As I have discussed before, 3D printing is all the rage in engineering and manufacturing circles. The price of 3D printing has come down enormously in recent years: from about eight years ago, when most 3D printers were in the $15,000-20,000 range, to now, when you can find them as cheap as $400! With this, there has also been an explosion of 3D printing services, where you can send a 3D model and have them print it out for you.
I have been slowly building this 3D printer over the last five weeks (most days I don’t get any time to work on it; some days I can spare a half hour; every once in a while I can devote a few solid hours). I wanted to share my progress here.
As of Monday, I had completed the base structure, including the baseplate on which an object will be printed and the means by which it will slide forward or backward along the y-axis:
Monday afternoon I completed the 3D printing apparatus (the extruder) that will melt the ABS plastic and deposit it in the right locations to create a three dimensional object:
The last two afternoons, I have made quite a bit of progress on the bridge that will move horizontally and vertically (x and z axes), carrying the extruder to where the part will be printed:
In building it, I am coming to understand more about 3D printing, about mechanisms like gears and pulleys, about fitting things together like a puzzle, and about nuts and bolts (I even learned of a store called A&A Bolt and Screw near my school when I had to find a 3″ #6-32 bolt). I have had my share of errors along the way – for example, I didn’t notice the base rectangle was asymmetrical (by one small hole) until well into building with it, so I got to use a scroll saw and a drill to correct my mistake rather than unscrew and untie all the pieces I had already built up. I also accidentally tore off one of the wires on a limit switch, so I asked one of the students learning how to solder in their Digital Electronics class to reconnect it for me! But I’m really enjoying all the work that goes into creating this 3D printer. And I can’t wait until it’s done, when both I and my students can see it in action!
I’d say I am 85% done with building the PrintrBot. After it is built, I will need to install software, calibrate the motors, and possibly troubleshoot any problems. Hopefully I should be done, and able to print out a part, by next week!