Wednesday, April 23, 2008

RepRap replicates 100%

This story in Computerworld is a couple weeks old, and I should be working harder to keep up. Vik Olliver, a RepRap hacker in New Zealand (and probably the hardest-working RepRap hacker in the world), has now fabricated all the parts of the RepRap except the Z flag, which can be cut out of the side of a beer can. This includes only the parts that it makes sense to print on a RepRap, so it doesn't include stepper motors, nuts and bolts, pieces of metal and wood (e.g. threaded rods). But it's an important step.

I myself am still drooling a bit over some of the hobbyist CNC stuff. There's a guy in New Mexico who sells these things on eBay. He sells aluminum ones (like this) and ones made of MDF, which I believe is a sort of particle board. Many low-end CNC machines are in the $2000 to $5000 ballpark, whereas he sells these in the $300 to $600 ballpark. It should be pretty easy to swap out that orange router and swap in an extruder.

I was thinking a bit last night about how to drive those steppers, since the offerings on eBay don't include the drive electronics. Digikey sells a stepper motor sequencer chip, the L297, which would be used to drive some power MOSFETs. The L297 just needs an input to choose clockwise or counter-clockwise, and a clock pulse to advance a step in that direction, so you need six GPIO lines to control the three motors, and one more to turn on/off the router or squirt goop out of the extruder. There's some very good information on stepper motors and driver circuits here.

It occurs to me that I've never posted the Sourceforge download page for the RepRap design files. A shocking oversight, given that I want to see the project succeed and proliferate.

1 comment:

joe said...

how is it replicating 100% when it only printed out the plastic parts?

looks like most of these guys with repraps are jumping the gun.

printing the plastic parts would account for 5-10% or the components of the machine