Oh ReplicatorG, I had such high hopes!

Sadly, switching to ReplicatorG after experiencing problems calibrating the RepRap Host software wasn’t the golden bullet I had been hoping for, although it looks  like Skeinforge is the way to go after all.Firstly, let me say that the user interface on ReplicatorG is miles better than anything else around. The build volume of your machine as declared in your machine configuration is shown as a box within which you STL is placed, making it extremely easy to see if your build will fit on your machine. The ability to scale, move, rotate and centre your STL in such an intuitive way is such a refreshing change. It wipes the floor with the competition!

That is, until you hit Skeinforge. I had thought that the integration of Skeinforge into ReplicatorG would mean a simplified interface. Unfortunately not – the intimidating myriad of options just appears in the middle of Replicator G, in all its original glory.

The idea of a machines.xml file to declare your machine is an interesting, and simple, one. But there are copies in different locations used at different times (i.e. one during install only, another after install). Spending time editing the wrong file and wondering why nothing is changing can be incredibly frustrating. Also it was very easy to have a machine declared as experimental and not have ReplicatorG configured to display experimental machine profiles – that tripped me up at first.

After a few false starts, I had a successful connection to the Mendel! Excellent stuff. Experimenting with the Machine Control Panel was a little hit and miss however – moving the axes wasn’t a problem, but pressing extrude caused the whole thing to come crashing down. At my best guess, something to do with using stepper rather than DC motors. Bit of a shame though.

The problem of editing the wrong copy of multiple copies of a file unfortunately didn’t seem to be reserved for just machines.xml. I tentatively ventured into Skeinforge, duplicating one of the bundled profiles to play around with. First thing was first – get the GCode output looking a bit like the stuff produced by the RepRap Host, in particular the little “warm-up” sequence it performs. Googling Skeinforge tutorials and reading some of the helpful articles on the net got me to the start.gcode file. I made the changes by just copying and pasting what the Host spits out, and tried carving some STLs. But the start of the GCode didn’t change from the original profile I had duplicated! I must have been editing the wrong start.gcode file, but which one? At this point, amazingly, I came around to the conclusion that it would be less confusing to use Skeinforge on its own, rather than ReplicatorG!

I am disappointed to say I gave up on ReplicatorG, and that it didn’t live up to my expectations. Although something useful did come out of the time spent trying it out – the friendly interface introduced me to Skeinforge, and put me on the first step of the (long and winding) path to unlocking its power.

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