3D Printer as my final year project

Hi guys, I am doing a diploma in computer engineering and I need to do a project for my last year. I had been thinking about doing a 3d printer but I am questioning myself if is it possible for me to do it in less than 1 year and meanwhile continuing with my studies and assignments etc. What do you think about it ? Or maybe suggesting me other projects that I can make. I adore machines which you give them a job and they do it on their own. Thanks :)

So which part of a 3D printer (which I am told today, the "Officeworks" shopping chain now sell for over $1000) to you propose to make your project?

Constructing the whole lot form scratch is a somewhat pointless exercise - re-inventing the wheel. You are going to need to copy most details from what is already available, and you are most unlikely to for example build your own print head.

And of course, you probably do not have a background in mechanical engineering anyway, so you likely would be looking at obtaining a ready-built kit and assembling that, then developing in some way, the operating software. So what you need to do is to determine in what way you can improve on what is presently in use.

Given that outline, it sounds reasonable; you would need to start by building the kit an using it with current firmware, and then determining what there is that could do with improvement.

The project needs to have a little bit of electronics as well as programming which in my case the electornics would be board to control the stepper motors etc and the programming will be that of programming the micro controller. I've been thinking that I won't start the coding from scratch but starting form right after the q code which the program that I will make will read from an give instructions to the micro controller. what do you think?

I agreed with Paul: If you want to have a machine of some variety, I would be more inclined to go for a simple mechanical build, and then go to town on the computing side of it.

The uArm, for example, is dead simple to build, but then you could fit any kind of end-effector that takes your fancy and engineer it to do whatever. Inverse kinematics is no trivial task, for instance, and you might be able to improve on some current algorithms.

You can satisfy the need for electronics with some cunning sensors, perhaps some kind of fail-safe thing to ensure the end-effector never leaves the allowed "cube" even if the program tries to force it out.

please note that it is a school project and so you need to do things yourself rather than just buying them.

jusspit: please note that it is a school project and so you need to do things yourself rather than just buying them.

.... whatever that means. You have to buy stuff.... if you couldn't, then you wouldn't be talking about using an Arduino as your computing / electronics platform, you would be asking how to make discrete components from beach sand.

Since it's computer engineering, and includes an element of electronics, are they expecting you to build the mechanics from scratch too? That would be absurd, and I doubt if that's their intent.

So I'd assume you can get away with a store-bought or at most assemble it yourself mechanical platform if your project requires such a thing. There are a zillion things you can implement with a ready-made mechanical platform, while staying inside the spirit of the learning intent.

Mate of mine did his PhD many years ago in mathematically modeling the human knee in a sports context. Yet another pal designed and built the mechanical test rig for that work. There was no problem there, since the PhD wasn't in mechanical engineering, it was in medical physics or some crap.

My advice is simplify the mechanical side- you already said you're worried about time- so that you can concentrate on the actual topic: the systems engineering, the coding and the electronics.

ok maybe i wasn't so clear when I said I couldn't just buy things i was referring that I cannot buy the 3d printer, i have to build it using stepper motor threaded rods etc. I need to etch the electronic boards and do as much programming as possible myself, but regarding programming I'm good. I need help regarding the mechanics. I already have the threaded rods, now I need to buy the stepper motors, assemble a cnc machine, make an extruder, etc

reprap.org should help you with what you need for the mechanicals.

has anyone of you build a 3d printer themselves rather than buying a kit? Tell me of what problems you have encountered. thanks

jusspit: i have to build it using stepper motor threaded rods etc. I need to etch the electronic boards buy the stepper motors, assemble a cnc machine, make an extruder, etc

The mechanical design, manufacture and assembly represents a hell of a lot of work and is likely to need several evolutions to get something working. From the sound of it, all that work would be unrelated to your core subject meaning you probably haven't been trained for it and are unlikely to get much credit for it. This doesn't sound like a recipe for success. Far better IMO to choose a project where the software represents the bulk of the complexity. Roughly how many hours of effort are you planning to spend on it, and what sort of skills are you bringing to bear? (Do you have any mechanical / electrical / electronic experience? Are you interested in moving/flying vehicles? Do you have any other interests or significant skills you would like to involve? The more you can relate this to a real-world problem that interests you the better.)

I am very interested in embedded software development

jusspit: I am very interested in embedded software development

So make that the focus-- not the mechanical stuff which will be great fun and a huge learning experience, but is unlikely to be a large part of the marks in a computer engineering course.

Embedded control is all about the sensors and code to drive the actuators- so make the mechanical part as simple as you can, within the limits of what they expect- and concentrate on the embedded software and associated electronics to drive the thing.

Building a 3D printer is difficult, requires a lot of tuning and worst of all is rather all or nothing; even if you've done some impressive work on the software side, it'll be rather less impressive to your professor if it can only make melted blobs of plastic.

Consider finding a project where you can deliver core functionality quickly and then add additional things as time permits. An example I've suggested before is a greenhouse controller. At it's simplest, you just need a temperature sensor and a fan to cool when it's too hot. After that you can go crazy with moisture sensors, misting systems, window openers, blinds, heating, CO2 and O2 monitoring etc. etc.

I agree with wildbill there, and is kind of what I had in mind with the robot arm. Easy to get it doing something simple- perhaps responding to joysticks (that's totally trivial in fact, the code for that is basically servo knob, doubled up for two axes) but another thing altogether to get it to pick-and -place parts, perhaps sensing their size or colour or words on the label and putting them in the right boxes.

In fact, it's what I have in mind for the uArm I'm assembling. when my daughter's at uni next year, she'll have a solid mechanical platform to expand from- different end-effectors and sensors measuring an ever more complex environment and responding to it.

I'm thinking of trying to build a simple 3D printer using a small lathe as the mechanical platform. I've been following some stuff on the RePrap forum which is a great source of information on hardware and software.

My impression is that simple/cheap 3D printers can be very temperamental and may need a lot of patience and fine tuning to get reasonable results.

My guess is that it would be much too complex for a college project with a deadline.

If you want a 3D printer for yourself (and are prepared to take the time to get it working) I suggest you limit the scope of your college project to getting the mechanical parts built (as others have said a kit seems best) and developing and implementing the control system to accept G-Code and provide co-ordinated movement in the 3 axes. However I would leave the actual plastic extrusion system and the heated bed that seems to be necessary out of your college project. You could then do that stuff in your own time after the end of your college project - and your college grades won't be pulled down if it doesn't print properly.