DIY Arduino Printers: How to Make a 3D Printer with Arduino

DIY Arduino Printers: How to Make a 3D Printer with Arduino

An Advanced 3D Printer

 

3D printing technology is wide, despite having been around for a little over 30 years. The improvements the technology has been undergoing are all slowly pushing it slowly towards a realm where everyone will be able to access simple 3D printers at low prices, getting the ability to make whatever they want from the comfort of their own homes. One of the most utilized 3D printing concepts is the Arduino.

Arduino is an open-source electronics platform that is based on easy-to-use software and hardware. They are boards that have the ability to read inputs, activating other machines, among many other automated functions. We are going to explore how to make a 3D printer using the Arduino platform, the benefits of having a DIY Arduino printer as well as some comparisons with other official models that are in the market.

Why Arduino?

An Arduino Kit
Source: ELEGOO

 

There are perfectly good reasons why Arduino is used extensively in most DIY projects of making 3D Printers. The first Arduino kit was created in 2005, and in the last 15 years, it has become a very reliable software for people who are looking to create their own 3D printer. The following are reasons why they are the best choice for DIY 3D Printers.

  • It is cheap: Arduino is easily accessible and affordable, and the price keeps going down as more improvements are being made in the 3D printer sector. A simple Arduino kit will set you back just about $24, which is well within the affordable range of most people.
  • Easy to use: An Arduino kit is usually ready to use straight from the box. The kit comes in a complete package that includes a 5V regulator, a burner, a microcontroller, a serial communication interface, LED, and headers. All you have to do is plug it into the USB port of a computer, and you are ready to roll.
  • Wide range of codes: Arduino comes with a huge library of codes that are already present in the Arduino itself. The kit literally sets itself up in a number of ways, and in the event, you run into obstacles, troubleshooting is not that complicated to pull off on your own.
  • Large community: There is a huge number of online forums that are full of people who use Arduino, and this provides new users with a platform where they can get help immediately from other users who have had the experience already. Every trouble you may run to will have a solution, and this makes Arduino a very resourceful tech.
  • Cross-platform: Arduino is a cross-platform software that can be used on Windows, Linux, and Mac. This makes it resourceful and unlimited in many ways. You don't have to buy a particular computer to run it; all you need is to get a computer with the right specs. You will be making your 3D models in no time.

Making a 3D Printer with Arduino

 

The process of making a 3D printer may look daunting for those that have never used it before, but if you are a newbie to the game, the process is a little easy. The following are some of the stages that are used in making a 3D printer using the Arduino platform.

To start off, you have to start collecting the components and supplies to start yourself off. The following are the boxes you have to tick off.

  • A ramps 1.4 controller board: This is used for interfacing purposes like connecting the end-stop switch, the heatbed, the stepper motor driver, the hotend, and a host of other components with the Arduino.
  • Optical end-stop switch: This is a sensor switch that comes with two markings. NO or NC (Normally Open/Normally Closed). They function as triggers when the XYZ axis of a printer reaches its endpoint. They can be used at any time to stop and start movements.
  • NEMA 17 stepper motor: This is a motor that allows the user to set the speed of revolutions for the movable parts of the printer. The average motor has about 200 steps, but you can get a bigger one.
  • PCB heatbed: This keeps the extruded plastic parts warm at all times to prevent them from warping.
  • Power supply: A 12V/20A power supply is needed to run a simple kit. These power metrics are the minimum you should go for success.

The Process

With all the important components in place, the next step is to start making your DIY 3D printer. The stages involved include the following.

Step 1: Build the Frame

A frame

 

The frame is the outer casing that houses the entire contraption, and it can be made to any size depending on what you need. The materials used to make the frame also vary, and the decision comes down to personal preference. The most compliant used materials are aluminum, acrylic, or hardened plastic. You have to make sure that all the parts fit well and there are no loose parts. It is important that the frame is solid because it will be providing support to the other parts that are added.

Step 2: The Display

LCD display

 

An LCD display is important as it relays the information you need to know about the printing process in the absence of a computer connection. You need an aluminum sheet for this process with some holes and screws, and nuts. You have to cut out space into the aluminum sheet through which the display screen will pop out of. Once you have all that art covered, connect the necessary display cables from the inside leading out, waiting for the main part of the printer to be installed.

Step 3: Preparing the Y-axis and Z-axis

DIY Printer Set-Up

 

You need an MDF base that houses a cooling fan to reduce the heat produced by the stepper motor. These are done by adding two wooden cuttings for the X-axis placement. This is followed by making the Y-axis placement that’s supposed to be at 90 degrees from the X-axis. Hold them in place using glue, or you can simply use some screws.

You have to add a stepper motor to the X-axis using two pieces of sliders of any length that can fit within the structure. Once the slide is screwed in place, fit your wooden mount for the hot-end, the cooling fan, and the PTFE tube. With these two in place, your 3D printer is starting to take shape.

Step 4: Preparing the Bed

3D Printer Bed

 

The bed is one of the most important parts of the entire machine. It is the part that provides the platform upon which the model being printed is made. It can be made out of glass or an acrylic sheet held down by screws. You can have the base supported by another solid material. Once all that is done, place the bed on the Y-axis, and it is ready to start rolling.

Step 5: Make the Connections

A 3D Printer Chip

 

The next part involves making the wiring connections of all the components that you have already laid down. All the electrical components like the ramps. The drivers and the power supply have to be linked properly for them to run as designed. To avoid entangling the wires, make sure you deal with one connection at a time, ensuring that they don’t cross each other unless there’s no other way around it.

Step 6: Make Alignments

 

The bed you created earlier has to align with everything else, or you may experience a lot of trouble getting the models right. Start by aligning your bed, rotating it clockwise and counterclockwise until you create some space between the hot-end tip and the bed. The margin of error should be between 0.5mm to 1mm. Anything larger than that will have the printing guy misfiring.

Step 7: Programming

3D Printing Design Software

 

With all the hardware installed and the electrical wiring and cabling in place. It is time to install the brain of the whole operation. Programming the 3D printer doesn’t require you to code from scratch. The software simply needs to be installed on the computer connected to the machine. This should not take too much of your time.

Step 8: Run the Machine 

 

Once the 3D Printer program is installed and the components are set, it is time to run the machine for the first time to finger out if it is working as designed or whether it needs some more tinkling. The number of software that you can use to model your objects is many; you are free to choose the one that works best for you and switch the machine on for the first test run. Make sure the fan is working to deal with the heat.

Building Your Own 3D Printer. Is It Worth It or Not?

3D printer

 

Having established that making your own printer is possible, and having seen the process and what it takes to attain success, the question now is, is it worth the trouble? High-quality 3D printers cost less than $400 these days, and as much as making your own brings pride and cuts costs significantly, how do DIY 3D printers hold against professionally manufactured ones? To better get to the answer, the following are the pros and cons of DIY 3D Printers.

Pros

  • DIY Kits are cheap and easy to access. For as little as $25, you can have a full package that can help you set up your own printer.
  • DIY projects will make you understand 3D printing more, adding to your experience on the subject, which increases your level of knowledge and chances of success if you ever think of getting fully immersed into the industry.
  • It is fast if you know what you are doing and you have all the materials you need in one place.
  • There’s a huge online community of DIY 3D printer enthusiasts, and these platforms provide resources that help people learn more about 3D printing.
  • The kits come with instruction manuals that anyone can follow and hack the construction. They are very easy to use.

Cons

  • You still need some basic knowledge of assembling electronic parts in the right way to be able to put  3D printers together. You can’t wake up one morning and decide to make it because you feel like it.
  • They are not as high quality as those that have been manufactured by proper 3D makers. The parts found in DIY printers are too rough and rudimentary for the machine to produce superior products. 
  • There are very many things you may miss along the way, and this can end up frustrating you later on as that will force you to retrace your steps backward until you find the source of the malfunction. That will waste a lot of your time.
  • You will always need to buy more parts the furthest along you go. There’s also the disadvantage of the parts falling apart since they're not well optimized for such an intense process. You will need replacements much faster.
  • There are limitations when it comes to software configurations and upgrades since the hardware is not optimized for the software you may choose to go with. You may end up using the same software for years, and that will limit the things the printer can pull off.

Roughly, you may end spending between $100-$200 making your own DIY 3D printer. That cost may be cheaper than the standard prices for a professionally made printer, but when you weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each, the DIY is at a disadvantage. Therefore, on the question of whether to go for a DIY 3D printer or simply buy a good one, the answer comes down to what you plan to do. If the thrill of making your own is what is important, then take the DIY route. But if you want to get some professional work done, then you are better off adding that extra $200 and getting a proper 3D primer with accessories and software updates.

There are some things you have to pay attention to when going the DIY route, factors that will determine the success or the failure of your project. Some of them include the following.

  • The size of the printer you intend to make
  • The printer type (Cartesian vs. Delta)
  • Extrusion type
  • The cost
  • Availability of liquid polymers
  • Software compatibility.

Before you embark on setting anything up, you have to first determine whether all the conditions mentioned above are met; only then will you get anything done by coming up with a good plan.

Conclusion

DIY 3D Printers are effective if they are made in the right way, and there are many methods of creating them. Finding a good Arduino kit could be the difference between having a 3D printer that world and one that keeps breaking midway. Ensure you do some background research before having to gain more knowledge before committing yourself to an ambitious project like this one.

For more information on how 3D printers work, the accessories they need to function properly, and the current trends in the industry, check out our website, and you will have access to a huge pool of resources and expert advice.


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