Dear Mr. Walker,
I am a manufacturing jeweller in New Zealand and a contributor
to the Ganoksin website where I read your email recently. I am
interested in knowing more about the rapid prototyping equipment
you are working on. Along with another company I am keen to
develop our manufacturing further with the use of subtractive or
additive prototyping machines. I have had a quick look at the
website reprapdoc.voodoo.co.nz . Are you also located in NZ or is it
just a NZ hosted website. If you can provide a low cost rapid
prototyping machine I would be keen to look at purchasing one.
Please let me know if you are close to being able to supply a
Short answer: “Not yet. Try again in three years.”
The RepRap project is a non-profit internet-based collaborative
group, much like the open source projects that work on the Linux
operating system kernel or the Mozilla Firefox web browser; the NZ
site belongs to one of my NZ-based colleagues. (I’m up in Canada
We’re working on making a filament-depostion manufacturing (FDM)
rapid-prototyper (RP) that will make copies of itself. People will
be encouraged to take those copies and make more copies.
We’re not close to supplying a machine; our target date to achieve
self-replication and announce the 1.0 release of the project is “two
years and a bit”. Once we’re successful, we’ll be shipping out loaner
machines to people who want to make their own. Separate from that,
anyone who wants to will be able to download the plans (.stl
files,.dwg files, g-code, etc.) and mill/rapid-prototype a new
machine. Once they’ve got that new machine they can sell it, use it
to make a copy, or do whatever they want with it.
This is not to say that individual RepRap group members won’t be
separately making and selling the machines, but it’s not really the
point of the collaboration. Once we do have the plans and the loaner
machines out, there should be an energetic cottage industry making
and selling the things.
Our build cost looks like it will be around USD$400, so people will
probably be selling them for $800-1000, I guess. If someone tries to
sell them for $2K, they’re not going to sell very many before their
new customers start running off cheaper copies.
The feedstock we’re using, polycaprolactone, costs $4.05/lb before
processing it into filament, and should be suitable for lost wax
casting. We’re working with a 0.5 mm nozzle orifice, and so far have
made one working part, a small block with a hole it it. (And our
logo, but that doesn’t really count.) We haven’t experimented with
0.1 mm or 0.2 mm nozzles yet. They might be easy, they might not; I’m
reluctant to speculate. It may be start putting down random waxes
using a RepRap, it might not.
If you like working on hardware, you might end up doing the same
thing I’m up to. Buy a Taig benchtop mill or equivalent, CNC-adapt it
if necessary, machine an extrusion head, remove the spindle from your
mill and replace it with the newly made extrusion head, slap on a
newly made circuit board to control the motors and extruder head, and
you’re in business! RP the positioning system using your modified
machine, pop some new motors onto the new positioning system, put the
extruder head on it, and you’re done. Or you can do it all with an RP
machine, or you can do it all with a CNC mill. Or you can wait a bit
and buy one, or pay a machine/RP shop to make you one, or wait till
one of your friends builds/buys one, and have him or her run you off
If you can’t wait to get your hands on a fabrication machine in the
next month or two, I’d suggest you buy a mill rather than a RP
machine, unless you’re confident you’d recover your investment in an
RP machine quickly. If our project is successful, the bottom may fall
out of the FDM additive fabrication market. A mill will still hold
its value 5 years from now. A FDM machine probably won’t. The CAD/CAM
experience and software you pick up will be useful regardless.
I hope that wasn’t too long. I tend to go on about this stuff. Our
project lead says in his experience, people start looking at their
shoes after about half an hour of him talking about this.