Do You Want a MakerBot or RepRap 3D Printer?

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If you didn’t already realize it, Gnomedex.com is currently promoting our next conference – coming up next month (August 20th – 22nd, 2009). One of the presenters is Bre Pettis, who is a “maker” extraordinaire. For the second time in the past couple of weeks, I’ve had someone from the community email me to let me know about Bre’s MakerBot.com – without knowing that (a) I know Bre, and (b) Bre is speaking at Gnomedex. Still, Christopher Benjamins explained Bre’s project to me…

Hello Chris! I’m not really in the chat, but I’ve seen a lot of your videos. I’ve been getting interested in 3D printers and stumbled on an old video you made back in 2007 talking about them. You mentioned that you read in a magazine I think that someone was trying to make one out of cheap stuff, well – he did. I wasn’t sure if you kept an eye on it or not or forgot about it.

I’m sure you know that the commercially-produced 3D printers are expensive; they now range from $20,000 to $500,000. I was lucky and got to play with one back when I took an CAD Engineering class in high school (I made a cool little spaceship in 3D). Recently, I found the MakerBot and the RepRap 3D printers. They are very cheap compared to the other ones. I’ve been thinking about getting a MakerBot, and then using that to make a RepRap. The interesting thing though about them is that they are open source projects. You can get the designs for them and built them completely by yourself. Or, you can get kits. Another interesting thing (specifically, the RepRap) is that 60% of the parts can be made by another 3D printer (it doesn’t have to be RepRap or MakerBot). They are self-replicating machines. The RepRap project is working on improving that ratio, and also allowing someone to print in more than just plastic. I think they have a solder and a plaster extruder?

3D printing is more than just prototyping now. Their dream is in the future instead of buying something online and having it shipped to you, you would download it, and print it yourself – like a mini personal factory.

Both of these projects work together to improve their designs. Actually, the founder of RepRap helped jumpstart and support MakerBot – both are different in a way. MakerBot is made from cheap stuff that anyone can find and build. RepRap is designed to self-replicate, but the downside of that if you don’t have a friend or some other resource who can give you those special parts (the ones that a machine would make), it’s difficult to make one. So people usually make one, to produce a RepRap, or make a temporary machine using the same motors and circuits to make the parts for it.

Again, you can meet Bre / MakerBot at Gnomedex – in person.