The unassuming green square of plastic in my hand was quite revolutionary at the time this picture was taken.
This was the first ever print from a 3d printer that my friends and I had built in our college dorm room. Clearly there was some work to do still, but the fact that it was even possible to shove plastic through a hot nozzle and layer it into a 3 dimensional shape was incredible!
This was done in May of 2012 - just as mainstream 3d printers like Makerbots were becoming a big deal. My roommates, David Maxson and Michael Hoover, talked me into making a RepRap Mendel with them (we really should have built a Prusa instead but our research was a bit lacking).
It took many months and made a huge mess of our dorm, but in the end it finally came together.
Not exactly the most beautiful thing ever (also none of us were EEs.... if you couldn't tell from our wiring) but it was assembled! And then didn't print anything...
So it took many more months of testing all the electronics, reading through the code configuration to learn how to use it, and learning from the IRC folks that we needed TWO power cords to run the electronics (one for the Arduino and one for the shield) and we could finally run the thing and print out our lovely green square.
After that, we were able to run the printer, but since we had no idea what we were doing, the parts didn't really turn out. We had backlash issues, motor driver issues, hot end issues, end switch issues... pretty much every part of it broke at one point or another.
Many more months of troubleshooting, tweaking, and testing later and we could finally make reliable awesome prints!
Those were the glory days of this printer. And then we tried to get too fancy. We tried to add a better bed surface as well as tune the printer to reduce the backlash further so we could actually print parts that would fit together. This sounded like a good idea at the time but a few too many crashes into the bed resulted in a clogged nozzle and plastic leaking out all of the places it was never supposed to.
We were able to fix the hot end but the printer was still plagued with issues and we had sank so much money into fixing it already that it was eventually abandoned sometime in 2013.
I learned a lot from this project. I learned how to solder. I learned to do more research before taking on a project of this scale. I learned to get a better workplace than a college dorm room. I learned how to troubleshoot (a lot). And I learned that open source might mean cheaper, but likely not easier.
This was an awesome project and it exposed me to the Maker/Hacker movement in a way I probably never would have been if my roommates weren't crazy enough to convince me to do this with them. And even though it was an infuriating project and really only worked for a few months, it was totally worth it for the experience alone. It seems that most projects tend to fall into this category eventually...
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns!