically zero understanding about electronics, firmware, microcontrollers, extruders, and cartesian robots to a point where I am reasonably comfortable with all of those technologies and am now active in developing and hacking on the next generation designs.

We've come a long way as a project from the early days, and luckily things have only changed for the better. For example, when I first got started, the first thing I did was build the electronics. Except there were no manufactured boards. Adrian had but up a little how-to on the website about how to etch your own boards. I decided that this was way too hard for myself (and by extension, your average person) so I decided that I would get them manufactured. Thus the RepRap Research Foundation was born. Since then, nearly every single part you need to build a RepRap is now available from either the RepRap Research Foundation, or BitsFromBytes.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but I'm excited about the future of this project. Now that I have these physical objects in front of me that my machine produced, it feels so much more real. No longer is the printer this magical dream that I've been chasing for so long, but it is something that I have sitting in front of me. There are many things to be improved, and there are many things to be changed, but it works, and thats good enough for now.

For all those out there who are just following along, or are struggling with building your own machine: keep up the fight, and keep hacking on it. You'll have your machine working and when you do it will be beautiful.

Zach 'Hoeken' Smith


I don't post here much (if at all), but I've been following RepRap for most of this year and in a month or so will finally have some space, money, and hopefully time, to start working.

I too don't have much if any experience with the electronics, firmware, microcontrollers, extruders, or cartesian robots, so it's very encouraging to hear you say you started in the same boat and seeing how far you've come.

I haven't checked out the RepRap Research Foundation (I think I should), but I've been eying BitsFromBytes for a while now.

Congrats again on the mug, and thanks

That almost brought tears to my eyes!

Good job, Zack. Hack on with your bad self.
congrats! Feels good, eh? :)
Zach, I'm on my 3rd Darwin-style bot now, and I still get a kick from firing up new machines and getting your first squirt out of them! Let's hope it never fades :)

Vik :v)
Me too. When my machine is running, I waste a lot of time simply sitting next to it watching it work.

This sounds like being hypnotized by your washing going round and round in the laundrette, but I think there's a little more to it than that - it's more like watching a time-lapse of a plant growing: the feeling that from nothing is coming something.

And that is the nearest thing to magic that this universe can do...
It is beautiful, Zach. Keep up the good work. You have done a wonderful job around here.

Hah! You hadn't printed anything yet? Crazy. Congrats! I've enjoyed reading all about this stuff over the past few weeks and am looking forward to getting started on my own printer this winter. Looking forward to your Gen3 electronics!
Congrats Bro! Happy for you! Can you print off a VW Logo for me? I found the original one the other day in a shoe box... cracked me up. Congrats again on the great work!
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