DIY 3D Printer From Scratch

Hey everyone,

A few days ago, I came up with an amazing idea. I was building with some Legos, and realized what I was doing would be so much easier a few custom pieces. After searching the web for some time, me and my friends had failed to find a site that makes custom legos. So, we decided to try to make them. One of us had the idea to use a 3D printer and design them, print them, and take care of the process, but a good 3D printer can cost upwards of $500, and we don't have that much to spend.

Anyway, does anybody know how to build a 3D printer, preferably from scratch? I have a large understanding of electrical circuitry, and the coding piece I can learn, so any help would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance

I'd look for a 3D printer kit. The parts in a kit shouldn't cost any more than buying the parts individually. And, you'll save shipping costs be getting everything together from one supplier at once.

If you can fabricate the housing & chassis yourself you might do better by building from scratch, but if you can do that kind of precision machining & fabrication you'd probably be machining your Lego parts already.

But, don't buy the cheapest thing you can find on eBay or Alibaba. Get a kit from a reputable supplier, and hopefully from someone that sells it both as a kit and fully-assembled. That way, you are more likely to get a complete kit of parts that really fit together and works when assembled.

Anyway, does anybody know how to build a 3D printer, preferably from scratch?

And honestly, if you're asking a question like that you probably aren't up to designing & building one yourself...

Personally, I've never seen a 3D printer in real life, and I wouldn't attempt to design & build one.

I hate to be a wet blanket, and its a long time since my kids used Lego, so things may have changed.

I would be very surprised if you can make effective Lego bricks with a 3D printer unless you can use the exact same plastic that Lego uses.

Also I suspect that the "grip" of Lego bricks depends on very fine control of tolerances.

When my younger brother was small he had some of the very early Lego which was made from very different plastic. It was harder, did not grip as well, lost its colour and the bricks would warp. After a few years they seem to have figured out the better current type of plastic.

Finally, I suspect 3D printed bricks would be very expensive as well as very slow to produce.

...R

Maybe find a Maker Space near you and see if you can use a 3D printer there.

Otherwise,
As low as $199 available

This one for $233 is much better according to a friend of mine who has been doing this.
ABS plastic is the kind of plastic Lego's are made out of.
https://www.3dprintersonlinestore.com/electron-3d-prusa-i3-kit
Other recommendations:
Make an enclosure with small fan to vent the enclosure thru carbon filter (fume reduction)
Keep the material in an enslosure also to keep down dust collecting on it, moisture down.
White ABS is the strongest, color impacts strength, black is the worst.
www.microcenter.com for good price on material.

I just ordered one, will be our foray into 3D printing.

Robin2:
I hate to be a wet blanket, and its a long time since my kids used Lego, so things may have changed.

I would be very surprised if you can make effective Lego bricks with a 3D printer unless you can use the exact same plastic that Lego uses.

Also I suspect that the "grip" of Lego bricks depends on very fine control of tolerances.

Finally, I suspect 3D printed bricks would be very expensive as well as very slow to produce.

...R

Its been done and takes roughly 6 hours to print 20 bricks.

Abs is the preferred material as the more common PLA can be brittle when cold.

Use is not generally to make bricks but adapters for special purposes to mate with the bricks.

Netherman555:
Hey everyone,

printer can cost upwards of $500, and we don't have that much to spend.

Anyway, does anybody know how to build a 3D printer, preferably from scratch? I have a large understanding of electrical circuitry, and the coding piece I can learn, so any help would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance

Building from scratch will be a costly and time consuming process although it is possible.

Buy a kit.

Friends have recently purchaced a cheap kit from hobbyking which gives good results.

However with any cheap kit check on spare part availability as that can be a problem.

Robin2:
I would be very surprised if you can make effective Lego bricks with a 3D printer unless you can use the exact same plastic that Lego uses.

Lego uses ABS for the plastic. 3D printers excel in printing with ABS (though you should use a heated build plate and chamber for the best results); it's one of the two most common plastics used by 3D printers (the other being PLA). 3D printers can also use a lot of other materials now, but the original filament types used are PLA and ABS.

Robin2:
Also I suspect that the "grip" of Lego bricks depends on very fine control of tolerances.

Well - possibly yes - if you were making bricks. But - if you were making pieces for Mindstorms, Technic, or similar kits (where bricks are less useful) - then you could likely easily do it. Hmm - let's look at Thingiverse, to see if they have any custom Lego STL (the common 3D printer file format) files:

Parametrized Lego Bricks - Ha! I guess you can make bricks...what else?

Trilego - whoa! There's a non-standard part for ya!

1:1 Lego Mini Figure - Awesome! Custom mini-figs!

Common Gear set

Lego Servo Adapter

Brick Mount Base Plate for Arduino UNO R3 - Yep! Add your Arduino to your Lego!

Robin2:
Finally, I suspect 3D printed bricks would be very expensive as well as very slow to produce.

Well - as you can see, you can make parts that will work with Lego on a 3D printer (I suspect tolerances and such have to be kept tight, though - it likely isn't a point-click-print easy system).

...but you don't make bricks (well - not generally). You instead make custom parts - parts that Lego doesn't supply or have available. Parts that can make your models even more interesting (like the Trilego part), or allow you to use other non-standard components (like the servo adapter), or to have an alternative to the Mindstorms controller (like the Arduino!).

While yes - they'd take a while to make, and likely would be more expensive as one-off custom pieces - saving money and time isn't the entire goal with 3D printers, but rather its a fabrication option that allows customized and free-form play (much like Lego itself in a way).

~Heres a video of someone printing bricks with pla.

They seem to fit well

Netherman555:
One of us had the idea to use a 3D printer and design them, print them, and take care of the process, but a good 3D printer can cost upwards of $500, and we don't have that much to spend.

A good 3D printer will cost more than that. A reasonable 3D printer (one of the "open source" printers - usually as a kit - like the Prusa I3) will run you around $500.00. Sometimes, you can find it as low as $300.00 if you look hard enough.

Going below that number, though, takes a lot of effort.

Regardless, though, I don't think you are ready for the challenge of building a 3D printer. Its a daunting task, and will exercise the skills of even the most patient and talented makers and craftspeople.

So - first - do your research on 3D printers. Get a feel and knowledge of the different designs people have come up with, as well as the ones that are sold. Learn all the terminology, what plastics are used, etc. Learn the difference (for instance) between FDM and Stereolithography 3D printers. Study all of Makerbot's designs. Read as many blogs as you can about building 3D printers. Learn about stepper motors, drivers, the code involved, the various forks of that code, what RAMPS and GCode are, etc. Do you know your acme threaded rod from standard threaded rod? Will you use belts or some other drive system? What about microstepping? Or maybe DC servos? How about a heated bed (you will need one). Or the extruder? Wades? J-head? Bowden? Learn what those and tons of other terms mean.

Also - read everything (everything!) at the site which arguably started the whole open-source 3D printing "revolution":

http://reprap.org/

Netherman555:
Anyway, does anybody know how to build a 3D printer, preferably from scratch?

Every scratch-built 3D printer is slightly different. People have even used Lego to build a 3D printer! Think about that!

You can also do the "ground up" building system - also known as "RepStrap" - it's basically the concept of building a device to build your device. Usually, your RepStrap won't be very accurate. But it doesn't have to be - it just has to be accurate enough (think about it - humans went from rocks to metal to plastics, etc - and at each step, the previous tooling wasn't as accurate as what was produced - but it happened; it's proof positive that you don't need a precision tool to make a precision tool - you just need one "good enough").

Once you have such a machine, you use it to build "version 1" of your 3D printer. Then you use that 3D printer to print parts (hopefully much better parts) for the next iteration. Do this 2 or 3 times, and you'll get the final result. 3D printer enthusiasts (that is, those who mod and build their own printers) are always creating and inventing new parts or such to improve both their personal machines, and those of others - even commercial machines!

Netherman555:
I have a large understanding of electrical circuitry, and the coding piece I can learn, so any help would be appreciated.

Again - do your research. Learn everything you can about 3D printers. Price out the various parts you need (called a BOM - Bill of Materials). Learn what stuff costs, where you can get it, etc. If you are doing this from scratch - be sure to take surplus parts into account (people have built 3D printers using old CD-ROM drive mechanisms, as well as various printer and scanner mechanisms). Check out the various Chinese suppliers and note their prices. Ebay and Amazon can both be of help in pricing and sourcing parts, but also make sure you google around for stuff like "surplus electronics" and such. Be sure to price metal - extruded aluminum and such if you need it (like 80/20 or Mitsumi brands - the stuff can be expensive, though - but t-slot is the bomb for making a 3D printer).

All that said - I myself haven't built a 3D printer - but it is on my "back-burner" of projects; I actually have most of the parts needed to start building the frame. Some surplus, some sourced online. At the beginning, though, I knew very little about the whole thing - and just spent a few years on and off doing research and learning. I also took a class at TechShop to be certified to use their MakerBot Replicators - so I could better understand the design process (honestly - that is the most difficult part - taking an idea and turning it into an accurate 3D model that can be printed).

Lastly - have you thought about what software you intend to use for the design of parts? Sometimes, the model of the design will dictate the software needed. You'll also need to factor in the cost of such software (although there is a ton of free software out there for design purposes geared toward 3D printing - but you need to become familiar with it to know which is best). Also note that there is a "programmable" design software (based on javascript) called "OpenSCAD" - make sure you check it out, if you prefer the idea of "programming" a part rather than drawing it (sometimes, you can program the rough part in OpenSCAD, then have it export to a standard format to be imported into something like AutoCAD or similar - where you can then tweak the minor details to get it perfect - details which might be too tedious to code).

Again - note that $500.00 is currently on the low end of the scale in costs. If you build a printer from scratch, you could easily spend that much in materials and parts alone. It is possible to do things cheaper, if you can do the machining or such for the extruder head, etc - as well as the frame and such, but still expect to spend a couple hundred dollars in the end.

Boardburner2:
~Heres a video of someone printing bricks with pla.

You could probably use just about any plastic - but ABS has the advantage over PLA in that it won't melt or deform in a hot environment. If you don't plan on using the parts in such an environment, then it probably doesn't matter. But there have been cases of people who had their 3D printer's frame components, which were printed in PLA, warp when they left their printer out in a car during the summer. Which, of course, rendered the printer mostly useless.

ABS, on the other hand, takes a much higher temperature to weaken and ultimately melt; much higher than PLA, and higher than what can be found in a car during the summer. Of course, that means your extruder and such has to be able to generate and withstand that temperature. Also, you need a heated bed (minimum) to print successfully - as the first layer or so will want to curl up off a cold bed, ruining or warping the print. Ideally, you would also have a heated build chamber for the printer as well, to make higher layers less susceptible to warping.

ABS can be tricky - from what I gather - but the components made tend to be a better quality, which is why people go to the trouble to use it I guess.

Totally agree with all that, the hobby king I mentioned is about 300 from memory and i have seen the results which compare favourably with 1000 plus machines I have seen.

Once you have the machine there is still a lot of tweaking, fiddling and learning to do.

cr0sh:
ABS can be tricky - from what I gather - but the components made tend to be a better quality, which is why people go to the trouble to use it I guess.

Its ok for small parts but larger ones deform.

Professional printers use heated chambers to ameliorate this but patent restrictions currently prevent the use in the maker market atm.

cr0sh:
All that said - I myself haven't built a 3D printer - but it is on my "back-burner" of projects; I actually have most of the parts needed to start building the frame.

Its been on my front burner for about 3 years.

I am currently looking to get a laser cut steel frame for the rigidity required.

10 K in the hole so far, but it is an ambitious project.

Boardburner2:
Professional printers use heated chambers to ameliorate this but patent restrictions currently prevent the use in the maker market atm.

I very much doubt if such patents would stand up if challenged. However they may deter commercial use but no one would bother to pursue an individual enthusiast using heated chamber at home.

Russell.

Stratsys defend their patents.

The makerbot revolution would never have happened before their original patent ran out.

Nothing to stop you doing it at home but cant sell a kit or machine.

Its not just putting the machine in an oven either, its surprisingly complex to get it to work.

It would be interesting to know how Lego make prototype parts.

...R

They use a stereolithography machine

Boardburner2:
They use a stereolithography machine

I guess I should have said "It would be interesting to see how Lego ..."

I suspect their machine cost more than $500.

...R

Robin2:
I guess I should have said "It would be interesting to see how Lego ..."

I suspect their machine cost more than $500.

...R

I know most of the people realize this already but I remember a time when I thought of Lego as just a "plastic toy" and I didn't realize how precisely it was made.

In case there is anyone reading this who doesn't already know, Lego is famous in the plastic manufacturing world for high quality parts.

I didn't learn this myself until I was at university studying chemistry and read about Lego in a plastics manufacturing journal.

After searching the web for some time, me and my friends had failed to find a site that makes custom legos.

[rant]
Personally I am appalled at the idea of custom Lego parts. Surely the idea is to build your model from available Lego parts otherwise you might just as well make the whole model from custom made parts.

Lego used to be a great toy to exercise the mind, imagination and ingenuity but now even Lego just make a new part if it suits them, and don't get me started about Lego kits full of many non standard parts made solely for that kit.

I realise that the genie is out of the bottle and there is no way back but to my mind Lego has sold out on its original idea.

By the way. When did become the norm to refer to a Lego part as "a lego" ? That grates with me too !
[/rant]