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.
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 years, the undisputed king of desktop 3D printing conferences has been the Midwest RepRap Festival (MRRF). Hosted in the tropical paradise that is Goshen, Indiana, MRRF has been running largely unopposed for the top spot since its inception. There are other conferences focused on the industrial and professional end of the 3D printing spectrum, and of course you’d find a Prusa or two popping up at more or less any hacker con; but MRRF is focused on exploring what the individual is capable of once they can manifest physical objects from molten plastic.
But on June 23rd, 2018, MRRF finally got some proper competition. As the name might indicate, the East Coast RepRap Festival (ERRF) is an event very much inspired by its Hoosier State predecessor. Held in Bel Air, Maryland, hackers on the right side of the United States for the first time had the opportunity to attended a true 3D printing festival without having to get on a plane. Not to say it was a neighborhood block party; people from all over the country, and indeed the globe, descended on the APG Federal Credit Union Arena for the two-day celebration of everything plastic.
While ostensibly the purpose of the recent East Coast RepRap Festival (ERRF) was to celebrate the 3D printing community and culture, it should come as no surprise that more than a few companies decided to use the event as an opportunity to publicly launch new products. Who can blame them? It’s not as if every day you have a captive audience of 3D printing aficionados; you might as well make the best of it.
Many creations were being shown off for the first time at ERRF, and we surely didn’t get a chance to see them all. There was simply too much going on at any given time to be sure no printed stone was left unturned. But the following printers, filaments, and accessories caught our attention long enough to warrant sharing with the good readers of Hackaday.
Keep in mind that much of this information is tentative at best, and things could easily change between now and when the products actually go on sale. These events serve as much as a sounding board for new products as they do a venue for advertising and selling them, so feedback received from show attendees may very well alter some of these products from what we saw at ERRF.
With few exceptions, it seemed like every 3D printer at the first inaugural East Coast RepRap Festival (ERRF) was using a hotend built by E3D. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; E3D makes solid open source products, and they deserve all the success they can get. But that being said, competition drives innovation, so we’re particularly interested anytime we see a new hotend that isn’t just an E3D V6 clone.
The Mosquito from Slice Enginerring is definitely no E3D clone. In fact, it doesn’t look much like any 3D printer hotend you’ve ever seen before. Tiny and spindly, the look of the hotend certainly invokes its namesake. But despite its fragile appearance, this hotend can ramp up to a monstrous 500 C, making it effectively a bolt-on upgrade for your existing machine that will allow you to print in exotic materials such as PEEK.
We spent a little time talking with Slice Engineering co-founder [Dan], and while there’s probably not much risk it’s going to dethrone E3D as the RepRap community’s favorite hotend, it might be worth considering if you’re thinking of putting together a high-performance printer.
If you follow the desktop 3D printer market, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that nearly every 3D printer on display at the inaugural East Coast RepRap Festival (ERRF) was made in China. Even Printrbot CEO Brook Drumm had to admit that this was the year his company may finally bite the bullet and begin selling a branded and customized printer built overseas.
When you can get a decent (but let’s be clear, not great) 3D printer for $200 USD, it’s no surprise that American and European manufacturers are having a hard time staying competitive. But not everyone is seduced by low-cost printers. They know they could buy a decent printer for a couple hundred bucks, but for them that’s not the point. Some hackers are just as (if not more) interested in designing and building the machines than they are churning out little plastic boats with the finished product.
Luckily for us, these are also the type of folks who document their builds and make all their collected information and design files available for others under an open source license. Such builders exemplify the true spirit of the RepRap movement, and we’re happy to report that in a sea of imported printers, there were several interesting home built open source printers.
Whether you want to build your own copy of one of these machines, or simply get inspired by some of the ideas their creators had, these machines are physical proof that just because you can order a cheap 3D printer on eBay right now doesn’t mean you have to.