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  1. #1

    I don't want to buy my first 3d printer, I want to build it.

    Greetings Everyone! This is my first post on this wonderful forum. I wanted to introduce myself and ask a burning question to everyone quite fluent in 3d printing. Over the last few years, I have become increasingly interested in 3d printing as an alternative to CNC subtractive production.

    I assume I am a little different from many of the typical 3d printing newbies in that I have experience in CNC machining and production. Over the last several months I have been reading and studying 3d printing and deciding what kind of printer I want to purchase. After a little while, it became evident to me that my best solution may in fact be building my own 3d printer. I came to the conclusion that the size of 3d printer I'm looking for carries a high cost, which (to me) seems to exceed the sum total of components.

    My question to the community is as follows: Is building your own 3d printer a economically viable option provided you have the capability?

    My CNC has a 1000mm≥ stage, so I should be able to produce a rather large 3d printer frame. I have found material on this to be rather scarce (most seem to be delta 3d printers), and wanted to inquire as to some guidance on doing such a project. For me, stage size is the biggest driving force. I also need a heated bed, among other things.

    I have a few more advanced questions for the community. I notice many of the 3d printers use ACME screws for their axis. Is there a particular reason v-belts are not used? Is it cost or ease of assembly? It would seem to be a good alternative as a 3d printer does not have lateral loads like a CNC does.

    Lastly, am I missing a good source or community to guide me on this quest? I really appreciate any input and look forward to joining the community.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pyrex View Post
    My question to the community is as follows: Is building your own 3d printer a economically viable option provided you have the capability?

    [Sure; lots of people build their own printers, although they often start with kits.]

    My CNC has a 1000mm≥ stage, so I should be able to produce a rather large 3d printer frame. I have found material on this to be rather scarce (most seem to be delta 3d printers), and wanted to inquire as to some guidance on doing such a project. For me, stage size is the biggest driving force. I also need a heated bed, among other things.

    [Did you want to build a delta printer, or some other kind?]

    I have a few more advanced questions for the community. I notice many of the 3d printers use ACME screws for their axis. Is there a particular reason v-belts are not used? Is it cost or ease of assembly? It would seem to be a good alternative as a 3d printer does not have lateral loads like a CNC does.

    [Lots of printers use toothed timing belts and pulleys instead of screws.]

    Lastly, am I missing a good source or community to guide me on this quest? I really appreciate any input and look forward to joining the community.
    [There are other sources and communities out there - for building machines, you might check out CNCzone.com . This forum is mostly dedicated to users of 3D printers, not builders of them.]

    Andrew Werby
    www.computersculpture.com

  3. #3
    Engineer Marm's Avatar
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    Good link Werby!

    I would at least invest in a cheap cheap printer. I've seen them go for under $200 in some places. Use this printer to do two things.

    1) Make parts for the bigger DIY build. This will save you money in the long run, as premade parts can add up. Plus, once you get your machine running the way you want, you could replace those initial parts with better ones. And then if you don't want the smaller machine, and it's still relatively new, you could recover a good bit of the cost in resale.

    and 2) learn the basics of 3d printing. I'd hate to see a beautiful machine get built and then scrapped. You might get upset when your build isn't working the way you think it should, and you blame the machine, when in fact it was some simple setting that could have been changed in the software. Having a known standard will help you build your machine.

  4. #4
    Well, since I have a CNC I really won't need a 3d printer to make parts for the machine, and also shouldn't need to buy any. I think the only expenses I would have are the hot end and whatever proprietary parts I can't machine out of steel, aluminum, carbon fiber, or HDPE. I do see an advantage of getting familiar with 3d printers as a whole, though. The physical movement and accuracy are all familiar to me, only the actual extrusion and bed would be the new part. Seems I have far to go!

    To answer Werby, I'm not a fan of the relatively small stage area of the delta style machines and also their lack of accuracy at the corners. Not to mention they are physically very tall. I see a cube printer with a 600mm≥ stage or so.

  5. #5
    Staff Engineer printbus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pyrex View Post
    ... I see a cube printer with a 600mm≥ stage or so.
    I'm curious - give us an idea on the sort of things you want to print. How long are you expecting to wait for a print that fills that volume to complete?

  6. #6
    That's a good question printbus. I want to use the 3d printer to prototype some of my CAD files. It's important I check fitment, alignment, and general quality of the object prior to cutting in more expensive materials such as MDF, HDPE, Aluminum, etc. My material costs are prohibitive. As far as speed, that's why I'm here. Just how fast can a properly designed machine operate? What are their limitations?

  7. #7
    Staff Engineer printbus's Avatar
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    The typical printers are far slower than people realize, at least until you start playing games with very large nozzle sizes and thick layers.

    I have a 200mm print volume on my printer. I think the longest print I did (a vase) was somewhere around 10 hours. Something that fills the 200mm volume might take days. 600mm? Man, IDK, over a week?

    Of course, the longer the print, the higher the chance of print failure.

    Call me a naysayer, but there are reasons why you don't find a lot of info on large volume printers at the home or hobbyist level. I remember trying to help someone understand just the heat dissipation he was looking at in a heated bed for a large volume printer. The numbers were scary.

    I'm admittedly conservative, so keep that in mind.

  8. #8
    I should probably make it clear I'm not looking to build a home or hobbyist 3d printer. I'm interested in building a high volume production machine. I'm having difficulty getting good information on that type of 3d printer, and what kind of components I need to acquire. From my experience in CNC machines, usually your money is best spent on the actual business end components, and not the R&D involved in designing the gantry, and other structures. For example, most large production CNC machines are built by the machine shops that run them for cost reasons. You end up with a higher quality machine. At the moment, I'm assuming this is also the case for 3d printers, but that's why I'm here.

  9. #9
    Staff Engineer printbus's Avatar
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    If you haven't looked there, try searching on "large volume" at 3dprintboard's parent, 3dprint.com. That at least brings up a number of articles on large format printers that might be of some help.

    I might have been clearer on the home/hobbyist angle. IMO, those are the areas where you'll find people sharing ideas. IMO, those that know how to create a printer like you're hoping to build aren't likely to be giving away much detail. They're going to be wanting you to buy their machine...

  10. #10
    Super Moderator Roxy's Avatar
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    I would suggest you put together a kit such as the Folger Tech i3-2020. And then use it to print a few parts of your choosing. You will run into some problems and you will learn a huge amount working through the issues. After you get comfortable with your printer, it might make sense to start with a clean slate and design a printer with a large envelope. But really... you need some working experience on a functional printer first. Think of it this way: Why aren't there dozens of large envelope printers on the market? Why don't all of the 3D-Printer enthusiasts have large printers? The reason is the problems become much bigger as you increase the size of the print envelope. At least get some experience before you dive into the deep end of the pool!

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