To say that open source is a major part of 3D printing would be an understatement in the extreme; indeed, to many, the open source RepRap Project is the most significant thing to come from 3D printing. Celebrating all things rooted in RepRap is the annual Midwest RepRap Festival (MRRF), hosted in Goshen, Indiana — the largest such gathering in the world. Held at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds, MRRF brings 3D printing to the heart of Amish country, with more than 1,400 attendees flocking to the 2018 event this weekend.

3DPrint.com writer/editor Clare Scott and I were among these for our first on-the-ground MRRF experience. It truly is an event like nothing else, as creative minds, well-known innovators and influencers, interested hobbyists, professional designers and manufacturers, and more gather to celebrate 3DP Family and share the latest, greatest, and sometimes strangest in 3D printing.

From dragons to drones, from multi-material to glitter, from the first OpenRC championship to celebrating failure, MRRF 2018 is a busy world unto itself.

3D Printing Community

MRRF celebrates 3D printing — but more than that, it holds up the community. RepRap and open sourcing are inherently community-based, as designers and innovators build upon one another’s work. This event brings together, often for the first time ever or simply for the only time in the year, community members who are otherwise virtually connected through GitHub, Twitter, and YouTube; the actual face time offers a unique experience (and one leaving many star-struck as they came face to face with those who have influenced their own journeys). Many of the events held throughout the weekend celebrated the community, whether casually in the Google Science and Making-sponsored taco dinner for 1,400 or somewhat more structured in speaking sessions or the first-ever global OpenRC championship racing.

The community making up the 3DP Family is open and welcoming, and the sheer excitement of all being under one roof created a heartwarming-if-chaotic buzz; it’s almost impossible to separate emotion from response to this event. Though I attend many (many) events in the course of this work, the vast majority of my interactions with companies and the larger community remain virtual, through this site and our social reach, and there’s nothing quite like coming into a new space and feeling welcomed as both journalist and person. The warm welcome and spirit of celebration inherent in the event is a hallmark of MRRF as innovation and innovator are applauded.

From big names in making and internet celebrity to those building well-known companies, Goshen saw the international community gather together, to name a very few, the designer of #3DBenchy and founder of the OpenRC Project, Daniel Norée, from Sweden; the team from E3D came in from the UK; Josef Průša and the Prusa Research team represented the Czech Republic. Designers and YouTubers from around the world were also in Goshen, with a small sampling including Louise Driggers (Loubie) with her latest beautiful creations, Lauren of Abuzz Designs, Chelsey and Garrett of Chaos Core Tech, Kelly of Spectra 3D Art showcased beautiful finishing jobs, Mara Hitner of both MatterHackers and @3DPGirl, Joel Telling the 3D Printing Nerd, Dustin The JATMN, Thomas Sanladerer of Tom’s 3D, Chuck Hellebuyck of Filament Friday, Jerry / Barnacules Nerdgasm… trying to name everyone would be a fool’s errand, as so many influential and visible members of the community were present, along with the enthusiastic community at large.

One trend that was certainly remarked on in more than one conversation was that while the event was predictably and fairly heavily male-dominated, there were a good number of women as well — and a very good many of the children looking wide-eyed at the art and technology on display were girls learning more about today’s technologies.

The only downside of so many community members gathered in one place in one weekend was that there simply wasn’t time or opportunity to meet or chat with everyone.

You can see more of the community from the organizers’ POV in this photo album.

3D Printers and Materials

The 3D printers. Oh, the 3D printers! From Tiko to Markforged, from glitter sintering to ceiling-height delta, MRRF saw hundreds of 3D printers (not all open source themselves) on and next to tables, most working throughout the weekend.

Some were conceptual (we probably won’t actually be 3D printing much with loose craft glitter, but by gum it was fascinating to see pure glitter in print), while others created furniture on the spot.

Some, such as a new wide-format machine from gCreate, are a sign of what’s to come, while others, like E3D’s latest tool-changing system, showcase already announced upcoming technologies.

LulzBot and IC3D, which at last year’s MRRF introduced the first open source filament, were together again this year with more looks into their current and upcoming introductions.

“We’re focusing on large format now, and really highlighting partnerships,” IC3D CMO Kimberly Gibson explained at their booth, pointing as well to X Strand material from Owens Corning, which the company is now distributing.

“These guys are one in a million,” she said of the LulzBot team at the next table. “The challenge in this business is growing organically without losing your soul. There’s so much soul at this event.”

From globally known companies like these to the DIY makers setting up shop, MRRF had a little bit of everything.

Looking for a nine-foot-long dragon? Done. A rocket? It’s there.

The Virtual Foundry showcased their metal-infused filaments, drawing great interest to a table filled with inventive show pieces. With RepRap roots, the large majority of 3D printers and materials present were FFF/extrusion-based, with delta and robotic arm well represented alongside traditional Cartesian systems; SLA and sintering could also be seen at a few tables.

Materials and post-processing made all the difference for many of the creative projects shown, with eye-catching displays for cosplay, homewares, office use, and more at every turn.

OpenRC: Championship and Demolition Derby

On Saturday, a major draw was the first global OpenRC championship, hosted by MatterHackers. OpenRC’s Daniel Norée was on hand to judge best in show 3D printed cars and to present the race’s winner with the championship trophy.

The races drew crowds to the chilly outdoor covered ‘race track’ with plenty of cheering to keep everyone warm as the designers navigated their creations around the sand-filled-cup-lined course.

The final laps and trophy presentation can be seen here:

Following a close race into the finals, Kirby of Stuff With Kirby took home the coveted award; he credited having Norée’s signature on his car with an extra boost of luck going into the race.

Later in the afternoon, OpenRC brought everyone out into the Indiana spring again — this time in a no-holds-barred Mad Max-style demolition derby. Those great cars people spent all the time in tweaking and 3D printing? They went for one another until just one car was left standing, the others having been broken to bits, turtled, or otherwise incapacitated through good-natured smashups.

The car victorious was a familiar one, with Stuff With Kirby taking tops in this matchup as well.

The community spirit was certainly felt in the brisk winds of the race events, with many lagging behind the winners’ ceremonies to talk shop, compare notes, and check out one another’s cars (and to pick up parts following the latter event).

A notable entry in the races has to go to 3DPPGH, as Ryan Priore and Chris Yohe channeled Talledega Nights with team Shake and Bake, complete with Wonderbread and full costumes. The pair kept up their good humor throughout the event, also awarding a prize of their own — for best failed print. The contenders were fierce, but ultimately a pretty large failure of 3D Phil took home the illustrious Crappy Failed Print trophy.

MRRF

It’s no wonder that MRRF has become a staple in the calender for much of the global open source community. Twitter was a hotbed of activity before and during the event as attendees made plans and shared impressions, and now that the dusts are settling back in the quiet-again Goshen, connections are touching base on their experiences.

The exchange of ideas is truly at the heart of this community-driven event, and absolutely in focus. The light-hearted nature of MRRF allows for a relaxed atmosphere to share thoughts, speak to others also as engrossed in technology, form business and personal relationships, and continue driving development in open source 3D printing. Team 3DPrint.com is among those already looking forward to MRRF 2019 — and hoping to somehow find more time to speak to even more innovators in this space next year.

Discuss open source, MRRF, and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below.

[All photos/videos: Sarah Goehrke]

 

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