East Coast RepRap Festival Comes Alive In Second Year

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.

Continue reading “East Coast RepRap Festival Comes Alive In Second Year”

Prusa Unveils New Mini 3D Printer, Shakes Up The Competition

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.

Continue reading “Prusa Unveils New Mini 3D Printer, Shakes Up The Competition”

Tiny Printers Get Color Mixing

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.