Getting Started With a 3D Printer

My summer project is going to consist of working on a 3D printer, but before I get started, I want to know 100% what's the best DIY instruction guide on creating it. I've seen a lot of stuff coming from "RepRap" but after seeing a demo of a print, it looked pretty low quality (whether that was the builders fault or the machine's fault I don't know).

Guide needs to comply with the following:

  • Can't be a garbage printer
  • < $650

If you need any further information, I'd be glad to provide it.

I don't think i would recommend a Rep rap for starting out. If you know how to use it, great. But i have had a Mendel Prusa for about a year and still haven't got all the calibration settings figured out. On the other hand, my engineering club at university has an airwolf printer that works beautifully, if you have a little extra to spend.

In no way am I looking to spend $4,000 on an assembled 3D printer. I'm 14 years old with no steady form of income, so I'm looking for something (as stated in the post) under $650.

Well, its the difference between plug-and-play type functionality and bang-your-head-against-the-wall troubleshooting. At least, this has been my experience...

The quality of print on any DIY printer depends on your mechanical skill.
Your definition of a rubbish print might just change when you realise you need to spend far more in tools to get a quality printer than you can buy one for. And once you have precision tools you have to know how to use them.

So you're saying if you're a beginner at electronic builds, buy a pre-build but if you're pretty experienced with electronic builds, go ahead and buy the DIY kit if you know what you're doing. Right?

Well the electronics build is the easy bit. What is difficult is the mechanical build. That is what determins the quality you will get.

Don't get me wrong, i think building a rep rap is a great learning experience, but the real challenge comes after its built and you want to actually print something other than squiggles. If you really just want the experience, than go cheap; but expect to be challenged. If you want high quality prints, then be prepared to fork out a little more. Mechanical skill goes a long way, but you also need a thorough understanding of the software and firmware, which are generalized to work on a variety of machines and therefore have to be calibrated specifically to your build. To do this you need a good mechanical understanding of feedrates, accelerations, and dimensions, as well as the specific electronic devices being used. its not as easy as build it, plug it in and print.

Have you looked at the RepRap Forum. I reckon that is the place to get detailed information about all aspects of 3D printing.

I don't know what people mean by a "RepRap" printer because my reading of the Forum gives me the impression that folk there use and have built a wide variety of devices. Many of them use an Arduino Mega to drive them.

I have been thinking of making one myself and I have found the info on the RepRap Forum very useful. I think you could usefully spend a week reading the forum before thinking of making any decisions.

I get the impression that producing high quality prints requires a lot of experience - these are not things that "just work", not even the complete kits. I'm not talking about mechanical or software problems, but rather about matching temperatures and speeds over the full time needed to print a part.

With that in mind you may be better to start with something relatively simple which provides a good learning platform. You will also need to know something about CAD/CAM to produce drawings for your parts unless you are content just to make parts that others have designed.