When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it became clear that organizers would have to pull the plug on any large social events they had planned. Many organizers decided to take their events online, but blurry web streams and meme-filled Discord channels can only get you so far. At this point we’re all keenly aware that, while they do have some advantages, virtual events are not the same as the real thing.
Which is why I was looking forward to making the trip down to Bel Air, Maryland for the first in-person East Coast RepRap Festival (ERRF) since 2019. I’m happy to report that the event, which was still in its infancy prior to the pandemic, was just as lively this year as it was doing my previous trips. Perhaps even more so, as local hackers and makers were eager for an outlet to show of their latest creations.
I’ll admit that part of me was concerned the two-year shutdown would have robbed ERRF of the momentum organizers had worked so hard to build. But judging by what I saw over the weekend, it seems even a global pandemic couldn’t slow down this fantastic event.
After laying low during the height of the pandemic, the East Coast RepRap Festival (ERRF) is just days away from making its triumphant return to Bel Air, Maryland. This two-day celebration of all things extruded is packed with talks, exhibits, and demonstrations that you won’t want to miss if you’ve got even a passing interest in 3D printing. You can purchase advance tickets now — adult admission for both days (Oct 8 & 9) will set you back just $10 USD, while anyone under 17 gets in for free.
When we visited in 2019, ERRF was only in its second year, but it was already obvious that it was becoming a major event in the 3D printing world. The schedule included talks from 3D printing luminaries such as Adrian Bowyer, Josef Průša was on hand to personally unveil the Prusa Mini, and it seemed everyone who ever squirted out a bit of hot plastic on YouTube was there to stream live from the show floor. But then COVID-19 came around and jammed the extruder, as it were.
We’re glad to see that an event as young as ERRF managed to weather the pandemic and return to an in-person show. There was naturally a risk of loosing momentum, especially as the organizers opted not to go the virtual route these last two years — but with palpable online buzz about the event and a stacked lineup of speakers, vendors, and exhibitors, it seems like even a global pandemic couldn’t hold these hackers and makers down for long.
If you make the trip to Maryland this weekend and happen to run into a roving Hackaday writer, there just might be some special edition swag in it for you. But for those who can’t make it to ERRF in person, don’t worry. As always, we’ll make sure to bring you plenty of pictures and details from the show.
Like pretty much every other large gathering, the Midwest and East Coast RepRap Festivals had to be put on hold during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. But now that the United States is cautiously returning to something that looks a lot like normal, both Festivals have now confirmed they will be back to full-scale live events for 2022.
After experimenting with a virtual event and a scaled-down show in 2021, the Midwest RepRap Festival (MRRF) will be returning to the Elkhart County 4H Fairgrounds in Goshen, Indiana from June 24th to the 26th. No tickets will be required for attendees or exhibitors, everyone is welcome to just show up and have a good time. There will however be sponsorship opportunities for anyone who wants to support this long-running event.
Summer already booked up? In that case, the East Coast RepRap Festival (ERRF) will be taking place from October 8th to the 9th at the APG Federal Credit Union Arena in Bel Air, Maryland. Tickets cost $10 for both exhibitors and attendees, though anyone under 17 gets in for free. Even though ERRF only confirmed their 2022 plans recently, it looks like there are only a few sponsor spots still left open.
Hackaday has attended both events in the past, and we’ve always come back blown away by the incredible variety of printers, projects, and products on display. It seems like there wouldn’t be that many different ways to show off melted plastic, but trust us, these folks always manage to surprise you. Given the amount of time that’s passed since either event was able to operate at normal capacity, we predict these 2022 Festivals are going to be smash hits that you won’t want to miss if you’re even remotely interested in 3D printing.
By pretty much any metric you care to use, the inaugural East Coast RepRap Festival (ERRF) in 2018 was an incredible success. There was plenty to see, the venue was accommodating, and the ticket prices were exceptionally reasonable. But being a first-time event, there was an understandable amount of trepidation from both exhibitors and the attendees. Convincing people to travel hundreds of miles to an event with no track record can be a difficult thing, and if there was a phrase that would best describe the feel of that first ERRF, it would probably have been “cautious optimism”.
But this year, now that they had some idea of what to expect, the 3D printing community descended on Bel Air, Maryland with a vengeance. In 2019, everything at ERRF was bigger and better. There were more people, more printers, and of course, more incredible prints. Activities like the 3D Printed Derby returned, and were joined by new attractions including full-body 3D scanning and a shooting gallery where attendees could try out the latest in printable NERF weaponry.
The official tally shows that attendance nearly doubled over last year, and with growth like that, we wouldn’t be surprised if the ERRF organizers consider relocating to a larger venue for 2020 or 2021. As far as problems go, growth so explosive that it requires you to rethink where you hold the event isn’t a bad one to have. The Midwest RepRap Festival, which served as the inspiration for ERRF, found they too needed to move into more spacious digs after a few years. Something to keep in mind the next time somebody tells you the bubble has burst on desktop 3D printing.
Trying to distill an event as large and vibrant as ERRF 2019 into a few articles is always difficult. Even after spending hours walking around the show floor, you would still stumble upon something you hadn’t seen previously. As such, this article is merely a taste of what was on hand. The East Coast RepRap Festival 2020 should absolutely be marked on your calendar for next year, but until then let’s take a look at just some of what made this year’s event such a smash.
For the last couple of years, consumer desktop 3D printer choices in the under $1,000 USD range have fallen into two broad categories: everything bellow $500 USD, and the latest Prusa i3. There are plenty of respectable printers made by companies such as Monoprice and Creality to choose from on that lower end of the scale. It wasn’t a luxury everyone could justify, but if you had the budget to swing the $749 for Prusa’s i3 kit, the choice became obvious.
Of course, that was before the Prusa Mini. Available as a kit for just $349, it’s far and away the cheapest printer that Prusa Research has ever offered. But this isn’t just some rebranded hardware, and it doesn’t compromise on the ideals that have made the company’s flagship machine the de facto open source FDM printer. For less than half the cost of the i3 MK3S, you’re not only getting most of the larger printer’s best features and Prusa’s renowned customer support, but even capabilities that presumably won’t make it to the i3 line until the MK4 is released.
Josef Průša was on hand to officially unveil his latest printer at the 2019 East Coast Reprap Festival, where I got the chance to get up close and personal with the diminutive machine. While it might be awhile before we can do a full review on the Mini, it’s safe to say that this small printer is going to have a big impact on the entry-level market.
Last weekend was the inaugural East Coast RepRap Festival in beautiful Bel Air, Maryland. Like it’s related con, the Midwest RepRap Festival, ERRF is held in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by farms, and is filled with only people who want to be there. It is the anti-Maker Faire; only the people who have cool stuff to show off, awesome prints, and the latest technology come to these RepRap Fests. This was the first ERRF, and we’re looking forward to next year, where it will surely be bigger and better.
One of the stand-out presenters at ERRF didn’t have a big printer. It didn’t have normal stepper motors. There weren’t Benchies or Marvins or whatever the standard test print is these days. [James] is showing off tiny printers. Half-scale printers. What’s half the size of a NEMA 17 stepper motor? A NEMA 8, apparently, something that isn’t actually a NEMA spec, and the two companies that make NEMA 8s have different bolt hole patterns. This is fun.
If these printers look familiar, you’re right. A few years ago at the New York Maker Faire, we checked out these tiny little printers, and they do, surprisingly, print. There are a lot of tricks to make a half-size printer, but the most impressive by far is the tiny control board. This tiny little board is just 2.5 by 1.5 inches — much smaller than the standard RAMPS or RAMBO you’d expect on a DIY printer. On the board are five stepper drivers, support for two heaters, headers for OLEDs and Graphic LCDs, and a switching regulator. It’s a feat of microelectronics that’s impressive and necessary for a half-size printer.
Since we last saw these tiny printers, [James] has been hard at work expanding what is possible with tiny printers. The most impressive feat from this year’s ERRF was a color-mixing printer built around the same electronics as the tiny printers. The setup uses normal-size stepper motors (can’t blame him) and a diamond-style hotend to theoretically print in three colors. If you’ve ever wanted a tiny printer, this is how you do it, and I assure you, they’re very, very cute.
Are you around Philly, Baltimore, or DC, and looking for something fun to do this weekend? Great news, because Saturday sees the start of the first inaugural East Coast RepRap Festival in Bel Air, Maryland. Eh, we’ll grab some Bohs and boil up some crabs. It’ll be a great time.
Regular readers of Hackaday should have heard of MRRF, the Midwest RepRap Festival, and the greatest 3D printer convention on the planet. There’s a reason it’s so good: it’s not a trade show. It’s simply everyone in the business and a ton of cool people heading out to the middle of Indiana one weekend per year and simply dorking out. All the heavy hitters were at MRRF last year, from [Prusa], to E3D, to [Brook] of Printrbot. The 3D Printing YouTubers made it out, and the entire event was simply a thousand or so people who were the best at what they do just hanging out.
This weekend, the East Coast RepRap Festival is launching. This is not an event organized by SeeMeCNC, the hosts of the Midwest RepRap Festival. This is an independent event, and we have no idea how it’s going to turn out. That said, the schedule of events looks great with 3D printed pinewood (douglasfirfill?) derbies, and of course, the event space will be filled with strange and exotic homebuilt printers. The big names will be there, and it looks like this may be the beginning of something great.
Hackaday is going to have some boots on the ground this weekend, and we’re going to be showing off the greatest and the best from ERRF. Tickets are still available, and it looks like this is shaping up to be a great weekend.