Wearing another hat, I write articles for Zdnet.com’s African Enterprise blog, where this story has just been published. It’s about Quentin Harley, a Centurion-based hacker from House4Hack who’s entered the $20 000 Gada prize – which is essentially a competition for who can make the next generation open source 3D printer.
From the article:
You can’t move on Kickstarter these days without seeing another pitch for a low cost 3D printer. But the original RepRap design – short for ‘self-replicating rapid prototyper’ – upon which most of these fledgling businesses are based was originally created in 2005 by Dr Adrian Bowyer of the University of Bath. It’s been refined by both Bowyer and the community since, but while the triangular RepRap ‘Mendel’ and ‘Huxley’ designs have become iconic in their own way, there’s been no major revisions for almost three years.
Harley’s invention, RepRap Morgan, is a big step away from the classic triangular design of the RepRap Prusa Mendel, and instead uses a fixed height print head attached to a ‘SCARA‘-like arm, which moves the print head through the X-axis by expanding and contracting a diamond-shaped lever. The model height is then created by dropping the print bed down beneath the molten plastic.
According to Harley, Morgan is much easier to build and cheaper than the current Prusa Mendel design, and properly calibrated produces models that are just as high quality as anything from the likes of a MakerBot. I know from experience that building a Mendel costs around R5 000 minimum, and can take the novice half a year or so of tinkering to complete. Harley reckons the cost for parts – not including electronics – can be brought down to less than $100 with Morgan.
While Morgan is self-replicating – the SCARA arm is printed from another printer – the base and print bed are essentially a drill bit, some plastic tubing from somewhere like Builder’s Warehouse and a few off-cuts of wood.
There’s loads of details I didn’t get chance to put into the Zdnet article. The fact that version two of Morgan has been refined so that there’s a flat top to the SCARA arms that makes for easy placement of a spirit level to calibrate the machine; the fact that Harley writes rather than draws his 3D models using the complex language of OpenSCAD, because he prefer coding to a graphical CAD package like Blender; the fact he’s going to be taking Morgan to his daughter’s school for the fair, to sell baby octopii as part of the fete… so many details, so few words to fit them in to.
One detail I love about Morgan is the fact that the hollow arms means Harley can run the cabling to the hot-end – the bit that melts the plastic – through the SCARA rig and keep the whole thing tidy (“I hate cable ties” he told me). Oh, and that it’s 100% South African, natch.
There’s a video above of Morgan in action – apologies for the ropey nature of the video and the short clips, it wasn’t really planned properly, but is something we’ll definitely do again if you like it. Will upload more pics as soon as.