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Printer Technology Hardware

Assembling Your Own 3D Printer 129

adeelarshad82 writes "Following a tour of a 3D printer factory, analysts at PCMag wanted to explore the option of building a 3D printer themselves. With the help of a 3D printer manufacturer, Buildatron, they were able to compile a step-by-step guide on how to build a 3D printer."
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Assembling Your Own 3D Printer

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  • Re:!EarlyAdopter (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2012 @06:35PM (#38870417)

    I think I'll wait until 3D printers can 3D print other 3D printers.

    Actually a RepRap can print 50% of a new RepRap. You just need the metal bits and circuit boards.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Informative)

    by daid303 ( 843777 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @06:49PM (#38870597)

    Indeed. And the worst part is, it's silly expensive!

    If you want a 3D printer DO NOT GET THIS. Get something from Makerbot or Ultimaker, they sell easier to build kits that give higher quality prints for less money. RepRap is a fun project, but it takes quite a while to get usable results (lots and lots of tweaking). I have an Ultimaker myself, and took me 8 hours to build and get my first print working.

    As for people wondering about the quality of these kinds of machines: [] this is printed on mine.

  • Re:3D printers suck (Score:5, Informative)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @07:03PM (#38870803)

    To some extent you can bolt an extruder onto your existing CNC mill. That is my "rep-strapping" plan. Lots of details at this link.

    Most of the time and money is in the 3-d robot part that does all the positioning. An extruder is actually pretty cheap. []

    The other issue, as a machinist, I can verify that accessories that a mill requires are about twice the cost of the mill, and the accessories a lathe requires are about the cost of a lathe. So, I bolt my $350 rotary table to my $500 mill, stick the $50 7/8 inch gearcutting arbor in the spindle, clamp a $50 expanding arbor into my $125 chuck attached to the rotab, supported on the other side by my semi-homemade tailstock that cost about $100, then stick a $25 involute gear cutter in the arbor, I'm not gonna add it up, but just to cut a simple gear out of a blank machined on my lathe, is gonna cost almost as much in accessories as the mill itself. Then add a bunch of clamps, a decent vise, a much of endmill holders unless you're one of those collet people, it adds up, man.

    At least theoretically a "utilimaker" thing only requires the additional purchase of a power cord.

  • by emorning ( 2465220 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @07:04PM (#38870807)
    I assembled a RepRap Prusa in a weekend but it took me 8 weekends to figure out... ...what software to use to drive the machine (RepSnapper). ...what driver to use on the electronics (Sprinter), and how to configure and recompile it for my machine ...what slicing software to use (Skeinforge), and how to configure it (properly configuring Skeinforge can be a fulltime job). ...what 3d design software to use (current using OPENscad)
  • Re:3D printers suck (Score:5, Informative)

    by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @07:39PM (#38871285) Journal

    A friend who has done this tells me it's somewhat of a waste of time because the 3D printer wants to move an order of magnitude faster than the max speeds most mills are capable of driving. (Since it's adding toothpaste, rather than cutting away metal, maybe that's not so surprising.) He ended up buying a Thing-o-Matic (and doing a *lot* of re-engineering to get it working reliably) but now he's thrilled with it. It doesn't replace his mills and lathes, but it sure is a convenient addition. He's all oh the thumbwheel broke off my micrometer: I'll print a new thumbwheel bracket. The windshield mount on my recumbent broke, so I'll print a new one. He's printed plumbing parts, cookie cutters [], centering adapters for optics, replacement bar handle clamps [], you name it, and there's no setup or clamping or accessories or anything like that -- not even alignment. He just emails the completed gcode to the machine and goes in twenty minutes later and takes his new item off the stage. I'm dead envious.
    That might be different if you're using a servo-based mill with fast ballscrews, but for steppers with fine-pitch threads, well, my CNC is pretty rattly and jiggly when it's driving around at 10ipm and his Thing-o-Matic can run at 500ipm.

  • Re:3D printers suck (Score:5, Informative)

    by Brietech ( 668850 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @07:58PM (#38871537)

    I have a Makerbot Thing-o-Matic, and have also used smaller CNC milling machines before. There really are some crucial differences:

    1) There's an actual fundamental difference in the types of objects that can be created with an additive process like the ToM uses, and a reductive process like a CNC milling machine uses. Creating lightweight, hollow objects is basically impossible with a mill but trivial with my ToM (I frequently print out multi-layer gear objects for mechanical widgets I'm building).

    2) I can operate a small 3D printer in my apartment. It's roughly as loud as my laser printer, and doesn't produce any mess/dust-clouds/bad smells. I would never use a CNC mill in my living room. At best it is way louder, produces way more mess, and basically requires a shop-vac to be running the whole time.

    3) Finally - having used a range of both cheap 3D printers and cheap (and not-so-cheap) CNC milling machines - I can get a low-end 3D printer like a makerbot that actually produces useful parts for under $2000. Ever CNC mill I've seen for under $3000 has been crap. If you can spend $5000 (and have at least some background in machining) you can get a pretty good small CNC milling machine and maintain it.

  • Re:3D printers suck (Score:5, Informative)

    by dbc ( 135354 ) on Monday January 30, 2012 @08:02PM (#38871581)

    Well, I see you have been modded +5 insightful. Yet, you don't seem to have any experience wither either mills or 3D printers, at least you don't claim to have any.

    I own one of each, and have access to other CNC mills and 3D printers.

    Guess what? They both have their place. They both have their limits. Use a machine tool within it's limits, and you will be happy. Try to push beyond its maximum work envelope, and you will be frustrated. I have done a lot of good stuff with both. My clunky Makerbot Cupcake has printed a lot of robot parts and other stuff. It is quick to draw something up and bang it out. And it lives in my living room. Guess what, my mill doesn't live in my living room. So I'm very happy with the clunky state of at-home 3D printing. Do I want more resolution and a bigger work envelope? Yup. But I've still done a lot of good stuff with it.

    CNC mills are great, but it also is a whole heck of a lot more work to go from a drawing to a part. And more expensive, too, by a lot. I could buy several Cupcakes for what I have invested in cutters, collets, measuring tools, vises, clamps, etc, etc., not counting the mill itself. And there is no comparison between the learning curve. You will be a 3D printing expert long before you have mastered creating G-code for CNC milling.

    As to your cost comparison, there is no $1500 CNC mill worth having. I've seen the output. I've talked with owners. I've done the math and understand the work envelope. $1500 spent on a RepRap style machine can do a lot of good stuff. $1500 spent on a CNC mill.... is a sloppy, weak columned, backlash-plagued wimp with a work envelope so small you can't produce parts as big as you can on a cupcake, and you *still* haven't bought any tools. The $1500 CNC mill can work in aluminum and free-machining brass. The RepRap can work in ABS and PLA. Well designed ABS or PLA parts can be pretty strong, and can be glued up into strong large parts.

    Face it, all you have said is: "Grapes are awful, they don't taste like chicken."

    PS. In case anyone is wondering "Well, what *is* the cheapest CNC mill worth owning?" I would say choose between a Tormach PCNC 1100 or a Mikini 1610L. This is what Sherline owners move up to after they have figured out that the Sherline can't do what they wanted to do. This is not because Sherline is bad, or that Sherline lies in their spec sheet. It is because beginners don't understand what the Sherline spec sheet is trying to tell them, and so they don't realize it can't come close to doing what they think it will. The other thing to remember is that when you go to buy a dial indicator or a carbide cutter or some other widget, it costs you exactly the same amount of money whether you are going to use it on a Sherline or an Akira-Sieki. CNC machining is a spendy hobby, that's just life.

The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer. The haves get more, the have-nots die.