Back in 2005 when Dr. Adrian Bowyer, a lecturer in mechanical engineering at the University of Bath, created the RepRap, or Replicating Rapid Prototyper, the goal of his project was to create a self-replicating device, in this case a 3D printer, that would be so useful it could ensure its own evolution and distribution.
The RepRap Printer can print a percentage of its component parts, and as such Bowyer says he hopes that this ‘Portable Factory’ concept will bring on a new era of personal manufacturing.
RepRap Central sells 3D printers, 3D printer kits, and accessories from their offices in West Sussex and Cornwall, UK, and the challenge they’ve thrown open for this year is a call for entrants to build their own FDM 3D Printer.
But it’s about more than simply building a printer, it’s about building a printer to “revolutionize the 3D Printing revolution itself.”
They’re calling on entrants to the challenge to create an “FLM” 3D Printer. So what is an “FLM” printer? They say it stands for Fused Layer Manufacturing, a term they coined to describe a 3D printer capable of printing a complete layer at a time.
“Imagine the benefits of this type of 3D Printer. Very rapid build times, super smooth vertical operation, a level of accuracy yet to be experienced and super quiet operation,” states the challenge release. “What could this look like? We’ll we think it would only need a (Vertical) Z Axis. Gone are the mechanics of the current X and Y Axis used today in most if not all existing 3D Printers.”
The idea is that some sort of innovative ‘active extruder’ would be central to the design which could fill the width and depth of the entire X and Y build area. They’re looking for a device which may mix technologies from 3D printing and injection molding which can be controlled at high resolution layer levels.
“We hope you’ll play a part, whether it’s to critique the proposal, put forward ideas, come up with designs or even build an FLM prototype.” they say. “The challenge is open to anyone, individual or business, and the winning design or designs will be announced later in the year.”
RepRap Central says more information on the challenge is coming soon, and they add that there’s a plan to “provide an environment where we can all share ideas and contribute thoughts and designs.”
Do you have the skills to take on the RepRap Central FLM Printer Challenge? Let us know what you think about the idea in the 2015 3D printer Challenge forum thread on 3DPB.com.