Funny, the things you get tied into when you join an online community such as RepRap-Dev, the developers mailing list for the 3D printer I hope to eventually build for myself.

It seems that we now have a few contenders throwing their hats in the ring for a chance to be the electronics-of-choice for RepRap.

Meet Sanguinololu (or visit its RepRap wiki page). Difficult to pronounce, being a mashup of Sanguine (the word), Arduino (the prototyping platform), and Pololu (who sells motion control units for driving stepper motors that enable 3D printers to actually work); if they can hold to the mission of being less than USD100 to build, that’s really good news to cheapskates like myself.

But hold on, there’s also the Generation 7 electronics, which also promises to compete on the price performance curve.

And then there’s RAMPS (RepRap Arduino Mega Pololu Shield), which has quite a lot of momentum, but is spendy but proven to work.

My biggest issue with all of these three options is their dependence on Pololu driver boards, which are (wait for it) out of stock.

How NOT to enable a growing open source hardware movement.

How NOT to enable a growing open source hardware movement.

You just knew that was coming, didn’t you? It doesn’t matter how affordable the Pololu drivers are if you can’t actually buy them.

[If there is a unifying theme to what I’ve seen so far in the Arduino/RepRap world, it’s this: it’s a supply chain, people. If you choke off or constrict any part of it, the whole thing suffers. Newbies like me are left wondering why we have to venture onto EBay to bid or buy Arduino Mega knockoffs from Hong Kong or Shenzhen when we’d rather be supporting the people who are actually developing them? The same generally goes for RepRap electronics, Pololu drivers. Does nobody have an interest in this movement growing?]

And finally, there is a fourth contender in the ring! It’s getting positively crowded in here! Along comes Repic, which claims to come in under USD90, but requires RepRap folks to venture into the land of Microchip PIC microcontrollers in order to go there. I sense a black sheep, but I’ll keep an open mind.

I can at least agree with list member Neil Underwood, who put it nicely:

3 open source electronics all competeing head to head to lower the price point/increase the capacity for RepRap electronics can’t be a bad thing.

Sanguinololu
RAMPS
Gen7

I can’t help but see this as a good thing

Yup, legitimate and honest competition, even in Open Source Hardware, is a good thing.

Peace.