RepRap and ReplicatorG-5D
Some things are just no fun, and in a project driven by volunteers, these parts tend to be neglected. Making things user friendly doesn’t help yourself, because when you get to the point where you can improve it, the improvement is of no use to you any more. If you’re going to sell the machine, you’re going to do a bit more in making it user friendly. With a healthy bit of altruism and effects of peer recognition the problem is migitated to some extent. Especially if you look at projects like Ubuntu: lots of people are passionate to help make “Linux for Human Beings”. But in the RepRap project, the software isn’t as user friendly as it should be!
I’ve been tempted to work mostly on cutting edge work, experimenting with the Bowden cable, reversing the extruder, combatting backlash, working on the then-beta Mini-Mendel, different extruder designs and most recently, an entirely new machine: the Ultimaker. However, more recently I’m focusing in making things a bit easier to use. In effect I’ve made a ReplicatorG fork (which will be merge with the official version) that includes a RepRap 5D driver that talks nicely with 5D firmware. Because of the integration of the newer Skeinforge (currently 31) (which I had hacked into ReplicatorG-0019, too) you can have Skeinforge generate the E codes too. This means ReplicatorG is now fully usable for the RepRap. I’ve done some work on detecting temperature feedback and some other things, such as filtering out unwanted M-codes that will cause the firmware to throw up 🙂
The 5D fork is temporarily, Adam Mayer will integrate the driver into the main branch. But I wanted to have some testing by others before it’s merged.
Release files are here: http://replicatorg.erikdebruijn.nl/.
Another thing I did: For new Windows installations, ReplicatorG and Skeinforge are going to become easier to install. I’ve figured out how to make it an EXE that is only dependent on the Python DLL which can be distributed along with it. This makes it stand-alone, so you don’t have to first install the Python programming language to be able to just do printing. Not everyone should have to do that. Installing the FTDI driver is enough of a head-ache. This is not included in the main release yet, as I need to automate the process of building the distribution some more, and it needs to be built from windows (read: in need to install Cygwin and SSHd).
My ReplicatorG branch also contains my progress bar patch. You’ll be able to see how far it is, also how many layers are filled, etc. The ETA of the ETA isn’t know yet, but I’ll add that at some point too.
I must be honest with you guys: I’m encouraged to do this now, because the Ultimaker is already so much easier to assemble, software has become the hardest part. I deliberately chose to base everything on the RepRap code and not fork things (merging changes upstream) any more than needed so that the whole community benefits from it and to prevent duplication of effort. It also helps me feel more responsible for making RepRap and Ultimaker easier. The Ultimaker electronics (will) use the RepRap firmware, so you’ll be able to use it in RepRap’s too.
Given that the community is already very big and doubling rapidly, the value of these incremental usability improvements is HUGE. So I hope this encourages you to do the same!!