been wanting a 3D printer since the advent of the MakerBot Cupcake CNC back
in 2009 introduced the first of what I considered the affordable
3D printer kits. It was the first 3D printer that I can recall that
was available in kit form. I studied the plans and gave a lot of
thought to what would be required to build my own printer. At that time
I was also looking at building my own CNC router. When I considered the
level of effort involved to build, and then get usable results from,
the Cupcake CNC printer the CNC Router won out as my first project!
My Adventure in 3D Printing
the intervening time I've been busy working on 3D design of R2 parts
and translating those designs into parts packages that can be cut on a
CNC machine. My objective has been, and continues to be, to improve the
build process by incorporating features that can only be cut using CNC
to strengthen the resulting parts or make the assembly an easier
process. I'm at the point now where I offer the major structural parts
to assemble almost a complete R2 Droid. Finishing a droid will still
involve a considerable amount of work as well as any number of small
detail oriented parts that I can't machine using the tools I have
available (my CNC router and a Sherline Milling machine).
I've been watching the 3D printing arena during this time as well. During 2012 I was looking closely at the Mendel series of RepRap machines. In particular the MendelMax
variant. While I was looking, the designer of the MendelMax, Mike
Payson, was offering kits for the 1.0 and 1.5 versions. As I watched in
the summer of 2012, he got so much business he could not keep up with
the orders, and closed his store until he could clear up the backlog.
What actually happened is that Mike joined Trinity Labs
who then offered the MendelMax and started shipping product to the
customers who had placed orders with Mike. Ezra Zygmuntowicz, the
founder behind TL, then offered a MendelMax Pro variant which replaced
the shaft/bushing arrangement common to reprap machines with linear
slides. The change was intended to reduce parts count and simplify
assembly and alignment of the printer. Alas, the new variant was too
popular for TL to keep up with demand, and in the fall TL shoutdown
it's store in order to catch up with the order backlog and overhaul the
During this time Ezra had been talking
about a re-design of the MendelMax and, as a result of creative
differences, Mike left TL to form his own company, Maker's Tool Works. In the meantime, TL previewed the Aluminatus 1 [formally,
the Aluminatus TrinityOne] at Maker Faire NYC, which I attended. It was
an all aluminum machine (hence the name) and designed for precision and
repeatibility. We waited patiently for both companies to formally
announce the availablity of their new products and start taking orders.
The A1 was first to become available for orders although at a price
point that was higher than the original MendelMax Pro. By buying one of
the 'first 50' machines ordered I was able to get a significant (20%)
discount on what I'm hoping will be a very competitive machine. It's
target specifications and price point compares favorably with other
printers available on the market. We are expecting shipment of our
printer on Jan 21st 2013.
And then, the adventure will begin!