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Molding a 3D Printer

The RepRap project attempts to design a printer that is capable of printing all the parts required to build another copy of itself. While they are quite successful in doing so, work continues – and much of that work is focused on optimizing the replication process. For some, this means simplifying the design so fewer parts, plastic and time is required to reproduce a machine. This has led to the Prusa design, for instance. 
 
But there’s another approach to optimization: molding.
 
The Open3DP team at the University of Washington has been experimenting with 3D printed molds for some time now, and they had a stroke of inspiration when considering the replication problem. For a time, the concern was how to reproduce as many RepRaps as possible in a given time. Their approach was totally unique: 3D print molds of all the parts and the cast them all at once. The result is dramatic:
 
We are quite sure that we can produce ALL of the plastic parts for a complete Prusa in under 30 minutes.
 
It’s not quite perfect as you may have to drill a few holes here and there, but a very impressive development nonetheless. Even better: the casts can be made of material not easily 3D printable. In other words, you can make stronger parts using the mold approach.
 
After some refinements, the STL files have been released by project leader Mark Ganter for anyone to use. Now look out – there will soon be Prusa printers all over! 
 
Via Open3DP and Open3DP (Hat tip to Mark)
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