RepRap 3D Printers
DIY Rapid Prototyping 3D Printers
The RepRap project is an initiative to develop a DIY 3D printing machine that can print most of its own components. RepRap is short for “replicating rapid prototyper”. The RepRap printer is an open design, and all of the designs produced by the project are released under the GNU software license.
Currently there have been two versions of the RepRap printer, “Darwin” released in March 2007, and “Mendel”, released in October 2009. The aim of the RepRap project is replication and evolution of the RepRap DIY printer design through use within the RepRap community.
Due to the self-replicating capabilities of a DIY 3D printer machine, the designers envision the possibility to cheaply distribute RepRap printers to people and communities. This will enable them to create (or download from the internet) complex products without the need for expensive industrial infrastructure. They also intend for the RepRap printer to demonstrate evolution during this process as well as for it to increase in number.
RepRap printers usually consist of a thermoplastic extruder, the “print head”, mounted on a computer-controlled platform which moves in three directions. The printer is built from steel rods and studding connected by replicated plastic parts. All movement on the three axes is driven by stepper motors, in X and Y via a timing belt and in Z by a leadscrew. The RepRap prints using a thermoplastic extruder which utilize stepper motors (sometimes geared) to drive the filament. It connects to a desktop PC and virtually any CAD or 3D modeling software can be used with the RepRap, as long as it is capable of creating STL files.
The RepRap 3D printer is able to print objects from ABS, polylactic acid, and similar thermopolymers. The most popular choice of print material is polylactic acid, which has the engineering advantages of high stiffness, minimal warping, and an attractive translucent colour. In keeping with the environmental aims of RepRap, polylactic acid material is biodegradable and plant-derived. Unlike most commercial 3D printers, RepRap users are allowed to experiment printing with new materials and methods, and to publish their results. This gives other RepRap owners the incentive to improve their machines and methods for printing with new materials (such as ceramics) have been developed in this way. Printing electronics is a major goal of the RepRap project so that it can print its own circuit boards.