Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How does one get started?

How does one start to build one's own fabber? RepRap and Fab@Home both offer instructions. There is of course the caveat that the technology is new and experimental and bleeding-edge, so it's not a shrink-wrapped thing where you simply tear open the packaging and start using it. My goal in this posting is mostly to decide whether it makes sense for me to start work on a fabber. My early conclusion is that I'd like the field to mature a little bit more, but it might be fun to tinker with just the 3-axis motion part (check out the video), probably using this microcontroller board.

The RepRap folks have a page about constructing their version 1.0 fabber, called "Darwin". They recommend that you join the RepRap Research Foundation, which supports new fabber builders, and you can purchase parts from their on-line store.

Fab@Home has a Getting Started page with links to their catalog and the list of materials that you can fab with. A pre-assembled Fab@Home fabber will set you back about $3600 plus shipping, currently with a 6-to-8 week lead time, so I guess people are buying them. The Fab@Home is an impressive thing, and good looking.

Hobbyist fabbers today look the way Linux did in 1993. In five or ten years fabbers will be much more common and much more polished, but the people tinkering today will have 99% of the fun. Linux in 1993 was not at all user friendly, everything needed to be hand-tweaked, and you needed to understand a lot of it to use any of it, and the same was true with cars in 1910, and with fabbers now.

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