DIY 3D Printer

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Michael Howland from EMH studios and the OmNom Project shares with us his tips for DIY 3D printers – Michael is often at our 3D printer meetups and always happy to help if you have questions about 3D printing and building your own printer.

Electronics ( Micro controller some with on-board step drivers):

Some of these have the Stepper drivers on-board.
Pros: Step drivers on-board – You don’t have to buy anything else.
Cons: Step drivers on-board- You can’t replace them easily should one go out.
This is a personal preference issue here because I have only heard of a few step drivers failing and it usually is from people powering them without a stepper motor plugged in, BIG NO NO! Usually instantly fries the driver.

Ramps/Arduino Mega 256 $189.00 +Shipping *** Capable of Dual Extruders*** My first printer is running this but will soon be phased out in favor of the Azteeg X3. The Arduino/Ramps controller will then be employed as a test bed for the “OmNomProject.
If you search for another vendor be sure it has the Stepper drivers included or you will have to get them separately They are also know as (Step Sticks, Pololus, or Sure Step) I am sure there are other names but these will get you going in the right direction.

RAMBo Controller $185.00 *** Capable of Dual Extruders***
Step Drivers On-board

Printrboard $129.00***Only capable of 1 Extruder***
I know people that are having great results with these but if you are going to use it on anything other than the Printrbot you will need to tweak the firmware settings to suit your needs. Adjusting the firmware is as not a scary as it seems. 🙂
Step Drivers On-board

Gen7 Electronics: For advanced builders. If you feel like building your own micro controller.

Sanguinololu 179.00 ** Only Capable of 1 Extruder***

Azteeg X1 Starts @ $70.00 + Step Drivers ***Only Capable of 1 Extuder***

Brainwave Reprap Controller:
$100.00 **Only Capable of 1 Extruder**
Step Drivers On-board

Azteeg X3 Starts @ 109.99 + Step Drivers ***Capable of 2 Extruders***
This is the controller I chose for my new builds because of the room to grow if I need it. Allows for Higher voltages that can be run parallel. As well as on-board micro SD card reader. Once the printer has been started the computer can be removed and the printer will continue to run off the SD.

LCD Displays and Control Panels
There are a lot of avenues here and most are fully DIY but here are the more common ones.

ViKi LCD – Control Panel Interface $75.00 **These are the ones that I backed on Kickstarter and are due to be shipped shortly. I chose these for the direct plug and play design with his Azteeg X3. Make no mistake I love doing things myself i just can’t do all of it within my time constraints.

More Reprap LCD’s can be best found on Ebay. Other places are Makershed, Aidafruit, Sparkfun, Panucatt Devices, and Pololu. I’m sure there are more.

Step Drivers:

Panucatt Sure Stepr Drivers $12.00 ea
Chose these for the larger area to mount heat sinks and component uniformity.

Pololo $9.95 to $19.95
I have these on my original build and have only had one that is starting to go out but keep in mind that my printer has pretty much been running 24/7 for 6 months.

Stepper Motors

Kysan Stepper
Great (quiet) steppers that can only be bought in bulk for around $10.00 each usually in cases of 80. They can also be found on Ebay or at for a bit more. These motors are what is on my first machine and will be making the trip to the upgrade as well.

Lynn Engineering Super Torque Steppers
I chose these for the torque (68oz/in) to make sure I did not have another missed step issue and for the fact that I was going to use them for the OmNom grinder and the large print size. They are a bit louder that the Kysan motors due to the higher torque but I can easily run both in the same room as a sleeping baby if the situation requires it. A good source for these is Alltronics for $15.95. They can sometimes be found on Ebay for a bit less. The only thing about this as a choice is that you will either have to match the existing pulley to a belt or do what I did and cut them off in favor of the MXL belt listed below.

Kysan Planetary Gear Reduction Stepper
I have one of these on the original printer and It is the best extruder motor I have had. The only issue is they are frequently over double the price of a normal stepper and all the sources that I have located are usually out of stock. Here is the LINK. To get around this in my new builds I decided to go with a no-hobbed bolt version of the Wades Extruder. Thingverse THING

To reduce carriage weight on the X-Carriage so that I can increase speed and accuracy I also relocated the actual extruder to on top of the printer and went with a Bowden Style Extruder system. it is very difficult to get or take a good picture of it. This style of extruder system is NOT a beginner recommended style! I am really having to tweak the slicing program, temperatures, and firmware to get it to print well. BUT it is possible!

Heated Print Bed

Prusa heated print bed MK1 $19.50 on Ebay I am running one on my single wide printer.
This is the first design. Here are some of the issues that I have found.
1. The mounting screws make it very difficult to mount a full 8×8 piece of glass to and using the full surface area.
2. the lack of clearance in the center of the print bed and the need to measure temperatures from the center where it’s most accurate makes the placement of the thermistor makes the bed difficult to level, increases the platform height therefore reducing usable print height, and creates the need to elevate the heatbed and creates the need to insulate the air gap underneath.

Prusa heated print bed MK2 19.85 on Ebay I am sure you can find one in the US but tis one I was able to find quickly.
Most notable revisions from the MK1.
1. Clearance hole for the thermistor allows for clearance reducing or elimination the above issue.
2. Now has mounting holes for using a 3 point leveling method. (3 point leveling is HIGHLY recommended)

Panucatt Devices HELIOS Heatbed. $40.00
I am going to run 2 of these on the red printer you saw in the video. (I named the standard size the Z-Max and the Red double wide one the Z-Max Alpha)
Features I liked .
1.Twice as thick as the Prusa MK1 and MK2.
2. Built in copper traces and clearance for the thermistor probes.
3. Enlarged to put the mounting screws outside the 8×8 build area as well as countersunk screw mounts for a fully flat surface.


Lulzbot Buddaschnozzle $95.00 These are arguably one of the best hotends on the market. This was my first choice for my new builds but after some experiments they seemed to be a bit too heavy for me. I love the design but it just doesn’t fit my build.

J-head MK-IV can be found on Ebay $50 to 65.00 The final result of my hotend (because I built them myself less the nozzle) is partially based off this and the MakerGear design coupled with Printrbot “UBIS” nozzles (my favorite nozzle).

Printrbot Ubis Hotend $59.00 I know a bunch of Printrbot users that love these nozzles and they look to be a very simplistic and solid design. Here is the link that for the Ubis Nozzles I used in my variant.

MakerGear Hotend $75.00 This is the first nozzle i had on my machine and it eventually suffered thermal failure. I do not blame that on the MakerGear product because I was running a 58 hour print and all the other common hotends use the same build materials. Tolron PAI, PEEK, & PTFE One thing that made it difficult to works with is the ceramic insulator that keeps the nichrome wire in place.

Hardware also know in the Reprap world as “Vitamins”

Smooth Rod for use as guides on the X, Y, and Z axis.
Multipurpose Air-Hardened A2 Tool Steel 8mm Dia
McMaster Carr PN# 8116K91 $22.84 for a 6′ Length

General Use Threaded Rod 5/16″ (For use in everything other than the Z-Axis threaded rod)
Mcmaster Carr PN# 98910A030 $3.31 for a 6′ Length

Z-Axis Threaded Rod (In my opinion the only place where straightness is extremely important)
18-8 Stainless Steel Threaded Rod
Mcmaster Carr PN# 98920A030 $10.23 for a 6′ Length

Want even more accuracy  Take a look at ACME rods. There is a lot of debate here on if they are worth it or not. I have heard both. My opinion remains neutral for this article.

Mxl Series Timing-Belt Pulley 1/4″ Belt Width, 1.105 OD, 36 Teeth
*****You will need to make some sleeves to reduce the size of the bore to fit*****
They take me about 10 minuets to make for me on my lathe.
Mcmaster Carr PN# 1375K54 $12.16 ea

Timing Belt
Trapezoidal-Tooth Neoprene Belting Mxl Trade Size, .080″ Pitch, 1/4″ Width
McMaster Carr PN# 7959K21 $2.04 per Ft

That is all that I can think of of relevance as far as the built components go. Here is a bit more off he subject but related information and suggestions.

Good kits to build.

Prusa Mendel – A good beginner machine with a large build size and a great way to not only learn about the hardware but the firmware/software as well. This is also where I started.

Ecksbot This is a very good variant of the Prusa design. I have used some of the parts of this design when I was modding my first machine while I tested things out for iron out what I needed.

Huxley Similar to the Prusa this little opensource printer has a build size of 140x140x110mm and is smapper and more portable than the Prusa.

Ronthomp Mendel: This Prusa variant follows more of the path of a fully self replicating printer by making more of its structure out of printed parts.

Mendel MAX: Unlike the Ronthomp Mendel the Mendel Max (looks to be inspired by the Prusa V2) and the Mendel Max 2.0 (looks to be inpired by the Prusa V3) goes the opposite direction with making its structure out of sturdy extruded aluminum tubing. This gives it a very rigid platform. Overkill?? Some say not. You decide.

The Z-Max Prusa -My Design as seen in the pictures on my blog HERE.
I intend to release the STL files so that anyone can print this design for themselves. However at this point some of the components can prove to be difficult to print for a beginner and have not been fully refined for ease of printing yet. Some of the components rely heavily on support material and support models. It is intended to be a bolt on for a Prusa mendel owner although the dimensions of the structural threaded rods can vary depending on whoever cut them. Also the Top vertex is the biggest part that a standard printer with a print bed of 8″x 8″ can fit. if you know someone who can run the parts for you I can put together a set shortly but I do not intend fully refine them until after OmNom is completed. This is also probably not the best beginner design because of the challenges involved when printing tall parts but one could just stay with shorter parts until they feel confident. If this is done it is nice to know that you would have a machine that you can grow into.

If you are feeling brave and want to walk on the wild side you can try the Rostock Delta. 😛

Here is some quick links on materials that these printers can use.
ABS – You can get this easily in many places but I use Octave Filament
PLA – I really don’t use this material much unless it is for parts that have a high wear resistance so I just get it off of Ebay for now.
618 Nylon – I source this material form the same source as my ABS
Wood – Also know as Laywood and made in Germany it can be obtained from LULZBOT and should be listed in the experimental category.
PVA – This is a water soluble filament used exclusively for support material. It can be acquired at ProtoParadigm or UltiMachine
Polycarbonate – A high impact resistant plastic can be gotten from UlitMachine

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