Yes, call me a geek! (I accept the title willingly.) And just like many other geeks, 3D printing has intrigued me for a few years now. Until recently, it was only something I read and thought about. That changed when a friend gave me a collection of plastic parts for building a DIY 3D printer of my own. (DIY stands for “Do It Yourself”.) At that point, I committed myself to see it through to the end. I had to build it! Wouldn’t you agree?
You can read about my successes and struggles in this series of articles. While this is not a step-by-step guide to building a printer, it will help you understand the process.
My DIY 3D Printer
As I mentioned, a friend gave me the plastic parts for a 3D printer. This may sound strange. Why didn’t he give me all the parts? It will help to know that this printer is a RepRap (http://reprap.org) style of printer. That means a couple of things.
- First, it took another 3D printer to print some of the parts for this printer. RepRap tries to make 3D printing less expensive by making it possible to print your own parts. This means you need a 3D printer to build a 3D printer, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Even if you need to pay someone to print the plastic for you, the cost is reasonable.
- Second, the designs for RepRap style printers are open source. Since they are open source, anyone can download the designs, make changes to designs, or even contribute new designs. Just take a look at the designs that are out there (http://reprap.org/wiki/RepRap_Machines). This is a great resource for those who want to build a 3D printer, but it also needs a warning. Not all the documentation is out there! These designs are from people with a wide variety of technical and communication skills. So depending on which design you use, you will need to fill in the gaps and come up with your own solution to problems.
The plastic pieces that I received were for a printer called a Mini-Mendel. Huxley is another name for it. Here are some links about it.
It all started when the box came in the mail with dozens of little plastic parts. I dumped them out on the table and it looked like just a lot of random pieces of plastic. How was this going to turn into a 3D printer? It was confusing at first, but after finding a couple of helpful websites and seeing what others had done, it started to make sense.
What was the next step? The plastic just holds other parts of the printer together. So the next step was to get the other parts. I started with parts for the frame, but more about that in the next post.
RepRap is a Do-It-Yourself kind of project. You have a general pattern to follow, but you often have to figure out the details. Depending on the PepRap printer, the instructions on the internet aren’t always as helpful as they could be. That made this an interesting and challenging project. I learned a lot along the way.