Saturday, March 17, 2012

RepRap, the Herd of Hyper Intelligent Cats Chugging 5 Hour Energy

Brian Benchoff wrote a very interesting article over at HackaDay pointing out a problem he sees with RepRap. His position is that RepRap is not standardized enough, and that we Admins should select the winners.

I had to laugh when he advocated "Intelligent Design", which is based off a 2000 year old book of poetry as a model for us to follow. Reality doesn't bend toward fairy tales.

Traditions more than rules

There is currently one main Cartesian bot for RepRap at the moment, the Mendel. You might say that there are 3 : Prusa, Sells, and Mendelmax, but if you look closer they are is effectively only 1.

Prusa, Sells, and Mendelmax Share the same Smooth Rod size 8mm or 5/16, same spacing between the Z threaded rod and Z smooth rod (30mm), Horizontal Z rods, those Horizontal Z rods spaced 50mm apart, and extruder who's mounting holes are 50mm apart, Nema 17 motors, 2 smooth rods on the Y axis, spaced 100mm apart, an equilateral wedge shaped frame, long structural members holding parts printed on another reprap.  Because of this commonality you can interchange the XYZ&E of any of the Mendel Family back and forth; you don't have to design a whole new bot.  Even Printrbot is mostly a Sells Mendel with the outer frame removed. 

Who decided on this? Did the Admins come down from on high and dictate it, or did we hold a council to decide it? Nope, the gravity of the existing design (Sells, and now Prusa), pulls everyone back to these standards because those who share want other people to use their parts, and people who download parts are more likely to change out 1 part more than they are 3-4. Are these the optimal sizes? Likely not, just like having your nerve for your vocal cord go from your brain though you chest and back up to your vocal cords is not optimal, it's just the way things have evolved, and they work. Retiring / Kingmaking Designs's Admins are selected by Adrian from the community at his discretion. Mostly it's people who have done a good bit for the community and our main purpose is to give him advice about the community. We are not paid; mostly we are not commercial interests (well besides selling RP parts or the odd end here or there). We are not the experts, the experts are the thousands, and I do mean THOUSANDS of developers out there. They decide what RepRap's take off, not us. That's how it should be.

We have our personal preferences, I prefer the Prusa Model, some of the Admins prefer Rapman/Darwin style machines (crazy folk), others think Sells Mendel is the best design. I am sure we will get some Admins eventually that think Printrbot/Wallace, because of their lower cost is best, or Tantillus because it's mostly 3d Printable, or maybe even some day a person will win the Gada Prize and someone will think it should be the "official" RepRap. It's a fools errand.

It upsets me that Botmill is still selling a Sells Mendel, and if I had my way I would put a huge sign out front of their website saying they are doing you a disservice by selling you an old design. I would scream to all the blogs that the $50-$75 Printrbot saves you is not worth the loss of print quality at high z axis levels at high speed. But the great thing is Adrian likes the Admins to walk softly.

RepRap: Just another in a long line of Open Sourceish hardware projects.

I am new to Kites, Paper airplanes, CNC, electronic prototyping, kit cars, kit airplanes, DIY PC, Sculpting, etc etc etc etc... What kit should I buy to get started? Go into a forum based around these are any number of others and get ready for a nerd fight. It's no different in RepRap. What's the best beginner 3d Printer? It really depends, what do you want? What do you know? How much time to do have? What do you like the look of? All of these effect your choice in all those hobbies listed above, and they affect us to.

The way I answer the question of what your 1st printer should be is by looking at your technical skill and money level.

If you’re a technically minded person:

$400 and Less Wallace or Printrbot Self Sourced
$500 and Less Prusa with a wades Extruder self sourced
$700 and Less Mendelmax self sourced with a Makergear styled extruder (IMHO the best self sourced machine you can build)
$825 Makergear Prusa Kit
$1300 Mendelmax Kit
$1575 Ultimaker
$1700 Up! 3d Printer
$10,000 Vflash by 3DS

Not technically minded (They want to get to printing ASAP with as little technical learning as possible).

$1200 Assembled Prusa from Lulzbot
$1300 Assembled Mosaic from Makergear
$1700 Up! 3d Printer
$1750 Assembled Replicator from Makerbot
$10,000 Vflash by 3DS

As long as that list is of stuff I recommend, there are tons of options I didn't list, but they should not be thrown away. I would not suggest a Botmill Project to my worst enemy because of their known history of white washing the forums and sending "assembled machines" that are not really assembled. But the last thing I want is for Botmill to go away, maybe one day they will improve their quality and go to a RepRap design less than 3 years old... I will keep waiting. And don't even get me started on the popsicle stick / buggy electronics Techzone 3d printers with wooden hot ends...

You think we are fragmented now? Just give us another 6 months!

Lemon Curry a UV Photopolymer DLP 3D Printer based around RepRap is coming online with several projects running in parallel.

Thanks to the work of Unfold & ttsalo we might actually have a paste extruder that will really work well in the Moineau stepper extruder. So I expect to see commercial Paste 3d printers in the next 6-12 months.

Several People are working on 3d Printed CNC mills ATM, expect to see those soon enough also.

ARM electronics, off-carriage extruders, inkjet multicolor printing, multiple extruders, glass-based high temp extruders.

And god knows what else you crazy developers out there will come up with, next thing you know I will go into the RepRap IRC and will see someone running one of these in their garage.

From one of the Admins to the rest of the RepRap community, keep fracturing, keep making it complicated for the new folks, because the reason it's hard to decide is RepRap is a candy shop, and Willy Wonka is only just getting started.
Thanks Adrain for starting such a scary fast evolving confusing and beautiful machine as RepRap.


  1. Very well written piece, thank you!

    Many people don't seem to understand RepRap(.org) is not about monetizing a brand name 3D printer. "RepRap is not Ubuntu, RepRap is Linux", could perhaps be one way to put it?

  2. I have been watching RepRap for a year now and am currently building a RepRapPro Huxley. I couldn't read your post past "I had to laugh when he advocated "Intelligent Design", which is based off a 2000 year old book of poetry as a model for us to follow. Reality doesn't bend toward fairy tales."

    No one has made any progress in this area by making thousands of random changes and seeing if the machine destroys itself. Every change, every new idea came from an intelligence, a person. In your haste to trash Christianity you have made yourself to look quite foolish.

    I have been using Linux since 1995 and see a lot of parallels, and one of them is the tendency of some advocates to mix advocacy for something good (RepRap) with their disdain for something completely unrelated (Christianity.) You offend people who are your allies and cause needless fights. The attitude seems to be that if you are a Christian you are too stupid to contribute to a movement like this is ludicrous on it's face.

    So, it is your blog and you are free to post what you like but ask yourself if what you are writing has anything to do with the point you are trying to make.

    1. I am sorry that as soon as you saw a view critical of your philosophy you had to immediateness stop reading, must be hard to live that way. Glad you did't put a fatwa on me.

      I am not Christian, so to ME the bible is nothing more than a 2000 year old book of poetry, just like to you Dianetics: The Modern Science Of Mental Health is nothing but a self help book, or Thor might be an Avenger, not something more.

      I didn't "trash" Christianity, just as Christians who call the ancient religions of Greece/Rome Mythology are not trashing it, only denying the truth of the god Mars/Zeus.

      Now for Intelligent design, I do heap ridicule, it's a sudo science, like phrenology, astrology,ESP, etc etc.

      I will be sure to hide my philosophical view from the world as successfully as you have, for the betterment of the community.

  3. So you really think RepRap is the product of million of random non directed changes? Really?

    1. Even evolution is not "millions of random changes", if it was truly random purple squirrels, glow in the dark chickens and talking snakes would be common.

      Evolution is accepting the fact that those more suited to their environment are more likely to make it to maturity, and once species finds it easy to survive to procreation, the trick is to be attractive to the opposite sex, in cases of sexual reproduction. "Random" things don't make you survive longer or sexy.

      RepRap is said to evolve because the same is true with RepRap as above. Over the 5+ years of this project RepRap at 1st selected for one thing, what works.

      Darwin took 100+ hours of printing, 2-3 weekends of mechanically intensive work to get together, then many more weeks to get it to work as right as it could.

      Sells took 60 hours of printing, 1 weekend of mechanically intensive work to get together, and usually only a few weeks of work to get calibrated.

      Prusa was the 1st reprap that could easily survive. It takes less than a day to print, Less than a day to assemble, and if you get hold of the right documentation less than a day to do basic calibration.

      Why are MOST new RepRap based off Prusa? Because it has evolved beyond the challenge of reaching maturity and to the challenge of attracting a mate.

      ORD, MendelMax,Printrbot, Mendel90, Prisum, EmakerHuxley, Wallace, etc etc etc are all trying to evolve to attract "Mates" being people willing to breed RepRap with them.

      "Intelligent Design" assumes that there is an intelligence behind the path RepRap is following. Trust me there is not. It's evolving 1000 directions to fill the niches in the ecosystem, just like our ancestors Billions of years ago did.

      Mendelmax for the moneyed people that want a nice looking machine
      Mendel90 for the woodworkers
      Emaker Huxley for those that like small bots
      Wallace/Printrbot for those with little money
      etc etc etc

      RepRap over the next decade will continue to fill holes, there will be paste extruder RepRap, CNC RepRap, Resin RepRap, Film RepRap, Plotter RepRap, etc etc

      The only places you will not see RepRap go are places where tools are already commodity priced, and even then some will show up, 3d printed hand drill would not shock me at all, because evolution can be a bit stupid sometimes, like running a vocal cord nerve from the brain, though the chest, and back to the throat only because it was a straight path back in our fish ancestors.

      Evolution is not 1000 monkeys banging on typewriters, it's taking monkeys one at a time to the typewriter, and if they don't type you shoot them, they try but fail you beat them, and if they succeed you let them brag on You tube about how well they type.

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