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Noob building his first Prusa

Posted by mikey 
Noob building his first Prusa
May 13, 2011 11:42AM
Hi all. I'm a controls engineer who last used an RP system in college over 10 years ago. I just dove in the pond and ordered a set of Prusa plastics, and I'm starting my build soon. I'm sure I'll be asking gobs of stupid questions, starting with these:

When I create a 3D CAD drawing, what is the processs to get it into a format the RepRap uses, and what is the software/hardware chain?

I see references to a lot of software packages, but I'm not exactly sure what does what. I have access to AutoCAD and Bentley from work, but I'd prefer to not use that as my company then has legal right to anything I design from it. I downloaded OpenScad and have yet to use it, and have TurboCAD as well. When I create the 3D, what format should it be saved in? What is the format that RepRap needs? What software is required to get from 3D to RepRap? What cabling and interfacing does the unit use to get the G-code in place?

Any recommended packages for the initail 3D design? Any packages to specifically avoid?

Is there a "for dummies" section here I can use to get from "Here's a box of parts and some wires. Good luck" to "Hey! I made neato keen some plastic stuff" without reading every single forum discussion thread and deciphering it like the hieroglyphics it is to me at this instant in time?

FWIW, I'll be using this mostly for fit-up pre-production for motorcycle parts for my other income-wasting hobby, rebuilding wrecked street bikes into workable motorcycles. It's a lot easier and cheaper to print plastic incorrectly than to machine billet aluminum incorrectly.

Thanks in advance for any help and criticism. I take both equally well.

Re: Noob building his first Prusa
May 13, 2011 04:27PM
I would start by reading "Useful Software Packages" in the RepRap wiki.

I (as an avid POV-Ray user of old) prefer OpenSCAD but also like Google SketchUp.
I have heard that FreeCAD and HeeksCAD are also not bad.
Blender is supposed to be fantastic once you learn how to use it.

Basically you can use any CAD program that you want as long as it has the capability to export to STL format.
This is the format that all the slicing/skeining software uses.

The most popular of these is Skeinforge.

The RepRap host, RepSnapper and other software is also capable of turning the STL file into the gcode that is the commands that are sent to the 3d printer.

Generally you provide an STL file for other people to print and the source file so they can change the design.
What format this source file is depends on the tool you used to create the object.
Since I use OpenSCAD whenever possible I have a .scad file which is nothing more than an ASCII text file of a program written using the OpenSCAD language. If you were using Art of Illusion then it would be an .aoi file.

Other than the stepper motors (five in the case of a Prusa Mendel) you need 3 switches (most people use optical switches) and then a set of electronics.

There are a lot of choices:
1) Original 'Makerbot' Generation 3 electronics
   a) Makerbot (assembled or as kit)
   b) GRRF
2) Improved/Reduced Techzone Generation 3 electronics
3) Pololu Electronics
   a) Ultimachine
5) Generation 4 Electronics
   a) Makerbot
5) Generation 6
   a) Mendel-Parts
6) Generation 7

Virtually all of them can be bought as kits or pre-assembled from different companies/individuals.
I am using the old tried and true Generation 3 electronics; one set bought direct from Makerbot and running well; the second set bought from GRRF and waiting to be built into Mendel #2.


I can also highly recommend nophead's blog.
Read it from day one and you will have learned a great deal about FFF.

Bob Morrison
W├Ârth am Rhein, Germany
"Luke, use the source!"
BLOG - PHOTOS - Thingiverse
Re: Noob building his first Prusa
May 19, 2011 08:13PM
Thanks. I'm still reading through the nophead blogs. LOTS of reading to get up to speed. more than I'd bargained for anyway.
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