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What is a 3D printer?

Basically it is like a normal printer but with an additional axis, i.e the Z axis (up and down) and rather than print ink, it typically "prints" by melting plastic and building up layers. It's not really a printer it's more of a mini "computer controlled extruder" would be a better description.

How do you print to a RepRap?

This is one of the questions that everyone seems to miss on the internet.If you want to design and print something, how do you do it. Well the answer is that you Design a 3D model in Sketchup or similar, export that to a STL file, then using a Slicer program, import the STL file and slice it into a GCODE file. Many 3D printers use the GCODE file format to print from. GCODE is like an XML file with values that tell the printer where to move, how hot, how fast etc, much like a CNC.

What is a RepRap?

A RepRap (replicating rapid prototype) is a basically a community based Arduino Mega (cheapo Microprocessor community board) project with a specifically designed arduino shield (a board that plugs in to an Arduino with additional functions) for 3D printers that controls the stepper motors, extruder heaters and temperature sensors etc. If you like RC Drones, it’s much the MultiWii project is to them.

The arduino board runs your choice of software (free) that you can download. I use Marlin, but there are more simple options. You basically download the arduino editor, then open the Marlin project and upload it to your board.

Why Choose A RepRap? - The Pros
  • 1) Customisation and ability to improve quality, adapt and modify.
  • 2) Fanatical support community rather than dependence on a single company
  • 3) Cost. One can be made from cheap, proven and familiar electronics.
  • Why Choose A RepRap? - The Cons
  • 1) It is fiddly.
  • 2) It is initially complicated.
  • 3) It very sensitive to many parts that can cause a failed print.
  • 4) It is not plug and play.
  • Which RepRap

    This is an interesting one but basically there is not a huge difference between any of them. I use a Prusa I3, but from an engineering perspective is average and I can’t say it surprises me that many companies have made their own “improved” version. Considering the Prusa I3 is obviously a 3rd generation there are some major design faults that should have been dealt with by I2 (if there was one). The Prusa Mendel is a better design favouring the strength of triangles. I’ll create a separate article on this later.

    Summary

    Overall the flexibility of the RepRap far out weighs off the shelf printers because you can continuously evolve your printer as new things are developed.Admitidly they are initially fiddly but if you study my article it should save you weeks of the pain that I endured for you all! You can also print improved parts yourself or design your own RepRap from scratch. I’ve used my Prusa i3 and already designed bigger, cheaper and more rigid model. See the article.

    Comments
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    Comments:

    Brian   25/02/2017 at 19:42:41
    I have built a RepRap Mendel - pre Prusa -. This is a second generation machine (the first being Darwin) I am using RAMPS 1.4. I cannot seem to find any reference as to how to move the extruder to a chosen position manually for calibration purposes. Can you help please?
    Reply -------------->
     - Julian   25/02/2017 at 19:48:15
    Hi. If you a lcd go to Disable Steppers and move by hand or cut the power. Or in the lcd go to Move Axis and move x and y. Julian



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