The RepRap project was founded in 2005 by Dr. Adrian Bowyer, a Senior Lecturer in mechanical engineering at the University of Bath in the UK. Appearing online in February 2004, the project kicked-off the open-source 3D printer revolution.
In March 2005, the RepRap blog was started. The blog serves a few important roles for the project. The first being to solicit and to acknowledge contributions to the RepRap project from other researchers. These contributions are posted quickly in order to get project ideas into the public domain as soon as possible and thereby ensuring that they are un-patentable. Additionally the blog serves as a basic project diary for the core developers.
On September 13th 2006, the project hit a major milestone. A prototype RepRap successfully printed a part of itself which was then installed on the printer, replacing an original piece created by a commercial 3D printer. This was one of the major functions of the printer being realized. By being able to print its own parts, the printer gains the ability to replicate itself. By February 2008 they had successfully printed over half of the V1.0 RepRap parts. They were halfway to full replication.
On the 29th of May 2008 the RepRap team achieved full replication. That is, a RepRap printed RepRap successfully printed the parts needed to assemble a “grandchild.” The RepRap vision was being brought to life.
By the end of September that year, it was reported that at least 100 copies of the printer had been produced in various countries and in November the first outside replication was completed by Wade Bortz. This was big news as it was documented proof that RepRap had achieved life outside the core development team. The technology was in the wild and was spreading fast.
In October 2009 the first major re-design of the RepRap called “Mendel” was released. Unlike the original RepRap that was cube-shaped, the Mendel resembled a triangular prism. With the addition of bearings, the Mendel was designed to run much smoother than the original RepRap. The overall assembly was also greatly simplified while maintaining comparable printing capabilities.
Less than a year later, on August 31st 2010, a third generation RepRap design that had been in work is officially named “Huxley.” Huxley development is organized around the idea of a miniaturized Mendel with roughly 1/3 the original print volume.
In October of that year, Josef Prusa began releasing information about his own re-design of the Mendel named the “Prusa Mendel.” Designed to be the purest and simplest 3D printer you can build, Prusa drastically reduced the number of parts required and streamlined streamlined the assembly of the RepRap. Since its release, the Prusa Mendel has received incredible support and adoption within the RepRap community. It’s simplicity allows it to be much easier to replicate, assemble, maintain, and modify.
The Prusa Mendel has continued to evolve since its release. The Prusa Mendel embodies the spirit of the RepRap project, existing as a living-breathing extension of the community. It’s continuously evolving. In November 2011, Josef Prusa released a second iteration of the Prusa Mendel that included a numerous updates and revisions to the design.
The RepRap project has quickly gained a lot of momentum. The open-source nature of the project has kindled a massive amount of innovation and support. Development has come a long ways in only a handful of years and it’s gaining speed. A second industrial revolution is coming and the RepRap is leading the charge.