Meet South Africa’s latest 3D printer: the RoboBeast

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South Africa has an impressive record when it comes to designing and using 3D printers, but of all those that we’ve seen so far, this may be the best yet, if only for its name alone. The majestically monikered RoboBeast will be unveiled in Centurion next Sunday Satuday 15th February, and you’re invited to come and literally shake it by the hand. RoboBeast promises to be to toughest, most durable and – frankly – African 3D printer yet.

That’s a 3D printer called ROBOBEAST. What’s not to love?

As might be expected, it’s been built at House4Hack – a community run hackerspace which also nurtured RepRap Morgan during its development. In recent months, House4Hack has also been home to one of South Africa’s best known 3D print projects on the international stage, RoboHand. Its from this relationship that RoboBeast has been born.

RoboHand is an open source design for 3D printing a low-cost prosthetic for people who have lost limbs (specifically hands, obviously) using Makerbot or RepRap style printers. It’s particularly useful for children, as new parts can be printed as they grow without having to be custom built in an expensive lab. RoboHand was back in the headlines earlier in the year, after a exhibition at CES in Las Vegas showed how it had been used in Sudan to help children injured in the civil war there.

The only problem with printing things like RoboHand on demand is that current 3D printers are finicky things. Moving one an inch to the left inside a nice clean workshop means recalibrating the print bed and making sure everything is perfectly level. Painters’ tape, which is often used for the surface of the print bed, needs to be replaced every few prints. Current-limiting ‘pots’ need tweaking every now and then to compensate for wear and tear on the motors, and a nasty filament jam will often mean stripping the extruder down and panicking that you’ve caused another R1 000 rand of damage (I speak from experiecence here).

Stick a RepRap-style printer in the back of a Land Rover and drop it off 10km into the bush and the local community is more likely to thank you for the scrap metal than for the futuristic thing-building machine you’ve given them.

“We wanted to start producing a super-robust 3D printer that could be used wherever RoboHands need to be produced,” says House4Hack founder Schalk Heunis, “Something that doesn’t have to be recalibrated and is tough enough to survive long trips fully assembled.”

So what does RoboBeast look like? We don’t know yet. The grand unveiling will be on 15th February at a day-long festival of making and hacking at House4Hack, complete with a homebuilt solar braai.

Full details for sign ups are over here.



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