Dr. Adrian Bowyer of the University of Bath and the father of the RepRap 3D printer takes us on a video tour of RepRap, including the new Mendel RepRap model. Bowyer speaks enthusiastically on the device, tools for 3D modelling and 3D model repositories.
The Mendel RepRap is physically smaller than its predecessor model, Darwin, yet has a greater build size. Smaller on the outside, bigger on the inside. Both models are able to reproduce approximately half of their own parts, the remainder being electronics and critical metal parts. The Mendel version produces better quality objects, but Bowyer says the big issue is the "human ease of assembly" of the device, so that is what his team is concentrating on.
The build material used by RepRap is typically plant based plastic (polylactic acid, made from starch), which is "easy to make on your own, but with one tricky step." The tricky step involves drying the material to less than 10ppm of water, which would indeed be tricky!
Other build materials discussed include ABS and HDPE. the common plastic used in milk bottles. The strategy is to design an accompanying "Shredder" that can eat the milk bottles or other similar plastic sources to produce new build material. As Bowyer demonstrates, you'll be able to shred your 3D printed shoes and print new ones as they wear out or you change size! The shredding component is still being designed, but as the project is entirely open source, perhaps someone else may be working on it.
A brief discussion of experimental circuit boards showed two techniques, both of which have some limitations. One circuit board involved printing grooves that are subsequently filled with molten solder. It's not quite ready for general use yet, but we're very pleased this is being developed.