Becoming intelligent designers and saving the RepRap

While Hack a Day’s modus operandi is serving up hacks from around the Internet, sometimes we feel the need to exercise a bit of editorial freedom. A thousand words is a bit awkward for the front page, so feel free to skip the break and head straight to the full text of this article.

It’s no secret myself and my fellow writers for Hack a Day are impressed with the concept of a personal 3D printer. We’ve seen many, many, builds over the years where a 3D printer is a vital tool or the build itself.

Personally, I love the idea of having a 3D printer. I’ve built a Prusa Mendel over the past few months – Sanguinololu electronics, [Josef Prusa]’s PCB heated bed, and a very nice Budaschnozzle 1.0 from the awesome people at LulzBot. I’ve even made some really cool bits of plastic with it, including the GEB cube from the inside cover of Gödel, Escher, Bach (a very tricky object to realize in a physical form, but not a bad attempt for the third thing I’ve ever printed, including calibration cubes). Right now I’m working on the wheel design for a rocker-bogie suspension system I hope to finish by early August when the next Mars rover lands. My Prusa is a wonderful tool; it’s not a garage filled with a mill, lathe, and woodworking tools, but it’s a start. I think of it as the Shopsmith of the 21st century.

Lately I’ve become more aware of the problems the RepRap and 3D printer community will have to deal with in the very near future, and the possible solution that led me to write this little rant.

Infinite variety in infinite combinations

If I were to start researching what 3D printer to buy or build now, I would be faced with even more options than I had just one year ago.  Even if I limited myself to a printer under the RepRap banner, I would need to choose between the Mendel, the MendelMaxPrusa, or Mendel90 derivatives, the Huxley, the Printrbot-based Wallace, this neat folding RepRap, and even one that can print its own case.

Outside of “official” RepRaps,  there’s the Makerbot Thing-O-Matic, Replicator, and the deprecated Cupcake CNC, as well as Makergear Mosaic, Ulitmaker, SUMPOD, Printrbot, and the UP! 3D printer, among others.

Keep in mind that this list is not complete and only includes the hardware for molten plastic printers, not laser-cured UV resin or laser sintering printers. There’s also the issue of a dozen versions of electronics boards, a handful of firmwares, and a few types of host software available for each and every machine. In short, the 3D printer community is fractured nearly beyond repair.

What we should do

The father of the RepRap, [Adrian Bowyer], came up with the idea of a biologically inspired self-replicating machine nearly 10 years ago. The RepRap, as originally envisioned, was a physical manifestation of a Von Neumann Universal Constructor. [Bowyer]’s idea of a 3D printer serving as the foundation of a Universal Constructor models biological life and evolution; a machine designed to make parts for itself ‘evolves’ with each generation being more capable than the last. This idea caught on, and the huge abundance and variety of RepRaps and other 3D printers is like the diversification of flora and faunae of the Cambrian explosion.

This diversification is not without evolutionary dead ends; useful add-ons like the automated build platform are compartmentalized and only available for the Cupcake and Thing-O-Matic. Small keypads for computer-less printing are not always interchangeable between electronics boards and firmware versions. Obviously, there needs to be a standardization; like a comet smashing into the Yucatán peninsula, it may be time to wipe the dinosaur designs off the map.

What will happen anyway

In [Adrian Bowyer]’s vision of self-reproducing machines, we serve as hosts to the virus-like RepRaps that copy themselves and are assembled by humans. We are the evolutionary force that guides new generations of self-replicating machines. It’s time for us to start acting like intelligent designers.

What I’m suggesting is simple; have the RepRap Core Team define standards for officially sanctioned RepRaps. Throw a few designs up for review, like the Prusa Iteration 2, the Makerbot Replicator, and the Printrbot, and pick the best half-dozen machines from the lot, and put the RepRap name on them. Repeat that every six months or so, gradually improving each model along the way. Put the faith of the RepRap community behind every machine. Make “RepRap” a generic trademark. Put value into the RepRap name so in 50 years everyone has “a RepRap” on their desk instead of “a fused filament fabrication rapid prototyping device.”

What’s in a name

With a half-dozen designs for 3D printers, what do we gain? The combined development skill of hundreds of hobbyists, tinkerers, and makers from around the world for starters. Hundreds of people working on a hundreds of designs brings is a linear development process, and doesn’t benefit the project as a whole. It’s a piecemeal approach that invests too much time towards reinventing the wheel.

Hundreds of people working on a small handful of designs turns the linear development into an exponential development process. A limited set of possible machines means more improvements per model for every generation. If 3D printers are “breeding” exponentially, it follows they should  improve exponentially.

Not only would we get a more directed development, but it would become feasible for someone to hand the models of a set of printed parts to an injection molding factory in China without worrying about ‘next week’s model.’ With a set of standards, RepRap kit makers can invest in the tooling to mass-produce kits instead of relying on a shelf full of printers to make the next generation of kits.

Parallels to Parallax

There is a remarkable similarity to what I’m suggesting and another well-known open source project. In 2005, this was the Arduino. Just take a look at how far the Arduino has come in seven short years: there’s a USB port, a better microprocessor, a huge library of example code, and a reduced parts count between the Arduino Serial and the Arduino Uno. Development on the Arduino still continues, and now there are Ethernet Arduinos and Motor Shields that provide a standard library of hardware and software for others to improve upon.

Nothing about the Arduino is new; the BASIC Stamp had been wrapping a microcontroller and peripheral components in a single package for years before the Arduino. Now, the Arduino is available in every Radio Shack while capable hardware like the Handy Board is relegated to educational pricing and the closets of schoolrooms. All this was due in part to the Arduino team defining a standard board and IDE. Without this, the Arduino would not be what it is today.

The RepRap can easily become the next Kleenex, Xerox, Thermos, or Aspirin. All it takes is a benevolent dictator to decide what is best for all of us. As with the Arduino, development of peripherals and improvements will continue. The best printers will rise to the top, and we’ll finally become the intelligent designers a RepRap allows us all to be.

Alright, rant over. It’s just an idea that I’ve been throwing around for a while. If you’ve got a rebuttal, or would like to add your own thoughts, drop a note in the comments. We now return you to your regularly scheduled build posts.

148 thoughts on “Becoming intelligent designers and saving the RepRap

  1. Important discussion, keep it going!

    A few points:

    1. The evolution/ID talk has use but only goes so far. Some objecting are talking it much to literally.

    2. linux and arduino are great examples to learn from.

    3. good standards allow for intensified competition and cooperation, good standards select and reward what works while sticking to massively redistributed inventive processes.

    4. items to standard: print dimensions, key parts, software, filament, life cycle, upgrade cycle, documentation

    5. standard desiderata: easy assembly use repair upgrade, global availability, price AND open hardware values AND self-replication

    6. self-replication capability should never be compromised even as external mass manufacturing is adopted. Compare: many use FOSS binaries but the source must be there for anyone to compile. We should stick to freedom a core feature.

    7. Expanding on 6: 3D printing is a disruptive technology. Google, Microsoft and the entire Copyright/Patent Industrial Complex will try very hard to coopt, control, regulate or, if all else fails, ban the tech and reap rent. It is our responsibility to resist those forces and stick to open source values. Insisting on self-replication capacity operationalizes that resistance!

  2. There are some nice thoughts. My comment:
    We have a lot of “me-too” printers lately which confuses the newbies, the confusion is the only bad thing about that. Evolution is great, my mendel has 89 forks on GitHub, I pull good stuff in, so its pretty tweaked all the time.

    What I personally think, now the biggest problem are lots of shady vendors raping our open source project. Some sell stuff like extruders, without even having printer and testing them, etc. Bad quality china plastic is also coming …

    I am personally really curious what will happen this year.

    Jo Prusa
    RepRap core dev

  3. Software standards by all means, but hardware standards no.

    There is FAR FAR FAR too much room for improvement at the moment in all sorts of area’s. We need the experiments, the “out there” designs in order to progress.
    We arnt yet in a era of minor tweaks being the best way forward, theres still all sorts of big possibilities out there.

    For all we know current 3D printers could be like Nipkow’s disc compared to the cathod ray tube.

    Maybe someone will come up with a way to print whole layers at a time? or some really sci-fi static based thing that replicates a whole solid object in one go.

    The possibilities for both big changes, and minor refinements is endless at the moment.

    The only thing I think would help at this stage would be spec-standards for the software to emerge;

    -material spec data? (somewhat equivalent to “paper type” in a 2d printer)

    -printer driver standard (that is, while each printer is unique they can take the same format input rather then needing machine-specific gcode generated by the user)

  4. Citing the arduino as a good example to follow, while I see it as the worst example of snuffing down the creativity (and a growing number of people agree)… the fact that everything is now Arduino or Not is /bad/.. It forces everything to use one platform, including bloated IDE, libraries etc. In fact I call it the Arduidiot these days.

    The fact he quotes the Prinrbot in the best variants to be selected actually makes the whole point: the Printrbot was born very recently of someone who didn’t want a ‘standard’ prusa.. and tossed a few prerogatives outta the window in the process.
    * All for the best *

    I agree that there’s too much stuff in reprapland, and thats it’s hard to get started, but it was the same with the 80’s micros, and in the end, it solved itself and did so by exploring the deadends.

    Locking up standards now would help webshops and patent attorneys, not the community as a whole.

  5. Hmm great post from a conversation POV, but I think the author maybe getting mixed up about what RepRap is.

    RepRap as I understand it from Adrian’s talks and writing is a merely a meme with an active community (or evolutionary canvas). It is the idea that counts rather than the individual generations that form physical incarnations, perhaps a reference Ricard Dawkins work would help position it better here.

    Similarly rather than likening RepRap to Linux, a better analogy and comparison would, be based around the self replicating GNU toolkit, GCC and all. For extra points you can also draw vitamin and nutrient components ones which we have long forgotten as they have become ubiquitous (a PC and an OS). But the bigger point I am trying to make is RepRap doesn’t equal 3D printer any more than an Apple App equals GNU/GCC and yeas I am aware of the delicious irony of that final comparison.


  6. I’m extremely disappointed and saddened by this article. I understand the positive intent of the author, but the benevolent dictator approach is dependent on a perfect dictator always acting in the best interest of the community and always knowing what’s best. No one fits that description, so that role will always be filled by someone who is in a position to do more harm than good. Let free design continue. The best ideas and methods will naturally rise to the surface.

    For example, there may be a temptation to set a standard that machines must be able to print their own parts, as a purist belief without regard to how that affects print quality. This seems like a fine way to relegate the RepRap to the forgotten annals of history when something truly superior comes along that doesn’t follow that dictum. Just an example.

  7. I’m trying to understand why no one in the RepRap community is working on powder based printers. They are patent encumbered, so no one could sell kits, but designs could be published and people could build their own printers if people worked on designs together. Why not move beyond PLA and ABS?

  8. -there are no standarts for most printers:

    1.: there is no market:
    arduino, wades extruder, MK1 heatbed, t5/ t2.5 belt, nema17 motor, linear bearings, pololus, endstops, 3mm fillament are standart for most printers-

    so most of the parts are around in those shops. they are industrie standartized parts and they are the market.
    in generel the quality of vitamis is getting better/ more industrial (so results are)

    -there is a wired development, things mutate and -evolve in all directions:

    2.: things evolve via thingiverse:
    downloading free parts to update your printer is essential to have the best possible printing result.
    there is no machine that works best out of the box- mostly people add stuff to make them “a little better”- and up and download it there- some spareparts are needed to be printed, cause they wear out, like extruder gears.

    cause thingiverse is the only way to share your ideas with the whole comunity, mostly they are found there.
    needful would be a rating system to get, which parts are evolved the most/ most useful to your system.

    -the whole thing is crappy, i dont knowhow to use it:

    3.:firmware, software and hardware:
    callibrated printers behave similar- (think of times before callibrated e-steps)

    now were having a free and professional printing prepare tool, a printing tool with user interface and g-code preview. all this has evolved from non-userfriendly and buggy printingsoftwares.

    -what we need is a system of king:

    4.shops, comunity, and presidents:
    havin 200 hotends on 350 shops, 16 mendel variants and varous special parts. shops sell sets of those selfinvented prototypers, try to run their business and dont care about other standarts.

    but think of a company like samsung (cause they build nearly everything) breaking into the extruder market: builds an exellent wormgear piezo nozzle, selling it for some bucks?

    also in the irc are 350 people constantly- half of them designed their very own printer- all of them havin a unique printer, or still work on getting it runnig.

    ask those around there to vote for the next generation of repraps, to put on the frontpage of

    in general the whole reprap theme is so amazing, that you can hardly stand it evolving it on your own- you think of it, write it down and print it on a weekend, assmble it, make photos and push it to thingiverse. using a rating tool in one of our favourite 3d-model download platforms would push this process to another direction-

    in general things evolved very fine in the last year, in my point of view.

  9. Two types of objections that some make higher up in the thread can, I think, be answered.

    objection 1: no standardizer (“benevolent dictator”) is perfect. Therefore standardizing will do less good than harm.

    That is a fallacy. The truth that no person or standard is perfect doesn’t itself entail that a standard is all things considered worse than no standard. It all depends on the specific flaws in the standard/standardizers and how well the nonstandard alternative works. There are many examples of standards that has some bads but with more and stronger goods and provide overall net benefits. Linux is an example of that.

    objection 2: standards will block new, much better designs that think outside of the box.

    First, standards are not laws that ban development outside of the standards. They only held concentrate collaboration and ease modulation. Still, concentration in one area might mean less work on other promising fronts. But, second, such risks can be mitigated by building in revision and radical change as goals in the standardizing cycles. Add an alpha track to the standards and host annual prize competitions to stimulate wild and bold revisions.

  10. Speaking as a long-term, former member of the Reprap Core Team, during the first five years of the project while we were trying to get any sort of low cost 3D printer to work and had just a handful of people working on the dream, we tried to have loose standards, viz, extruder, electronics, software & etc.

    With the release of the second generation Mendel printer, however, adoption exploded and the community grew enormously. Now we find that there are literally hundreds of ideas for niche printers and innovation being tried out all at the same time.

    As well, these ideas are cross-fertilizing at an enormous rate which has made the continued success of the enterprise certain. All you have to do is monitor the commoditisation of printer parts and filament to know that Reprap has succeeded. Stepper driver boards which used to cost $400-500 can now be had for $50. Steppers which used to cost $75 can now be had for under $20.

    When you use biological metaphors like Adrian Bowyer rightly does it is, perhaps, better to think of the reprap community as a bacteria community. Individuals are encountering new opportunities and challenges and making known how they addressed them in much the same manner that individual bacteria exchange DNA snippets that code for improved surviveability.

    1. This is the biggest pile of bull..err.

      Let me just make sure I understand what you are saying.

      Are you saying that the reprap community is responsible for lowering stepper motor and driver prices?

      1. I can’t see what you are taking such offense about. Generally, when an activity such as Reprap creates a strong demand for particular kinds of parts, one typically finds the prices for such parts dropping unless there is some sort of production bottleneck or no excess capacity in the supply companies. Neither is the case with the smaller NEMA steppers produced mostly around Shanghai or driver boards, which a variety of small US producers are creating for sale.

        Now if 3D printers used the high torque, high amperage steppers and driver boards that are encountered in conventional CNC equipment I’d say that it would be difficult to assign credit, if that is the right word. There really isn’t that kind of overlap with Reprap 3D printers, however.

        Would you care to say more about why you find yourself irritated?

  11. “Al Billings says:
    March 17, 2012 at 3:43 pm
    I’m trying to understand why no one in the RepRap community is working on powder based printers. ”

    One quite successful one has been produced down in Brasil. Unfortunately, the patents for powder printers are still active.

  12. If you just want to design and print parts, and have support for your hardware, then buy a Mosaic, Replicator, UP, etc.

    If you enjoy the process of hacking and improving and tweaking a device, rather than making parts right away, source a bunch of parts for whatever the hot design is at the moment.

    The price difference is entirely due to the amount of intelligence and time you’re willing to apply to the project. You can save hundreds of dollars by going for one of the cheaper kits, but unless you feel pretty confident that you could design and build your own from scratch, I’d recommend a prebuilt printer.

    No need to mess with the RepRap project. What you’re proposing is already happening. RepRap is the wild, grizzly frontier country. Commercial companies like MakerBot follow RepRap at a staid pace and productize the more useful innovations.

  13. It’s sad a late comer to the scene like Adrian Bowyer gets all this 3D printer credit. There were so many pioneer he doesn’t even nod his hat to.

    My college roommate’s “Santa-Claus” machine was printing 8bit color prints with finer detail than the replicator five years before anyone knew who Adrian Bowyer was.

  14. No clue five years ago. Now fifteen years back… There was no official name. “Santa Claus Machine” was pretty common though. Keep in mind this was before social media/blogs/etc.. back when everyone still had a pile of AOL 3.5″ disks.

    Most used various types of hot melt glue or fast setting epoxy (slow but awesome). Some added ‘dye jets’. Some experimented with different types of glass like plastics. Mine utilized a very hard DOW hot melt.

    You might not be familiar with ‘plotters’ but they were more common back then. It wasn’t too uncommon to buy an old plotter or just ‘bolt-on’ your experimental head and table to a new one. The cost was trivial since everything was hacked together. Hybrid stepper motors similar to the ones used today were commonplace and could be gotten cheap. Drivers were typically custom because 1) it’s cheap and 2)driving a stepper is easy if you’re willing to do some research.

    Anything else you would like to know? I don’t know of any websites (haven’t looked). Those that existed were uploaded to sites that no longer exist.

    If I recall Don Lancaster had an article..
    haha yep.. here’s a ‘recently updated’ page of his. haha.
    Check out the links to books about powders. It was such a hot topic in the 80’s most of the books were published back in the early 90’s.

  15. What does the community think of professional units?

    Something like the and their “uPrint”. Basically a professional 3D printer with soluble support removal and insane detail. You can find a ‘reseller’ on their website that sells reconditioned units at prices close to that of a replicator.

    Something like this doesn’t use any proprietary hardware and could be thought of as a cell phone, laptop, paper printer, keyboard, hammer, drill, etc. i.e. a tool that is purchase to be used.

      1. Odd. Every credible source (unlike this comment section) appears to state the opposite. Cost of material appears to be the biggest issue.
        Although there are many articles I found easily which talk about equivalent plastics that work fine at 1/10th the price.

        Never tried any. Just wondering what people think of the used professional units because I see them for sale frequently at between $5k and $2k. Two months back I saw a fully functioning Uprint SE without cleaning thing go at (industrial) auction for $300.

        Here’s one I found with a quick search:

        Does anyone know if using alternate plastics void the warranty on new units? I bet it does.

      2. Andrew,
        Please explain “low cost units” and “detail”. They only have one unit they call “Easy on your budget” and even that thing is ~$14k.

        It has nozzle resolution and x/y accuracy at least one order of magnitude better than the rep rap with a thinner layer height.

        I am not surprised you haven’t seen a used uPrint for under $1k. I would be surprised if you have seen one used at all.. considering how new it is. Where have you been looking? I have been lurking on industrial auction sites and I’m amazed how cheaply they go for.

        I got a quote for a ‘refurbished’ one at $3k. That’s close enough to the $2k replicator for me considering the soluble supports and material properties that everyone is saying is probably the best of all 3D technologies.

        1. I have had the pleasure of seeing parts made from the uPrint units compared to my reprap and those of some others at Maker Faire NY 2011. (Theirs were Prusa Mendels)The home brew 3d printers could produce surface finishes every bit as good, and better in many cases.

          The layer height spec’d by stratasys is .01″ (.254mm) where the repraps are now getting very good results at layer heights at or under .004″ (.1mm)

          The specs for XY accuracy are all over the place on both sides so it can’t really be compared in a meaningful way. I will say the heated chamber (PATENTED, PROPRIETARY) allows for some bigger parts to be made with less warping (so better ‘accuracy’ in that respect )

          Maybe you can find one for 3K, maybe not. You are still going to have to pay $120lb+ for their material (which has microchips embedded so you HAVE to use their PROPRIETARY material.

          Sure, the soluble support is a really big plus, but there is nothing preventing you from using that on the emerging multi-extruder 3d printers. Not to mention, there are hardly enough used uPrints to go around.

          Lastly, PLA makes a pretty decent dissolvable support material in it’s own right, and it’s inexpensive.

          The uPrints certainly have their use, but they are NOT as far ahead of ‘low cost’ ($3500 and under) 3d printers as you think. As soon as the heated chamber patents run out Stratasys is going to have a LOT of competition.

  16. “Hundreds of people working on a hundreds of designs brings is a linear development process, and doesn’t benefit the project as a whole.”

    This would be true if ideas from one line could not be perused by the other lines. But of course such transfers do happen, and they are equivalent to horizontal gene transfer. As Matt Ridley argues, horizontal gene transfer or genetic exchange gives an individual potential access to all the diversity of the entire population.

    So I disagree with the notion that diversity leads to a linear crawl. This would only be true in the absence of horizontal transfer.

    1. I agree with Dirk.

      It’s far too soon to begin standardizing anything. Whenever, I discuss the Reprap, people tend to think a few short years ahead and mope at how “primitive” it might seem right now. The Reprap is already 5-6 years old and has undergone tremendous development during that time.

      Just imagine, what will happen in the next 25-30 years.

      It’s better to work on clear guides for popular machines, and few things beats the LEGO-style assembly manual, I saw somewhere, for the Prusa Mendel. It was brilliantly done. *That* should be standard. :-)

  17. What a terrible idea. People need to be able to improve these designs without the fear that their machine will be seen as inferior if it doesn’t have the reprap badge on it.

    The Arduino is not similar at all. For starters, it’s a microcontroller, PCB and a few connectors – much simpler than a 3d printer. Also, there are probably more Arduino variants out there than 3d printers. Not to mention that their standards didn’t do me much good trying to fit the thing onto a breadboard – the headers still don’t line up.

    1. Not to mention that their standards didn’t do me much good trying to fit the thing onto a breadboard – the headers still don’t line up./blockquote>

      …and that’s why I (and others) want any standards to be about component connections (physical, electronic, and logical), not the entire product, both to make building a 3D printer a matter of mixing and matching, and to make it easier for manufacturers to create components that will work together without hassle.

  18. Hi
    I have not read all the answers, perhpas others said this already. But after the article I needed to say the following:
    If you lived in Germany you would be thrown to jail due to racist commments. Who are you, saying for example pink colored repraps are not a valid design? You are against the pink minority!!!!! Nazi!!! (Some zynism here…)
    I think we should create tools to help the pink Repraps to get a silver color if they feel they have a disability. But they should be free from choosing this. If they want to reproduce pink little repraps fine.
    Thanks for your Blog anyway
    Regards Ben

  19. the idea is that everyone CAN make a printer. So, in an environment of makers, I expect nothing less than to see LOTS of variations. If we want to go the ‘biologic’ route of evolution, the number of different versions will keep expanding. And some will die a natural death (to hard to build or use, to expensive to build and/or use, break to easily, flimsy, pick your own reason). But eventually a smaller set of printers will emerge from the RepRap quagmire.

    A RepRap prophet like Adrian, similar to Linus in the RepRap community, can ‘anoint’ various builds as ‘good for use’ or ‘trash’. Similar to Linux anointing a release of the Linux kernel, and throwing some ‘features’ some want out (apparently arbitrarily, but not really if you talk to Linus). The problem is many of us are NOT looking for the same result.

  20. [continued text]

    If we want a developer model with latest bells and whistles available (I like the multi-colors from one head that Adrian has worked on), and a ‘production model’ like a ‘RepRap Toaster’ that we could all get at [instert big box store name here]. They are two different items.

    I need a ‘cheap to build’ and ‘cheap to operate’ with ‘reasonable quality’, not a super-fast with uber-high-end results at any cost model. – most of us are ‘partway’ in between.

    Adrian has focused on low cost, ease of use, because his main focus is getting 3rd and lower world countries doing local manufacturing to raise those countries so they can have a version of the goods and services the rest of us have.

    So one version and only one… I think not. But it is time for the field to start whittling itself down. Sooner would be better for the community than later.

  21. Really it’s interesting to see the emotion behind peoples decision to need or not need standards and the confusion that the evolution/ID argument is causing.

    It is kind of about evolution because you are in effect using external forces to effect the transcription of information into physical objects that interact and manifest in their environment.
    With this argument standards are akin to the relationship between dna/rna/ribosomes and there are most definitely ‘standards’ involved in that process.

    Remember at a higher level ID is saying “this is how it will be, it will interact like this” and then it’s never touched again.
    But in evolution the main evolutionary pressure on a species is not actually from all other species within it’s ecosystem – rather it’s between all organism within a species.

    Anyway philosophy aside::
    You actually only need 3 standards;

    1. Interfaces/API’s – I can control these types of motors down to this resolution. I can accept these types of files. I can use these types of materials.

    2. Descriptors- I have these capabilities, I can drive these motors to this tolerance.

    3. Formats – I understand this file/filesystem/protocol. -Some of these machines take SD cards so I’m assuming there is already a de facto standard right there.

    Standards would be GREAT, you could then implement them in software(as a webserver). People could upload their models and using a set of sliders could identify all the parts that they need to build their objects. Vendors would have incentive to adhere to and improve the standards.

    e.g if they build to an API and a descriptor then it doesn’t matter how their ‘blackbox’ works, if it’s cheaper for them to make and better for you to use everybody wins surely?

    Also you can then have ‘object trees’ similar to gaming. You can see where you are now, where you want to be in 2 years time and what ‘drop in’ replacements are available and at what cost.

    Also fundamentally these things are about engineering, so yeah you need standards.

  22. It’s really interesting to watch the 3d printing industry begin lift off. Many people have no idea that this technology is real. Describe it to your grandpa and watch the look on his face.

    One amazing concept is the one that you’ve raised – creating a machine that can create a better version of itself and evolve with each version. Are we at that stage yet? I think it only takes a guy in his garage (+ a lot of time) or a group of people on the net to pull it off. Imagine a warehouse where machines are working on their future co-workers. I think as humans, we’d have to give the machine an objective – a purpose.

    Off the top of my head… your goal is to evolve until you are as functional as I am. When you get there, you’ll help me with my survival and hopefully we’ll co-exist. Imagine that. One day, nobody would have to dig ditches, perform hard labor, etc… We could even dig into the implications for things like war. We’re already there. We’ve got machines fighting our wars for us. What happens when there are machines on both sides? Machines that look like us.

    A slightly different goal, a more direct one, might be – create technologies and evolve me until I no longer have to fear: death, bodily harm, starvation, etc…

    Another concept is that any idea is reality. Over time, the ease of taking that image in your head and turning it into a physical thing is going to get more efficient. Here’s the interesting part about this collective innovation. Right now, we’re living in a world where a very very small number of people have access to fabricating things. What happens when you, your brother, your neighbor, etc… all have a level playing field to create? Do we move towards helping each other or does greed takeover and we try to cling to “rights” of our ideas? I personally think that society will try to create systems for preventing innovation without payment/credit. But in a virtual world, we’ll see pirating take over at light-speed and nobody will be able to stop it. People will share, innovation will happen over night, and when the dust settles, we’ll be sitting in a new world.

    Just my thoughts

  23. I disagree completely with the desire for a fixed design. It’s commercially inconvenient for me as a maker of kits, as my original mendels are “out of date” but very well documented on the wiki so convenient for users in that respect.

    The final goal of reprap must surely be Your Plastic Pal Who’s Fun To Be With humanoid who can make anything, from any material, with normal hand tools.

    Until that is acheived, we want progress to be as swift as possible. no time for lusers.

  24. I find it entertaining that the majority of people that want standardized repraps because it is too confusing are the same people that don’t own or haven’t started a reprap. If you guys want someone to tell you what you should build just ask. The idea of standardized repraps has gone on for years but has never worked well. For the new reprap shopper, go to the reprap forum do some research and tell people what you want in a reprap and plenty of people will give an opinion. Then research those opinions. You have to have a love for repraps to build a reprap and you have that love then you will never have a use for standardized parts and printers. Its just like buying a new car. Do you want to choose from 1 SUV, 1 car and 1 truck or choose one from the options we have today.

  25. Many here are talking about being petrified of choosing a reprap. Why? Youtube, reprap wiki, and google. These are like browsing department stores for what style suits your needs. I understand these things are complicated machines. I am designing my own. “Oh no”, yea another reprap. The nature is customization to fit what you want / need. When you shop around see how they work. Most all of the current repraps are capable of similar qualities. What? That is dependent on is your level of calibration. All common variants are posted on reprap wiki pages. The reprap irc is useful. More often than not there is someone with experience lurking in the forums and the irc waiting to help. People need and desire freedom in choices. Look at clothing. Designed to cover your butt but, there are thousands of styles of pants. No one complains I’m too petrified to choose pants so I will go without. Pick a common reprap in the newer makes. If it doesn’t do all you desired then ( wait for it) Print new parts for the one you have been eyeballing and cannibalize the electronics and most of the vitamins and build that one. Leave the community alone. Reprap isnt a brand it is an idea. The Idea that a prototyping machine can make replacement or upgrade parts for itself, any other plastic goods you may want to make, and an affordable printer in every home. Don’t stifle the creativity of others so that people can be willingly ignorant. We don’t limit Chevrolet to one or two cars, trucks, and vans. No! Every one has their own tastes. And that is only one Brand. If you want someone to do all the work, build it, and package it buy a branded machine. Reprap is for thinkers and tinkerers who are inspiring those brands. Look for the similarities to the branded machines and the mendel, the darwin, or the huxley. The best have been adopted and mass produced. Makerbot, Vision, and many others were and are inspired by reprap and made for the masses. No one complains about not being to decide on traditional paper printers although there are thousands of choices. They pick and move on.

  26. I think that what the RepRap community needs is a kind a starter kit, just like arduino sells a starter kit.This starter kit will contain a simple printer, not too expensive and that is capable of printing basic objets. This kit will help/guide beginners.A beginner can not choose which extruder use or where to buy his stepper motors, he needs a kit. this kit will learn him the basics of reprap and will be, of course, open source.This kit will attract new members into the community.

    RepRap needs to stay a comunity directed. Decisions for a whole group of persons can not be taken by only a few members, even if they are elected.

    Just tell me if you do not agree with me.

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