3D printing is unlikely to replace traditional manufacturing methods. However, there are many applications where a 3D printer can deliver a design promptly and to a high standard.
Not only does 3D printing allow more design freedom but it also allows total design customization. Since current manufacturing technologies excel in building single parts one at a time, these machines are perfectly suited for a one-off product.
But as enjoyable as they are to operate, and as practical as they are, building a 3D printer yourself isn’t all fun and games.
This process requires endless patience and a lot of your time to ensure that your machine operates as it should. In addition to building the machine, you also need to factor in the sheer amount of research you’ll have to undertake and the numerous designs you’ll have to create before beginning the process.
If you’re interested in learning the basics of how to build a 3D printer, our handy guide has got you covered. Feel free to read on!
What Is A 3D Printer?
A 3D printing machine is used to make physical architectural three-dimensional scale models and prototypes. You can make anything from furniture and novelty gift items to toys. Essentially, you can make whatever you want (within reason, of course).
This is achieved by laying down several thin layers of material on top of one another, with a break in between for them to fully dry down.
3D printers have become far more widely available in recent years. As a result, there are many types of 3D printers available for you to look at.
Can You Make A 3D Printer At Home?
We know it may seem impossible but yes, you can! However, you must make sure to have the relevant guidance, parts, and tools to do it correctly. You also need to bear in mind that the process is not simple and requires a lot of care and attention.
Putting the frame together is quite a simple process as they are metal aluminum extrusions that require screws.
Finding the best alignment, fixing the hotend, fans, and other parts together may be a little more difficult. Thankfully, there are tutorials and videos available online to help guide you in the right direction!
How To Build A 3D Printer
While building your 3D printer can be quite a daunting process, there are two ways in which you can build a 3D printer; you can build one using a pre-made kit online, or build one from scratch.
Both require a certain level of knowledge before you begin, and both have their advantages and disadvantages. We’ll discuss these below.
This is a challenging process but can be done with the right knowledge and equipment. It can even be a lot more fun to put together than a pre-made kit! However, you must be knowledgeable about the parts required for a 3D printer and how to properly assemble them.
You also need to decide the type of 3D printer you want to make before beginning this process. This is a helpful step to take as there are many printer types to choose from.
Things To Consider
The type of budget you have will determine the quality of the machine you will be able to build. Making a 3D printer for $250-$300 is possible if you know how to source low-budget parts, but this is rarely heard of.
For example, a decent Prusa style printer consisting of effective parts will typically set you back anywhere between $350-$400 for all the parts.
Several materials are suitable for building a 3D printer from scratch. Some of the most popular materials include:
- Steel – This is a great budget-friendly option. It can also be welded. You could also purchase steel as a threaded rod and secure it with nuts and bolts.
- Wood – This is far easier to manipulate than other materials. It’s also easy to shape. The downside is that certain types of wood can cost you excessively.
- Aluminum – It varies in price but is very reliable.
After you have made this decision it will be much easier to decide on the frame type you want to purchase for your machine.
This will determine the movement of the bed and print head. It is all about the way a print head moves along the X and Y axes.
Number Of Extruders
A generic 3D printer will have one extruder, but you can have two or more. You simply need to make sure that the control board can support the number of extruders.
Typical nozzles on 3D printers relate directly to the overall print resolution. The typical nozzle size is 0.4 mm but can be purchased anywhere from 0.1 mm to 1 mm.
There are some pieces of equipment that are entirely necessary for the process, yet you can add and remove others according to how you want your machine to work.
- Control board
- Print head
- Stepper Motor
- End stop
Carry Out Research
Pick out an existing 3D print machine and use it as your model of inspiration. Take cues from it to ensure a solid foundation on which you can build your machine. Then look at the specific equipment and tools that are required and begin to make your purchases.
If you’re a beginner at building a 3D printer, this is a great stage for you to learn as much as you possibly can about the process so that you aren’t going into it empty-handed.
Practice The Design
Now that you have decided which printer you want to build, it is a good idea to create it using virtual software before beginning the physical process.
There are many tutorials online to help you throughout this process. If you cannot use digital software, you could even sketch it out which can be a fun experience. It may be easier to do this, too!
Make sure all designs are strong and durable to save you lots of time later on. Doing this will also help to give you a visual as to where everything will go, and whether your creation will function correctly.
It is also a great indicator as to whether you need to re-design particular elements – which is great insight especially if you’re new to building 3D printers.
Build Your Machine
Alongside the designing process, building your 3D machine is a very long and time-consuming process. You may find that you destroy power supplies, break materials and put things into the wrong place but that’s what this stage is all about: figuring out how things work together.
We’d recommend building your machine in phases. So begin by building sub-assemblies, such as the tool head. Parts may arrive at different times so it’s a great idea to gather as much as possible as early as you can.
As you wait, you can design and print out the brackets and mounting for the sub-assembly on an existing 3D machine. Then you can put everything together and test as more parts arrive.
Overall, you can move on to these stages in whatever sequence suits you most. Maybe assembling the printer in order of when the parts arrive is a great solution to your problems.
Test And Fix
This is arguably the hardest step of the entire process. You may find that your printer has many glaring issues when you begin to print, but this is normal. Even seasoned veterans may struggle at this stage!
Testing out your machine will also highlight limitations in the consistency and accuracy of your 3D printer and the way it performs. It’s a stage where you will be able to stabilize your machine. It’s a very important part of the process so you must make sure to do this as thoroughly as possible.
Just remember that building a 3D printer by hand isn’t going to provide perfect results. You’re assembling your printer using hand tools so things may be slightly out of place in comparison to store-bought devices that have been precisely manufactured and put together by robots.
From A Kit
This is far more convenient than building a 3D printer from scratch. This is because these kits already have all the components that you will need to build your printer. In addition, these kits come with instructional manuals and relevant tools so you can get the job done as efficiently as possible.
Plus you don’t have to worry about matching the voltage for each of the components. This job will have already been done by the manufacturer, so all you have to do is put it together (according to instructions).
Our Top Tips For Kit Assembly
We know this might be self-explanatory but you must abide by the manufacturer’s instructions. Not only will this act as a helpful guide for you but it will also ensure that the printer is set up correctly.
As a result, it’s a great choice to read through all the information and watch relevant tutorials to figure out exactly what you are supposed to be doing.
Level The Bed
This is essential to achieving a successful print using your 3D machine. The included manufacturer’s guide will give you more information about this process, but there are also online video guides if you are a little stuck.
Arguably one of the most important factors of using a 3D printer kit is patience, especially if you are a beginner to the process. Likely, you won’t get things right straight away so have patience and think of the great result.
Find The Best Software
3D printer kits usually come with their default programs. But to get the most out of your machine, it might be an idea to look for additional firmware and software. You can find this for free online and there are so many options out there for you to choose from.
Work With A Partner
It is a tiring process and maybe exceptionally draining if you choose to do it alone. Plus it makes for double the problem solving if you run into any issues!
Don’t Waste Any Time
Don’t spend time building a machine if you don’t need it. Though making your machine can be quite an enjoyable process (as long as you know what you’re doing) purchasing a 3D printer directly from a manufacturer is much easier and will be far more reliable!
We hope you are more confident in how to build a 3D printer! There are many components that you need to thoroughly research and understand before beginning the physical process of assembling your machine, but it isn’t entirely impossible!