Tag: Rapman

Getting started with the BFB Rapman 3D Printer

Getting started with the BFB Rapman 3D Printer

So if you read my last post you know why I bought a £35 3D printer, so now the story of how I got it running.

My initial plan was to see if I could get it running in its original form. I applied 5v to the power socket and the controller fired up, I was able to navigate the menus and everything looked good but obviously the steppers wouldn’t move. I slowly increased the voltage up to 12v and like magic it sprung into life. 

So what to do with it? I was able to move the head, and with a little help the Z axis. I could even get it to extrude filament although the extruders method of pulling the filament in was interesting. The SD which came with the printer even had a couple of files on it so it made sense to give them a go. I selected the print, hit go and it started moving, it extruded a few mm of filament and then began to lay down a raft. It even got to layer 10 or so before the nozzle began to clog and the print became a spluttered mess of little plastic blobs.

As interesting as these 2 files probably were they simply would not print, was this a problem with the printer or with the files. Was the Hotend cooling down and causing the blockage, was the extrusion too fast or too slow causing it? I didn’t know and had no way of telling.

The Bits From Bytes Rapman shipped with its own board and firmware (this was 2 years before Marlin arrived). This meant I had no way of monitoring the prints from a PC to try and identify the cause, with my very limited experience I struggled to know where to start diagnosing the problem.

To compound matters the printer used a bespoke file format called .bfb produced by software called Axon. This meant I couldn’t even try printing a different model to see if the issues were due to the files on the card. After much searching I found a website with some info on these legacy models from 3D Systems. I tried the Axon software but that wouldn’t run on my modern Mac or Win10 PC. Next I tried a firmware update to hope for some connectivity on USB or it loading GCode files. Sadly the newer firmware wouldn’t load so back to the drawing board.

The plan

So the plan now, replace the controller with a RAMPS control board, Arduino MEGA 2560 and then install the Marlin firmware. The cost of these would double the value of the printer but at only £30-35 this is a great upgrade. It will give me a controller with full USB control from a range of modern software and it will include all the latest features for controlling the printer. Most importantly though it should give me clear monitoring of the printer while its running so I can see the temperatures and try to identify what’s causing the extrusion issues.


Why I bought a £35 3D Printer

Why I bought a £35 3D Printer

10 years ago I heard about a new project at Bath University. They had just invented a new machine which could be used to manufacture another of these machines. It’s name was RepRap. The following year I visited Bath for a course and saw one of what is now known as Darwin.

Ever since I had a desire to build one of these magical machines but had no knowledge, experience or even seen one in action. Over the years I’ve kept looking at the reprap.org site and at the growing number of commercially available 3D printers. Since joining the Basingstoke Makerspace I’ve had the opportunity to use the Ultimaker printer and convinced me I wanted to have my own.

I started looking for a second hand printer, Ebay, Gumtree, Facebook. Many different options were available but the majority were in the style of the Mendel or Prusa designs. My heart was set on the cube design of the original Darwin with the bed moving up and down in the Z axis and the print head moving through the XY space. Although seemingly less popular as a design a number of them are produced, these include the Ultimaker, Tronxy, Makerbot and a plethora of chinese copies. 

Then I found it, based on the original Darwin design and made by a long defunct company called Bits From Bytes, the Rapman. Sold as a kit originally for a starting price of $1400, almost 10 years on since it was made I finally had my Darwin clone and for just 2.5% of its original value.

The eBay listing said it was complete but hadn’t been used so sold as spares or repair. On the basis that I was considering building from scratch anyway I decided to take a punt and give it a try.

Check out my next post for progress on getting it running.