Thursday, February 3, 2011

Some Thoughts on the future

Since my project is nearing completion I have begun to consider where I will take it from here. I quickly came up with the following list of projects that I would like to work on. They are not in order of priority and some may get dropped completely later but they are the ones that are spinning around in my head currently

Tentative list of Projects using the Reprap – Things that would utilize parts printed on the Mendel.

  1. Build a powder style printer. A modified version of the Mendel Y-axis hardware could be used to move a re purposed inkjet printer carriage. The X-axis hardware from the printer would be used as-is. Utilizing the existing steel bar/skate bearings/printed parts design would save time and make it easier for others to replicate it. The bins for the Z-axis would have to be designed from scratch but the electronics could be as straightforward as an Arduino and a set of Pololu drivers.

  2. Print spare parts for the Reprap. This is a no-brainer and should be the first set of parts printed by any reprap owner.

  3. Print a Prusa Mendel for Dissidence. He has been an inspiration and a good sounding board for ideas. He deserves a Mendel and will also provide a good backup for me in case I break a part and don’t have a replacement on hand.

  4. Build a Prusa Mendel to donate to my daughter’s school. I would like to help raise awareness of the amateur rapid prototyping movement. They have great mechanical and woodworking shops at the high school and I’m sure they could make great use of one of these machines. They already have a large CNC router table so the instructors are relatively familiar with the basic principles involved. Actually, depending on performance, I might keep the Prusa and donate my original Mendel.

  5. Make a set of adapters for the relays in my Jaguar. I am replacing the belt driven fan in my Jaguar XJS with a set of electrical fans. This requires me to add two new relays to the wiring. Unfortunately the relays that come with the kit do not match the mounting brackets in the car. I would like to print a set of adapters that clip onto the mounting bracket in the car with one side and onto the relays with the other. These will probably have to be made in ABS since the Jaguar V12 engine produces a great deal of heat.

  6. Build something large. I’m not exactly sure what this would be but I would like to produce something to really demonstrate the capabilities of the Reprap and that would mean pushing the boundaries of what it can do. I was speculating on creating something out of parts that would each be almost the maximum size of the build area. When assembled it would be very big. This might require an enclosure around the Reprap in order to prevent warping and definitely needs a heated bed before I would even consider it.

  7. Model car. I would like to produce something to show my friends at Jagnuts, the car club that I belong to. I was thinking of creating a scale model e-type Jag. There are a number of 3d models of them available that I could use as a starting point. I would print it as several parts that could be painted and then assembled.

  8. HO scale buildings for my model railroad. I think that creating one-off plastic items for hobbies is one of the best uses for these machines. I can create flat wall and roof sections, doors, windows, chimneys, steps and a host of other parts that can be assembled later into buildings that are unique to my layout or even copy buildings in my city. It will depend on how much post-printing cleanup and sanding is required to produce a good looking final product.

  9. Organette or busker organ. This would be a big project and would require some significant design work prior to building anything. I have long been a fan of mechanical music machines, the ones that play a punched paper roll. They disappeared in the early part of the last century when the gramophone rendered them obsolete but they are fascinating machines and there are hundreds of different types. I have plans for a number of machines ranging from a small “monkey organ” to a large Wurlitzer band organ that I could use as a starting point. It would be nice to create something that actually plays music and then turn the plans loose on Thingiverse.

    Related projects - These do not necessarily require the Mendel to build, but they provide additional capabilities to the workshop

  1. Enclosure – A simple enclosed box for the Mendel allows for containment of toxic fumes (they would be vented outdoors) as well as maintaining a heated environment to prevent warping of larger pieces. This is one of the simplest additions to build and might be one of the first projects that I undertake, just for the sake of my health.

  2. Heated build platform – This is also a high priority project. Heated platforms help to prevent warping of parts. They greatly increase build quality and reduce waste due to scrapped parts. I have already ordered the heater pad, thermistor and PID controller for this project. I will use a flat aluminium plate for the bed which I will source locally.

  3. 3D Scanner. An excellent, self contained, laser scanner using laser pointers was described in Make Magazine. Everyone with a Reprap should have some kind of 3d scanner to allow them to create 3d models of existing items without having to manually model them from scratch.

  4. Powder printer - Mentioned above. I think that this machine will provide an excellent complement to the capabilities of the Mendel. It can be used to create parts in clay, ceramic, glass, plaster and some other materials. My reading indicates that the DIY versions lack the precision of the Mendel but the powder bed provides support for overhangs which allows production of parts that are currently impossible on the Reprap. With an 8.5” X 14” build area and at least 12” to 14" depth in the build bin it can also create parts that are much larger than the current Mendel build area.

  5. Kiln – A lot of the materials used by the powder printer require firing before they can be used. This applies especially to the Clay and Glass materials. There are a number of sets of open source plans out there in Internet Land so it would be a case of picking one and building it.

These are only a few ideas off the top of my head. The more I think the more stuff comes to mind. It is going to be a very interesting year.

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