Category Archives: Documentation

Documentation

Githubiverse – A Github Pages Template for 3D Printing Projects

I’m a big fan of github, and I think it provides an excellent set of resources for hosting 3D printing projects. Recently I had the idea that it would be useful if these projects were able to utilise Github Pages to provide a project landing page, showing similar information to that found on Thingiverse.

It sounded like a fun little diversion so I threw together something called githubiverse. It currently consists of a Github Pages template: drop this into the gh-pages branch of any github project, add a little configuration, and your github pages will display the source files, STLs and any images, along with some other information. The beauty here is that the content is dynamically pulled from the github repository so it is always up to date.

githubiverse

The screenshot doesn’t do it justice so here is an example site: garyhodgson.github.com/githubiverse-tst.  The project has a master branch which contains folders for source files, STLs and images. The project also has a gh-pages branch which contains the template. Within this, _config.yml contains the configuration parameters that allows the gh3 github api client to connect to github and pull the information. Because it’s dynamically generated it’s a little slower than a standard website, but I think it’s an acceptable compromise for always having the latest information.

[Update: The way I have used Thingiview means that only ascii STL files are correctly displayed. I’ll see if I an find a way to also load binary STLs.]

To get an idea of how other projects might look I took a few screenshots (via locally running instances) for Nophead’s Mendel90 and Josef Prusa’s PrusaMendel:

There’s a few pros and cons to consider.

  • + Free hosting of project site by github.
  • + Easy to set up.
  • + Always up-to-date.
  • + Easy to change the look and feel to suit your needs.
  • – Depends on Github, Github Pages and the API – any changes to the terms and conditions, or future availability, of these services could impact the site.
  • – No search function, tags or commenting system (although this could be remedied).

Further Ideas

 

An interesting advanced use case is the ability to use the same core template across many projects.  You could fork the githubiverse-template project and edit the html/css as you wish. Then, in each project’s gh-page branch create a submodule referring to this fork.  All that’s left would be to create a _config.yml file with the details in the root project gh-pages branch and an additional entry defining the source of the jekyll site as being the submodule folder.  I’ve added details on how to do that in the project’s readme.  The benefit of doing this is that each project can be updated solely through updating the template submodule. [Update: it seems I had forgotten to actually test this method when deployed to github, whilst it works locally via Jekyll it seems that github modifies the source folder settings during the build.  Thanks to dzach for finding this out the hard way.  I’ll see if there is a way around this as I feel having a shared template system would be quite useful.]

Another idea is to edit the template to utilise the blog aspect of jekyll. The Slic3r.org site runs on Github Pages and already does this to announce releases.  The blog could be a development log, release history, or news section for example.

To address the search and discovery aspect I considered trying to implement some form of tracker service, whereby projects could register themselves and use the service for searching, browsing and tagging etc, also as a Github Pages site.  However I realised that something like the RepRap Development Tracker would do the job perfectly well, as this is agnostic to where a project is hosted – it only categorises each entry and refers to the originating pages.

Development Tracker is currently tailored specifically for tracking reprap and 3D printing parts and projects, but it wouldn’t take much to make it more generic and suitable for tracking all sorts of projects.  And of course the underlying software is open source, so anyone can fork and go!

Documentation

Another addition to the RepRap Library

Continuing the recent series of RepRap books, Forrest Higgs has kindly agreed to allow his blog posts from 3dreplicators.com and technocraticanarchist.blogspot.com to be collated and made available in eBook format.

Diary of a Technocratic Anarchist.pdf (26MB)

Diary of a Technocratic Anarchist.epub  (25MB)

 

Documentation

A History of RepRap Development

Whilst putting together the Hydraraptor eBook I realised that a similar treatment to other RepRap development blogs would be useful, in particular the one from the core developers at blog.reprap.org.  Modifying the scripts and a bit of hacking produced the following 1758 page(!) history of the early days of the project.  Essential reading for any budding RepRap developer!

A History of RepRap Development.pdf  (40MB)

A History of RepRap Development.epub  (37MB)

A couple of interesting side notes:

  • Several image links in the original posts are dead, particularly the early stuff.  However, a little sleuthing on Google  found some of them, and so this version is technically more complete than the original blogs!
  • With agreement from Forrest Higgs I pulled in the content of his contributions (which were links to his own blogs) into the book, which means a more complete, smoother reading experience.
  • A couple of people suggested that offering the book in ePub format would be a good idea and so both this book and the Hydraraptor book are also available in both PDF and ePub versions.  In producing the ePub version I learnt a bit more about the format (a zip file of html and images) and found, unsurprisingly, that the resulting book has fewer formatting issues as the PDF version. To generate the ePub book I simply told the script to output one huge html file and then converted this using the Calibre eBook management tool.

A note about the formatting: because the blog has many collaborators the html of the posts varies greatly, consequently the layout of some entries may be a little off. I have attempted to correct this with various hacks, and I believe the result is acceptable, but the task can be a real time-sink. If any pages are completely unreadable please let me know, however small layout issues will probably not be fixed.

The books have a dedicated page on this blog (RepRap Developer Bookshelf), and will be  are mirrored in the RepRap Wiki.

Documentation

Learning from Hydraraptor

A common variant of a George Santayana quote is:

Those who do not know history’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them.

Sometimes it is worthwhile repeating mistakes in order to really learn more about the problem, but most of the time we are happy to learn from the work of others, and build onwards with this knowledge in mind.

I mention all this because I recently spent a weekend reading the entirety of Nophead’s Hydraraptor blog. Since starting on the RepRap project I have read many of his posts, but for some reason never actually sat down to consume the whole thing. This was a mistake because reading through the posts in chronological order gives an excellent insight into the thought processes, trials, pitfalls and successes that one comes across whilst developing a 3D printer. One also develops a greater appreciation of how the current state of the project came to be.

While online access is today mostly ubiquitous I found that reading the entire site through a browser was sub-optimal, and so I decided to create an offline version that I could have on my eBook reader or tablet, or read whilst having no internet connection. As I did this I realised that such a document would be useful for others, and so, with Nophead’s permission, I am making the pdf available to all.

HydraRaptor – The story so far.pdf (30MB)

HydraRaptor – The story so far.epub (27MB)

A few notes:

  • The copyright of the posts belongs to Nophead and so any further reuse of the material requires permission from him.
  • Comments are not included. Whilst several did in fact add to the original discussion, the majority did not, and so they can be found online should the reader wish to dig through them.
  • Several images are missing and are highlighted as such. This draws attention to the preservation benefit of the pdf!
  • The document was generated from a script which parsed archive pages of the blog, formatted as necessary, and then generated the pdf. This process may have introduced inconsistencies and errors. Should you find any problems, and wish to report them, please send an email to me here.
Documentation

Wade’s Geared Extruder Visual Instructions

To complement the Prusa Mendel Visual Instructions I quickly put together a similar guide for constructing Wade’s Geared Extruder.

The document is available as a PDF in several resolutions on the start page: Wade’s Geared Extruder Visual Instructions.

I actually wrote most of the text for this one myself, so if anyone finds a mistake or improvement there is an issues tracker in the github project.  Here one can also find the source files used to create the document.

Documentation

Alternative Front Covers

Whilst putting the visual guide together I created a few images for the front cover, some of which I thought looked quite good.

3D Modelling Documentation

Prusa Mendel Visual Instructions

Whilst building my Prusa Mendel I started playing with Google SketchUp, and when I came across a model of the Mendel it inspired me to set myself a goal of interpreting the Prusa build steps in the same style as a Lego or Meccano instruction manual.  This was also partly prompted by the call to arms in the reprap.org Community Portal to produce documentation that lowers the (already quite low) barrier to entry even further.

 

The front page

The front page

The original instructions on the wiki are already clear and easy to follow, so the text from each step is simply copied verbatim.  This document is deemed to be a supplement to them, and perhaps will help people with less, or no, mechanical background grasp what is involved in building a reprap, or stop a few mistakes from being made during a build (as I did – embarrassingly having to rebuild the front rods a couple of times due to misreading the diagram – which, of course, now seem clear with hindsight :))  Regardless, I had fun putting it together and learnt a but about SketchUp (and the Mendel) in the process.

A sample of the content

A sample of the content

 

The guide is available in PDF format and in several sizes from the start page: Prusa Mendel Visual Instructions.  The document was put together in Microsoft Publisher and this, together with the SketchUp model I created, is available as a github project for people to fork and use as they wish.  There is also an issue tracker to take bugs and suggestions.