Monday, July 26, 2010

I'm Back!

Just back from 3 weeks vacation in Canada's northern forests. This has got to be the greatest place in the world to live, a six hour drive gets me to the limit of civilization. Nothing but bush and lakes over most of the northern part of our province. Lots of bears this year but they didn't bother us, wish I could say the same for the bugs.

Unfortunately I won't be leaping right back into the work on the Mendel. I have an old Jaguar that has been up on axle stands for the better part of a year for some engine work. The work isn't that complicated but I have been very lazy. The other guys in my car club are starting to wonder why I always show up to our get-togethers in a Toyota! I am going to focus on getting the car back on the road for the next week or so and hopefully I can then get back to the Reprap.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Some Miscellania

My PLA arrived last night. A beautiful 5 lb. roll of green filament. As a welcome surprise the folks at Ultimachine sent me two small sample rolls as well, one clear and one grey. I will use those for setting up the extruder and calibrating the machine.
I spent some time over the last couple of days on my next project, the powder printer. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I think that the laser cut bin setup created by Peter Jansen will make an excellent foundation to build on, although I will have to scale it up. I also reviewed all the blog entries that Alvaro Fogasa made on his work (good thing that I made a full copy since he has since lost everything in a computer crash).
I downloaded the latest version of sketchup which I will use to create models of all the parts. I plan on using modified versions of the Mendel parts wherever possible. That way I can create them on the Mendel and others will be able to pick up on the design. Luckily someone has already posted a sketchup file of all the Mendel RP parts so I have a great starting point.
The Mendel Y-axis carriage should work fine as the basis for the X-carriage for the printer. The repurposed printer carriage from a Lexmark Z12 printer will be mounted on it to privide the Y-axis movement with the printhead. I will redesign the mendel Y-carriage bearing mounts and use 5/16 barstock for the rails, just as the Mendel does.
I plan on mounting the whole shebang in a stock kitchen cabinet from Home Despot with locking wheels on the bottom so I can move it around. he storage space this will provide can be used for powder, bottles of binder, brushes, dust masks and all the other paraphenalia of printing.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Finally, an update with pictures!

I finally have a few shots of my progress. I have completed the frame and installed the x-axis. My only problem is that the z-screws seem to project too far below the machine and raise it up off the feet. I haven't checked yet to see if I measured something wrong or if this is due to using nuts that are thicker than intended. I expect the fix to be fairly straightforward though.

Sam, my assistant, guards my creation from evildoers

Here's a bit clearer shot of the whole machine.

My new motors arrived and I had no problems with installing the gears on these. Unfortunately I only have three of them so I will have to use one of my existing motors for the extruder.

Closeup of the z-axis 360 bearing and the x-axis motor.

The y-axis chassis is ready to go although I still have to do final adjustments on the bearings.

And, finally, a quick shot of the y-axis 360 bearings.

So, next steps are:

  • Resolve the issue with the z-screws.
  • Install the y-chassis and the bed.
  • Install the belts.
  • Move on to the electronics

I'm feeling pretty good at this point. the mechanical construction is almost complete. Since I bought pre-built electronics I am cautiously optimistic that they will work out of the box. That means that I could have a working Mendel within a week or so.

that is, if I can continue to work on it. Vacation is coming up and I need to put some serious time into getting my old '76 motorhome into shape for the trip. With a vehicle this old, that is only used once a year, there is always something to fix before we can head out so the Mendel may have to wait until we get back for the final touches.

I have ordered 5 lbs. of green PLA which should be here this week so I will be ready to build as soon as the machine is done. Then the real fun begins!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

One Giant Leap for Powder Printer Hobbyists

Peter Jansen over at the reprap Builders Blog just posted a great article. He has been experimenting with a powder printer using selective laser sintering and has just published his design for a very inexpensive powder printer chassis. At this point it only has the two bins and the z-axis control hardware but it is a great start. His design could well become the de-facto standard for an open source powder printer. you would only have to figure out how the x and y hardware works and, if you are using a salvaged printer mechanism, only one of those.

The open source powder printer chassis

There is no scale in his article but I believe that the build area is quite small. He is, after all, experimenting so he doesn't want to build a large machine to prove his approach. Scaling up the design, though, should be fairly easy. I would like to see something with a build area that takes advantage of the capabilities of a salvaged printer mechanism. That is, either 8.5 x 11 or 8.5 x 14 inches.

Peter's geared drive mechanism for the bins

He uses a sqeegee rather than a roller to spread the layers of powder. I am not enough of an engineer to know whether this will work with all materials or not but is seems to me that it will have higher drag and might decrease the life of the motor.
His design has been posted at Thingiverse so we can all start right in on replicating and modifying it.
By the time I get Mendel working and start looking at powder printer construction I expect that this design will have have most of the bugs worked out. Since laser cutting is getting fairly cheap and very available I think that it should come together quickly except for the software.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Great Progress

I made considerable progress this weekend. Since the new parts go together so smoothly I was able to complete the x-axis and assemble all the parts for the z-axis and the y-axis. the y-axis parts are all installed on the squashed frog but I have not completed the alignment of the bearings yet.

I am now installing the electronics on the two electronics boards and then it will be time to begin the final frame construction. Since the boards that I bought from Techzone are smaller than the original design I am trying to figure out exactly where they mount and how. I should have that straightened out today.

The main problem that I still have to face is that I have have not yet managed to get the gears off of my stepper motors. I tried to drive the motor shaft out with a punch but it seems to be very firmly attached to the shaft. Even a couple of shots with a 2 pound steel mallet didn't budge it. I have resorted to attempting to cut one of them off with the Dremel. I wasn't able to finish the job last night so I will be back at it tonight or tomorrow. if I can't get the gears off, or if I damage the shaft in the process, I will just have to order new motors. At least they are not one of the more costly parts.

BTW - Nophead, who made my plastic parts, posted an excellent article on his blog today regarding an enclosure for the entire Mendel. It basically acts like a heated chamber and can also be used to contain and control fumes. It looks like a good idea to me but I would probably mount the electronics outside the box. I worry that the heat inside might shorten their life.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Construction begins.........Again!

I received the set of printed parts from Nophead last night.

It took me two weeks of spare time and hours of drilling, grinding and sanding to get all the subassemblies for the x-axis built using the cast parts. Even then, they didn't align properly when it came to installing them on the rails. With the properly printed parts I was able to build all of the same subassemblies in 2 hours and all of the holes for the rails align so they should go together just fine. I hope to have the whole x-axis together tonight if I get some free time. Since it has been raining here for days that seems likely.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A New Start

Well, I won the auction so I now have a new set of parts coming. They were pretty expensive but at least they will allow me to actually assemble a working Mendel. Here's the Ebay Pic:

So, I will have to wait a week or so for them to arrive and then the build should proceed in a fairly straightforward manner.

In the meantime I will try to get the old gears off my motors and install the new ones. I can also finish the extruder build, except for the HeatCore piece.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Long Overdue Update

Things have stalled at the moment. I have been unable to get the various components for the x-axis to align properly on the rails. the holes are just not in the right place (or rather, are differently spaced on different components so the rails are never parallel). I have just about given up on the molded parts and I have actually bid on another set of properly repraped parts on Ebay. That auction closes tomorrow and I would then have to wait for delivery before starting my assembly again. If I win it I will also get another set of geared extruder parts so I can build a backup extruder. Since this set is manufactured by Nophead, definitely a respected name on the forums, I can be sure that they have been made properly and will fit together as they should.

I received the "Adrian's Extruder" parts and I have started assembling them. I first gathered all my parts together and discovered that I had not purchased a thermosensor so I sent a quick order to Makergear for a couple, as well as some insulating fabric. I need a couple of 55mm bolts but the longest ones I have are 45mm and won't fit. I am going to cut a couple of pieces of the 4mm threaded rod that I bought and put nuts on both ends. I had to buy 3 feet of the stuff so I have lots to play with. The geared brass insert was the toughest thing to find. I finally located a hobbyshop in England that had them and was also willing to ship overseas so I bought 10 of them and they arrived last night. They are not threaded on the inside but they have a grub screw that will dig into the threads on the shaft and hold them in place.

I also started to assemble the removable HeatCore heater from Makergear that I bought but ran into a problem. After applying the ceramic paste over the nichrome wire they recommend hooking the unit up to the Mendel electronics to cure the paste at high temp. I don't have my electronics hooked up yet so this will have to wait. I thought about trying to cure it in the oven but I don't want to experiment at this point and I have lots of time before I will need a functioning extruder anyway.

Last week I was able to meet Mike (Dissidence) in person. He has a lot more electronic knowledge than I do and is creating his own design from scratch. It's great to have another raprapper within driving distance. We are setting up a forum for Saskatchewan on the Reprap site so we can start to gather other, like-minded, builders together. I look at this in a completely selfish light... the more local people who are interested and working on these machines, the more likely that I can find someone to help me with my inevitable problems.

So come one, come all!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Assembly Update #2

Just a quick update without pictures. This weekend I managed to complete all the parts for the x axis. I cut out all three opto flags, drilled out the x bar spacers and then completed the assembly of the vertical-bearing-360 as well as the motor mount. I was thrilled that the 360 bearing fit perfectly on a steel bar at the first trial fitting. Much better than the x-carriage which still needs adjustment to clamp the bar correctly.

I then started working on the assembly of the x axis and immediately had trouble. The biggest problem is that the holes for the bars do not line up correctly. from measuring the x axis carriage I can see that the bars need to be about 5cm apart. The spacing of the holes on the various parts varies from 4cm to 5.5cm. This means that I have to go back to my trusty Xacto knife and Dremel to adjust them. I hope to have the full x-axis assembly assembled tonight or tomorrow.

When attempting to install the first stepper motor I found that there was some kind of mount already installed on the motor with a pair of screws. These have proved to be extremely difficult to remove and I am afraid that they have permanent threadlock on them. I have tried a couple of things that have not worked and my next step may be to heat them up with my soldering iron in an attempt to defeat the threadlock. Hopefully I don't also defeat the motor itself!

There were several ebay auctions for full parts sets for a "Wade" style geared extruder. Given that the geared extruders have a better reputation for reliability, I decided to go to one of those right away. The extruder parts from the cast set are a bit rough anyway. I managed to win the auction and the parts should be here within a week or so since they are actually coming from Toronto, right here in Canada.

I should also comment on a post that I made a while back. I was going to order some of the trickier parts from Provantage to avoid having to adjust the cast ones. Although they were very helpful and prompt in their communications it turns out that Provantage does not ship to Canada (or anywhere internationally) unless you are buying the full set of Mendel parts ($1500!!!)

I guess I will continue with my "Hack it with sharp objects until it fits" method for the time being.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Powder Printer Recipes

Powder printers, which lay down a thin layer of powder and then use a binder fluid to bond the object together, are now being built by the home hobbyist community. One of the factors limiting their usefulness is the powder being used as raw material.

Most commercial printers use proprietary materials in their print beds and they tend to be very expensive. Now that people are building their own machines there is a lot of interest in developing cheaper materials that can be created at home. There are a number of recipes for different powders out there for use in diy powder type printers. A lot of them, and the best of them, come from Open3dP (Open 3d Printing) at the university of Washington, though there are also a few others that I have seen on various forums.

I have collected as many of them as I have encountered in a single document which I am making available to anyone who might be interested. There is nothing revolutionary about this document. I will just save you the time of looking back through all the blog articles if you are trying to remember a formula. As time goes on I expect many people to be experimenting with different materials and I will update this document as I discover new information.

None of these recipes are my own. They are all the result of hard work done by other, smarter people so I can't answer any questions about them. Until I get a powder printer built I am not even able to try them myself. There is a lot of additional information available on the open3d site. That site is maintained by Professor Mark Gantor who has been very helpful in creating this document. Thanks to him especially for advising on how copyrights and proper credit should be handled. The Open3dP site should be the first stop for anyone experimenting with materials for powder printing.

For what it's worth, I offer this up to the powder printing community. The information is all in the public domain but the pictures are copyrighted by Professor Gantor. If you want to use the text in other documents please give proper credit to the original creators. The recipe book is in MS Word format and can be found here.

Assembly update #1

Made some excellent progress on the x-axis this weekend. I only get about an hour at a time to work on the Mendel, due to the ongoing demands of my actual life, so it is going slowly. Especially since there are a lot of adjustments with an exacto knife and dremel required to make the parts fit properly.

X-Carriage with bearings aligned properly

I managed to fix the alignment problem that I had with one of the bearings on the x-carriage and then proceeded to construct the idler bracket and the vertical bearing 180. There are still some adjustments required because I can't align the bars as it stands at the moment. I will need to adjust the holes in the vertical bearing so they line up better.

Two shots of the Idler Bracket

Vertical bearing 180 (very rough parts, will need major adjustment with sharp things)

It was obvious that the cast gears that came with my RP parts are completely unusable so I posted a request on the Reprap Mechanics forum and discovered that Markus Amsler offers free Mendel gears for just the cost of shipping. A quick email and my gears are now on the way for the unbeatable price of $3.80. Markus is in Europe and he didn't specify the currency so I sent it in Euros, still only about $5.00 Canadian and well worth the price. Thanks Markus!!

I will post a picture of the crap gears along with the new ones when they arrive.

When assembling the idler bracket I discovered that the 4mm fender washers that I bought are exactly the same diameter as the bearings so they will not work to constrain the x-axis belt. I went to Canadian Tire (my favorite store) and picked up a handful of 6mm fender washers which worked just fine. I also finally bought a set of metric hex wrenches to make assembly easier.

4mm washer on the right. Too small. Larger 6mm washer on the left. Just Right!

The opto flags need to be installed as you assemble the x-axis carriage and the vertical bearing so I will have to cut them out before proceeding further. I tried to print out the template last night but couldn't get the scale right. I will try again today and will probably use HeeksCad, which was conveniently blogged about by Niel Underwood over at RepRap Log Phase. It looks like it would be able to match the dimensions on the dxf file to the printer to get the scale right. We'll See. I did get a start on this task by buying a six pack of coke and drinking several, so can report that I have made progress.

I have been having some trouble with the camera so I haven't posted any pictures for a while. I finally asked my daughter. Since she is a teenager she is, by definition, much smarter than me. She pointed out that the old camera that I was trying to use was crap, I have started borrowing her, most excellent, camera for these shots.

Sam the Science Dog

By the way, here is a picture of my assistant. Sam recognizes that I require constant supervision to keep from severing an artery with an exacto knife so he sleeps beside my workbench. Also, when I start throwing parts that don't fit, he brings them back.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Assembly Begins!

It has taken a while but I have finally started construction of the Mendel. Definitely a very exciting day.

On Saturday, I went out to the garage and cut all the smooth and threaded bar stock for the machine. It took about an hour and a half. I bought stainless for the smooth bars and I went through two hacksaw blades cutting it. I smoothed out the ends of those on the grinder and I was ready to go. I actually still have to go out and cut the three jigs because I forgot about them at the time but, I will cut them as I need them.

My Molded Parts

The molded set of RP parts I bought from Ireland are extremely rough. The holes are all undersized, probably due to shrinkage in the mold material, and have to be drilled out. If the shrinkage in the rubber caused undersized holes it also probably caused the entire part to be slightly oversized. Many of the holes were filled with a rubbery substance and others were completely filled in with the casting material. I finally realized that parts of the rubber mold had broken off in the bolt holes when the parts were removed from the mold. The missing holes are where the bits broke off in the previous casting and were not present during the molding of my parts. This would indicate that the quality of these cast parts drops significantly from the first casting onwards. There is also some warping but not enough to cause problems

Anyone buying these cast parts should inquire whether they came from the first or second casting from a particular set of molds. Anything after that is suspect. Whoever bought the set that was cast after mine probably had most of the holes completely filled. I would not recommend these cast parts unless you can acquire them for considerably less than a set of printed ones. They require much more manual cleanup to be usable.


I started by cleaning up and drilling out the parts for the carriage assembly. The x-carriage upper and lower parts have a lot of trapped nuts and some of them needed to be enlarged or cleaned up with a Dremmel in order to get the nuts into them. The majority of them were OK, however, and a bit of pressure with a set of pliers allowed me to force fit the nuts into their cavities.

Strangely enough, my most serious problem was that I don't have any metric hex wrenches. None of my SAE ones would fit well enough for even rough work. I had to grip the cap of the screw with a set of pliers since they require more torque than I was able to apply with fingers alone. I will pick up a set of metric hexes this week.
My most serious problem was that one of the holes for the bearings on the lower carriage was missing and I drilled it at the wrong angle. You can see from the pictures that the bearing outlined in red will not sit correctly on the steel bar. I am going to have to remove this one and redrill the hole.

In the end, however, I was able to assemble the very first parts of my Mendel. I can see that the assembly will take quite a bit longer using these cast parts but they should all prove to be usable. I will certainly make printing a proper set of replacement parts a high priority as soon as the machine is operational though.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Quick Update

All of my parts have arrived. I will post some pics of the cast RP parts as soon as possible. They are quite rough but are usable. I may just order some of the trickier bits from Provantage. They produce all the printed parts on their commercial Stratasys® Dimension™ 3D printers in high-strength ABS Plus® plastic. They are pretty expensive compared to any other sources but they do this as a business, not a hobby. I know from experience that many factors conspire to drive prices up once you start considering commercial operations.

I attempted to order the drive gears and the x-carriage-lower_1off but their google widget told me that they didn't ship to Canada. An email to their contact address resulted in a very quick response from Nick Pace telling me that he would have it fixed in a day or so. I love good customer service!

This will probably drive the price of my Mendel up into "WTF territory" but I am past caring. I am having too much fun.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Parts Collection

Here are some pictures of what I have accumulated so far. The only thing that I am waiting for is my RP parts and they have been shipped so I expect them within the next 3 or 4 weeks.

All my metric fasteners. Not too exciting in the boxes but you can't build a Mendel without em.

The X belt and 8 ft of additional belt for the Y and X axis.

4 NEMA17 stepper motors. I will have to remove the gears currently on the shafts since they do not fit my belts.

50 624 bearings and 2 608 bearings.

Various Printhead parts from Makergear, including their heater kit for the extruder. It allows me to make a heater that I can remove from the extruder if necessary to place on another one. Handy if the extruder fails, which seems to be quite common with us beginners.

The lasercut chassis, build plate and circuit board mounts. all ready to go.

Mendel vertices from James Villenieuve. I won't need these now since I will get another set along with my RP parts but I will keep them as spares and perhaps to kickstart the build of a second Mendel.

The power supply that came with my boards is a small 12v adapter. Probably fine for running the Reprap itself but I also want to run a heated build platform, cooling fans for pos-print cooldown and maybe some lighting. I found a 500W ATX power supply on Ebay for only $20 (plus another 20 for shipping of course) so I ordered it as well. Once I have it here I can decide how big a project box I need to contain everything.

Monday, March 22, 2010

At Last!

I have managed to acquire a set of printed parts. Actually they are a set of the cast polyethylene copies of the printed parts available from Ireland. They were pricey but I am unwilling to wait and what good is working for 30 years if you can't outbid the poor young engineers for things you want?

Also, my electronics arrived today from TechZone Communications. Unfortunately I have to take care of some real priorities before I can get back to my hobbies. We have been waiting for almost a year to get my daughter in to see an orthopedic specialist about a knee injury and we finally have an appointment tomorrow morning. That means that we have to hit the highway to Saskatoon this afternoon. No time to look over the boards.

Last night I took pictures of all the parts that have arrived so far. When I get back I will post them and hopefully start setting up the electronics and motors on the workbench to try everything out. It will probably take 4 to 6 weeks for the printed parts to get here from the UK so I should have time to get bugs worked out of the electronics.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Steampunk Aesthetic and Rapid Prototyping, a Perfect Marriage?

As you might notice from the title of this blog and some of the graphics that I have used, I am a fan of the steampunk movement. For me it probably started back in the early 70’s when I first saw Disney’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” and the movie version of H. G. Wells’ “The Time Machine”. The look and feel of all that Victorian technological equipment fascinated me more than the stories and I have loved it ever since. During the intervening 30+ years I always thought that I was just an eccentric oddball (which, of course, I am) but apparently there were any number of people out there who felt the same. Over the last decade it has grown into a movement with it’s own websites, stores, books, newsletters, games and all the associated detritus of a modern social phenomenon. The specs above were created by Y43GR at Deviant Art.

These days I am more given to analysing things than I was back in my teens so I have been thinking about what it is about steampunk that attracts people. I suppose that there are as many answers as there are different people but, in my case, it is the fact that it represents the rise of the individual inventor and craftsman. During the late 1800’s the industrial revolution brought high quality equipment and parts within the reach of many people who previously were not able to manufacture anything themselves. They could take that hardware and use it to build their dream gadgets. It is the fact that these machines were one-of-a-kind pieces, built to high standards of both function and beauty, which makes them so attractive. The Victorian craftsmen lived and worked in an era when ornate decoration was as important as the actual operation of the device. Since every piece was a one-off, it was worth investing the time.

Jake Von Slatt's steampunk computer

This combination of mass produced industrial hardware and individual craftsmanship only lasted for a short time. Rising labour costs and the creation of the assembly line brought us to our modern world, where everything is affordable but nothing is unique.

So how does this relate to Rapid Prototyping? Well, we are now entering another era when individuals will be able to manufacture, in their own workshops, whatever they desire. These items will be as individual as their creators and, even if we all pass around the .STL files to make multiple copies, there is always an impulse to personalize “your” version of someone else’s design. A quick look at repstraps out there shows an amazing variety of designs, all reflecting their creator’s individual goals and design choices. They even have unique names, as was common for Victorian devices.

I have been wondering what a steampunk Mendel would look like. The rod used throughout would have to be brass, of course, as would all the connectors. The various plastic parts could probably be made out of wood but that really goes against the whole reprap philosophy. Perhaps black ABS with scrollwork grooves that could be later picked out with gold paint. Add a build surface of polished wood with a brass plate for the heater and you have a RepRap for Captain Nemo. Handy when you are on the bottom of the ocean without your full shipyard available and you need a replacement trigger for your electric rifle.

Nemo: "Drat, my electro-rifle is damaged. To the Mendel M. Aronnax!"

Perhaps the actual steampunk fad has just about run its’ course. Now that it seems to be everywhere on the internet, maybe folks will become bored with it. I hope not, I love the whole brass and wood look with the elegence that they imply. I am not enough of a sociologist to know for sure how long steampunk will last but I believe that the underlying philosophy that drives the design and creation of such unique hardware will continue to be apparent in the RepRap community for years to come

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Curses, foiled again!

This lot of Mendel parts appeared on Ebay. The seller was in Ireland and they are cast in polyurethane rather than printed or machined.

Here's a closeup. the quality looks pretty good. Of course looks can be deceiving but I thought it was worth the risk so I threw in a bid just shy of $400.

They finally sold for $465 which is still a bit too rich for me. I am hoping the fact that they were cast rather than printed or machined means that the seller will be making more sets. This could finally start bringing the price down.

Hopefully whoever bought these will post something to let all of us potential buyers know what the quality is like.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ruminations on a Heated Build Platform

In the early days of homebuilt rapid prototyping machines (that would be a year ago) there were constant problems with the parts warping due to cooling of the different layers of the object. Commercial machines have the whole build area heated in order to prevent this but that wasn't really possible given the RepRap's open grid design. Then someone had the brilliant idea of simply heating the build platform and a new era of predictably unwarped building was begun. Now anyone who is able to heat their platform can, with a bit of experimentation, produce good quality parts without throwing 50% of them in the trash.

It is fairly obvious that I will need to add a heated platform fairly soon after I complete the Mendel if I want it to actually be usable. I have investigated any number of designs on various blogs. Most of them look fairly simple but, being mechanicaly challenged, I want to take the absolute easiest path possible. I think that I have found that in Tim's design over at It is a bit more expensive than others I have seen but tons easier to implement. This guy is my hero, his repstrap design, using aluminum channel, is also extremely clean and elegant.

The following links and pictures have been shamelessy stolen from Tim's website.

The setup consists of the following:

I find this approach attractive because it is basically a buy it and install it solution. The pads even come with their own adhesive already applied. He has also posted a couple of pics of his control box which is exactly what I was planning on setting up. It seems logical to have everything neatly enclosed in a project box and, in addition to the heater, there will probably be a number of additional systems to build and control as things progress. The workbench could become a mess of loose switches, wiring, etc. without some advance planning and organizing. Below are a couple of pics of Bothacker's control box which includes the bed heater controls, power supply, fans, control board, stepper drivers and an emergency cutoff switch. Very slick, and he still has lots of room on the front panel to add things.

These project boxes are not expensive. I have been looking as a couple on this site but I will wait until I have gathered all my electronics before ordering one to ensure that I get the right size.

As a final note - A new set of Mendel RP parts has shown up on Ebay so I threw a bid in on it. Given that the set sold by Adrian Bowyer went for $647 Canadian, I don't hold out much hope but you never know.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Holy Crap! This stuff adds up.

Here are the actual costs for all of the parts that I have purchased so far. The laser cutting for the thick sheet is the one that I overpaid the most for. I subsequently found the same parts on Ebay for $33.00 US so I guess I got hosed. Happens to me regularly. All costs are in Canadian Dollars and these numbers also include shipping, which was overly high in some cases (in my opinion). The cost of shipping is always a significant cost out here on the Canadadian prairies. We are a long ways from everywhere.

I bought the bearings kit from VXB Ball Bearings for $62.00
Belts from SDP/SI (part numbers A6R3-C025 and A6R3-185025) for $32.00
I bought my extruder parts (nozzle, insulator, Heatcore) from for a total of $37.00
All my metric Fasteners from Pointe Products for $81.00
I found 4 NEMA17 stepper Motors on Ebay for $65.00 including the shipping
Electronics are from Tech Zone Communications for $258.00 (includes the power supply and cables)
I got all my thick sheet cut locally at Laser Cut Mfg. in Saskatoon for $176.00
Total spent to date - $751.00

McMaster Carr does not ship to Canada so I had to find different vendors for my fasteners, belts, bearings, etc. My best find was Pointe Products, who were able to provide all of my fasteners and could probably have been a single source for everything if I had found them sooner.
You will notice that, for $750, I could have purchased a Cupcake from MakerBot and been printing by now (if they weren't out of stock). Oh well, the construction itself is a journey and I am looking forward to it.

Note - I have not yet received the electronics from Kimberly Andrus at Tech Zone Communications but she has been quick to reply to emails and very professional. I will post a review of the boards when they arrive. Her price of $215 US for all of the boards, including the extruder board as well as a power supply and all the cabling was just too good to pass up.

Friday, March 12, 2010

First Post

Like many others at the moment I am beginning to build a Mendel 3d printer. I have decided to document my journey in the hopes that the information will be useful to other builders. I have built a few mechanical items in my life and I have a couple of older British cars that I manage to keep running so I am not too worried on that front. It is the electronics that I expect to be a challenge if anything goes wrong. I am trying to avoid that by buying them as completed items rather than kits of parts. I work in the software industry and, even though my technical days are somewhat behind me (about 20 yrs behind me), I'm sure that I can either manage the programming myself or talk one of my staff into helping me.

I have ordered all of the necessary parts except for the printed ones. Most of them have arrived and I expect to have the rest within the next week or so. I will post a cost breakdown of what I have purchased so far, where I obtained it and how much I paid. I have already found that I grossly overpaid for a few things that I could have found on Ebay or through the Reprap forums. Perhaps I can help someone else from making the same mistakes.

Of course, it is the replicated parts that are hardest to come by. I expect that the scarcity will resolve itself within the next 6 months or so since it creates a significant business opportunity for entrepreneur types. Anyone who is able to produce full sets of parts can essentially name their price at the moment. The set that Adrian Bowyer put up on Ebay about a week ago is currently listed at $427 (CAN) and hasn't yet arrived at the frantic bidding that always pushes things up a bit more in the last hour or so.

I have reached out to several of the user groups (without success so far) and I am also watching several sites that advertise the RP parts but are currently out of stock. I am still hopeful that I can find a set within the next few weeks.

If not I have plan B. Alvaro Fogassa documented the build of his 3d powder printer on his blog and it looks like an excellent complement to the extrusion technology of the Repraps. I managed to find a printer identical to the one that he used on Ebay for $15 plus another $15 for shipping. I would prefer to build the Mendel first since it is better documented and I will have to do some design work on the powder printer but, if I become impatient, perhaps I will proceed with this project first.