Building The 3D Printer

Well, I didn’t document the whole building process because there are A LOT of guides and documentations out there. Plus, it would have slowed me down considerably.
This is written after the fact, obviously.

This project is not completely finished and it might never be. I see it as an evolving project, I constantly add features and change stuff.

Most of the parts were ordered off eBay.
The frame is Dibond Aluminum. That’s plastic with aluminum layers on both sides, it’s supposed to be light and strong – it is.
All plastic parts are 3D printed and came with the frame (the whole idea of the RepRap project is self-replicating 3D printers, well not fully, just the plastic parts – the goal is to get a better printed to non-printed parts ratio)
The hot end is an E3D v6 all aluminum hot end.
The motors are Nema 17 stepper motors, they are a little less powerful that the “standard” 0.4Nm ones, but they work perfectly fine.
The controller is an Arduino Mega 2560 paired with a RAMPS 1.4 driver board.
I’m using a standard 500W computer ATX power supply.

The initial build took about about 3 days. It took place during the last summer at my house with a few of my friends who wanted to help and see the wander.
The build itself wasn’t special, just a marathon of wrenching, drilling, measuring, soldering and calibrating. Oh, and pizza. lots of pizza.

I think the most exciting moment was seeing the code and motors work together. It’s not something I haven’t done before, nor was it an advanced part of the build, but seeing the pile of metal and plastic turn into something that follows commands other that the trivial “stay” was just beautiful and a sign that the hardware is fine and we are on the right track.

After 2 and a half days we had a kind-of-working 3D printer. a diamond in the rough, one might say.
It extruded plastic and moved in the right direction, but it needed calibration and lots of it.

On the evening of the 3rd day I did some work alone and kept having the same problem – I could print fine at first, but after letting the printer rest it would not extrude more plastic, every time I had to disassemble the hot end and drill out the stuck plastic.
It’s too long of a story for this post (maybe I’ll post another one with the fully detailed comedy) but I’ll give you the recap of what I learnt – Computer thermal compound is not intended for these temperatures and if your hot end came with a little fan – use it.
I ended up breaking my hot end in so many places I had to buy a new one.

The new hot end took a little time to arrive and when it did, the semester had already begun and this one was brutal, papers and assignments every week in every course. I never thought I’d wish for midterms to come sooner, Argh..
I could only invest a few hours a week for fiddling with the printer but slowly and surely, it’s up and running.

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