Make Your Own 3D Printer at Home on a Budget

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3D printing has taken the world by storm, and for good reason. It allows people to create complex designs and prototypes from the comfort of their own homes. However, many 3D printers on the market can be quite expensive, making it difficult for some individuals to get started in the world of 3D printing.

The good news is that it is possible to build a 3D printer at home on a budget. In this article, we will explore some of the best ways to make a 3D printer at home cheap. We will cover everything from the necessary components to the software required to get started. Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional, building your own 3D printer can be a fun and rewarding experience.

Materials Needed

To build a 3D printer at home, you will need several materials. Here are the main components you’ll need to get started:

Frame Materials

The frame is the foundation of any 3D printer. You can use a variety of materials to build your frame, but the most common ones are aluminum extrusions, wood, and acrylic sheets. Aluminum extrusions are a popular choice because they are sturdy and easy to assemble. Wood is also a good option because it is cheap and readily available. Acrylic sheets are another option, but they are not as strong as aluminum or wood.

Electronics and Hardware

To control your 3D printer, you will need some electronics and hardware. The most important component is the controller board, which is responsible for controlling the printer’s motors and extruder. You will also need stepper motors, power supply, belts, pulleys, and bearings. Additionally, you will need some basic tools like screwdrivers, pliers, and wire cutters.

Extruder Components

The extruder is the part of the printer that melts and extrudes the plastic filament. To build an extruder, you will need a hotend, which is the part that heats up and melts the filament, and a cold end, which is the part that feeds the filament into the hotend. You will also need a filament drive gear, which grips the filament and pushes it into the hotend, and a nozzle, which determines the size of the extruded plastic.

In summary, building a 3D printer at home requires a variety of materials, including a sturdy frame, electronics and hardware, and extruder components. With the right materials and a bit of patience, you can build a functional 3D printer at a fraction of the cost of a commercial model.

Building the Frame

Designing the Frame

The first step in building a 3D printer is to design the frame. You can use online resources to find designs or create your own using software like SketchUp or Tinkercad. The frame should be sturdy enough to support the weight of the printer and its components. It should also be designed to accommodate the size of the printer bed and the height of the print head.

Cutting and Assembling the Frame

Once you have your design, you can begin cutting and assembling the frame. You will need materials like aluminum extrusions, acrylic sheets, and metal brackets. You can purchase these materials from online stores or hardware stores.

To cut the aluminum extrusions, you can use a miter saw or a hacksaw. Make sure to measure and mark the extrusions accurately before cutting. Once the extrusions are cut, you can assemble them using metal brackets and screws. You can use a drill and screwdriver to attach the brackets and screws.

Next, you can attach the acrylic sheets to the frame using screws and brackets. The acrylic sheets will serve as the printer bed and the enclosure for the printer. Make sure to measure and cut the acrylic sheets accurately before attaching them to the frame.

Finally, you can install the printer components onto the frame. This includes the print head, the motors, the belts, and the electronics. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing these components.

Building the frame is an important step in building a 3D printer. It requires careful planning and precise measurements. With the right materials and tools, you can build a sturdy and reliable frame for your printer.

Installing Electronics and Hardware

Wiring the Electronics

The first step in installing electronics for your 3D printer is to wire the various components together. This includes connecting the power supply, motherboard, LCD screen, and other electronic components. You can use a wiring diagram to help you connect the components correctly.

When wiring the electronics, be sure to use the correct gauge of wire for each connection. Use a wire stripper to remove the insulation from the ends of the wires, and use crimp connectors or solder to secure the wires in place.

Installing the Motors and Drivers

Once the electronics are wired together, you can start installing the motors and drivers. Begin by installing the stepper motors onto the printer frame. You can use mounting brackets or screws to attach the motors securely.

Next, install the motor drivers onto the motherboard. Be sure to connect the drivers to the correct stepper motor. You can use a driver data sheet to help you identify the correct connections.

Calibrating the Printer

After you have installed the electronics and motors, you will need to calibrate the printer. This involves adjusting the printer settings to ensure that the printer is printing accurately and consistently.

You can use a calibration cube to test the accuracy of the printer. Print the cube and measure it with a set of calipers. Adjust the printer settings as necessary until the cube is the correct size.

By following these steps, you can install the electronics and hardware for your 3D printer at home. With a little effort and patience, you can build a high-quality 3D printer at a fraction of the cost of a commercial printer.

Assembling the Extruder

Mounting the Extruder Components

To assemble the extruder, you will need to gather the following components:

  • Extruder motor
  • Extruder body
  • Hotend
  • Nozzle
  • Thermistor
  • Heater cartridge
  • Bowden tube
  • PTFE tube

First, mount the extruder motor onto the extruder body using screws and nuts. Then, attach the hotend to the extruder body using the provided screws and nuts. Connect the nozzle to the hotend and tighten it using pliers.

Next, insert the thermistor and heater cartridge into their respective slots on the hotend. Make sure they are securely in place.

Attach the Bowden tube to the extruder body and feed it through the PTFE tube. The PTFE tube should be inserted into the hotend and pushed down until it reaches the nozzle.

Calibrating the Extruder

Once the extruder is assembled, it’s important to calibrate it to ensure accurate printing.

First, heat up the hotend to the desired temperature. Then, measure the distance between the extruder gear and the hotend using a caliper.

Using your printer’s software, extrude a set amount of filament and measure the distance it travels. Compare this distance to the distance you measured earlier. If the extruded distance is less than the measured distance, increase the extruder steps per millimeter. If it’s more, decrease the steps per millimeter.

Repeat this process until the extruded distance matches the measured distance.

With the extruder calibrated, you’re ready to start printing!

Software Setup

Installing Firmware

The first step in setting up your 3D printer is to install the firmware. The firmware is the software that controls the printer’s hardware and allows it to print objects. There are several firmware options available, but we recommend using Marlin firmware as it is open-source and widely used.

To install the firmware, you will need to download the Marlin firmware from the official website and extract the files to a folder on your computer. Then, you will need to configure the firmware using a text editor such as Notepad++. This involves setting up the printer’s specifications such as the bed size, nozzle size, and other parameters.

Once you have configured the firmware, you will need to upload it to the printer’s control board using a program called Arduino IDE. This program allows you to upload the firmware to the board and make any necessary changes to the code.

Configuring the Printer Software

After installing the firmware, you will need to configure the printer software. This involves setting up the printer’s settings such as the printing speed, temperature, and layer height. There are several printer software options available, but we recommend using Cura as it is user-friendly and offers a wide range of features.

To configure the printer software, you will need to download and install Cura on your computer. Once installed, you will need to set up the printer’s specifications such as the bed size, nozzle size, and other parameters. You can also adjust the printing settings such as the speed, temperature, and layer height to suit your needs.

Once you have configured the printer software, you can start printing objects. However, it is important to note that the printer software settings may need to be adjusted depending on the object you are printing. It may take some trial and error to find the optimal settings for your printer and the object you are printing.

Testing and Troubleshooting

Testing the Printer

Once you have assembled your 3D printer, it is important to test it before starting any actual printing. Begin by verifying that all of the motors, belts, and pulleys are properly aligned and tightened. Then, connect your printer to your computer and open the software. Use the software to test each axis by moving the printer head in all directions. Make sure that the printer head moves smoothly and without any jerks or pauses.

Next, load a test file and print a small object to check the quality of the print. Make sure that the object is printed with the correct dimensions and that there are no gaps or deformities. If you notice any issues, adjust the printer settings and try again.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Even with proper testing, issues may arise during the printing process. Here are some common issues and how to troubleshoot them:

  • Uneven layers: This can be caused by a number of factors, including incorrect bed leveling and improper temperature settings. Check the bed leveling and adjust the temperature as needed.

  • Extrusion problems: If the printer is not extruding enough material or is extruding too much, check that the nozzle is clean and clear of any obstructions. Adjust the extruder settings if necessary.

  • Warped prints: Warping can occur if the bed temperature is too low or if the print is not adhering properly to the bed. Adjust the bed temperature and use a bed adhesive if necessary.

  • Stringing: Stringing occurs when the printer head leaves behind small strands of filament. This can be caused by improper retraction settings or a nozzle that is too hot. Adjust the retraction settings and lower the nozzle temperature.

By following these troubleshooting tips and adjusting printer settings as needed, you can ensure that your 3D printer produces high-quality prints every time.