Been doing a ton of research... Here's what I figured out so far.
Working with a guy on ebay who has a kit with everything but the electronics. Decent price, open to offers, and willing to give educators a discount!
Mendelmax 1.5 kit
- $550 / offers, free shipping: http://www.ebay.com/itm/221169267158...84.m1423.l2649
Other required parts:
NEMA 17 Motors
- $48.32 plus $27.95 S&H. So $76.27 total.
- $54.99 plus $3.75 S&H. So $58.74 total.
$185 plus $5.78 S&H. So $190.78 total.
30A 12V Power Supply
- $29.96 with free S&H.
As far as software goes, it appears there are several different ways to go about exporting from Sketchup, but it is definitely a multi-step process and who knows how the print quality would come out. I'm definitely willing to give it a try! The ebay seller with the Mendelmax kit recommends this:
As far as the sketchup, I use it all the time. Sketchup is great for people getting started in 3D printing. I know many people that design in it. You just download a free STL exporter. So the tool chain goes like this. You design your object with sketchup. Export it as an STL. Open the STL in "Netfabb studio" and hit repair. Netfabb makes the file printable. Then export the fixed STL file. Open your slicing program (I use Slic3r) and slice the STL. Now the file is a GCODE file. Now just open the GCODE in "Pronterface" and hit Print.
I've got Netfabb and Slic3r installed, working on finding an STL exporter for Sketchup and still a little confused about the "Pronterface"- lots of information there...
Also have a request in to get a trial version of Solidworks. I would LOVE to have an "industry standard" CAD program, but even at $150 a seat (can't find an actual price anywhere?) that would cost waayyy to much. Maybe if I bought a couple of seats a year I could make it work, but in the meantime I'm sorta stuck with Sketchup.
I'm also a little concerned about print price, but I think it will be okay. Did some rough calculations and to print a Hot Wheels size model car should theoretically cost between $1 and $3.00 depending on a few different things.
Also, here seems to be an excellent resource for finding sources for filament, troubleshooting code, or just information in general! http://reprap.org/wiki/Main_Page