Did you have someone replicate parts for yours?
Yes, we have a local group of 'makers' that are fairly active. Use the search terms "openlab" "hacker space" "maker space" and see what comes up in your area. A local guy printed my parts for $65. Printing parts for new builders is a good way to get your own machine paid for and buy more filament.
Is there some kind of community out there thats trading designs and whatnot?
There's a huge
community of folks making these things, with several different designs that constantly being updated, improved, adapted, and added on to.
The best example of things
to print, whether machine improvements/upgrades, full machines, parts, toys, game pieces, phone & tablet cases,etc., is Thingiverse
. Also check out GrabCAD
for and DefCAD
Thingiverse is mostly geared toward the 3D printing, and is owned by the company that sells Makerbot
I would say CAD and print (.stl) files for tens-of-thousands of models are posted, many with instructions/descriptions/ratings/etc.
GrabCAD is just a 3D model depository where people post their designs that aren't necessarily specific to one type of production (3d printing, cnc machining, etc.)
DefCAD... firearms-related stuff. Since Thingiverse has been monkeying with their terms of service, and pulling firearms-related files, DefCAD is trying to be the 'gun-stuff thingiverse'.
Globally, much of the 'community-level' stuff is done at the RepRap Forums
, for the machine I have, specifically in the RepRap Prusa Mendel
Let me re-emphasize... THERE IS A HUGE COMMUNITY of makers doing this 3D printing thing. If your questions aren't answered in the thousands of pages of documentation out there, you can get on IRC chat and ask someone for help in real-time. You might even be talking to one of the designers, Josef Prusa, himself.
From what I saw it looks like one of these could potentially be made for around $200... is that accurate?
Not that I know of. Even if you can build your own circuit boards from a kit or from scratch, you'll only save $100 or so. You can knock off about $55-75 if you don't purchase a heated build platform, since it's only needed for the higher-temp plastics like ABS. (I would recommend one even if you're only printing with PLA though) There are ways to save money, but $500 should be in your expectations.
Once all of the machines from the Kickstarter
have shipped, there may be some cheaper options based-on the more compact Printrbot
Nicely done. A 3D printer would be nice to have, but sadly I don't have the Autocadd skills needed to spec out what I sometimes would like to prototype. It would be rather interesting to print out parts for repairs or prototyping.
Some of the folks with these machines don't have any CAD background at all, and are creating models with the free Google Sketchup
. There are loads of free online tutorials for Sketchup. Other free CAD programs are out there, but I don't think they are very intuitive to learn. I use AutoCAD (not cheap) and Revit MEP (even more *not cheap*) to make a living, and while many users are self-taught, they aren't the easiest software packages to learn.