Hackaday Prize Entry: RepRap Helios

Did you know that most of the current advances in desktop consumer 3D printing can be traced back to a rather unknown project started in 2005? This little-known RepRap project was dedicated to building Open Source hardware that was self-replicating by design. Before the great mindless consumerization of 3D printing began, the RepRap project was the greatest hope for Open Source hardware, and a sea change in what manufacturing could be.

While the RepRap project still lives on in companies like Lulzbot, Prusa, SeeMeCNC, and others, the vast community dedicated to creating Open Hardware for desktop manufacturing has somehow morphed into YouTube channels that feature 3D printed lions, 3D printed Pokemon, and a distinct lack of 3D printed combs. Still, though, there are people out there contributing to the effort.

[Nick Seward] is famous in the world of RepRap. He designed the RepRap GUS Simpson, an experimental 3D printer that is able to print all of its components inside its own build volume. The related LISA Simpson is an elegant machine that is unlike any other delta robot we’ve seen. He’s experimented with Core XZ machines for years now — a design that is only now appearing on AliBaba from random Chinese manufacturers. In short, [Nick Seward] is one of the greats of the RepRap project.

[Nick] is designing a new kind of RepRap, and he’s entered it in the Hackaday Prize. It can print most of its own component parts, it has an enormous build volume, and it’s unlike any 3D printer you’ve seen before. It’s a SCARA — not a, ‘robotic arm’ because SCARA is an acronym for Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm — that puts all the motors in the non-moving portion of the base. Its design is inspired by the RepRap Morgan, a printer whose designer won $20,000 in the GADA prize for being mostly self-replicating.

Improvements over the RepRap Morgan include a huge build volume (at least three 200x200mm squares can be placed in this printer’s build volume), a relatively fast print speed, high accuracy and precision, and auto bed leveling. Despite being more capable than some RepRap printers in some areas, the RepRap Helios should wind up being cheaper than most RepRap printers. It can also print most of its component parts, bringing us ever closer to a truly self-replicating machine.

You can check out a few of the videos of this printer in action below.

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Laser Cutting a 3D Printer

The concept of self-replicating 3D printers is a really powerful one. But in practice, there are issues with the availability and quality of the 3D-printed parts. [Noyan] is taking a different approach by boostrapping a 3D printer with laser-cut parts. There are zero 3D-printed parts in this project. [Noyan] is using acrylic for the frame and the connecting mechanisms that go into the machine.

The printer design chosen for the project is the Prusa i3. We have certainly seen custom builds of this popular design before using laser-cut plywood for the frame. Still, these builds use 3D-printed parts for some of the more complicated parts like the extruder carriage and motor brackets. To the right is the X-carriage mechanism. It is complicated but requires no more than 6 mm and 3 mm acrylic stock and the type of hardware traditionally associated with printer builds.

With the proof of concept done, a few upgrades were designed and printed to take the place of the X-axis parts and the belt tensioner. But hey, who doesn’t get their hands on a 3D printer and immediately look for printable solutions for better performance?

We first saw a laser-cut RepRap almost nine years ago! That kit was going to run you an estimated $380. [Noyan] prices this one out at under $200 (if you know someone with a laser cutter), and of course you can get a consumer 3D printer at that price point now. Time has been good to this tool.

The Tiny 3D Printers Of Maker Faire

Building a big 3D printer has its own challenges. The strength of materials does not scale linearly, of course, and long axes have a tendency to wobble. That said, building a bigbot isn’t hard – stepper motors and aluminum extrusion are made for industry, and you can always get a larger beam or a more powerful motor. [James] is going in the opposite direction. He’s building tiny, half-scale printers. They’re small, they’re adorable, and they have design challenges all their own.

At this year’s New York Maker Faire, [James] is showing off his continuing project of building baby 3D printers. He has a half-scale wooden Printrbot, a half-ish scale Mendel Max, a tiny Makerbot Replicator, and a baby delta and baby Ultimaker in the works.

Click past the break for a gallery, and more info on [James’s] tiny creations.

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3D Printering: Trinamic TMC2130 Stepper Motor Drivers

Adjust the phase current, crank up the microstepping, and forget about it — that’s what most people want out of a stepper motor driver IC. Although they power most of our CNC machines and 3D printers, as monolithic solutions to “make it spin”, we don’t often pay much attention to them.

In this article, I’ll be looking at the Trinamic TMC2130 stepper motor driver, one that comes with more bells and whistles than you might ever need. On the one hand, this driver can be configured through its SPI interface to suit virtually any application that employs a stepper motor. On the other hand, you can also write directly to the coil current registers and expand the scope of applicability far beyond motors.

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Modding The Monoprice MP Mini Printer

Two weeks after my review of the MP Select Mini 3D printer, Monoprice’s own website has said this printer has been out of stock, in stock, and out of stock again several times. This almost unimaginably cheap 3D printer is proving to be exceptionally popular, and is in my opinion, a game-changing machine for the entire world of 3D printing.

With the popularity of this cheap printer that’s more than halfway decent, there are bound to be improvements. Those of us who have any experience with 3D printers aren’t going to be satisfied with a machine with any shortcomings, especially if it means we can print enhancements and mods for our printers.

Below are the best mods currently available for this exceptional printer. Obvious problems with the printer are corrected, and it’s made a little more robust. There are mods to add a glass build plate, and a few people are even messing around with the firmware on this machine. Consider this volume one of the MP Mini hacks; with a cheap printer that’s actually good, there are bound to be more improvements.

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Build A 3D Printer Workhorse, Not an Amazing Disappointment Machine

3D printers have become incredibly cheap, you can get a fully workable unit for $200 – even without throwing your money down a crowdfunded abyss. Looking at the folks who still buy kits or even build their own 3D printer from scratch, investing far more than those $200 and so many hours of work into a machine you can buy for cheap, the question “Why the heck would you do that?” may justifiably arise.

The answer is simple: DIY 3D printers done right are rugged workhorses. They work every single time, they never break, and even if: they are an inexhaustible source of spare parts for themselves. They have exactly the quality and functionality you build them to have. No clutter and nothing’s missing. However, the term DIY 3D printer, in its current commonly accepted use, actually means: the first and the last 3D printer someone ever built, which often ends in the amazing disappointment machine.

This post is dedicated to unlocking the full potential in all of these builds, and to turning almost any combination of threaded rods and plywood into a workshop-grade piece of equipment.

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Prusa Shows Us the New i3 MK2 3D Printer and Where the Community is Headed

Josef Prusa’s designs have always been trustworthy. He has a talent for scouring the body of work out there in the RepRap community, finding the most valuable innovations, and then blending them together along with some innovations of his own into something greater than the sum of its parts. So, it’s not hard to say, that once a feature shows up in one of his printers, it is the direction that printers are going. With the latest version of the often imitated Prusa i3 design, we can see what’s next.

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