Sunday, January 03, 2010

A note to my old friend, Hitech.

Think about buying or building your kid one of these.  It's an open source 3D printer.  I bought mine from BitsfromBytes in the UK for about $1,200, mostly because I was in a hurry.  You can build your own for maybe a third of that.

You can either buy the controlling electronics off-the-shelf.

... or ... if you want to get your kids into electronics, you can build up your own like I do at times. I tend to use stripboard for circuitry.  You can get stripboards cheap out of New Jersey.

I use DIP though-the-hole chips because I'm old and clumsy.  Little fingers can handle them a lot easier than you can with surface mount chips and components.  I put together a layout app for design.

That makes getting from concept to board a lot easier.

Once you have your 3D printer working you can get your kids going designing and building THINGS instead of sketching things on paper or on some 3D CAD program.

I think there is a lot of potential for getting kids used to thinking in terms of solid objects and how things go together.  One of the immediate applications is for kids to design and build their own robots.  Robots tend to be team efforts at the kid level largely because there are parts that are expensive to make because you either have to have a machine shop or access to one.  With a 3D printer you can simply print the fiddly bits.


gavilan said...

Forrest, thanks for helping me get into the game! I remember the first time I left my printer running overnight. It was a thrill to see a Darwin X motor bracket appear out of thin air... or so it seemed. I felt free!

If anyone is toying with the idea of getting into this game... just do it! People like Forrest have years of blogs and forums and wikis and late night IRC sessions to get you going.

As for the price, I think I spent $600 on my Darwin, from start to finish, tools and all. All I had were some hex keys and a soldering iron before I started. :) If you're smart you can make a Mendel for a lot less than that.

Hitechluddite said...

It is something neat to consider that's for sure! I am completely out of the loop on these, I assume they spray resin with piezoelectric transduces instead of ink.

What software drives these? I would guess this would be a hotbed for linux...

Forrest Higgs said...

Hitech: The printer uses standard 3 mm plastic welding rod that can be bought from a number of manufacturers. The filament is pumped into a heated chamber and extruded out of a narrow orifice (0.3-0.5 mm diameter). Think of a cake decorator.

The standard Darwin printer is multiplatform. The British Rapman that I use is stand alone and prints designs written onto SD cards by a PC.

Hitechluddite said...

I would guess it can do only solid objects. So if you can drive it by a file on a SD card it is a straight hardware device meaning all the Electromechanical conversion is firmware.
How would you calibrate such a thing?

Hitechluddite said...

I've been googling this and ran across this article.

It was interesting reading IMHO

Forrest Higgs said...


"I've been googling this and ran across this article."

Yeah, I wrote that one some time ago.

"How would you calibrate such a thing?"

I't implicit in the design. I put mine together and then printed a few standard shapes, then used calipers to confirm the accuracy.