3D printing is a technology that has taken the DIYing world by storm in these past couple of years. New companies manufacturing 3D printers and DIY 3D Printer kits have been popping up (and going down, too) like crazy. We* have to admit, in it’s concept, it is a pretty great idea.
We just recently were bit by the 3D printing bug. So, powered by our DIY-ers genes, we decided to purchase one of those cheap 3D printer (Prusa i3) kits. It seemed like a really sweet deal, the whole kit along with 2kg ABS filament coming for 23,500 INR. That, friends, turned out to be a pretty dumb move on our part. The kit was riddled with a horrendous amount of issues. Where do I even begin?!?!:
- The printed parts were, putting it plain and simply, unusable. Not only was the print quality bad (that I can actually forgive), but even functionally speaking, a lot of the (clamping) holes in the parts were filled. When inquired, the seller told us that it was just the “support structures” that can be easily removed. Who does he think we are, kindergarten children playing with our first Lego sets that he could fool so easily?!?! We dont know if anyone reading this has ever tried drilling into small irregularly shaped parts (that too, made of ABS) before, but trust us, it ain’t easy!!! This itself meant that we had to modify (in some cases, reprint) the 90% of the parts.
- The hotend(the part that extrudes molten Plastic) was again, unusable. The Hotend is a part that has to be manufactured with utmost precision and tight tolerances. A good Hotend can make an otherwise bad 3D printer OK. But a bad Hotend can make an otherwise (mechanically speaking) excellent printer unusable. A lot of engineering goes into designing a hotend, so most manufacturers just make one following one of the many existing Open Source Designs. So, imagine our surprise on finding that the hotend provided in the kit was not conforming to any of the popular designs found online, and was just a PEEK rod and a brass part (comprising of heater block and 0.4mm nozzle) put together.
- The feeder mechanism(the part that pushes the plastic filament through the hotend) was a joke. Leaving the botched print jobs aside, the design was flawed in a number of ways.
- The filament that we got with the kit was utter shit(if you’ll pardon my French). The quality was really bad and the filament diameter was uneven.
- The pins in the electronics (Arduino Mega+RAMPS) were not properly soldered in multiple places, leading to a whole bunch of wierd issues.
Despite of all these shortcomings, we decided to go forward and assemble the printer, reassuring ourselves that we have not wasted our money. Have a look at the end result.
Heres a few images of the (horrible) print quality:
Here’s a few images of the (much more bearable) print quality after upgrading to an all metal hotend(which seems to be an E3D V5 clone) and a custom extruder design:
Now, we know many of you might laugh seeing this. We don’t blame you, even we would!!! But trust us, if you know what we went through, you will admit that this is quite an accomplishment! We had to redesign the whole feeder mechanism, and reprint many other parts (on another cheap 3D printer. Someone up there must really hate us!!!) too on account of the botched print jobs.
After suffering through this whole ordeal, we decided to make our own 3D printer. The goals we had set in our mind was:
- Make it as reasonably priced as possible, while at the same time not compromising one bit on quality.
- Address many common issues faced by a lot of the cheap 3D printers available on the market.
- Keep the number of 3D printed parts used down to a minimum. This was as much a necessity (we did not have a 3D printer readily at our disposal) as a goal.
- The design should be both modular and scalable.
Keep tuned for more details on this build.
*Not the royal “We”. The 3D printer build was a joint project of Saby D’silva and Umang Gajera. Hence, all the usage of “we”.