The main issue for all people joining this 3D printer revolution is how to build your first machine, building the second one, or first child, is relatively straight forward - you just use your existing printer, but when you don't already have a printer you have a couple of options:
- Build some sort of bootstrap (repstrap) machine, extruder attached to a CNC machine of some sort to print out the parts for your printer.
- Buy a full or partial kit of parts that someone else has put together
Now whilst I am all for supporting the reprap community, I am also a cheapskate and object to paying some of the prices being charged for these kits, I am perfectly happy sourcing the vitamins, motors, electronics, etc from the cheapest suppliers I can find, rather than paying the premium for someone else putting it all together in a kit.
I have been researching parts suppliers, electronics options, etc. for quite a few months now and have made a few decisions and actually splashed out and bought a few items.
To that end I have decided to go with a cast set of parts including a Wades Extruder from Metrix Create:Space at $50.00 and $15.00 shipping to the UK (£42.20), these parts may not last forever, and will need drilling, but I am sure they will last long enough for me to print at least one child's worth of parts, probably many more, but they are a whole lot cheaper than the going rate of about £80.00 for an equivalent set of printed parts.
I have decided to go with the Sanguinololu approach for the electronics, mainly because I feel it is a neat and compact solution. I like the RAMPS idea for Arduino, but believe the Sanguinololu can be built for less, has a smaller footprint and looks neater. I also really like the Repic approach and will probably try this for my next controller - all through hole construction, PCB can be milled on the printer, PIC can be obtained for free (if you request a sample), but is still in development and is quite a steer from the ATMEGA based controllers that are currently the norm.
Rather than buy a ready built one, complete with drivers for £99.00, I have bought a 1.3a circuit board from Ebay for £4.50, and a couple of FTDI chips again from Ebay for £2.54 each, with free or minimal postage costs. I am thinking about some StepStick drivers from Ebay at £8.29 each. The remainder of the electronic components will be coming from Rapid or from various multi packs of resistors and capacitors I have previously bought from HK - total cost should be around £50-60.00 and doing my own soldering. I'll add it all up properly when I have all the parts, along with the total cost of this build, just to see what it actually cost me.
The stepper motors I have bought, in keeping with my cheapskate nature, are used rather than new items, again from Ebay, under £30.00 for 5 Nema 17 steppers, I actually bought a set of 5x29 oz/in steppers and a set of 4x55 oz/in steppers as I need one with with the higher torque for the extruder. I will use the others, either on a second Prusa, or on a heated wire foam cutting CNC machine.