Making a 3D Printer (cheaply) – pt 1

Aim: to build a 3D printer with my daughter. We don’t currently have one, don’t know anyone with one and have never used one…therefore we might have a few difficulties to overcome but here goes.

I had already heard about the great RepRap movement and straightaway decided to utilise that vast community to ensure our build was cheap and easy. Looking at the RepRap wiki pages we soon decided on the Prusa i3 and looked at how it was built. We particularly like the box frame version as shown in the picture below ( from the RepRap wiki by Bitflusher ) see


This would be a really good start as we have a half used sheet of MDF that needs using up. We scoured Ebay and Amazon for the bits we needed always thinking of alternatives. Our plan is to cobble together a working printer and then print to parts to improve it – a self-improving 3D printer. Parts orders so far are:

  • 8mm steel bar
  • GT2 belts and 2x 12 tooth pulleys (X and Y axes)
  • 10x LM8UU Linear Bearings (for X,Y and Z slides)
  • 2x 624ZZ bearings (for X and Y tensioners)
  • 5x NEMA17 stepper motors
  • 1x RAMPS 1.4 system, Arduino and LCD display
  • 40W/12v ceramic heater (for hot end)
  • Thermistor
  • 1x 1.75 to 0.4mm brass nozzle
  • 1x M6 Pneumatic connector (for hot end)
  • Some 4mm OD and 2mm ID Teflon tubing
  • 1x 16T GT2 pulley
  • 1x 60T GT2 pulley
  • 1x 180mm GT2 belt
  • 1Kg of PLA filament (1.75mm black)

We still need:

  • A decent 12v Power Supply
  • Heated Bed
  • Assorted bolts, nuts, screws, threaded bar

The first few bits have already turned up….


Ideas so far are:

  1. to use a large piece of MDF sheet as a base for the 3D printer, to use wooded blocks as risers to take the two Y axis smooth rods.
  2. to finely sand to a polish the cheap, mild steel rods. Ensuring they are chamfered and oiled prior to inserting into the linear bearings.
  3. 15mm plastic pipe clips are ideal for holding the linear bearings.photo_2017-02-18_16-46-02.jpg
  4. can’t get the geared cogs built for the extruder….so will try to use some more GT2 pulleys to creat the precision and torque required.
  5. using the ready-made RAMPS is far easier and cheaper than designing, etching PCB, building and programming up my own.
  6. going to try to make most of the hot end from scratch.
  7. going to make the extruder from scratch using scrap metal/wood and making our own hobbed bolt as required. Plan to case harden it.

Every part for the Prusa i3 can be bought but doing so will likley add lots to the overall cost.

Will keep taking photos of construction and posting here should anyone like to also make their first 3D printer as cheaply as possible.

 Please also see my other progress blogs for this project by clicking here


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