Quick guide to building a Prusa Mendel Starting Soon

I need a break from calibrating the printer. As excited as I am to get it finished, unlike the best of the best, I frequently get tired from being awesome.  So I’m brewing some coffee and starting my series on everything you need to know to avoid taking as much time as I had to building a Prusa Mendel. Now you can be awesome too!

First off, why the Prusa Mendel?

Well, you don’t have to. There are a lot of printers out there. Some people get started with a Makerbot. The Prusa Mendel is the second of three iterations on the Prusa design.

You want to start with the Prusa Mendel if:

  • You are interested in actually building it, and it is your first time building a 3D printer, or even anything at all.
  • You are philosophically inclined to towards the culture around RepRaps.
  • You are a beginner and having a TON of resources available to you is important to you.

Basically, it’s one of the easier and best documented bots to build. Prusa i3 will probably catch up quite soon though, so I guess I wouldn’t want to dissuade you against that route either. In fact, I should probably look more into it, I might end up teaching you how to build it instead.

Ok, I’ll consider it. Are you sure I can do a project like this if I don’t have previous engineering experience?

Well I’ll admit I had SOME prior experience, but I’m definitely new to hardware hacking. I required some help from a friend, but I’ve internalized that help pretty well, so I think I can get you off to a good start. Even though I think a motivated person CAN do this without a personal friend (you can always get help from folks on the RepRap IRC), you should at least make sure there isn’t a kick-ass hackerspace nearby you.

So let’s try to make the knowledge you’ll need to learn over the course of this project a bit more concrete.  Now there are many ways of building, calibrating, and running a printer, but I’m going to make it simple by just telling you how I did it.

This guide will take you through the following phases:

Intro to RepRap
I’ll sort of tell you what seems to get the light bulbs above the friend’s heads when they ask me what 3D printers actually are or do or whatever. Also will tell why they have the names they do.

Buying the parts
This is the easiest part. You can get the “vitamins”, or the various nuts and bolts and bars that your printer doesn’t print itself. With my help it will be as simple as printing out a few lists to take to the hardware store, or clicking a few links. And having about $6-800 bucks.

Assembling it
Hey, imho, assembling the frame is about as easy as assembling ikea furniture. Except, I would definitely recommend having tools including: a level surface, a level, a soldering iron, a drill, and a hacksaw. I’ll point you to some highly effective visual guides. The only thing where it might be nice to have an experienced friend is that there are some things you’ll need to “feel out” on the printer, to see that its moving smoothly, tightened securely, etc. Once again, not prohibitive for n00bs, just challenging.

Getting the software/firmware to control it
I’m just going to tell you explicitly one way of doing it. There are many ways, but in this tutorial it is as easy as installing two software packages (Pronterface and Slic3r).

Calibrating it
This is the hardest part. I am working on it currently.

Running it
I skipped calibrating it and have already ran it, so I know that I’ll be giving you a tour of Pronterface and Slic3r in use.

I look forward to starting this series and hope it helps get more 3D printers out there printing. For those students who like a headstart, here is the wiki’s beginner guide.

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