My Printer Project

Will Update regularly on the progress  

Design Files will be free for download once the first prototype is complete :)

So in late 2012 I decided I would try to design a 3D printer that fulfils everything I want in a 3D printer that I cant find commercially...whether that reason be build volume,layer resolution or just that the one that meet my needs is out of my price range.

What I want in a 3D printer.

In the my hobby(R/C airplanes, multirotors and FPV) I can think of huge potential of owning a 3D printer like making mounts, camera brackets,camera gimbals,servo trays the list goes on..even up to making a full RC plane on a 3D printer(get to that in a future post) But allot of these things will need a large build volume and good resolution..and in terms of rapid prototyping I might want something quickly for the next morning so good print speed would be nice as well as printing in ABS so it will need a heated bed. These are just the basics of what makes a good 3D printer. Though all that would be brilliant I would want it to be something I would be proud off...So I will want a good looking enclosure that hides 95% of all the wiring. Having a friend come over and look at a mess of wires covering the build platform isn't quite as nice as having a professional looking enclosure which although both looks would be a conversation starter,the nice enclosure would make it look more of a finished thing rather than a messy project(nothing wrong with that mind :D)

So a summary of what I would like:

  • A large build volume.
  • Good layer resolution(100microns-50microns..possible with todays software)
  • Good print speed.
  • Able to print ABS(heated bed)
  • A nice enclosure
Designing the printer

I first started planning what build volume I would like, bearing in mind I want this to still be a desktop printer. After a while I decided that 17inch x 13inch x 9inch Would be good as this is way it will fit nicely on a desk and with good length I could print fuselages of RC planes easily with only 1 or two joints between different fuselage pieces rather than having 5-10. After this I got to work on how the mechanics will go together. I did this first by looking what mechanical parts were available for 3D printers and came to discover that for the size printer I want their wasn't really much for me. So..I went to see what I could find by looking for CNC router parts and bingo I came across all the linear bearings and slides that would be perfect for my X and Y axis. The best part is I don't need to cut any metal rails! All the mechanical parts are right off of the shelf. Another quick look and I found all the belts and pulleys I will need to actual slide the X and Y and found a ballscrew on the same sight which will be for my Z axis. At this point I began thinking how easy this will all be :) I was wrong since I then realised that it all has to be put into CAD so I can actually assemble it,but luckily for me the linear bearing and slides has dimensions on the site so I managed t put ALL the mechanics into CAD which took a few days of solid work and cups of tea(Thanks Dad)
       So after I had all the components I need to make the X,Y,Z stages I had to actually mount them to something...where as most 3D printer design they make a box and each part is critical to getting good quality prints...I found that to be a problematic design since if the tolerances aren't near perfect then levelling the bed could be a real nightmare. So to get rid of that problem I starting thinking of different solutions and it was after watching a documentary on the Volkswagen Beetle that I came up with a better alternative which was to mount everything onto a floor pan! Just like a VWDub Beetle :D So I got to work on making this floor pan which I call a 'Base Pan' to mount all the other parts onto. After this things really started moving in the assembly. I quickly came across a few little issues which were corrected after some head scratching and a
little redesign but it quite quickly came together.
       After figuring out the general layout which follows the same basic design as CNC machines using a gantry I started sketching out enclosures...I followed some of the basic steps in product design as I do want this printer to look as professional as it can get, and let me tell you now that designing an enclosure isn't fact I found it harder than coming up with layout for the mechanical parts. Having done some sketches I decided a simple design would be the best this would be built at home and since I don't own a manufacturing facility in Asia a simple boxy shape with a couple slight changes which will separate it from the standard 'Box' type design of other 3D printers. 3D printers are awesome to look at while printing..if you have never seen a 3D printer print I tell you now its quite addictive watching it follow its GCODE laying down plastic...recognising this I want it to have a transparent door at the front which will cover the access hole used to actually pick the part off of the platform. Though to add to a onlookers curiosity as to what the Printer actually is I do feel a slight tint to the cover might be nice :) Y'know..Just something to lure them in a little to get a closer look.
          So taking all that into account I want a nice enclosure with a tinted plastic door...So back to CAD to start putting my sketch into a model. I made a couple iterations to get the look I want with the design change being a little poky bit at the front where I can mount the Reprapcentral LCD display. An aspect where I gave myself allot of self praise was in the am I going to mount it to the 3D printer..Well using the Base Pan i can just slide the enclosure to the bottom of the Base Pan drill a few holes around the enclosure and screw it to the Base pan. Simple!

So here  you can see the entire enclosure..But how will I make it you say? Well it will be a challenge but after some thought I decided that I will vacuum form the enclosure with 2mm HIPS thermoplastic. The plug will be raised slightly off of the vacuum bed so I will get all the sharp lines.

So after spending a couple more weeks tweaking my design and finishing off certain things on the printer I end up with this!

 Their is still some work that needs doing..mainly to the Z stage and the build platform. I designed this over a 2 month period and am pretty pleased with the outcome :) It has a massive build area of 1989cubic inches of build volume which is nearly 5 times that of the Makerbot replicator 2 And although some may not like its design im pretty happy with it and if the Gantry can be kept light then achieving speeds of up to 70mm/s shouldnt sacrifice the print quality. I have achieved what I think is a professional look though it might not be everyones cup of tea I think its simplicity adds to its beauty :) Leave a comment on what you think. I am currently wanting to build this machine though im unable to do so due to lack of funds. Thanks

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