How one would start on building 3D printers without no prior knowledge about it? It is a massive subject for most and speaking from experience, it is difficult to make a choice where to start.
The first time I have ever encountered a 3d printer face to face, was through a very good friend of mine during some holiday in Hungary. He was already through a couple of self-made kits and was just building his first scratch made printer, a design which came from an Australian 3d printer enthusiast “tech2c”, called “Hypercube”.
This kind of 3d printing technology called, FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling or FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) process. In simple terms, that means the printer is using a solid spool of plastic filament – like yarn in knitting – which is being deposited by the printer head, layer by layer, building the desired model up.
As I am luckily-unfortunately easily convinced about building interesting stuff, I was hooked on the subject quite quick.
The big question was, where to start!? In fact why would you even start to build one from scratch when you can just order a ready made one online which suits your needs.
To be honest this is an absolute superficial question regarding to most “crafting/ building” hobbies, whether that be model building or knitting. Basically, most people just does it for the process, for the joy of building and for the satisfaction of learning stuff. However, after a certain level, you actually can build an extremely capable printer for fraction of the money of an equivalent commercial one. Bare in mind though, this is not necessarily true to entry level printers and it is a long learning process with possibly significant(ish) investment along your journey.
There are number of options out there to start. You could jump right in to the deep end of it and pick one of the many available DIY printer designs from places like Thingiverse. Personally, I would not recommend that as, well, firstly because you need a 3D printer to print many of the parts for it, secondly I believe you would need some knowledge about 3D printing to choose a design which would suit you.
I would say there are 2 (+2, I explain that shortly) reasonable routes are out there.
- Buy a reputable, ready made 3d printer, learn the general workings of it. Such as the process of 3D printing and different filament materials. With this option, you will know that you have a well made and working printer so you can concentrate your attention to the rest of the things without worrying about your machine. Good choice would be something like a readily assembled Prusa I3 or a LulzBot mini
- Buy a reputable DIY 3d printer kit. I would recommend this option to people whom have some knowledge of building anything (even if that was just LEGO) and willing to do a bit of research and thinking throughout the building process. The Prusa I3 DIY kit or the Hephestos 2 are great options for that. These kits are tried and tested, good quality, have great support and development teams behind them
- (+1) Buy a Cheap Chinese kit or a ready made printer. Most of the 3D printer designs are open source designs, which means the ever resourceful Chinese manufacturers are producing their own versions of them with various success and quality. You have a wide range of DIY or ready made machines. Prices are varying and not necessarily reflecting how good the particular printer is. They all will work to a certain degree, but expect a steep learning curve and immediate desire for improvement parts in most cases, especially with the DIY kit versions. Now, I have admit I went with that choice. Why? Because I like to build stuff, figure out how things work, doing research and learning about stuff as much as possible on the hard way. It was challenging and frustrating at times, but overall I enjoyed it and I picked up a huge amount of knowledge through the process.
- (+2) Alternatively, you can get in touch with me and I might be able to help to start up.
I am planning to write more about 3D printing in general and my own printer builds and tips. Please follow this blog if you are interested.