3D printer. Long version

I've been thinking about this 3D printing stuff but I always believed
it's way beyond my league: thousands of dollars... a-a, too much.
But it seems that things have changed in the last years and
some crazy dudes came up with these self-replicating printers and....everything starts to be accessible.

So I decided to give a try. Here it is my try...

NOTE: content is updated...frequently but separated for each topic. So...latest update is not necessary at the end :-)


- Foreword
- Electronics
- Hardware
- Projects
- Project 01. Printrbot simple, the original version
- Project 02. A bigger 3D printer (maybe Lulzbot, maybe Coord XY)
- Project 03. A filament extruder
- Project 04. Delta 3D printer.



3D printing that I'm speaking about is manly about FDM, that is fused deposition modeling.
A printer head squirts molten plastic that adds up upon the previous layer and... that's it.
I'm not interested at this point in other types of printing.

What I'm gonna do (first) is this: printrbot, the original kickstarter version.
Image below and more details can be found here, a project from 2011 who grew into a full blown company.

Why this? Because it's a simple and certain start. As.... weeny as it looks, this printer works.
And it prints.
And I intend to use this one for my next project, a printer with a bigger printing volume.
Something line 30cm x 30 cm x 30 cm... expandable to 60 x 30 x 30...

I'm not sure how will it look like.
My intention is to take the best from the rest.

One printer that I really like is Lulzbot TAZ. (see below)
It looks robust, can print bigger size objects.
And it's strong enough to mount a small spindle on it.
Check the Google Sketchup SKP file or just start reading a looong blog, longer than mine:

And there's another one, a cubic printer called Solidoodle.
You can buy it from here for just 800$ (plus shipment and tax... )
I like it because it's square, stable and sturdy. It can be walled in a flash.
The main thing at this printer is that the table that moves only on one axis.
It's the printer's head that's moving.

But if I'll quit on sturdyness, I still can't pass without noticing the "sewer machine" from printrbot,
the Printrbot 3D Simple.

Come on. It's.... simple !
You laser cut the parts out of wood, you fix the bearings with zip ties... This printer will last forever.


But I'll stop here with this intro.
Search the net and you'll spend countless nights (as I did) finding lot's and lot's of 3D printer design.
Amazing !!!

Coming back to my printer:



I'll start with Arduino Mega + RAMPS.
I allready had the arduino laying around so I bought a RAMPS PCB and after a couple of connectors and tranzistors, tadaaaa..

I'll start with this.
There's also a bigger version, including a LCD screen, buttons, SD card reader and a smart connecter.
For now..I don't need them.
But, click below to see what I'm talking about.

And at this point, that's all about electronics.
Yeah, I'm still thinking about Megatronics (rather than Minitronics), Sanguinololu.... but for now, I'll stick with Arduino MEGA + RAMPS.


After more than one year since my last real soldering work, I forgot the most important home-solderer lesson: clean, clean, CLEAAAN dammit!
So, due to the fact that I placed my fingers here and there, some of the solder pads...did not solder. Hence, I got some imperfect contacts. I found this after I discovered erratic stepper behavior. Also, at some point I noticed dimmed LED lights which...means only one thing: power supply problems.

I checked the board, I noticed some weak points and I tried to solder them the right way. A - a ! That was not possible. No matter how much cleaning and brushing and fiberglass brush usage...the solder did not stick to the pad. All I could do was a .. larger solder ball on the tip of the pin of the part. As if the solder was really to scared to touch the pad.

Then, I said: ok, I'll do it the hard way and remove the components and then put them back. Mh...this was also not possible. Unfortunately, nowadays PCB boards are multilayered with lot's of via's so the solder climbes from one side to the other of the PCB and when a pin is removed, there is a risk to remove/ distroy also the via. The via will remain as a visible small cylinder attached to the pin (a picture will follow..son). And when you notice this...you know that that board is compromised and continuing to use it will lead in....challenging debugging activities :-)

- plan A: I ordered a Megatronics (thus my first e-bay purchase was done)
- plan B: since Megatronics will arrive (if at all) in more than 14 days, I'll buy another RAMPS board and solder the parts...perfectly ! And you can take this literally !



well, that's a bigger story. Mainly because there are much more options and features to be taken into consideration.

For sure I'll go for the square version.
Cube or Lulzbot TAZ
But we'll talk later on this...


I've fallen so deep in love with this Delta arm printers that I almost forgot...about the Laser Cutter.
Because this was the match that lighted this fire: I needed some gears
out of balsa wood and instead of cutting them with a saw,
I thought it would be cool to use a laser cutter.
But, coming back to the story, I have to re-shift my projects.
By the way: let me write down the Projects Timeline, just to keep the track !



Project01: Printrbot simple, the original version.


All the below were not done in one day but.. I had no patience to build - write - build - write...
So, the HW part is..as good as it gets.
Everything started from here, a couple of printed parts, some rods and some linear ball bearings. The parts were...imperfect (I think I have to get used to that) so some cutting/ boring/ trimming was required.

For Z axis, I decided to use threaded rod instead of a belt or...some other rope system. [the trapezoidal rods will arrive...this week maybe and I'll save them for the next printer].  I re-threaded both the nuts and the rod because I wanted to add a certain degree of accuracy. The original rods being industrial rods, the thread is done by a ... jaw like machine and...mh....it's a sloppy thread.

For the printer bed, after some careful deliberations where the main concern was to maintain the weight at it's minimum, I've chosen a 2mm plexiglass sheet.
Meeeen, it took me about one hour, one Dremel drill and a bench grinder (and a cutter) till I managed to get to the below result.
And, I've also managed to cut the bars.

Unfortunatelly, after cutting all the bars I noticed I cut them to short.
This was due to the fact that I've measured the bars from the Google Sketchup drawing I found for this original version of printrbot but I found the bed elsewhere...and the bed was bigger. I guess it's easy to notice this in the above picture. So, since it took me so much to cut the bed and to clean the damn' place which was full of white plastic snowflakes...just about everywhere, I decide to buy additional rods.

Well, a couple of days later, I managed to cut the rods to the right length.
Now, it was immediately obvious that the whole printer was to big and unstable. So, with Donald Duck in my mind, I decided to mount some feet. A simple solution using some cable binders. And...as a tribute to two of my past (and dead) things I've worked before, I've chosen a former EWSD exchange rack top frame (see below)

At least now... it starts to look like a printer, isn't it?

Barelly...when I noticed the printer extruder was... I don't know: either the hot end was to short or the mounting was to small.

So, I've decided to reverse it and put some spacers and...atleast till I'll prind a better holder, this will last. And THIS is the beauty of the 3D printer: self-replicating and self-improving.

Yeap. Now, about the Plexiglas base: after I cut it, I noticed quite fast that it will wobble like a jelly. Again, remembering how long it took me to cut it, I decided again for a "quick-and-dirty" solution and I added some strength by using an Aluminium corner shaped rod. And I used double-sided tape, it works like a charm. The plate is steady as a wooden one. And, there's still place for another one !

Next challenge was to fix some nuts in the base plate so that I can mount the heated bed. This was accomplished by...stucking some special nuts in the plexiglass by using a hot iron and SuperGlue and some Dremel-based PLA friction welding and...

Next topic was..insulating the Plexiglas base.
Since the Heated Bed that hovers just 8 mm above reaches around 80 degrees C or more, I was affraid that it will affect the base. So, I've used pipe rubber insulation. I hope... it will hold.

And now, let the cabling begin. Lot's of cables, especially since I don't have the right sockets for the NEMA steppers.

Here, there's another lesson learned: a socket would have been better.
Just having open wire soldering when these wires are moving and shaking all the time is not the best option. And, when I had some rogue wires getting to friendly with the other ones... the printer was shaking like a dog thrown in cold water.
I think I'll add a drop of silicon glue gun to these solderings so that I can trust them that they will not add... additional Artificial Intelligence to my printer.
Such rogue electrical connections will cause extreme difficult debugging of the printer behaviour.

So now, first mechanical trials look good.
Except that ... 10 minutes after the below scene.... the RAMPS behaviour got wors and worse till it...led to my electro-failure due to bad solderings (see above, somewhere in the "Electronics" section)


Project02: a 3D printer with large enough surface to handle atleast 20 cm x 40 cm balsa sheets for the Laser cutter.



Project03: I'll do the math but...I think I'll make a Fillament machine.

Some Strudittle clone....


Project04: Delta arm printer. Amazing machine...




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