Building my own 3D printer

Brian Anderson
2 min readJun 19, 2017

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I wanted to make some notes somewhere, even if only for my own benefit. This seems like as good a place as any.

It started with a FolgerTech 2020 i3 printer. Pretty standard 8x8x6 inch build area, 2020 aluminum frame.

The first upgrade was to extend the build dimensions to 8x12x10. This was really just a case of adding some longer extrusion and rods.

Next was trying to push that to 12x12x12. This time I found that the print quality just wasn’t great, in large part due to the X axis being pretty flexible. 8mm rods at that size just aren’t stiff enough.

From there I decided to take inspiration from my experience with this and the FolgerTech FT5 large format printer I have and try to do something on my own.

On the FT5, I don’t love the cheap linear rails. They need to be lubricated, and out of the box they don’t work right as often as they do. I wanted something with less chance. V slot gantries looked like a good alternative, since a really good one costs about the same as a cheap import linear rail set.

Next was the height. The FT5 cube frame extends about 6" over the top of the gantry. This makes it more rigid, but takes up more space and can make it awkward to get to stuff. My thought is that using 2040 aluminum for the frame will give me enough rigidity to not need that extra space on the top.

Then there was the controller. The i3 used a RAMPS+Arduino combination, where I would rather have one of the single purpose built boards like the MKS Gen 1.4 that the FT5 uses. Less spare parts to keep in stock.

Last was the melamine parts, particularly the bed platform that raises and lowers Z. Heat + humidity + melamine doesn’t really help with precise calibration. There are really great replacement parts out there for it, but they cost almost as much as the printer. I went with 2020 aluminum for mine, on the theory that it should be light and rigid. As long as it’s put together well, it should be solid.

I’ve also been having fun making models at onshape.com, so I figured this would be a neat exercise.

I’m in the final stages of assembly now and will share pics when done!

Once this printer is done, I should have enough spare parts for an 8x8x8 cube printer, bringing me full circle. My plan there is to assemble it with the E3D Volcano hot end I have kicking around and make a fast convention demo printer.

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