Building the RepRap Prusa i3 3D printer


A couple of weeks ago I attended Open 3D Engineering‘s first ‘Build Your Own 3D Printer’ workshop at Fab Lab Berlin to find out a little more about the process of 3D printing in general and the RepRap project in particular. I didn’t have the money nor the need to actually make my own printer, but there are a handful of things I would like to 3D print, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more. While the 11 participants were untangling cables and programming microcontrollers, I was sticking a camera in their faces and asking stupid questions, mostly along the lines of ‘what does this button do?’ or ‘is that meant to snap in two like that?’

Occasionally I did actually get some hands-on experience, wielding big dangerous tools like hex keys or tweezers, but mostly I was there to watch and learn. I am currently building a machine of my very own though. As I said, personally I don’t have much interest in owning my own 3D printer just yet, but something slightly more suited to my lifestyle is a programmable open hardware camera slider. There’s also only one axis to worry about…

So I’m starting to put it together and 3D printing the custom parts with Bram, I’ll keep you posted – hopefully there will be some nice fluid time-lapse / stop motion / motion-controlled video footage in the next few months.

just waiting on a few more parts…

 

In the meantime, here are a few thoughts, theories and questions on the RepRap project:

To me, and many others, what is truly fascinating about RepRap is not just the sci-fi nature of converting bits to atoms. It’s not even the decentralised open source collaboration of the project. It’s the process of evolution in action and the exponential growth which can only come from a self-replicating machine.

To understand the thoughts behind the project, read Adrian Bowyer’s ‘Wealth Without Money‘, a short manifesto of sorts originally published in 2004, which lead to Bowyer creating the first RepRap printer in 2008.

In addition to founding RepRap, Adrian Bowyer’s other great life achievement has been making it into the 2013 Open Source Swimsuit Calendar

 

Further reading on a different aspect of the RepRap project: developer Erik De Bruijn’s Master’s thesis “On the viability of the open source development model for the design of physical objects – Lessons learned from the RepRap project“[pdf]

You might wonder how anyone has time to develop 3D printers and earn a living at the same time – contributors aren’t paid to improve RepRap machines, and as the designs are open source, nobody can claim a commerical monopoly on their designs. So how do they make a buck? Is Adrian Bowyer flipping burgers part-time?

There’s no commercial company pulling the strings behind RepRap, although many of the people deeply invoved in the project have ended up using their expertise to start their own companies or otherwise work professionally around the project, providing an interesting look at the business models which arise without a commercial monopoly.

Adrian Bowyer’s company RepRap Pro, for example, makes and sells RepRap kits and provides training in 3D printing, benefiting from his experience and status within the RepRap community. Josef Prusa, designer and namesake of the Prusa i3 we were building, has written a book called  ‘Getting Started with RepRap‘ in addition to running workshops and offering 3D printing consulting. Erik De Bruijn’s commercial project, the Ultimaker 3D printer, is one of the most popular domestic 3D printers and was recently rated ‘Most Accurate’, ‘Fastest’, and ‘Best Open Hardware’ in Make Magazine’s in-depth test of 15 3D printers. There’s also a growing ecosystem of parts, electronics and filament supply specialists around the project.

One interesting point in de Bruijn’s paper is that the RepRap community is doubling in size every 6 months (or was, in 2010 – have any further surveys been made?). It made me wonder about the diversity of people getting involved. In his survey de Bruijn looked into demographics based on education, age and background, but one thing you may notice from the workshop video is that all participants were male. I’ve tried to find information on the level of participation by women in RepRap or 3D printing, but haven’t come across much. RepRap is basically at the intersection of two very male-dominated fields, mechanical engineering and free software, so perhaps it’s not surprising that (to an outsider, anyway) there isn’t much visibility of women in the project. Are there many high-profile women in this area? Has there been much discussion of the subject? Got any links to articles?

Siri, Print Me A Chair

 

This post originally appeared on my blog at Shareable.net

In the future, should we ever bore of our jetpacks and decide to come back down to earth, sit at the hovertable and eat our 3D-printed bacon and eggs, we’ll need something to sit on. With today’s open design tools, it seems the future of furniture is already upon us (or are we upon it?). When you combine 3D software with digital fabrication equipment like CNC mills and laser cutters, you’re just a few mouse clicks and the push of a button away from your own quasi-futuristic space furniture. That’s the theory, anyway. This week I’ve been experimenting with creating my own open source chairs and there’s a little more to it than just hitting Ctrl+P.

I’ve been using a simple free software program called SketchChair which avoids some of the usual complications of computer aided design (CAD).

3D CAD software is often expensive, and difficult for beginners – there can be quite a learning curve just to make a simple mock-up. When trying to make a physical object like a chair there’s even more to think about – how much weight can your design handle? How about joining your parts together – do you know your dovetail from your dado? What materials and construction techniques will you use? Will you mill it from solid wood, or slot it together from lasercut 2D sections?

Even once you’ve designed a 3D model with all this in mind, you need to communicate this design to your fabrication machine in a way it understands – with the right settings and file formats. Then comes prototyping, testing and adjustment. And I’m assuming you’re doing all this work without anything to sit on.

One way to reduce this confusion is to use a simplified, very specialized tool which can be as basic or as in-depth as the user requires. SketchChair, for example, has one main function: it allows you to design a chair in 3 dimensions, and have it ready to be cut out in minutes. But allow plenty more time for tinkering…

You draw your chair in profile, and the software instantly adapts it with perpendicular slats, turning your quick doodle into a digital blueprint of pieces which can be cut from a flat sheet and slotted together in a 3D form.

It solves many of the usual CAD issues simply by making decisions for the user. You can go deeper and fiddle with details and settings, but the standard settings allow the user to focus on their design without getting stuck on joints and angle calculations.

One unexpected problem I had wasn’t a software issue – it was inspiration. Most people don’t spend their lives fretting about the angle of a chair’s back – sometimes you don’t know what you want until you see it in front of you, in context. I’m no chair expert, and once I started drawing, I realised that my ‘original ideas’ were all just sad copies of the Panton or Barcelona chair….

Not all my designs worked out so well for my poor test subject

Not all my designs worked out so well for my poor test subject

It took a day or two, but I got there in the end – making a chair with SketchChair is indeed much faster than learning joinery and manufacturing by hand, but it’s not quite instant.

First of all, it’s beta software – it’s still buggy and best left to the intrepid, or at least, the very patient. It takes time to explore and understand the scope of what can and can’t be achieved.

To make a physical model you can test out your prototype with cardboard and scissors, but a full-size wooden version is trickier. I don’t have a laser cutter or CNC mill, so the choice is either sending the design files to a manufacturing service like Ponoko or Shapeways (takes a few weeks) or hunting down someone in your local area who can make the chair for you. Depending on where you are, it might take a while to find someone – try 100k Garages or a FabLab – but you’ll meet a friendly local and it should be done in an afternoon.

I found a CNC guru down at Open Design City, my local makerspace. We still haven’t found time to cut the chair out, but hopefully I’ll be sitting on my very own SketchChair in a week or two. I guess that’s one of the issues with dealing with people rather than factories – they still have to eat, work and sleep. Once I figure out how to upload my design to the SketchChair design library, it’ll be available for anyone to download, adapt or improve, under an open source license.

At this stage SketchChair users can only ‘like’ a design in the online library, but in the future I can see something more akin to the Thingiverse model, which is an online repository of designs, mostly for 3D printing.

Thingiverse has an active community of users posting designs under open licenses, commenting, rating, reviewing and offering suggestions, and has grown into a supportive digital fabrication community. When people remix designs, they link back to the original. The site serves as inspiration, a place to learn, and a channel for feedback.

As you browse a repository of designs you also begin to understand the capabilities of a manufacturing technique and just what can be achieved – in SketchChair’s case, the bowls and tables created with the software show you a much broader range of possibilities than the name implies.

IKEA’s not going to be toppled any time soon, but if personal design and digital fabrication is going to become a bigger part our lives, it’s online communities like Thingiverse and specialized tools like SketchChair which will enable beginners to get the most out of their ideas. I think we’ll see many more examples in the coming years – SketchChair is a great start, but why not SketchHouse? SketchBike? SketchShoe?

The Wonderful, Wooly World of Hacked Knitting Machines

[Video] Check out what Fabienne Serrière (and others) are creating on their ’80s knitting machines


Once upon a time, there was a warm, fuzzy hack. It was 2010 – Becky Stern and Lada Ada (Limor Fried) built on Steve Conklin’s disk emulator and knitting machine resources to allow their modern computers to work with the ancient microcontroller of a 1980s knitting machine. This meant that they could now knit designs made with modern tools, too complex or tedious to easily knit by hand. They shared their work with the world and since then, following an open hardware model, they and many others have contributed hardware and software improvements, smoothed the workflow, and allowed other models of knitting machine to be hacked. I went for a beautiful autumnal bike ride over to Wedding and caught up with Fabienne Serrière (FBZ), who has contributed a number of improvements to the original hack and has the wonderful woolens to show for it. We talked about the history of knitting machines, this hack, open hardware and Fabienne’s various projects, and started plotting to make an open source sweater to keep me warm in the winter months. We covered so many different things that I can only show you a brief introduction to her projects now, but there will be more to come!

EDIT: as promised, a second video: we made a hat!

There’s also an open source knitting machine in the works, thanks to Varvara Guljajeva & Mar Canet – it’s called Knitic.

Info related to the Brother knitting machine hacks can be found here. Check out Lady Ada & Becky Stern’s original tutorial, here’s the video:

Andrew Salomone is an artist who does amazing things with this technology, an infinite Cosby sweater, a drum’n’bass loop scarf…

At the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki I saw a talk on knitting machines and personal fabrication by Estonian artist Varvara Guljajeva – (from the Knitic project – she was in fact the one who put me in touch with Fabienne). Varvara makes wonderful things with knitting machines (spam poetry, anyone?) and during her talk she showed this little gem from 1988: a charming lady showing how she programs her knitting on a commodore 64.

 

I don’t think it’s open source, but while we’re on the subject…

So, suggestions for open source sweaters are very much welcome, and if you’re in town, come say hi to me and Fabienne at the summit, tomorrow and Friday! This is not the last you shall hear of knitting machines…

Speaking at the Summit of Newthinking, 15th November

[Video] Checking in with Claudia and Andreas to see how the summit preparations are going

Next Thursday the Summit of Newthinking kicks off, and I’m going to be giving a talk about my first 100 days of trying to live open source – some of the successes and struggles, and my plan for the rest of the year. It’s also a great opportunity to tell some of the stories which I have experienced but haven’t had a chance to publish yet. I’ll be discussing the various different ways in which free / libre / open ideas are spreading into different areas, and some inspiring projects, some bizarre ideas, and some unusual approaches I’ve come across. Come by and say hi!

Newthinking has been around in the Berlin open source scene for almost 10 years, so over the last few months Andreas and Claudia have been introducing me to people with cool projects – and they’ve been extremely busy organising the summit as well! I went down to Newthinking HQ to talk to them about how all the preparations have been going and what to expect from the event next week.

There will be plenty of presentations, in both English and German. Check out the full schedule and speaker list here, and hopefully see you at the summit!

A GitHub for physical things: Knowable

[Video] Simon and Emanuel from Knowable talk about documenting DIY & open hardware projects

Claudia and Anna-Lena from newthinking are helping me get to know the Berlin scene of open source, makers, and hackers, and last week they got me in touch with Simon Höher and Emanuel Schwarz from Knowable.org, a new website which aims to facilitate documentation of projects, teaching new skills, providing space for feedback and catalysing collaboration. I went down to my local maker/hackerspace, Open Design City to chat to them:

Have a play on knowable.org, and you can also find out more about Jerry, the DIY open source server.

The beta schedule for the SUMMIT OF NEWTHINKING is online now, there’s only a couple more weeks to go, already there’s plenty to get excited about. This week I’ve been to visit Fabienne and her textile workshop, there’ll be a video soon – if you’re in Berlin on the 15th & 16th, check out her talk on open hardware!

Others I’m looking forward to are RepRap legend Josef Prusa‘s talk on 3d printing and decentralized development, and Phillip Marr’s look at open energy data approaches, “How much energy is needed to toast a slice of bread?” Keep an eye on the schedule, there’s more to come!

Open Source Undies brainstorming session

Last Monday we had a little get-together at Open Design City to discuss some of the issues of clothing production & consumption, and work out how open source-influenced methods could improve the clothing and fashion industry.

2 hours, many cups of tea and a plate of cookies later and we had come up with a few interesting ideas, and 2 concepts for how a better-clothed future might look.

Each person was asked to think of and draw, make, or write down a visualization of 1 or 2 core problems in the way the clothing industry works today. We each presented our thoughts to the group and discussed them.

Some perceived problems:

  • Everything / everyone looks the same in many parts of the world (fewer independent clothing producers, more large brands, leading to a loss of personal/local/national identity)
  • There’s a lack of information for the public about processes / manufacture / costs of clothing
  • Clothing can be overpriced due to ‘paying for the brand’ / or it can be underpriced – the costs saved for the consumer are pushed onto the environment, or the people working to produce the clothing.
  • Lack of quality garments at affordable prices
  • Slippage of industry standards – pay less, get lower quality?
  • Materials – problems with environment/climate/waste . High pesticide use in cotton industry, for example.
  • Simplicity in clothing – sometimes no ‘simple’ option is available.

We then asked how ‘open source’ development, systems or ideals could change the industry:

  • Open Shapes – patterns? Freely distributed and available for modification/adaptation
  • Open source scientific development of materials
  • Use of personal fabrication – 3D printers, laser cutters
  • Transparency in production – costs, waste, environmental impact…
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Learning skills that were previously commonplace. Learn to repair, reuse, create and modify.
  • Reducing costs of production? Or maybe improving efficiency? (not in $ per garment, but in number of garments produced.)
  • Allow for individual alterations or personalisation.
  • Clothes swapping and other forms of distribution.
  • One perceived problem with self-manufacture would be the problem of having too much choice… for example, a 60-item restaurant menu is not better than a well thought-out 5-item menu. Some kind of curating of designs would be necessary.

We then split into 2 groups and settled on two core issues we would like to work on, and then brainstormed various solutions, before focusing on one concept to present to the other group. These solutions were not restricted to open source ideas or open hardware. Group 1 fleshed out the workings of an online platform, and Group 2 came up with a physical repair shop and linked online network.

Group 1

 

Group 1’s plan investigated the various aspects of an online platform to share and modify designs, whilst also thinking about other alternative clothing economies: repairing, hiring, and swapping clothing.

OS Undies Group 1 brainstorming.pdf

 

Group 2:

Haute Couture designers play an important role in setting the fashion pace. They don’t entirely dictate people’s tastes but they do determine a lot of what appears in magazines and high street shops. These high street shops and big brands contribute the most to what clothing is seen on the streets, though people can (and do) go their own way and create their own styles.

One problem we particularly focused on was the throwaway nature of fashion and consumerism. With the high rate of change, and the push to own ‘in-season’ garments, clothes are dismissed and discarded within a year of purchase. Due to this rapid cycle, and in order to save money, clothes are not produced to last.

Through our discussions, we drew two conclusions:

  1. People are less willing to throw away clothing that has a story or some kind of personal connection – perhaps it was a gift from a friend, perhaps knitted by grandma, perhaps you designed, made or personalised the piece yourself.
  2. Repairing damaged or worn clothes is often seen as something done by poor people, wearing obviously old or repaired clothing has a negative connotation.

So we decided our aims would be:

  1. Involve people in their garments
  2. Make repair beautiful

Our final concept took two different paths: a physical shop and an online platform.

We envisioned a chic downtown shop in the fashion district – it would have all the elements of a Saville Row tailor, but rather than designing or manufacturing clothes, the focus would be on bespoke, tailored repair. Elegant, creative patching with ornate stitching.

Prices would be high – by repair standards – but you would have the experience of a personalised tailoring service without having to buy a whole suit. Luxury for the economic crisis…

The decision to aim at the high-end market is to try to shake free of some of the negative connotations of repair.

Customers would bring in their damaged garments and discuss the repair with a skilled artesan, they’d pick out fabrics based on colour, texture or weight, decide on a stitching pattern, and create a new identity for their article of clothing.

People love to have stories to tell about their objects – rather than trying to hide the damage, a beautiful patch highlights the life of the garment, makes it a one-of-a-kind, and allows the wearer to tell others about either the wild night when the damage occurred, or the experience of having a high-end repair created for it.

The scourge of the regular casual cyclist. A sub-crotchal blowout destroys an otherwise functional pair of jeans. Not a cool, rock’n’roll place to have a gaping hole.

By sharing the methods, successes and failures of this shop with the online public, it becomes an open franchise, replicable in other cities.

The other part of Group 2’s concept is an online space where you would find tutorials and information about different stitching techniques, and the best ways to patch certain areas or materials. People could share photos and instructions for their patches, post the stories behind the material used, or the rip itself.

In this way the process of repair becomes more valuable, respected and widely circulated, and a long-lasting, personalised garment gains value over something new and mass-produced.

Thank you so much to Annelisa, Brian, Julia, Cathrin, Angel, Sergio, Mei, Judith and Rosa for all the help, good times, great ideas and interesting discussions! We’ll have a practical workshop in a couple of weeks with some people who actually know how to sew. Updates to come!

Some more interesting links to check out in this area:

Robis Seidran Koopmans, (who is using open source 3d programs and techniques in fashion) also gave me this tip: Susan Spencer has been (or had been?) developing almost exactly the hypothetical program I mentioned in my first post. I’ll get in touch with Robis and Susan soon and talk about their experiences.

A group at Cornell has been doing mind-blowing research into stitch meshes.

I don’t know if these are quite right for me, but Open Source shoes are almost a reality at the Barcelona FabLab. Check out their video, and if you like it, you’ve still got 6 days to support their project or order your own open source shoes!

The idea of open-source undies did not inspire my oft-nude friend Robbie to put any clothes on, but it did inspire this lovely cartoon:

Open Source Hulk by Robbie Neilson

You will have noticed that there’s no video this time… ah… technical difficulties… most of the photos in this post are stills from the video we shot at the workshop (thanks for the help, Rosa!) but the post-production side of things has grown complicated. The state of open source non-linear-editing software is a big but necessary hurdle for me to deal with. There has been much exasperation, and plenty of gibberish hurled at the Terminal window.

Can any of the more technically-minded amongst you help me:

a) create the right proxy files from Canon H264 footage for importing into Kdenlive

b) convert Canon H264 footage to an intermediate editing codec for use in Cinelerra (tried various versions of MTS / MKV so far…)

c) stop OpenShot from crashing the moment I try to do anything complicated?

There will be a more in-depth look at my first month with open source software soon. I’d like to have a happy ending to my editing struggles first though…

What is the Year of Open Source?

A little bit more about this project and how it works

[UPDATE] Year of Open Source ran from August 1st 2012-August 1st 2013.

Read the end-of-project wrap-up here.

The project kicked off a number of adventures further into this ever-expanding field: these days I spend my time applying the open source approach to video, to the circular economy, and, well, everything else.

What is the Year of Open Source?

Year of Open Source is a year-long investigative process and life experiment, documented in video, writing, and other media. I’m a filmmaker from New Zealand, based in Berlin. Until August 2013, I’m trying to live Open Source for a year – avoiding traditionally copyrighted products, using products released under open licenses, or adapting or developing my own. In every aspect of my life, from the clothes I wear to the film equipment and appliances I use, I will be looking for and switching to open source alternatives, in hardware, software and services.

Confused? Here’s how I explained it to my mum.

The goal is to investigate how free / libre / open source ideas have spread to other areas outside of software – to test out the theory and see how feasible an ‘open source life’ may be. The other core part of the project is to spread the idea of open source, to get people to understand what it is and how it works, and to consider using open source options and methods.

For more details, please read the FAQ.

All the while I will be gaining knowledge and perspective on core concepts and examples of free/libre/open culture and the best methods of communicating these ideas. The lessons and experience of this year will also go into a libre-licensed creative video work which will start production in August 2013. Keep coming back for updates, blog posts and videos throughout the year!

Sam Muirhead

 

Another month, another hunk…

Next up in the 2013 Open Source Calendar (Swimsuit Edition)

Law professor, anti-corruption and transparency advocate, initiator of the free culture movement, and one of the founders of creative commons, it’s… Lawrence Lessig!

Lawrence Lessig drawn by Judith Carnaby for the 2013 Open Source Calendar (Swimsuit Edition)

What’s Creative Commons, you say?

Also, here’s Larry explaining a few of the problems with current copyright law.

Thanks so much to everybody who has donated so far, and I’ve had plenty of offers of help too – the past few days has been wonderful for meeting interesting people doing amazing work in various fields of openness. Also things are ticking along with the crowdfunding, we’re almost at $5K, and I’m currently backing up all important documents and photos etc for the big switch to Linux on the 1st of August. 2 days to go til the project kicks off! Anyone who donates over $25 to the project gets themself a digital download of the calendar, and $60 or more will get you a real paper version to stroke lovingly!

A couple more interviews this week: here’s one with Kay Alexander on EDUKWEST. EDUKWEST is an educational partner of IndieGoGo and they’ve chosen Year of Open Source as a campaign worth supporting, so now you’ll see a little ‘PARTNER’ tag for EDUKWEST on my IndieGoGo page.

Also, if you were in New Zealand and you and the family were gathered around the wireless on Saturday, you may have heard me on This Way Up on Radio NZ. I may be back on later on in the year, talking about, amongst other things, my snuggly successes or blistery failures in creating open source socks.

Year of Open Source Press Release

Filmmaker to attempt year of Open Source Everything.

4th July 2012, Berlin, Germany

On August 1st, Berlin-based filmmaker Sam Muirhead is abandoning traditionally copyrighted products and switching to Open Source software, hardware, and services for one year, as the subject of his own series of online documentary videos.

Sam Muirhead aims to raise awareness of open source projects and methods, and get people from outside the tech world interested and involved in Open Source.

As someone without a background in high-tech, I want to show people that Open Source is not just for hackers – it is an idea that can be adapted to any aspect of life.”

The internet has changed the film world immensely, and created new means of funding, production and distribution. Utilising these new methods, Muirhead is exploring another big idea from the internet, Open Source, and its growing effect on the ‘real’ world.

Open Source originated in the world of software, with the Firefox web browser, Linux operating system, and much of the underlying structure of the Internet itself being collaboratively developed and released under Open Source licenses. But Muirhead is interested in the philosophy of Open Source – as an alternative to the traditional use of copyright and patents, it gives access to the plans and design used to make a product. This means users can adapt the product to their own personal needs or redistribute it. The idea has already spread from software to other areas, from Wikipedia to robotics to tractor design.

Muirhead will be taking the software development approach of ‘release early, release often’ to documentary making. With new videos and projects to be released every week, the result will be an evolving portrait of Open Source, and will enable the community to get involved in the project as it progresses.

Muirhead will make his own Open Source shoes, jeans, toothbrush and furniture (and release the designs for others). He’ll be using Open Source educational methods to learn Turkish, avoiding food grown from copyrighted seed strains, and abandoning Apple software.

When asked what he hoped to achieve by only using Open Source solutions for everything in his life, Muirhead stated, “Open source is a fascinating way of collaborating, of creating, and working together for common goals, but it’s seen by most as something only relevant to software. By bringing it into ‘real life’ and adapting it to everyday purposes, I hope to get people thinking about how Open Source could work in their lives.”

Muirhead suggests there’s a journalistic approach too: “I want to highlight the problems of the current copyright and patent system. Every week you see Apple, Samsung and Google throwing million-dollar lawsuits at each other, when technologically they all have shared goals. Whereas in the Free Software and open hardware community there’s the adage that competitors stand on each others’ shoulders, not on each others’ toes.” The project will be highlighting the achievements and methods of companies and individuals working with Open Source, and discussing their different business models.

Sam Muirhead is a music video director, editor and documentary maker from Auckland, New Zealand, with a background in web-based, festival and broadcast media.

sam@yearofopensource.net

+491747592066

www.yearofopensource.net

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Sam Muirhead is trying to live entirely without traditionally copyrighted products