The original RepRap concept was of self-replication. Today, that concept has fallen out of favor for mass production. And rightly so as demand for 3D printers has outstripped the capabilities of printers to make printers. Certainly, many parts for 3D printers such as the Taz and Prusa are 3D printed, but the real important bits are mass-produced. Again, given the high demand, that’s the only way it could be done.
But wouldn’t it be great if you could print your own printers?
There are a handful of 3D printed 3D printers out there. I think the ‘Snappy’ printer was one of the first and attempted to print as much as possible including linear motion. Of course, the limitations of 3D printing made that difficult to do and maintain quality prints.
There’s the Dollo which is sort of a printer-by-legos printer. Great concept. Great scaleability.
The problem with both of these is that no matter how fantastic your 3D printed parts are, the critical components involved in the linear motion are not as good as polished steel or manufactured components. Maybe someday that will change. There are a lot of people pushing the envelope with 3D printed motors, electronics, and drive trains.
I set out with a goal to make as much of my printer 3D printable while doing my best to avoid 3-D printer only components (such as frames). I designed the Proto-Plastik line of printers to take advantage of commoditized components such as linear rods, acme lead screws, steppers, electronics, etc. The result is a line of printers that are capable of high quality output while being able to ‘reproduce’.
I have been running a small print farm of a dozen printers over the past two years while continually revising their designs. The result is that the printers have racked up about 70,000 hours of print time over the past 2 years. While I have experienced the typical issues seen in just about any 3D printer (bed adhesion, hot end jams, filament runout, etc.), issues with the 3D printed pieces have been minimal and in all cases any part that wasn’t performing well, got removed or beefed up and integrated into the design.
These printers aren’t for everyone. Though the Ultimate model gets close to being a hands-off printer once built, all of the printers require technical skill to assemble. If you are familiar with Heathkit, This is Heathkit of the 3D printing world.
I encourage you to visit my Repository on GitHub to have a look at the models. These are 100% open source and includes both STL and STEP files. You can also get some ideas from my website though at the moment it is pretty weak (I’m working on that).
I originally considered promoting a retail line for the kits, but considering the skill required to build these printers, I will make kits available only by request and after I’m confident you have the aptitude to be successful.
Otherwise, the source files are yours to do as you wish within the domain of the GPL license as called out in the repo.