Building a 3D Printer is one of the most challenging – and rewarding – endeavors for a tech enthusiast to undertake.
I’ve been following the development of 3D Printing for some years now, watching as the technology improves and the entry level price point continues to drop.
I finally decided to take the plunge when I saw the RepRap Mendel i3 for the equivalent of £92 from China.
Don’t get me wrong. You really do get what you pay for – the kit arrived in a thousand pieces and I immediately regretted my decision to go down the self-build route, but on closer inspection all the parts where neatly cataloged and labelled. The instructions, although difficult to follow, helped me get the unit built over the course of an evening – much quicker than I had anticipated.
The majority of my time with this unit was spent at the calibration stage; there are literally hundreds of variables that can affect your ability to produce a decent print. Axis calibration, extruder temperature, hotbed temperature, ambient temperature, hotbed levelling, filament diameter, print gauge. Everything needs to come together in a perfect symbiosis in order to print anything half decent.
But with a little patience and a lot of tweaking, I’m happy to report that I’m getting good results. I’m currently printing upgraded parts for the unit to improve overall print quality, but in between I’ve printed holders, brackets, and pokemon of all shapes and sizes.
Next up is my plan to build a quadcopter from scratch using some plans I found on Thingiverse – the device seems right at home printing simple symmetrical shapes. I also plan on creating some bespoke holders for the raspberry pi zero to make some miniature arcade machines.
My advice to anyone else looking to get into 3D printing is to consider starting with a project like this, but only it you have the time and patience. You will learn all about the mechanics of 3D printing and get to know every component of your printer during assembly.ig you have any reservations, it may be better to just drop the extra £££ and buy a pre-built model from a reputable supplier who can offer the appropriate support.
NB. The biggest problem I came across during the assembly process was the extruder stepper motor skipping and refusing to feed filament into the nozzle. This was solved by adjusting the voltage being fed to the motor on the attached Arduino board (it’s as simple as turning a screw).