The 'repstrap' prints... it actually prints! :) I know that's the whole purpose of the device I've been building, but it is still quite exciting and amazing when everything starts working in harmony and it actually comes to life in a productive way, for the first time!
After months of construction, assembly, alignment, calibration and testing, this past week saw my resprap pass a new milestone. I took a set of STL files (Greg Frost's adaptation of Wades Extruder) and turn them into a useful set of three dimensional objects, right in my own home! It may have gone unnoticed, but up until this point, the objects that these printers produce and the components that make them up, had been completely virtual to me, only existing in the photos and videos of the various RepRap related sites I visited. They're not exactly 'down the shops', or it's not like someone else in the neighbourhood has a 3D Printer spitting out interesting bits'n'bobs that I could get to see and touch.
I've been working in wood and metal exclusively up to this point, and today everything changed! It was like taking delivery of a StarTrek Replicator! Just magic! :)
(Pict showing general overview of my bench as things came toghther in the last few days.)
I'm really just an enthusiastic follower of this concept, but hopeful that the observations I make and obstacles I overcome along the way, and document here may be of some benefit to other like-minded followers. The real credit and thanks goes out to those who have pioneered this concept over the past few years and kindly shared their work on the RepRap.org site and many associated blogs.
The last mile...
The biggest hurdle for me was getting a stable extruder working, and the current design is hanging in there. The next biggest challenge was the software. Things are not exactly at stage where one could expect to double-click some setup file, take all the defaults, and be up and running in 5min! Our expectations in relation to software have changed greatly, and you need to brace yourself when entering the software world that is used to enable these little devises. My chosen path, through much blog reading and good guidance of others, was Skeinforge for STL processing to gcode, and currently RepSnapper for sending the gcode to my Gen6 hardware, and controlling the temperature.
RichRap's blog has good practical tips on getting started with Skeinforge. Also, once you install the software click on the help button. There's a tone of good links from within the package. The number of settings within Skeinforge' is a bit daunting, but if you follow the links on it's Help page you will build a picture. e.g. Help will link you to it's main Wiki: http://fabmetheus.crsndoo.com/wiki/index.php/Skeinforge. From there you can find a link to a "Configuring Skeinforge: basic terms" page, or even a list of Skeinforge settings. I found all of these links of some value, but my key point is that they are all anchored back to the help button within Skeinforge.
I'll conclude this post with some very amature video clips of my repstrap printing it's first real objects...
Thanks for viewing!