Sunday, November 29, 2009

Breaking down the cost of RepRap firmware

Given the delay in MakerBot restocking the Makerbot Store, I decided I was going to go the Hacker route and just build all the components myself (Considering I haven't touched a soldering iron in 10 years, what could go wrong?). I started going through the RepRap parts lister, and after flipping through 20 pages, I was COMPLETELY confused.

You can tell someone put a lot of work into it, but it seemed to be set up for someone who would have some of this stuff sitting on the shelf, which I assume most RepRap enthusiasts will not.

So I decided I would try to improve on the idea. I added an electronics section to the Mendel M4 Assembly Data Sheet. Hopefully I didn't make it too confusing, or miss post anything. Sort of intimidating when you boot Mr Bowery from the top spot :).

I am glad I completed this project, because I learned something I would have never guessed, MakerBot is BY FAR a cheaper choice than trying to build the boards yourself... Let me explain.

The cheapest route to getting all the firmware is Buying the MakerBot DIY kits from MakerBot. For all the boards you will need it comes up to only $148 dollars.

Second cheapest route is buying all the PCBs from MakerBot, and all the chips and such from Mouser & Digikey. Total Came to $158.81 plus 2 chips I could not find (HELP!!). Assuming they go for $1 a piece, which looks about right, that's $163.81, or 15 dollars more than Buying the MakerBot DIY kits. This surprised the heck out of me.

Both of these options require you to buy a hot plate, Zeph paste, solder, and likely destroy some PCBs and chips in the process. Everything I have read says that the soldering process on the 11 boards would take someone who knows what they are doing 5-6 hours, or 2 days for someone like me. At $10 an hour, that's $160 of my time to put them together... ICK!

The 3rd cheapest option is buying the MakerBot Assembled Kit. Open it up, plug it in, and you are good besides the end stops, which need a little love. I hate spending money, but I think I spare some beer money to let them handle that job! $10 more is a steal... when they get them back in stock.

Most expensive option is buying the boards separately from Makerbot. That would end up being $203.00. Again considering it would take a real hacker $50-$60 dollars worth of time to put it together, it's still a deal.

Makes me wish I had bought the boards separately when they where in stock...

If you have a chance, go over to the RepRap Wiki and see if you can add more information to the Mendel M4 Assembly Data Sheet. God knows we are all dreaming of that Mendel RepRap goodness at this point.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Beginning is a Very Delicate Time

It's amazing how little press the RepRap Project gets. A open source, semi self replicating machine is one of those few things new under the sun. It has the ability to change hobby level crafting as much as the dot matrix printer did amateur publishing.

If your here you likely know the history of this project, and if you don't, just go onto Youtube and look up Adrian Bowyer, Vik Olliver, or Zack Smith. They are the most visible faces of dozens of dedicated hardware and software designers that have spent the last 3 years constantly improving the design of RepRap based printers.

Currently there are only 2 RepRap based commercial kits available to my knowledge, Bit from Bytes's Rapman out of Europe, and the Makerbot Industries Cupcake CNC out of New York USA. All other RepRap kits are completely self sourced, but that's where the issue comes in.

The promise of RepRap is the self replicating machine, but in reality it's not self replicating much. If you look on Youtube, or read the blogs, most RepRap based printers in the wild are in one form or another lasercut. So if RepRaps can print 20-40% of it's pieces, why are most RepRap based printers laser cut? TIME

A laser cutter can produce the structural pieces of a RepStrap (printer made from non RepRaped parts) in less than an hour, while it takes a RepRap 20-30 continuous hours to print it's own structural members. Given that the laser cut parts of a RepStrap are going for $200-300 currently RepStrapping makes a lot of since right now. Most people value their time at more than $10 an hour.

That's where this Blog comes in.

In Adrian Bowyer's video on Youtube, where he introduces the Reprap, he speaks of the exponential growth possibilities of the RepRap. He basicly said that given a month every person in the world could have one of these printers, if you could afford to buy the electronics and hardware, and printed constantly. I plan on trying to test this theory.

I have set myself a few goals, and this blog is to keep me honest on trying to achieve them. Here are my goals:

-Receive Makerbot before 12/15/09
-Record the build of the Makerbot and post on Youtube.
-Assemble and make first print with Makerbot by 01/01/10
-Print 1 copy of each unique piece for Mendel RepRap by 01/15/10
-Cast copies of all multiple parts for Mendel by 02/01/10. Post Video to Youtube.
-Continue casting Mendel Pieces until their is no demand for them any longer, or the RepRaps out pace cast production
-Complete Assembly of Cast Mendel, and finish printed Mendel on Makerbot by 03/01/10. Again post Video to Youtube
-If the cast Mendel is of a tolerable quality, offer the Cast pieces online to anyone who wants them.
-Continue to only print Mendel Parts until I own 4 Mendels and a Makerbot. Wear a Darth Vader costume in front of all 5 printers, while they play the Imperial March by 06/01/10, and of course Youtube.
-Produce Mendel printers as a hobby.

Lot's of people have talked about this idea, for YEARS on the RepRap forum, but as of yet it looks like no one has done it. Let's see if I am any different.