3D printers have come a long way in a very short time. They’ve gone from machines that took up an entire garage to ones that can fit on the top of your desk.
They’ve managed to incorporate an incredible range of technology and features as well, from CNC functionality to stamping, embossing and a great deal more. However, they do still wear out over time.
A new printer might just be the answer – it creates its own replacement parts.
The concept behind Big Red was born out of curiosity and a desire to see what could be accomplished with a bit of innovation and ingenuity. Two hobbyists decided to combine their abilities, and the idea for Big Red was born.
Of course, they didn’t start out with the final design. The first printer they created was dubbed Little Red, and it was, well, little.
That wouldn’t do, because to print 3D printer components, you need a decent sized build area.
The problem with the concept was that they had to design and create a 3D printer made almost completely of plastic. They also had to create a larger print/build area without actually increasing the size of the printer’s frame.
Little Red eventually took shape, but the creators soon realized that it needed to grow up a bit.
Big Red was finally born, and it’s a really innovative solution to the problem of replacement parts. The frame can be printed on a heated bed, and it features a print area of 200 mm x 425 mm x 140 mm.
There are nine pieces that are 3D printed, giving you most of a functional printer. Of course, you’ll still need your own motors, chips and rods (which can’t be printed just yet).
Interestingly, each print takes between 3 and 10 hours depending on the complexity of the part and the print speed. There was no support needed for larger parts, either.
The complete instructions can be found on Instructables for free, and there is also guidance provided to users on unique features and tips for production.
The creators are blunt and honest about their creation’s shortcomings, though. “Is this the best design? No,” states Dennis, one of the two hobbyists responsible for birthing Big Red.
“This proves the theory of operation and can be developed further. I am planning to test and monitor current designs and see what areas have weaknesses and failures, and improve them.”
To encourage adoption and innovation in Big Red, the creators decided to make the design files open source, rather than keeping them under wraps or selling them to a commercial interest. It will be interesting to see how this plays out – the idea of 3D printers printing 3D printers which in turn print 3D printers is kind of appealing, and it would be a huge step toward a self-replicating system.