The Value of Accessible and Open Source

Posted by Elijah Post on Feb 17, 2017 6:00:00 AM


The 3D printing world as you know and love it today would not have been possible without the work of Adrian Boyer, Bath University, and the RepRap project.

It has been 12 years since Professor Boyer’s initial groundbreaking work into the concept of self replicating rapid prototyping machines. If you haven't seen the video that was produced shortly thereafter, I highly encourage you to do so.

Me programming a RepRap 3D Printer I had built at Noisebridge Hackerspace in 2011

Almost every 3D printer company of note derives its technology from one aspect of the RepRap project or another. This is because the RepRap project developed into an open source movement, consisting of design work that has both the software and hardware level from thousands of contributors around the world.

To give you an idea as to how quickly the pace of iteration in open-source hardware was during the initial boom in 3D printing, around 5 years ago, I tried my hand at printing some parts for the extruder of the first RepRap machine I built. The design had been uploaded only a few days earlier and was getting good reviews. After about 9 hours of work, I finished the prints, only to find out that another, newer version of the parts were now available. There had been so many contributors to this particular design, that it felt like new versions were popping up multiple times a day.

Many of these contributors including our very own founder, Andrew Rutter, went on to found the companies that make up the modern 3D printer landscape today.

Unsurprisingly, there is a strong belief among many in the 3D printing community, in the value and power of open source. The makers who contributed to the RepRap design understandably do not take kindly to a company that doesn’t give credit where credit is due.

In 2014, we debuted the concept of accessible source for our hardware components. If any of our customers have questions about the design elements of machine, we happily provide as much information as we can. We proudly offer a modification-friendly warranty that encourages our customers to explore and develop on our platform, and happily share the reasoning behind each and every design decision that we make, no matter how minute.

At the software level, we still use Marlin, a firmware which was developed for the RepRap project. Our slicing engine, Cura Type A, is based off of the original Cura, used by many in the 3D printing community. We are proud to see that some of the contributions we’ve introduced into Cura, such as absolute and 3D internal structures, are being adopted by other companies who also use a variant of Cura. This degree to which the industry shares features allows the technology to advance faster than it could ever have otherwise.

Topics: company