So. A little group of items gathered in a pile in my floor.
By themselves, they all hold little value or use, but they all have great potential.
These are all of the pieces I’ve collected so far on my way to building my own 3D printer. There are many pieces still missing, but about 2/3 of what I need is here. Waiting.
I’ve been following 3D printer development since I saw a short piece about the Makerbot Cupcake on CBS nightly news back in July of 2010. I was among the many people who crashed the Makerbot site shortly after the story finished. I knew of printing technology but I had no idea that it was attainable for ordinary people. Though the prints coming out of the cupcake looked rough, I knew the tech would progress quickly.
And it did. I watched each limitation get overcome and the quality increase rapidly. I thought for certain that it was only a matter of time until I forked over some cash to Makerbot for a kit to build my own Thingomatic. But, I was a recent college graduate and was moving back to my hometown from Denver, CO. That kind of cash is hard to come up with all at once when you work in an art-related job. It continues to be an important issue. Which is what made me wait long enough to see Makerbot begin to change into a company that was clearly interested in a different segment of the market. Their kits went away. The thought of owning a 3D printer was exciting for me, but not nearly as exciting as having the ability to assemble it myself. When this option disappeared and the cost-barrier to entry for a Makerbot branded printer jumped up I shelved my dream.
I’ve typically been a kit builder. I really appreciate those who can just come up with things on their own. Right now, I’m not skilled enough to be one of those people. I watched all of the other styles of 3D printer come and go. Each was very interesting but the task of gathering all the many pieces seemed daunting. And the software to drive all of this? Very confusing. The field was quickly filled with jargon. Rep-rap. Rep-Strap. Gcode. PLA. ABS. Metric measurements? What?
I spent many hours following forum discussions and wiki pages. Slowly it all started to make a little more sense. It’s still pretty confusing but I’ve got a pretty good grasp on the process now.
I decided I was ready to start saving up and build one of these printers. But which one? Well, the cheapest one with the best track record. I quickly settled on a Prusa Mendel. It was popular. Had good support. Seemed easy enough to assemble. I wasn’t sold on the design though. I didn’t find it all that aesthetically pleasing. And the minute calibration seemed like a pain in the ass.
Then, one day while browsing Thingiverse, I saw a featured item. It was thing weird spider-lookin’ doodad someone had named a “Rostock”. I instantly fell in love with it. It was designed by a guy named Johann Rocholl. That was in May of 2012. The development was moving quickly with it and the quality of the prints were impressive. I was ready to start building right then but I decided to wait a bit longer until the design stabilized a bit.
It eventually did stabilize, but not before Johann moved on to a new design. One that, to me anyway, looked easier to build for a novice.
So I sat back and watched the development go forward patiently. It started to near a final design in October of 2012 but then the development slowed drastically.
About that time, in the forum that was dedicated to the Rostock-style of printer, another user named Steve Graber posted his idea for a design her later named the “Cerberus”. I immediately was drawn to the design. It was symmetrical, colorful, and simple. It appealed to the designer side of me.
Again, I sat back and watched the development. It, too, was slow in the beginning but sped up near the end of December 2012.
In January of 2013, I decided I’d had enough of this waiting and planning crap. I began scouring the forums and all of Steve’s posts about the Cerberus for information and specifications. By the end of January I had a rough list of parts. I started ordering parts near the beginning of February and have been gathering pieces slowly but surely. One thing I’m learning about the Maker community is that, just because you ordered something from an official looking website, doesn’t mean you’ll get it in a time frame you’ll be happy with. But I’ve been very patient.
So. Right now I’m waiting. My only local access to a 3D printer that I need to complete this printer is at a local hackerspace, Squidfoo, in downtown Springfield, MO. Being the cheapo that I am, I’m choosing to use their equipment to print my parts instead of ordering them from someone else online. Not only will this be a crash course on the process of 3D printing, it will allow me better quality control.
The hang up? No one locally is a “printing expert”. The person who built the printer for Squidfoo (a Prusa Mendel, as it turns out) wasn’t able to get it calibrated well enough to be reliable. So they’ve sent it off to another hackerspace in Kansas City to get properly tooled. No word on when it will return but I’m stuck in a holding pattern until it does.
So there’s my whole life story. Right?