Free 3D Printer Specifications
When you hear the words open source, many times there is an association with something being freely available to the general public. And while this is true to some extent, it is a bit misleading. Such is the case with the open source 3D Printer. The concept, developed first by RepRap, is more to the maintenance and replication of future machinery than to a totally free Desktop 3D Printer.
The Concept of Open Source 3D Printers
In order for you to utilise the open source content you need to first have the needed hardware and software to develop the product. And, while you may be able to use someone else’s machine to fabricate the parts necessary, there is still the necessity of a base 3D Printer and filament. The concept is that if the dimensions, and the manufacturing data, is presented to the public, the machine can be re-made at a low cost. The replication spawns another replica, etc. Machines making machines.
Before you think of this as being a scene from IRobot or Terminator, consider the technology and the software that is available. Machines have been capable of replicating themselves for years. It is the A.I. in machines which troubles people. Don’t worry, open source software for 3D Printing does not have artificial intelligence integrated into the design, but this maybe apt to change soon as A.I. and V.R. have gained momentum in recent years. Basically, you are provided with the blueprints and the fundamentals of the build and the hardware/software to make your own 3D device. What you do with that information is up to you.
Building from the Source
One of the key advantages to the open source 3D Desktop Printer is that the downloader (as most of the specifications and the content is obtained via torrent, zip, rar, or other such media transfer) has the ability to add to, or subtract from, the information that is given. It is a work in progress which allows for the content to be in a constant state of evolution and advancement. If you find that there is something that is impractical, you have the option to change that part of the software or the machine’s design. Please note. If you are using an online open source data platform, there may be stipulations and requirements as to how to post revisions and developments to the software. Check with the site, and its developers, to ensure that you are not violating any regulations, developer laws, or terms and conditions.
Before you Build
Before you use open source software, it is important that you check the developer as well as the download counter (if it is available). Just because it is free to the public does not make it worth downloading. Programs which allow for 3D Printing, such as Inventor and Solidworks, are great programs. However, if the person who develops the 3D CAD file does not design quality parts for the 3D Printer then you are likely to waste your time and materials on printing a part that does not work.
Secondly, if you have a Commercial 3D Printer, or one from a top manufacturer, you may be able to find the specifications for a needed part on their website. Should you have the appropriate software, you may be able to replicate the part without open source software. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s page to ensure that you do not violate copyright laws.
Why should you have an Open Source 3D Printer?
The best reason for why you should have an Open Source 3D Printer is for longevity. Most Reprap 3D Printers which are on the market are built with replacement parts and with maintenance in mind. Regardless of the brand that you choose, and the amount of care that you give to your 3D Printer, eventually you will need to order replacement parts, accessories, or get a whole new machine. However, with open source software & hardware, you have the ability to just print off a part which is starting to show wear and tear, replace the worn part with the printed part, and continue to use the 3D Printer.
A second reason why you would want to use open source data would be to have the ability to maximise your printing space. If you can only print small figurines on your printer and wish to have full scale objects, do a bit of math, tweak the parts, and make a larger printer.