Centurion-based Quentin Harley has won the $20 000 (R202 000) Humanity+ Gada Prize for Interim Personal Manufacturing, for his work in re-engineering the RepRap 3D printer to reduce cost and complexity. His design, RepRap Morgan, is unusual among 3D printers in that it uses a SCARA arm – an expandable grab handle – to hold the print head and moves the print bed up and down to create models.
I’ve been covering Harley’s work extensively over the few weeks, and the prize really couldn’t have gone to a nicer man. I spoke to him this morning to pass on congratulations from everyone at htxt.africa, and he told me that he plans to use the money to buy more fabrication tools and set up a new lab and ‘bot farm’ at House4Hack. House4Hack is a space in Centurion where software and hardware hackers share ideas and tips and work on projects from 3D printing to home brewing beer.
“I want to invest the money so that it’s easier and cheaper for people to design and build stuff of their own here in South Africa,” Harley says, “It’s really a problem that access to space and equipment is so expensive here, and I want to help make technologies like 3D printing more readily available for all. We have two printers at House4Hack already, but they’re running almost around the clock trying to keep up with demand for parts.”
New tools will mean that Harley can work on revising Morgan’s design further to bring down costs and make sure its available to all South Africans. He’s especially keen to reach a price point that’s accessible to students, and to get there he needs to make sure nothing has to be imported. Two years ago, when Harley decided he wanted to try and build a 3D printer, he found that getting hold of the parts for a traditional RepRap machine was almost impossible. He began working on a design which could be built with locally available materials which in turn became Morgan.
Fittingly, Harley discovered he had won the Gada Prize on Tuesday evening (yesterday) while at a regular House4Hack meet-up. The community there has provided support and ideas for the Morgan project since it began.
The Gada Prize was set up to reward and encourage the opening up of 3D printing to a wider audience. While RepRap has both popularised and revolutionised 3D printing since its inception in 2005 at the University of Bath, building a 3D printer using current Prusa Mendel designs is still not a task for the faint hearted or inexperienced – and can prove costly in components and time. The SCARA design of Morgan, meanwhile, is fairly simple to build, requires fewer motors than a standard design and – thanks to hollows in the arms for cables to run through – is quite tidy too.
If you want to build a RepRap Morgan, full details are available on the official RepRap Wiki and Harley’s own site here. While the cheapest way to build one is to use off the shelf parts from Builders’ Warehouse or similar, an official kit with a laser-cut aluminium base and print bed is available from Open Hardware in Durban.
Second place was won by a design known as RepRap Simpson, in an apparently closely decided verdict.
Want to know more? Here’s a short video we made of Morgan in action.