I feel the Midwest RepRap Festival was a great success. My primary goal was to increase awareness of using LinuxCNC and the BeagleBone to control a 3D printer. I was interviewed by Hackaday, talked so long to many key people in the RepRap world that my throat was sore, and have been requested to write an article on using the BeagleBone for a major publication (stay tuned for details!). It was great to meet and talk to Josef Prusa, see Nicholas Seward again, meet Drew Fustini and Jason Kridner in person, and talk to everyone else at the Festival.
From the many discussions I had with folks looking for something more than an AVR based Arduino to use for machine control, several key tasks became apparent. Look for these to be implemented soon, and feel free to help out if you can!
- Debian Packages: With the BeagleBone soon to ship with Debian installed by default, it is important to have packages available so LinuxCNC can be easily installed without having to build from source.
- Custom interfaces and/or an interface API. No one likes current interfaces available with LinuxCNC for 3D printing (myself included). There needs to be a simpler interface geared towards 3D printing, and many folks were interested in running headless or with a custom simplified interface (think small text LCD or OLED panel vs. Linux desktop).
- Example configurations: Ease of use is critical, and besides being put-off by the LinuxCNC interfaces, most people were further discouraged by the complexity of configuring a machine. This needs to be made a lot simpler. Part of the power of LinuxCNC is it's flexibility, but that makes for complex configuration files. Most of this can be hidden for standard machines (Cartesian 3D printer, linear-delta printer, gantry desktop mill, etc), leaving users to simply adjust machine specific details like axis gain.
There are some other big news items and projects I learned about at the Festival, but can't talk about publicly yet. Stay tuned, watch for news from the Beagle Board folks, and you might want to keep an eye on what Josef Prusa is up to.