Last Saturday over ice cream, I made an important bet with a friend: that by 2015, you would be able to walk into a mainstream electronics department store, and buy a 3D printer off the shelf.
My hefty wager of one whole dollar depends on two things happening in the next three and a half years: first, 3D models become as easy to make as a PowerPoint presentation; and secondly, 3D printers become much more cheap, reliable, fast, accurate and easy to maintain and run.
In September 2010, I decided to get my feet wet and invested in a Rapman 3.1 kit. By getting a nuts’n'bolts-eye-view of this end of the 3D printer market, I quickly found the path that my printer must take in order to start hitting the above goals.
Reliability came first, as I replaced the standard acrylic corners with stronger versions printed using ABS. With this came a boost in speed to over 3 times the original. Accuracy was next in the form of a heated print bed (for ABS), a bespoke cooling duct (for PLA) and totally redesigned bed holders to largely eliminate Z wobble. These improvements bring the Rapman to within range of the professional Dimension 3D printers, which operate in a very similar way whilst being priced for a very different category of customer
I look forward to sharing more detail about my Rapman improvements in upcoming posts, as well as bringing to light the interesting progressions that make 3D printing such an exciting arena to play in. And whilst I have yet to find a solution that makes 3D modeling trivial for the everyday Joe, I will continue to push for the evolution of BFB’s printers through the wonderful process known as self-upgrading!
(last but not least, thanks for the warm welcome CP!)