DesignSpark Mechanical: Guest blog by Adrian Bowyer (RepRapPro)
Adrian Bowyer – inventor of the self-replicating 3D printer, RepRap. Described by The Guardian as ‘the invention that will bring down global capitalism, start a second industrial revolution and save the environment’, RepRap pioneered affordable 3D printing.
Here, Adrian talks passionately about the latest RepRap product, Ormerod – a ‘self-correcting’ 3D printer and the amazing prize in our DesignSpark Mechanical Challenge.
Can you tell us a bit about your favourite feature of DesignSpark Mechanical (DSM)? How does it help your design process?
The user interface is extremely intuitive, and I found that I picked it up in no time. This despite the fact that I usually design by writing programs rather than using an interface – I mainly use OpenSCAD, which is entirely driven by a C-like language. But after half an hour with DesignSpark Mechanical, I was almost as fast with it as I am with OpenSCAD, which I have used for years.
Why do you think it’s important for DesignSpark to be making tools like DSM available to all engineers?
Information, as Stewart Brand said, wants to be free. Think Google, who give away their primary product free (just as TV stations have for decades, incidentally).
What exciting projects are you currently working on at RepRapPro?
Our main work at the moment is on our new RepRap design, which is called Ormerod (after the entomologist Eleanor Ormerod – all RepRaps are named after biologists).
But I am also working on printing with electrical conductors (including, we hope, graphene) and designing a heated, ink-jet-style print head for the machine, so we can build with materials like wax.
What can we expect from RepRapPro’s new 3D printer, Ormerod?
The key design brief that we decided on was to make it as easy to assemble as possible. Up to now, it has taken a couple of days to put a RepRap machine together. My colleague Jean-Marc Giacalone designed Ormerod to be assembled in a couple of hours. In addition, it has the ability to correct itself, so that it prints things more accurately than it was put together. We think that's pretty cool...
What impact will this product have on the world of 3D printing?
Like all RepRaps, Ormerod is fully open source. So we expect the ideas it incorporates to spread to other RepRap designs, and beyond. This sounds like us giving ideas to our ‘competitors’, but in fact the reverse is true. When you give ideas away and people use them, human nature means that many of them will give you their ideas back. We do a lot of design at RepRapPro, but we also use lots of designs from the community. And without that community's input, we could not have made any of our successful products.
Finally, why did you get involved in the DesignSpark Mechanical Challenge?
When I took part in the DesignSpark Mechanical launch challenge it was fun. My daughter (who helps run RepRapPro) has a saying: “You're not wasting time if you're enjoying yourself.” The best reason for doing anything is because it is intriguing, absorbing and creative.