Author: James Floyd Kelly & Patrick Hood-Daniel
Publisher: Apress, 2011
Aimed at: Hardware enthusiasts
Pros: Clear instructions for its (wood-based) build project
Cons: Lacks discussion of principles and ideas
Reviewed by: Harry Fairhead
There are two reasons for wanting to read a book on how to build some hardware or other. The first is because you actually want to build the hardware and you are going to use it as an instruction manual. The second is because you think you want to build it and you are going to use it to find out how difficult it is and so that you can enjoy the thought of building it, even if you don't.
This particular book is very much in the instruction manual category. It doesn't go in for discussion about how you should do things or how the design might have been different - it simply documents how to build one specific 3D printer.
3D printers are very much hot news at the moment and this book shows you how to build your own. Most of the design is in wood with metal bolts. If you don't like woodwork then steer clear of this project. You will also need some basic power tools - preferably a table saw, a jigsaw and a drill press.
The bulk of the design is an x,y,z positioning device that moves an extruder head. You can fix a small Dremel tool to create a computer-controlled router. The only difficult part of any 3D plastic printer is the extrusion head and in this case you solve the problem by buying a kit. There is still plenty to do, however, to get the whole thing working.
There are of course plenty of stepper motors in the project and the whole lot are controlled by an Arduino Mega and an off-the-shelf driver board. Some off-the-shelf software completes the work. Of course, if you are a programmer you can get inside the software and start doing things differently. Hardware modifications are also clearly possible.
This is an enjoyable book if you like this sort of thing, but its big problem is that it doesn't do a good job of giving you the big picture. It doesn't discuss the thinking behind the initial design in enough detail for you to take part in the construction on an equal footing.
When it comes to the details then the book is great, but it is just an instruction manual for building a 3D printer. If this is what you want then go buy a copy.