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I first heard about the RepRap project a bit more than a year ago, and I got so excited that I blogged about it (RepRap: Wealth Without Money) and spread the word to those around me. Since then I had been trying to put my hands on a DIY 3D printer, when finally in April 2010 I was able to get myself a Makerbot kit so I could build my own printer.

For those unfamiliar with desktop 3D printers, the ones like RepRap and Makerbot work with FDM (fused deposition modeling), which is basically melting a material and extruding it through a thin nozzle which moves controlled by a computer and creates an object layer by layer. Too compplicated? As Adrian Bowyer, the founder of ReRap usually explains, it’s like a computer controlled hot glue gun depositing layer by layer of the object. To print out something you get the virtual 3D model of an object (like a CAD file) and slice it up with a software which gives the instructions for your printer’s nozzle to move around.

The latest Makerbot model at the time was the Cupcake CNC (mine is #881) with an MK4 plastruder as the extruder. I assembled it and printed a cube which I downloaded from thingiverse to see how it worked, and as you can see, the cube came out pretty ok for a first print. But here the story begins to get sad…

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That was  the only thing I printed out that year. Things started going wrong from then on and eventually I had plastic all over and a bloated PTFE (the white tube insulation thingy). I was very new at all this DIY electronics stuff, and to make things worse, I was being exploited at my university, so I wasn’t able to fix my extruder for a long time.  That was a shame, really, I was ashamed… Many people had heard of the printer and were looking forward to seeing it in action, and I had nothing to show…

I finally graduated a year later and now have full 5 months of vacation until I am officially a student again, so I’ve been working on my printer for the past 3 months. The first thing I did was to order the newest extruder available from Makerbot, the Mk6+ stepstruder. After receiving the parts and paying a ridiculous 60% import tax, I started putting it together, scared to death of letting something go wrong again. And so far so good! The new extruder has been working with my “old” printer nicely! I still can’t get quality prints like some which I see in thingiverse, but I’m super happy with it the way it is!

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I’ve been printing out stuff that I download and that I design myself, like the Rubik’s cube for the blind. I can’t print out horizontally long objects yet, because they end up warped. I’m planning on building a heated build platform, so the lower layers don’t cool too fast, but I’m still looking for alternatives since I heard these are not 100% effective. Other future plans include printing out a RepRap and trying to contribute to the world of DIY printers somehow. Stay tuned!

 

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