Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Random thoughts on 3D printer mechanics

While I was cleaning the Zcorp I started thinking about what it actually does and indeed what most 3D printers actually do. That is not very much really, I mean they do make things and are very cool but they don't tear through solid metal with multiple HP cutters and they don't get showered with abrasive sparks like CNC plasma cutters. Nope, most are almost office machines, they just move around a bit, not much load and not always that much speed. Mechanically these things should go on and on or at least what goes wrong should be pretty easy to repair. The real issues are in those little chips containing propriety code or things like the print heads which are very specific to the machine. I know if this machine had been DOA I could have done all the basic electronics myself with very little effort (things like the pumps and the build and powder bins etc etc) but the printer part? Not so much, not unless I cheated like I did on my own attempt to build a printer and that again leaves you locked in to another specific printer which they may only make for so long. This probably could be a post about property ownership and hackers wanting to be able to control every aspect of the gadgets that they own (unlike my ipad) but it won't because for me it is all about the worry that the thing I own will stop working and I won't be able to fix it. I hate not being able to fix it!

I have to wonder if a range of open source retrofit boards would be popular for these machines, this one was definitely going in the direction of the scrap yard and its PC based brain is almost certainly going to die long before its body does.

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