DIY 3D Printer Open Source HardwareDIY 3D Printer Open Source Hardware – Ups and Downs

DIY 3D printer open source hardware is great, but it also needs some warnings.  If you are not familiar with that term, it basically means the hardware design is available for free – usually easily accessible on the internet.  Anyone can look at the design and use it to build their own RepRap 3D printer, Arduino style microcontroller platform, or whatever.  One of the really great things about open source hardware happen when someone takes that design and adds to it or changes it to make it better.  Just  think, people all over the world are now contributing their enhancements and sharing them, and the design just keeps getting better.  That’s pretty nice!

While it is nice to have the benefit of all that knowledge from all those people, some warnings are in order.  It’s great that people want to share their ideas, but sometimes those ideas are not fully documented.  It can be a challenge when trying to implement a design and you aren’t sure just what the creator had in mind.  It can also be a challenge when there are so many suggestions for improvements that it’s hard to tell which ones are best and which ones might not actually be better.  With open source hardware you need to practice some discernment and, in the end, you are the one responsible for the end result of your project.

As a result, I have had some difficulty trying to find good directions. I’ve had to look at what several other people have done and piece together the information I need. It’s not like getting a kit where all the parts fit and the directions are provided step by step. That’s ok. Actually, it has been a great learning experience, and, as I mentioned, I am responsible, at least in part, for the end result.  When I look back and see the problems I have overcome, I have a sense of accomplishment.  It’s a pretty good feeling.

My First Technical Difficulty

Originally, I was satisfied with the 5″x5″ print size of the mini-mendel, but once I read on one website that someone increased the potential print size by making the rods longer, I wanted to be able to print larger things too.   I cut some longer rods, and then started looking at purchasing the heated print bed I would need for a later step.  (The print bed is the place where the printing is done, and it’s heated to help the plastic stick to it while the plastic is being printed.)   I quickly found out that the heated print beds only come in certain sizes and the rods I cut were larger than before, but not large enough for the print bed that was the next size up.  I had to buy new rods and cut them longer.  It was a mistake that cost me a few extra bucks, but the print bed is closer to 8″x8″ instead of 5″x5″.  That’s more than double the print area – a pretty good increase.