This could be the cheapest 3D printer available in the world and could kickstart adoption of the technology, particularly in developing countries. This machine was developed in South Africa by Quentin Harley, an engineer for Siemens, who describes himself as a “self-taught hacker”.
Named the “RepRap Morgan”, Quentin has redesigned the open-source RepRap 3D printer to eliminate some of the more expensive parts. The basic RepRap design has not moved in much since it was created in 2005 and most 3D printers based on its design still use a triangular frame design.
“I started trying to build a 3D printer around two years ago,” Harley says. “But my first designs were really bad. The problem was that in South Africa you couldn’t get any 3D printer parts, so you had to make everything yourself.”, explained Harley, “So I had to design something from scratch. I wanted to make something that was affordable, because I didn’t have much money myself, and I wanted other people could build too.”
The Morgan ditches this support structure and also the complicated array of precisely positioned threaded rods that move the printhead around. The extruder head is mounted on a single arm which is a greatly simplified design, based on the SCARA construction robots. This massively reduces assembly time, material costs and having to undertake a complex setup procedure when the machine is built by a novice user.
The print bed also drops down to create the print model’s height and the print arm pivot around a fixed head and expand and contract to move in the X and Y dimensions.
“RepRap Morgan looks like a most interesting design,” says Bowyer, the originator of RepRap. “The problem with most lever-arm/SCARA-type mechanisms is that they can suffer loss of precision, particularly at the extremes of their movement. But that is not fatal — if it were, IBM would never have developed the SCARA.”
For the Morgan 3D printer the RepRap firmware has also been adapted so that the print bed can move up and down to compensate for the slight parabola head path inherent in SCARA designs. This improves the print quality and precision of the RepRap design and also reduces the amount of adjustment required.
Harley has entered the printer into the $20,000 Gada Prize for Interim Personal Manufacturing and he plans to start selling the Morgan in kit form for about $100 through Durban based 3D printer specialists Open Hardware.