Thursday, July 21st, 2011 Posted by Jim Thacker

Holiday project: build your own 3D printer for $500

Got some time off this month? Forget sunshine breaks and the summer festivals: what you need is a good construction project. And if you’re into modelling, what better to construct than your own 3D printer?

Founded in 2005 by engineering lecturer Adrian Bowyer, the RepRap project develops designs for DIY 3D printers. Since the each one is capable of fabricating its own components, the machines are effectively self-replicating. (The name stands for ‘REPlicating RAPid Prototyper’.)

The project’s wiki now lists four separate designs, ranging from the top-of-the-range Mendel to the “travel sized” Huxley. As well as the designs themselves – provided under a GNU public licence – the site helpfully lists places from which you can buy parts, including Bowyer’s own family business.

Save money, save the world
One website called the original RepRap “the invention that will bring down global capitalism, start a second industrial revolution and save the environment”. It wasn’t, but with materials costing from €350-400 ($490-560), a fully functional printer can be had for less than the cost of a week’s camping – albeit after less outdoor cookery and more precision engineering.

If you lack the necessary ability to distinguish a bipolar stepper motor from a Wade’s Geared Extruder, there are even websites that sell the machines pre-assembled. But where’s the fun in that?

Read the RepRap Wikipedia entry

Visit the RepRap wiki