There was a lot of excitement about getting it up and running so we could start printing parts. We successful had the Mendel accepting and running motor commands allowing us to go through the motions of printing. We ran into several problems, but the main issue we had was with the extruder head. The extruder head design had difficulty keeping a consistent and distributed high temperature throughout the head, which led to inconsistent and ineffective printing as the plastic would not melt in the chamber correctly. After several attempts to correct the extruder head, including building a new one, the Mendel remained ineffective and was shelved.
The Makerbot Thing-O-Matic (mk 6) was purchased in the summer of 2011 to fill 3D printing needs. So far, it has performed quite well, leaving the Mendel obsolete.
Apart from printing plastic in the lab, one important construction asset for many projects is the use of Styrofoam. For the most part, Styrofoam is cut into the desired shape using a crude hot wire system that works for basic jobs, but lacks the precision and consistency desired for many more complicated shapes (especially shapes with blind holes). The goal of this project was to address the issues of Styrofoam cutting by converting the Mendel into a simple CNC cutting machine with the extruder head being replaced by a Dremel and vacuum. The refitting of the Mendel served as a proof-of-concept for a larger CNC cutting machine to be built in the future.