Hackerspace: 3D Heaven

Bridge rectifier's printer frame starts to take shape
Bridge Rectifier's printer frame starts to take shape

35 people arrived from as far a field as Glastonbury for the second Bridge Rectifier Hackerspace at The Town Hall.  The 3D printing workshop started on Saturday morning with an introduction to the different types of 3D printers and the benefits and challenges associated with each, before covering in more detail the operation of a RepRap printer for building and using.  The master stroke of these is that they are able to print out just about all the complicated mechanical parts used in their own construction.  So once you have one printer you can print out many of the parts for another, or even improved parts that can be used to upgrade itself!  Since the printer design is open source it means that all the design materials are made freely available and anyone is at liberty to use these to make their own.

A bare PCB to be used in the Bridge Rectifer printer
A bare PCB to be used in the Bridge Rectifer printer

The 3D printing workshop was run by Thames Valley RepRap User Group (TVRRUG), who put together bulk orders for printer parts and then work as a group to assemble them, making 30-40 printers each time.  After all theory had been explained the workshop split into two groups: one learning how to use the OpenSCAD software to create 3D models, and another assembling Bridge Rectifier's own RepRap machine from a kit of parts supplied by TVRRUG.
An assembled PCB

An assembled PCB

The CAD modelling team created designs that ranged from a small cup through to a pig, with Robin Dixon working on creating parts for a miniature replica of an actual railway carriage.  Robin said "This workshop was a brilliant experience for me.  I learnt how to write a programme to create a 3D model of a replica of a French tram.  These Hackerspaces are always great fun and the people who run it are really knowledgeable and super keen."

Robin Dion leanring Open SCAD to design a panel for a model replica railway carriage
Robin Dixon learning OpenSCAD to design a panel for a model replica railway carriage

Participants were then shown how these models are sliced into layers suitable for printing, and taken through the printing process itself.  Meanwhile the printer assembly team split into smaller groups, working on putting together the mechanical parts of the printer and soldering the circuit boards that would be used to control it.

The 3D design and printing group
The 3D design and printing group

3D model of the pig drawn by a participant
3D model of the pig drawn by a participant

Printing the pig, legs upwards!
Printing the pig, legs upwards!

On the Sunday the assembly of the printer and working on CAD models continued, and some people swapped from one team to another so that they had hands-on experience with both.  When it got to 5pm on the Sunday Bridge Rectifier's RepRap printer wasn't quite completed, but it was about 90% finished and a pretty amazing achievement considering the timescale (and that nobody had done this before).  Of course, the expert tuition helped, but still!  Once the Bridge Rectifier printer is completed they will have the ability to print parts out to make more printers.  Genius.

Debugging the printer electronics
Debugging the printer electronics

The Bridge Rectifer printer nears completion
The Bridge Rectifer printer nears completion