GOSHEN — Tech buffs from across the United States will travel to the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds this weekend for the largest open-source 3-D printing festival in the world.
That’s according to John Olafson, organizer of the 2014 Midwest RepRap Festival. RepRaps are self-replicating 3-D printers typically built from scratch.
“It’s not at all meant to be just an exclusive event,” Olafson said. “We’re trying to make it as much of a public event, for people to come and learn how it works, what it is and how it started.”
The festival will kick off at 5 p.m. Friday, March 14 and last until midnight. From 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturday will be the most action-packed day featuring a waffle breakfast and seven guest speakers, including J.J. Johnson, an engineering technology teacher at Goshen High School who uses 3-D printing in his classroom.
Doors open again at 7 a.m. Sunday, March 16, and the festival will wrap up at noon.
Olafson works for SeeMeCNC, a Goshen business that makes and sells both assembled and build-it-yourself 3-D printers. He’s expecting up to 500 3-D printing experts, enthusiasts and observers to make their way through the festival, some traveling all the way from Texas, the East and West Coasts and even the Czech Republic.
“From taking an idea and making it a reality, 3-D printing is really blowing a lot of people’s minds,” Olafson said. “There’s been a lot of hype in the media as to what it can do and can’t do.”
In most cases, 3-D printers turn virtual objects into tangible replicas by stacking layers of heated filament that are delivered through a nozzle. Many software programs exist for people to design whatever they can think up.
More than 130 printers are expected to be up-and-running, printing objects ranging from artistic to utilitarian.
According to Olafson, a group of people with printers will set out to create prosthetics for a Goshen man. Prints can take anywhere from less than an hour to nearly two days to print, depending on the size and complexity.
Though the festival’s theme focuses on RepRap printers, there will be a variety of 3-D printing brands and self-made machines represented along with other tech ventures.
“There’s gonna be a lot of nerdy stuff there,” Olafson said.
For 3-D printing aficionados who can’t make it to this weekend’s festival, there will be a live stream of the event online. Festival attendees will have the chance to sign up to win their own printer.
The event is free and festival guests are welcome to bring along their own 3-D printers.
For more information or to watch the live stream, visit midwestreprapfest.org. The Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds are located at 17746 C.R. 34, Goshen.