My 3d printer build

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Master Builder

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UPDATE as of 4/30/15.
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Hello everyone!

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printer front.jpg printer back.jpg printer extruder.jpg print screen.jpg

I just wanted to show the 3d printer that I have just finished building (well not quite finished), and also share any knowledge that I have gained in the building process (if requested). I choose the "Prusa I3 reworked" design over the Mendel because, well, it's a newer and better looking design, also simpler in my opinion.

The reason why I built a printer rather than buying a kit or fully assembled one is because I wanted to learn everything there is to know about 3d printing, and what better way to start off then by building your own printer. I was also hoping that it would be cheaper.

I can't think of much to say except list the parts that I'm using and results I'm getting.

I'm running an Arduino Mega 260 with RAMPS 1.4 and stepstick (pololu A4988) stepper drivers.
60.8 oz/in Shinano-Kenshi stepper motors.
MK2B PCB heatbed.
And a reprap discount smart controller LCD screen (has an SD card reader)
I'm also running with optical endstops.
And last but most certainly not least, an E3D hot end (1.75mm filament, with 0.4mm tip).
I can't imagine what it's like to work with those cheap chinese hotends, and I've only heard bad things about getting knockoffs. So I searched and decided to go with an E3D hotend, and I must say, it's GREAT! Works like a charm, and is worth all 8300 pennies!

I'm also using Marlin as my firmware, Repetier as my host (If printing from my computer).

Please ignore the wiring mess. I'll be rewiring it and moving the screen once I get my dupont connectors in the mail.


I build the frame out of 7/16 plexiglass (acrylic), I also made some side supports (all painted black, kind of a theme going here), and later added a sheet on the bottom to add more support (it's really heavy now).

So far most of my prints have been bed-adhesion experiments and tuning pieces. Right now I'm in the process of trying different methods to prevent ABS from warping (almost got it). But here are my results:

Very first print (ever!)
very first print.jpg

After some z-homing adjustment (second print)
Second print.jpg

And some more random prints and tuning:
assorted printed parts.jpg assorted printed parts 2.jpg

A filament holder:
filament holder.jpg

Some truck identification tags for our fire department (ABS) (middle one is real):
printed truvk tags.jpg

And of course my latest print, a Yoda head! (in ABS, you can see it lifted some, but only in that corner)
yoda head 2.jpg yoda head.jpg yoda in the making.jpg yoda bottom.jpg

I will continue to upload pictures of what I print. I'm extremely excited to finally be in the world of 3d printing!
Let me know what you think, and if you have any questions, please ask!

Sorry for the very poor write up.
 

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Termhn

Jr Member
Looking good man. The layer height seems pretty large, is that a hardware limitation?
 

Master Builder

Member
Looking good man. The layer height seems pretty large, is that a hardware limitation?
Thanks!

No, I started out with about 80% (of tip diameter) high layers, which wasn't to my liking. So I lowered it to 0.25mm (62.5%) And I can go lower for increased detail but that will come at the cost of an increase of time as you can imagine.

Right now I want to tune it for mainly prototyping parts and making props that will later be build upon with some other medium, so I'm not worried about very detailed pieces at the moment. But I would like to give it a quick shot just to see what I can come up with.

nice to see this tech, thank you
You're welcome.
 

NoMaybeYes

Member
Ive been looking at building myself a printer as well, a lot more seriously in face ever since someone made a design for a Mega Prusa i3 (15inx15inx15in) on instructables for $300, which led me to prusa. What do you think of your model, if you dont mind my asking how much you put into building it as well? One of my old teachers I visited the other day said going bigger losses accuracy, so depending on cost I would go with a smaller one.
 

Master Builder

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I have about $400 into it, and that's building my own frame (no material cost), and also buying a little extra for my next build. $83 for just the hotend, but I wouldn't go with anything less.

Heres a list of what I bought.

$30.00 Printed parts
$8.00 Gt2 belt and pulleys
$15.00 All bearings
$38.00 Smooth rods
$1.40 Thermistors (didn't need them, the sain smart electronics kit came with two)
$2.00 Zip ties and such
$14.00 Threaded rods for base
$25.00 Fasteners (bought extra because them were so cheap
$16.00 LCD screen
$4.00 Heat sinks for stepper drivers (sain smart electronics kit also included some aluminum ones, but I wanted black)
$44.00 Sainsmart ramps, Arduino ATmega 2560, step sticks (5 x stepper drivers, one extra for a second extruder), also came with a set of short dupont wires. You can source these parts for about $32 dollars but I wanted all black and sainsmart seems to be the only ones making black.

$4.60 Optical end stops
$60.00 Stepper motors
$5.00 Hobbed bolt (really nice, aggressive bolt)
$11.00 Heat bed
$10.00 Dupont connectors and wiring
$83.00 E3d hotend

To be honest, I always wanted a big printer too, but after building this, I really don't see the need for a bigger one. First off you will run into extremely long print times for objects with big foot prints. and there's not very many "big" objects that you can print all at one time, you would usually split them up to more practical pieces (better orientation and such) for printing, take a helmet for example, you would never print one as one piece because you would need an insane amount of support material and you would have a lack of quality in a lot of areas. Also, if you plan on printing ASB a lot you will run into big problems with the warping on large foot prints (a lot more than small footprint), especially because it's an open printer and you can't control the environment. Also you would have to make your own heatbed.

As long as you beef everything up frame wise you shouldn't have a problem with accuracy, with that in mind you should also increase you smooth rod diameter because I think 8mm will sag a bit at that length. But as far as belts and motors, the default should work just fine, after all you're just traveling a longer distance, theres not much weight added.

So in short, I don't see the need or practicality for a bigger printer, at least for your first one (unless it's enclosed).

This I3 reworked seems to work out just fine, as you can see I added some more supports to stiffen up the vertical frame (still flexes a bit). I can see the advantages of a aluminum frame. Acrylic seems to work out good for the frame but I just figured out that my carriage was warping slightly when I was trying to print ABS (well actually more than slightly, it was even 5/8th think!), so i remade it out of some 1/4 inch plywood, so I'll have to see how well that works.

My idea for my next inclosed printer was to build it out of acrylic, but after seeing how much it warps at fairly low temperatures, I have quickly abandoned the idea.
 

MikyVengeance

Well-Known Member
This is fantastic! I really like what you are doing here. Opens a new door for 3D Printing for me!
 

Master Builder

Member
This is fantastic! I really like what you are doing here. Opens a new door for 3D Printing for me!
Thanks! If you're really interested in building your own, I would highly recommend it, you'll learn quite a bit. You just need to be a little crafty and patient.

I have some more modifications I have done to the printer. I'll post some more pictures soon.
 

tlither

Well-Known Member
Nice build you have there! Am looking into one myself. Did you get your parts from one supplier or several? For the cost you have done a great job! Now for me to decide which way to go... kit or build my own!
 

Master Builder

Member
Nice build you have there! Am looking into one myself. Did you get your parts from one supplier or several? For the cost you have done a great job! Now for me to decide which way to go... kit or build my own!
I order just about everything from different vendors. And most of them were in China, so some parts took some time to arrive, but I would say they were all less than a month ( I was actually surprised on most of the shiping, it was a lot better than I'd thought).

I have some more pictures that I'll upload here soon.
 

Master Builder

Member
New pictures added. All the printed stuff is old though. I have fixed the issues you see with the layers not quite lining up perfectly. But I didn't get pictures of my latest pieces before giving them away.
 

RobTC

Member
Impressively clean, especially given it's a non-alu-extrusion build. I'm currently an OpenBuilds guy, for convenience, but ultimately I want to be self-reliant for hardware. Those tags came out very nicely in comparison to the real one, how much finishing work was that? And how smoothly do those planetary gears run?! They look awesome.

I really want to just go for it for my first build and hammer out a 5-axis foam/balsa/wax mill running off LinuxCNC, but the sheer cheapness of this makes me hesitate a little. How is it in terms of material costs? I hear filament's a little on the prohibitively expensive side, but I've also heard you can source it for very little from certain suppliers, so I'm not sure. I don't want to build a cheap machine that costs a fortune to run!
 

Master Builder

Member
Those tags came out very nicely in comparison to the real one, how much finishing work was that? And how smoothly do those planetary gears run?! They look awesome.
For the tags, just some sanding on the top, then I hand painted on the metallic grey. All and all, it was very easy, but the painting was tricky, mostly because it wouldn't allow you to build up coats because it would loses up the paint all over (Krylon (in can) metalic), but thats just a paint issue. I've made a bunch more tags since then (sorry no pictures).

As for the planetary gear, I printed that with a rim so it took a lot of work to cut away and break loose the gears. But now it spins fine, little tight though, but that's merely a tolerance issue.

How is it in terms of material costs? I hear filament's a little on the prohibitively expensive side, but I've also heard you can source it for very little from certain suppliers, so I'm not sure. I don't want to build a cheap machine that costs a fortune to run!
Actually it's not all that bad. I'm paying about $20 per spool (1 kg/2.2Lb) for filament made by Toner plastics (same as the makerbot filament), they never put there name on the spools, but you can distinguish them by the lot number and spool design. Doing that can save you quite a bit for high quality filament, $20 or $50 for the same product.

So at that price, it cost about 2 cents per gram. And that yoda head is about 30 grams, so about 60 cents in materials which I think is not bad at all.

I'm looking at inland filament right now, which you can get for $15 a spool. I'll have to get some and find out the quality, I heard it was really good for the price. At the least I could use it for mass production/unfinished pieces, like armor.

I was also thinking on eventually getting something like Filastruder, then I would be able to make my own filament for supper cheap.
 

Chernobyl

Sr Member
I am totally going to have to look into this once I've managed my visa and settled down. This makes me jealous as all sin and I wish I could get one of these to get moving on my own creations.

I'm jealous, but even so, that's some fantastic work. I'm impressed.
 

RobTC

Member
For the tags, just some sanding on the top, then I hand painted on the metallic grey. All and all, it was very easy, but the painting was tricky, mostly because it wouldn't allow you to build up coats because it would loses up the paint all over (Krylon (in can) metalic), but thats just a paint issue. I've made a bunch more tags since then (sorry no pictures).

As for the planetary gear, I printed that with a rim so it took a lot of work to cut away and break loose the gears. But now it spins fine, little tight though, but that's merely a tolerance issue.
Oh, nice. The lines are very clean, makes make hopeful about the abilities of it. I'd be looking at this to produce things like the BR85's ammo counter and barrel jacket's indented-rectangle-top-lump. Basic small stuff that takes some of the load off of me for precision. Seems like it could do it just fine, and then file down fairly easily. It's really been the amount of finishing work that I've been concerned about, but if a little sanding and maybe some XTC 3D resin does the job, it's a pretty good target on my way to full subtractive capabilities.

Actually it's not all that bad. I'm paying about $20 per spool (1 kg/2.2Lb) for filament made by Toner plastics (same as the makerbot filament), they never put there name on the spools, but you can distinguish them by the lot number and spool design. Doing that can save you quite a bit for high quality filament, $20 or $50 for the same product.

So at that price, it cost about 2 cents per gram. And that yoda head is about 30 grams, so about 60 cents in materials which I think is not bad at all.

I'm looking at inland filament right now, which you can get for $15 a spool. I'll have to get some and find out the quality, I heard it was really good for the price. At the least I could use it for mass production/unfinished pieces, like armor.
That's super cheap, much less than I was expecting. I figured if the Yoda head was maybe $1.80-2.40ish, it'd be reasonable. That's definitely promising.

I was also thinking on eventually getting something like Filastruder, then I would be able to make my own filament for supper cheap.
That was my intention too, though I hadn't come across that specific impementation, it looks pretty good. I just eBay'd ABS pellets and they're about $2/lb, which brings the cost of printing down to almost nothing! PLA pellets were around $5/lb, which is still remarkably cheap compared to off-the-shelf filament.

I am totally going to have to look into this once I've managed my visa and settled down. This makes me jealous as all sin and I wish I could get one of these to get moving on my own creations.
How's that going? Would be cool to get some kind of VA CNC group going, though you'd be right in the ballpark for those awesome DC maker groups.
 

Chernobyl

Sr Member
How's that going? Would be cool to get some kind of VA CNC group going, though you'd be right in the ballpark for those awesome DC maker groups.
Slowly, but the hope is that I can start up some sort of VA makergroup for the 405th. I know there are a few Spartans around the Richmond area, pooling our resources would make things a lot cheaper and easier.
 

RobTC

Member
Slowly, but the hope is that I can start up some sort of VA makergroup for the 405th. I know there are a few Spartans around the Richmond area, pooling our resources would make things a lot cheaper and easier.
Yeah, comparing the timelines between the fiancé visa and the marriage visa is why we went with the former. It was about a year for me, start to finish, though it could have been shorter if I hadn't delayed with some of the paperwork (getting your police certificate ASAP rather than waiting to be asked, for example...). I kept reading (on VisaJourney and stuff) that marriage visas tend to take between two and four times as long, for no discernable reason (read: even for middle class white westerners with no history), which sucks.

That'd be pretty cool, though! I hope it all comes together for you soon. I know there's a robotics club here in town, and another Maker thing going on down in Martinsville, which is easily reachable for those in Greensboro and Winston. You'd think there'd be some Virginia Tech members out here, but I haven't come across any. But there's plenty of motion control stuff going on across VA.

Master Builder I was wondering but forgot to ask, what's the linear resolution possible with this thing? Do you have microstepping enabled? What's the print speed like?
 

Master Builder

Member
I'm jealous, but even so, that's some fantastic work. I'm impressed.
Thanks! I highly encourage anybody interested in 3d printing to at least look into how to build one.

Oh, nice. The lines are very clean, makes make hopeful about the abilities of it.
I've actually increased the quality tremendously since then. the lines line up much much better now (sorry no pics). And yes, this really decreases the manual labor of any project by an insane amount, and in the end, you end up with a really accurate piece free of human errors.

what's the linear resolution possible with this thing? Do you have microstepping enabled? What's the print speed like?
Yes, I'm always microstepping at 16 times. It takes 80 steps to move 1 mm in the x or y axis (with micro stepping). So theoretically I would be able to achieve accuracy of 12.5 microns.

As for speed. I'm typically printing at 50mm/s, I can go faster but that seems to be a good balance between quality and speed ( I can print at 100mm/s+). The frame isn't as rigid as I'd like. But it's mainly the weight that it has to slide that affects the quality at higher speeds. The extruder assembly weighs a ton.
 

RobTC

Member
I've actually increased the quality tremendously since then. the lines line up much much better now (sorry no pics). And yes, this really decreases the manual labor of any project by an insane amount, and in the end, you end up with a really accurate piece free of human errors.
Interesting. It definitely seems like the way to go, at least for the time being. Milling requires much less finishing work, but it's also a lot more work and expense up-front, especially the way I'm planning on going.

Yes, I'm always microstepping at 16 times. It takes 80 steps to move 1 mm in the x or y axis (with micro stepping). So theoretically I would be able to achieve accuracy of 12.5 microns.

As for speed. I'm typically printing at 50mm/s, I can go faster but that seems to be a good balance between quality and speed ( I can print at 100mm/s+). The frame isn't as rigid as I'd like. But it's mainly the weight that it has to slide that affects the quality at higher speeds. The extruder assembly weighs a ton.
Do you happen to know what the maximum resolution the plastics or extruder can support? I assume the material itself isn't capable of micron-level accuracy, but I don't know where it falls off- or if it even does.

You say the extruder nozzle is 0.4mm... Can you go smaller? Does that improve anything, or just slow the whole process down? Could you possibly use the milling technique of different sizes on the same piece, for different levels of detail and finishing work?

That seems like a pretty reasonable speed for high resolution (probably the only thing I'm interested in, really). I'd be using 20x20 V-Slot, most likely, maybe with some 20x40 mixed in since I have it lying around, which should up the rigidity a lot, that stuff's rock solid even out to a few feet. That might get me a little more speed, since I'm inclined to take your word for which print head to use.

My thinking is in line with yours about size- I don't see how often that large pieces will be required to print in a single orientation, and if I really needed pieces that large for some reason I'd be inclined to move up to a subtractive CNC method, or just split it up. Enclosing the space so the heatbed can warm up the environment seems like a good idea, though I don't know how often I'd be using ABS. I guess that'd need some careful adjustment though, since you'd need it warm enough to stick under the hotend but cool enough elsewhere not to warp. But I assume there are experiments on that already out there.

...I'm definitely more of a mill guy, you may be able to tell. :p I really don't know a whole lot about the specifics and practicalities of 3D printers, though I get the general gist well enough.

EDIT: Read the product pages, dummy. Yes, there are alternative smaller nozzles. Though it did lead to more questions...

Did you go Royal Mail or courier for shipping? RM's notoriously unreliable (even more so than USPS), but it is pretty cheap.

I assume you meant the thermistor came with the Sainsmart RAMPS kit as opposed to some random assorted components kit. Did you install it so that you can do polycarb and nylon?

The 3D printed parts. Did you have to 3D print them? Did you use Shapeways? Was there an off-the-shelf alternative that you opted not to use? If so, why?

It looks like you have the Y axis optical end stop oriented like a microswitch. What's it looking for? A reflection? Limit switches are one of the areas that my knowledge runs pretty much dry, since I haven't used them nor written any firmware that runs them. Edit edit: never mind, I just saw the pic from the other angle showing the slot.

Which exact model of extruder assembly did you get? I assume 3mm filament gives better bang for buck, but IIRC that Filastruder only did 1.75mm for the time being.

EDIT EDIT: Filastruder a) does do 3mm nozzles, and b) has partnered with E3D to be a US distributor! I'm eying up that 3mm Bowden...
 

Master Builder

Member
Do you happen to know what the maximum resolution the plastics or extruder can support? I assume the material itself isn't capable of micron-level accuracy, but I don't know where it falls off- or if it even does.
Well usually filament will have a tolerance of about 0.05mm or better (diameter), and that's for 1.75mm filament.

You say the extruder nozzle is 0.4mm... Can you go smaller? Does that improve anything, or just slow the whole process down?
Yes, you can get nozzles quite small, E3D has 0.25mm nozzles. I've heard of 0.1mm. 0.4mm is a good middle point between speed and detail, it's probably the most common overall size. Obviously a smaller tip will greatly increase your print time but I assume it will increase your quality by allowing you to print thinner layers. Now the most common way to increase detail is too simple print thinner layers, but I'm not sure how limited I am with this 0.4mm nozzle, so far I've only got done to 0.1mm layers. I just found a good read on filament tolerance: LINK

Could you possibly use the milling technique of different sizes on the same piece, for different levels of detail and finishing work?
The only thing I'm aware of is the ability to change layer thickness during slicing.

though I don't know how often I'd be using ABS. I guess that'd need some careful adjustment though, since you'd need it warm enough to stick under the hotend but cool enough elsewhere not to warp. But I assume there are experiments on that already out there.
Actually I started out thinking the same. But ABS is nice! I really like the texture, and of course the flexibility. I would almost prefer it over PLA, but that's just my personal preference.

Actually it's the cooling that causes warping. ABS can expand up to 1% when melted, so it's the uneven cooling of layers that causes warping. As long as you can keep the print above it's glass transition temperature (around 105 degrees C). Now I've been heating my heatbed to 105C, but obviously only the bottom layers are hot enough, so the taller you build, the quicker the layers cool. So an inclosed chamber is really the only option. Unless you use brute force to hold it down from warping away from your platform (ABS dissolved in acetone applied to my glass).

Did you go Royal Mail or courier for shipping? RM's notoriously unreliable (even more so than USPS), but it is pretty cheap.
I ordered my hotend from Filastruder. $3 shipping via USPS. Thats the best way to get it if you're in the US. Filastruder is the official US supplier.

I assume you meant the thermistor came with the Sainsmart RAMPS kit as opposed to some random assorted components kit. Did you install it so that you can do polycarb and nylon?
Yes the sain smart kit came with, I wanna say 2 thermistors, but they didn't have any documentation on their resistance or rating (100K ohm I assume). So I went ahead and used one from a set I bought, for the PCB. As for the hotend, it's supplied with a nice one. But it's only rated for 300C max, so I would have to get an alternative thermocouple to achieve high temps (I may have to in order to print PC, it flows at around 300C).

The 3D printed parts. Did you have to 3D print them? Did you use Shapeways? Was there an off-the-shelf alternative that you opted not to use? If so, why?
I bought a kit off ebay for $30. Really nice quality! Theres a lot of people that have kits already printed and ready to ship, for common printer models. I haven't look into shapeway much, but I'm sure this is the most cost effective way.

Again, Ebay is your friend here. Most people get their parts from there. I bought just about everything for this project from ebay (except fasteners & threaded rods).

It looks like you have the Y axis optical end stop oriented like a microswitch. What's it looking for? A reflection? Limit switches are one of the areas that my knowledge runs pretty much dry, since I haven't used them nor written any firmware that runs them. Edit edit: never mind, I just saw the pic from the other angle showing the slot.
Yeah they're simply an infrared beam passed through that black piece. Just break the beam by running an object through that channel until about midway.

Which exact model of extruder assembly did you get? I assume 3mm filament gives better bang for buck, but IIRC that Filastruder only did 1.75mm for the time being.
Actually that's how it used to be. Nowadays it cost the exact same to run both 1.75 and 3mm. Just check filament suppliers by you (they're the same in the US). And everything seems to be focusing more on 1.75 lately. Personally I would stick with 1.75 because it's easier to manage, and it seems logical that it's easier to control for the extruder (doesn't have to move so slow to be extruded). Also there's a lot of talk about the back pressure on 3mm vs 1.75mm.

Really it boils down to the cost of filament.

I have a greg's wade extruder.
 
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