Four years ago, there were around ten hackerspaces across America; today, Hackerspaces (Techshops, Makerspaces) are within driving distance of a good chunk of the population. The RepRap can be assembled for a moderate price, and those with a bit more cash to burn can get one preassembled from multiple sources. Makerfaires are held in most major cities, sites like Instructables and Hackaday are thriving, and all things "Maker" are cool. Far McKon was at HOPE 9 giving an update on how far community fabrication has come since his 2008 presentation at the The Last HOPE (mp3 of the talk), what threats lie on the horizon, and where we might find ourselves in another four years.
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An anonymous reader writes "South African makerstore OpenHardware.co.za has designed and built a new RepRap-derivative 3D printer which it plans to sell for less than R5000 ($470). The first completed units are being put together now, with an eye to shipping late June. Store owner Peter van der Walt says that he designed Babybot — which has a print area equivalent to a RepRap Prusa Mendel-style machine — in order to reduce build and support costs. He's been selling various RepRap designs in kit form for two years, but as they become more popular is struggling to keep up with demand and handle returns. By sourcing more materials locally — he also designs his own controller boards — he's looking to beat the likes of RS Components and large shopping chains which have begun shipping the likes of Cubify in the country."
A limitation of current (affordable) 3D printers is their use of open loop controllers and stepper motors which limits reliability (drove the motor too quickly and skipped a step? Your model is ruined) and precision (~300 steps per revolution). A new project, Servo Stock instead uses cheap RC Servomotors combined with Hall Effect sensors, using a closed-loop controller to precisely position the extruder. The Servo Stock is derived from the delta robot Reprap Rostock (which is pretty cool even with stepper motors). The sensors give a resolution of 4096 ticks per rotation, and the controller can currently position the motors to within +/-2 ticks. They've also simplified the printer electronics by driving as much as possible from the controlling computer using Bowler, a new communication protocol for machine control. The Servo Stock also includes sensors for the hot end, presumably to be used to control the filament feed rate and temperature. The hardware models are fully parametric, allowing reasonably straightforward scaling of the design. Source for the hardware, firmware, and software is available.
Metrix Createspace in Seattle's Capitol Hill, he showed me a few printed figurines, including a Storm Trooper (of the Star Wars variety), and I thought at first that he had printed them as duplicates of similar-sized commercial products. Not so: It turns out these are made-from-life, specifically from cos-players who have stood on Abram's human-suitable turntable (powered by a chicken rotisserie motor hooked to a 3-D printed pulley) while he scanned them in. Thau's apartment is practically shouting distance from Metrix, but that pulley was made on a large Deltabot filament printer in the corner of his living room. (A living room usefully cluttered with tools, bottles of resin, projectors in various states of repair, and more printed objects.) More interesting still, Thau's figurines are produced with a home-built resin printer. Resin is messier to work with than the filament feedstock of RepRap/Makerbot style printers (and the resin itself has a slight odor), but it allows different results. Overhanging pieces are possible without requiring elaborate support pieces built into the mesh, and the resulting product can be noticeably smoother than typical filament printing, though all 3-D printing techniques are getting better. Thau didn't buy one of the commercially available resin printers, though (like FormLabs's), but instead decided to build his own out of scavenged and off-the-shelf components. Budget concerns and improvisation rule the day (Thau is also a grad student, studying to be a middle school teacher): That means there's a book holding up the projector which is vital to curing the resin, and the printer's case is recycled from a previous one. The results look as good as the affordable commercial ones I've seen, and he's excited to teach others to make their own. Third-party resin makers and a robust market in used projectors mean that other hobbyists can follow his lead and turn their friends into figurines. (Alternate video link)
Lucas123 writes: "The Rabbit Proto is a new 3D printer attachment that can be added to a RepRap printer to create circuitry right alongside an existing thermoplastic extruder. While still in prototype, the printer head is expected to ship this summer. The creators of the Rabbit Proto, a group of Standford graduate students, have already printed working prototypes, such as a game controller. So far, the syringe-like printer head has used silver-filled silicon to create circuitry, but the engineers are now working with conductive inks made with graphite. The Rabbit Proto head unit can be pre-ordered for $350, or you can purchase a fully-assembled RepRap 3D printer with the Rabbit Proto head for $2,499."
hypnosec writes "Researchers have developed and open-sourced a low-cost 3D metal printer capable of printing metal tools and objects that can be build for under £1,000. A team of researchers led by Associate Professor Joshua Pearce at the Michigan Technological University developed the firmware and the plans for the printer and have made it available freely. The open source 3D printer is definitely a huge leap forward as the starting price of commercial counterparts is around £300,000. Pearce claimed that their technology will not only allow smaller companies and start-ups to build inexpensive prototypes, but it will allow other scientists and researchers to build tools and objects required for their research without having to shell out thousands, and could be used to print parts for machines such as windmills." It's a modified RepRap; looks like we're getting closer to the RepRap being able to print all of its parts.
Lucas123 writes "Researchers using a RepRap open source 3D printer found that the average household could save as much as $2,000 annually and recoup the cost of the printer in under a year by printing out common household items. The Michigan Technical University (MTU) research group printed just 20 items and used 'conservative' numbers to find that the average homeowner could print common products, such as shower rings or smartphone cases, for far less money than purchasing them online at discount Websites, such as Google Shopper. 'It cost us about $18 to print all  items... the lowest retail cost we could find for the same items online was $312 and the highest was $1,943,' said Joshua Pearce, an associate professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at MTU. 'The unavoidable conclusion from this study is that the RepRap [3D printers] is an economically attractive investment for the average U.S. household already.'"
jfruh writes "Stratasys, one of the world's biggest 3D printer manufacturers, routinely uses 3D-printed objects as displays for its booths at trade shows. The problem: It's been using objects designed by popular designer Asher Nahmias, whose creations are licensed under a noncommercial Creative Commons license — and he says Stratasys's use violates the licensing terms. This is just one example of how the nascent 3D printing industry is having to grapple with the IP implications of creating physical objects out of downloadable designs. Another important problem: IP law distinguishes between purely decorative and useful objects, but how should the digital files that provide a design for those objects be treated?" The models are copyrighted and licensed NC, but what about the resulting object? Precedent seems to imply that the resulting object cannot be controlled (e.g. the output of a GPLed program is not GPLed, so why should executing a program on a 3D printer be any different?).
An anonymous reader writes "South African Quentin Harley has picked up the $20,000 Gada Uplift prize for making the open source RepRap 3D printer design easier to build, cheaper to construct, and — most importantly — capable of printing more of its own parts. Lots of background on Harley and his RepRap Morgan are available on his website." A further goal of the RepRap Morgan project is to replace the Prusa Mendel as the default RepRap model. And they are on track to hit less than $100 in parts, excluding the printing bed. You can grab the hardware design and the controller firmware over at Github.
MojoKid writes "3D printing is a fascinating new technology and an exploding new market. The process involved is pretty basic actually. Heat up some plastic, and sort of like that Play-Doh Fun Factory you were so fond of as a kid, you extrude the melted plastic out to create objects. It all started back in 2007 when the first RepRap machine was built. The idea behind RepRap was to design a machine that could build complex parts in three dimensions using extruded molten plastic and that machine could also "self-replicate" or build a copy of itself. Since then, 3D printers of all types have emerged from the community and this round-up of machines covers a few of the more prominent names in 3D printing systems. The Cube 3D, the Up! Mini and the Solidoodle 2 can all get you into 3D printing at retail consumer price points with precision down to 100 microns. The technology has very much come of age and it's going to be interesting to see where these machines can take us."
Sparrowvsrevolution writes "Much has been made of consumer 3D printers like Makerbot's Replicator and the open-source RepRap. But for those not yet willing to shell out thousands of dollars for their own machine, Shapeways offers 3D printing as a mail-order service. And its new Queens, NY factory is now the biggest production facility for consumer 3D printing in the world. Just one of Shapeways' industrial 3D printers, which use lasers to fuse nylon dust, can print a thousand objects in a day, with far higher resolution than a consumer machine as well as intricate features like interlocking and nested parts. The company hopes to have more than fifty of those printers up and running within a year. And it also offers printing in materials that aren't attainable at home, like gold, silver, ceramic, sandstone and steel."
A while ago you had the chance to ask Bruce Perens about how open source has changed in the past 15 years, what's happening now, and what's to come. Bruce has been busy traveling, but he's found some free time and sent in his answers. Read below to see what he has to say.
MojoKid writes "If you've ever attended a World Maker Faire, the first thing that strikes you is how organic the whole scene is. Inventors, creators, and engineers from all walks of life have their gadgets, science projects, and creations on display for all to see. Some of the creations you see on display range from downright amazing to completely bizarre. One of the big attractions, a technology area that has experienced explosive growth, is the land of 3D Printing. MakerBot took the open source RepRap 3D replicator project mainstream back in 2009 with the release of the Cup Cake CNC machine, then came the Thing-o-Matic and then a little bot called Replicator. With each iteration, improvements in process and technology are bringing better, more capable 3D printers to market, from MakerBot's new Replicator 2, to new players in the field like Solidoodle, Up!3D, Ultimaker, and Tinkerines. To watch a 3D printer in action is like witnessing art, science and engineering all working together in glorious unison."
An anonymous reader writes "A year after a windfall $10 million in venture capital, and after a community stir over one man's attempt to Kickstarter a project to manufacture the open source Replicator with a lower price tag, it appears that MakerBot Industries is going closed source on their new model 3d printer, the Replicator 2. Josef Prusa, core developer of the widely known RepRap printer (the basis for previous MakerBot models) has confirmed the sad news, with a stunned tweet, and is organizing an 'Occupy Thingiverse,' to protest the apparent theft of others' work."
Sparrowvsrevolution writes "Earlier this month, University of Texas law student Cody Wilson and a small group of friends who call themselves 'Defense Distributed' launched an initiative they've dubbed the 'Wiki Weapon Project.' Their goal: to raise $20,000 to design and release blueprints for the world's first entirely 3D-printable gun. If all goes according to plan, RepRap users will soon be able to turn the project's CAD designs into an operational firearm capable of shooting at least one standard .22 caliber bullet, all in the privacy of their own garage. Wilson and his handful of collaborators at Defense Distributed plan to use the money they raise to buy or rent a $10,000 Stratysys 3D printer and also to hold a 3D-printable gun design contest with a $1,000 or $2,000 prize for the winning entry — Wilson says they've already received gun design ideas from fans in Arkansas and North Carolina. Once the group has successfully built a reliable 3D-printed gun with the Stratysys printer, it plans to adapt the design for the cheaper and more widely distributed Reprap model. The group had already raised more than $2,000 through the fundraising platform Indiegogo, but the site took down their page and froze their funds on Tuesday. They're continuing to seek donations through their website via Paypal and Bitcoin."
Report From HOPE: The State of Community Fabrication. Now we have a video about a Massachusetts mother and son team we met at HOPE that had so much trouble with commercial RepRap machines that they designed their own and started marketing it under the name Robison Industries, a company they seem to be starting on the fly that uses their local hackerspace as its manufacturing location. Interested in RepRap? Maybe not yet, but as devotees of the concept point out, nobody outside a small circle of geeks was interested in personal computers at first, but they're ubiquitous today. Will we all have 3D printers on our desks in a few years? Good question. round us up in 2020 or 2025 at our local hackerspace and we may have an answer for you.
ConMotto writes "After an estimated 16 man-hour assembly effort, these are some of the first high-quality user photographs of the Thing-o-Matic 3D printer and completed component assemblies, released December, 2010 by MakerBot. The Thing-o-Matic is a commercial-supported open source 3D printer (similar to the RepRap), allowing hardware hackers to print their own 3D objects out of Lego-like plastic."
An anonymous reader writes "Peter Jansen, a PhD student and member of the RepRap community, has constructed a working prototype of an inexpensive table-top laser cutter built out of old CD/DVD drives as an offshoot of his efforts to design an under $200 open-source Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printer. Where traditional laser cutters use powerful, fixed-focus beams, this new technique dynamically adjusts the focal point of the laser using a reciprocating motion similar to a reciprocating saw, allowing a far less powerful and inexpensive laser diode to be used. The technique is currently limited to cutting black materials to a depth of only a few millimeters, but should still be useful and enabling for Makers and other crafters. The end-goal is to create a hybrid inexpensive 3D printer that can be easily reconfigured for 2D laser cutting, providing powerful making tools to the desktop."
An anonymous reader writes "It seems one-<object>-per-child goes beyond laptops. A project from the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has designed a high-quality, $20 telescope they're calling the Galileoscope, hoping to spark interest in astronomy among kids and make good scopes available to many who otherwise could not afford one. But as OLPC learned, it's not that easy; they are struggling to get enough volume to get production ramped up and costs down, resorting to tricks like auctioning off a few autographed ones, and trying Give-One-Get-One."
vik writes "The latest 3-year, pan-government deal that Microsoft has been establishing with the New Zealand government since 2000 has collapsed, opening the doors to the wider use of open source software in government. The NZ State Services Commission (already a prize-winning user of open source) says in a statement that it '...became apparent during discussions that a formal agreement with Microsoft is no longer appropriate.' Having lost their discount, individual government departments will now have to put their IT requirements out to tender individually."