Constructing a DIY 3D Printer

Many of our customers are hobbyists who use our components as part of their maker or DIY projects and we’ve worked with a number of customers shopping for stepper motors and other motion control supplies for building a 3D printer. It occurred to us that a great way to gain insight into our customers’ needs and challenges would be by building a 3D printer ourselves!

We began by comparing and evaluating various models on RepRap, which is a Wikipedia of sorts for open source 3D printers. There are many models of DIY printers with many iterations of each model, but we finally settled on the Mendel90, which is a slight modification of the Prusa Mendel. We liked the clean look and versatility of the printer, so we ordered a kit from the printer’s creator, Nophead. The kit didn’t include a power supply, so we used our 600W 12V power supply.

Here is an overview of the build in pictures:

 

The unpacked kit, ready for assembly
The unpacked kit, ready for assembly

 

Frame assembly
The assembled printer dibond

 

Motors
The threaded rod, rod guide, and x and z motors after being assembled and mounted
MelziBoard
The Melzi controlled board after mounting (since our power supply has an integrated fan, the two resistors on the right were unnecessary)

 

Assembled 3D printer
The completed printer assembly with the filament from the kit on the spool (we used our 3mm glow-in-the-dark ABS 3D printer filament from MG Chemicals for the subsequent print)

 

It took us about a week, working a few hours time, to build the 3D printer and it certainly isn’t a simple process. Don’t expect to breeze through a project like this. Although there are many components and sub-components, with the proper tools and enough determination most people can build one of the 3D printers on RepRap.

3D printed elephant
Our print of an elephant by LeFabShop we found on Thingiverse, an excellent resource that has thousands of .stl files to print (you may have noticed we put polymide tape on the glass surface, which we found helps with the removal of the plastic parts and adhesion of filament)

 

The post-assembly process was equally challenging. It takes a bit of time to get familiar with the software used to convert a generic sketch .stl file to .gcode that the printer can understand.

 

Logo screenshot
Here is a sketch of the Circuit Specialists logo from Google SketchUp that we converted to .gcode for printing

 

Printed logo
…and here’s the logo after printing

 

As previously mentioned there are dozens of models of DIY 3D printers for you to choose from. That being said, most builds use many of the same parts, so we put together a bill of materials (BOM) for building a 3D printer. We hope you find it useful!

And, finally, here is a time lapse we filmed during one of our elephant prints.

Common Parts & Tools List for DIY 3D Printers

(Note: This is not a complete BOM that applies to all 3D printers.)

600W 12V power supply

Polymide tape

NEMA 17 motors

3mm PLA/ABS 3D printer filament

Jumper wires

Lithium grease

Multimeter (qualifies as free gift on orders over $50)

Solder

Soldering station

Plier & cutter set

Cutter/Stripper 20-30 AWG

Heat shrink wrap

Thermistors

Surface cleaner

Axial fan (if using non-cooled power supply)

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