Rapid Manufacture

As many of you may have guessed, the radio silence for the past week is an indication of the high amount of activity as opposed to lack of it! Alongside the obvious stresses of making sure we have all we need to live for three weeks in a completely different part of the world, we are also finalising the workshops and gathering the materials required. This particular part of the planning has been a little more taxing than expected, as detailed below. However, the team are buzzing to get going and enthusiasm is running high on both sides. Now, onto the interesting part..

The Story of the Foldarap

Friday, 11am: We finally get our hands on our donated 3D printer from the Rapid Foundation in association with University College Dublin. Unwrapping the mysterious package whilst on Skype to our Irish helpers, one of them asks “is anything broken?”. I jokingly reply “well, the bit of paper you stuck on top of it has a tear in it!”. How we laughed, until I realised the true extent of the DHL-induced damage on our delicate package.


More and more pieces of shattered green plastic appeared in the box, and it was clear that the RepRap was in need of a serious repair job. On a Friday before a bank holiday Monday, I despaired, knowing we wouldn’t gain access to a 3D printer until at least the Tuesday. Frantically I begin phoning and messaging everyone I can think of who could help, but no one was capable of fulfilling my desperate request to have 8 parts made the following day. It looked hopeless but it never crossed my mind that we would not get it fixed, I just wasn’t sure how easy it would be. (TLDR: it wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t really fixed).


Saturday, 5am: Awake at dawn’s crack pondering our options, I remember chatting with a founding member of the UoG JetX society the previous week and discussing his 3D printer. Praying he is still in Glasgow, I get in touch, and a few hours later I am given a hopeful reply: “In Glasgow and ready to print!”. We were saved! All I needed was to re-print the parts, screw them on and we’d be fine.

Saturday, 10.30pm: Alas, I was wrong again. The parts had just finished printing, and I took the printer to our saviour’s flat so I could check nothing else needed replacing. Thanks to the “Overlord” and its operator Chris Triantafyllou, the broken parts were no longer a problem and we took the Foldarap out of its box again to have another look. Chris is shocked at the extent of its brokenness, and we get into securing the new parts onto the frame. I suspected we would be finished in an hour or so, if we didn’t rush. It was just like putting together IKEA furniture. Right? We decided to reprint one of the feet of the printer which had also taken some damage, but this was going to take 3.5 hours. “I’ll get it in the morning!” I say.

Sunday, 1am: Turns out that when you 3D-print things, they aren’t always perfect in terms of the dimensions required. Every hole and edge needed drilling to make it fit, and even then still needed a good bash to get it in the right place. We were tired and making mistakes, so jobs had to be re-done a number of times. I was flagging, Chris was flagging, but the end felt near, and we kept going. I expected to be finished by 2am.

Sunday, 2.30am: One of the most difficult things about fixing the printer was that the intended sequence of construction steps was definitely not aligning with our order of doing things, so we often had to take much more apart than the number of pieces we were replacing. Enthusiasm had faded and we were now just working to get it finished as soon as possible. The foot had almost completely printed, so we test the electronics as we wait for the Overlord to finish.

Sunday, 3am: The new foot is really not keen on attaching to the frame, and Chris is going back and forth trying to adjust its dimensions so it fits on the corner. We can barely speak for the tiredness, but at least by this point we know the electronics are working, albeit slightly pathetically. Almost all the motors move and there is a definite heat increase when we turn it on (or so Repetier says). Chris drills a hole in his jumper. The foot goes on.


Sunday, 3.30am: We conclude that we’ve done all we can without some more guidance from our suppliers, and I take the Foldarap back home. I’m unsure how to feel about it – there is a balance of frustration with its condition, and a feeling of ownership and determination over the little creature. Then again, I just felt really tired.

To be continued…


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