Like many MakerBot owners, I feel compelled to help spread desktop 3D printing throughout the world. So, for the past several months, MakerBot #131 has been hard at work printing parts in 3D to make another 3D printer!
The Mendel is the second (and current) design for the RepRap project, whose goal is to create rapid-prototyping machines that can replicate themselves. As an Open Source Hardware project, everything about the Mendel’s design is available online via Subversion, from the mechanical parts to the electronics schematics, to the source code for the device and its host machine. Additionally, there is a fantastic community of very smart people who are constantly improving the design, trying new things, and helping others get their RepRaps working!
While the Mendel requires various hardware bits such as motors, electronics, nuts and bolts, etc., its structure is about 51% 3D-printed parts. This works out to about 98 individual pieces that need to be printed, and represents a huge number of printing hours.
To get started, I used a .zip file full of the 3D STL files for these parts that someone very nicely prepared and uploaded to the MakerBot Operators group. These files were from the 1.0 release of Mendel, so some of them ended up being out of date, and a few had issues that made them unprintable. Thankfully, another kind MakerBot operator uploaded a fully prepared set to Thingiverse, so I could go there for a replacement whenever I found a part that wouldn’t print.
Here, column N47 contains the "completeness" of the Mendel as a value of 0.0 - 1.0 in terms of number of hours printed so far divided by the expected number of hours total. This data could be used on an HTML page with an "update_mendel_progress" function by loading it with a script tag:
At any rate, after a lot of tweaking, many hair-raising moments, a required upgrade with the MakerBot Heated Build Platform v2.0, and hours and hours of printing, the parts were finally complete! I gave them to Matt Mets, a member of HackPittsburgh, and you can see the photos he took of the parts, above!
Despite some of the parts belonging to a slightly out-of-date design, Matt has been making progress on getting everything together!