LaserCut Mendel Assembly For Complete Beginners
What This Guide Is
Until this sentence is removed, I have not finished my build and this guide will not describe the whole process.
I'm almost entirely new to building things. I got a laser cut kit from Techzone because that seems to be my speed--I can basically manage to put something together from prefab parts, but I don't have access to a shop or a large collection of tools. I think that's the situation of at least a few people taking on this project, and the best contribution I can make to this wiki is to describe the experience, and the things I learn about process, from the perspective of an absolute beginner. Much of this will probably be obvious to anyone with more experience. Some of it will probably be wrong or misleading--point it out if you see it. I think helping newbies is important, but I also suspect it can be frustrating for experienced builders to answer the same simple questions over and over. I hope that with this guide I can provide a resource for some of the more basic issues newbies will face that more experienced builders take for granted. I also have an ulterior motive; I hope that if I document things carefully people will be more willing to answer my questions, knowing that I will document their answers so that they don't get those questions again.
My Achilles heel has always been lack of organization and trying to find shortcuts, so when I started this project I made two rules for myself:
- If I don't have an appropriate tool, or don't understand how to do something, I will get the appropriate tool or get clarification before proceeding; I will NOT try to find or take shortcuts.
- I will make organization my first priority; that is, I will not do ANY assembly tasks while my workspace is not in a clean and organized state.
Using This Guide
This guide is structured around tasks in sequence rather than around the design of a reprap. Where I do talk about specific details of the build, I'm referring to the complete kit from Techzone as purchased in May 2011. This guide, and my assembly, began May 7, 2011. If you have found it in an unfinished state, it's probably because my build is still incomplete. I would be delighted to see others adding things to and commenting on anything I've written here; it would be especially helpful to me if, when you do so, you leave a note on the discussion page or in the text letting me know what changed or got added and why.
Laser Cut Mendel Kit
This is basically just to say that I've found Techzone's service to be very helpful and responsive. I actually purchased through Ebay because I prefer to use Paypal rather than the Google checkout system Techzone uses (Google already knows the content of my emails and much of my browsing activity; I see no reason to also tell them about my financial transactions). When I needed to purchase ABS filament, however, Kimberly Andrus at Techzone sent a Paypal invoice for it (thanks!). If I was going to purchase the kit again, I'd probably request an invoice from her because it's more difficult to tell exactly who the seller is when purchasing from Ebay. The seller on Ebay I purchased from was hnd3; that seller IS affiliated with Techzone (as of May 7, 2011).
I'm embarrassed to say that when I started I had almost no tools at all. However, that makes me uniquely qualified to describe EVERY tool necessary for the build, because if I needed it I probably had to go get it. Until I remove this sentence, the following list is still a work in progress:
- Ruler/Tape Measure (To Be Updated (TBU))
- Soldering Iron
- Assorted clamps and other extra-hand equivalents (TBU)
- Craft knife set
Unpacking and Organizing
The Techzone kit came with several sealed plastic packages of hardware parts. At the beginning of my build, I transferred the contents of each clear plastic sealed bag (NOT including the electronics, which are in pinkish translucent bags and which I don't want to handle until I'm ready to assemble them) to its own ziploc bag. Others have used store-bought parts bins--I wasn't sure which would have compartments of the correct size. The ziploc bags also allow me to store larger parts (such as the laser cut pieces too small to be placed loose in the shipping box and the motors) and to nest subsets of the hardware bags within other bags. If I want to label the bags I can, though I haven't felt the need to do so yet.
The parts arrive in the best configuration for shipping, which (mostly but not always) means that they are not grouped by their position in the assembly of the final machine. My first step for any assembly task is to gather ALL the parts and tools I need for that task, and ONLY those parts and tools, onto my workspace. I have three rules for this:
- The workspace must not have anything on it before I start gathering parts for the current task.
- Only one bag of parts may be open at any given time.
- If I have placed a part on the workspace that turns out to be unnecessary, I must put it back in the bag it came from IMMEDIATELY.
This strategy allows me to focus on one task at a time and ensures that I won't be distracted or confused by anything unrelated to that task. It also forces me to define each task sufficiently narrowly and specifically that if there's something I don't understand, or if there's a tool I need that I don't have, I'll realize that before I start.