Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kalamazoo RepRap Mendel

Thanks to the generous support of Maryellen Hains, this summer I am going to build a 3D printer. Specifically, I'm going to build a RepRap Mendel, an open source 3D printer. This printer will be made available to area artists and makers somehow, though the particulars of how that will work are yet to be determined. I feel it is likely, though, that it will find a home at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

Hearing first about the RepRap project maybe three years or so ago, around about the time I subscribed to Make Magazine it drew my attention. It was still a bit sketchy at the time, however, so I put it on the, "wait and see where this goes" list in my brain. Then Make Magazine podcast person Bre Pettis started MakerBot and produced the Cupcake, but I was somewhat turned off by the fact that you couldn't use a Makerbot to make a Makerbot like RepRap was trying to do. It reminded me to check in on the RepRap and they are on their second version, the Mendel, and that looked very exciting. I put out feelers for support by founding a group for Kalamazoo makers and suggested we build a Mendel as the kickstart project. I didn't get a lot of takers.

The last day of my KIA web design class (which I teach) was a review and wrap up day, and a little loose format-wise. Someone got me going on CNC machines and I brought up the RepRap. The whole class was engaged on the subject, to my surprise. Maryellen in particular, who was taking the class, seemed very interested in the possibilities of 3D printing for jewelry and volunteered to participate if I could get some other people to join in. Later it occurred to me to ask her to help out in a different way.

At Jim Riegel's retirement party tonight I sat her down to talk her into helping me get a grant and/or KIA backing for the project, intending it to be a project for the KIA around which she and I would develop classes to be taught there, and out of the blue she decides to fund most of project all by herself and wrote me a check on the spot!

So now I'm building a Mendel this summer. Ordering parts this week!

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