My journey in the world of 3D printing started in 2018. I decided to build my very first 3D printer because I saw a lot of opportunities to create parts for my projects. One of my colleagues had already purchased and built a metal version of the Prusa 3D printer. We had a lot of technical discussions about 3D printing and my colleague started constructing and building his first own 3D printer based on the XY core.
Design my first 3D printer
After a lengthy period of investigation, design, discussion, and searching on the internet for a suitable design, I decided to build a 3D printer similar to the first Ultimaker and Ultimaker clone. However, I faced a constraint: I didn’t have a 3D printer yet, so all the parts had to be available or makeable with a set of simple tools.
To meet this constraint, I decided to build it entirely from 20 I-Type Nut 5 aluminium profiles, mostly the 20×20 type. This approach allowed me to create an exact and right-angle frame with limited tools, which is essential to ensure that the printer can print correctly.
Using the 20 I-Type Nut 5 aluminium profiles also had the benefit that there are many accessories available for mounting them together in different ways.
After ordering all of the mechanical parts, I had to wait a few weeks. I was able to buy some parts locally, but many of the parts were coming from China.
While waiting for the parts to arrive for my 3D printer, I took the opportunity to decide on the controller part of the printer. After conducting some research, I chose to use the Makerbase Gen 1.4 board. This board is widely used since it houses the motor drivers and all the necessary controls on a single board, unlike the RAMPS board, which requires a separate processor board.
With all the parts in house it was time to build it
In the future, I will make a project page for this printer build, including the design, BOM and how to build.
Printer Controller software (Marlin)
On my Makerbase GEN 1.4 board, I began using Marlin software to control my 3D printer. Marlin converts Gcode files into instructions for the printer hardware.
Print Materials (PLA/PET/PETG)
I started printing with PLA because that was at the time the most used material. But I switched to PET/PETG. This improved my print quality. I am very happy with PET/PETG.
Add Orange Pi with Octoprint (Jan 2021)
Until recently, I used my 3D printer as a standalone device not connected to the network. Every time I wanted to print something, I had to physically go to the printer, transfer the STL file onto an SD card, and start the print job from the printer itself. Needless to say, this method was time-consuming and did not allow me to remotely monitor the printer’s progress. Fortunately, there is a software package called Octoprint that can be run on a Raspberry Pi or similar device. I opted to use the Orange Pi Zero 2 for this because it is a small board with an onboard WIFI module. If you’re interested in setting up your own Octoprint project, check out my project for a step-by-step guide. start using octoprint
Build plate upgrade (Nov 2023)
I used to print on an aluminium plate with blue paint tape on it, held in place by some clips. But, I recently upgraded my printing setup by adding a magnetic layer to my heated bed. This allows me to easily add or change a steel plate on top of it. After exploring various build plates, I decided to purchase a PEI + Carbon Fiber sheet. It has a textured PEI side and a smooth carbon look PET side. I got it from Aliexpress (affiliate link). I Printed a few things and until now I am happy with the results. I used online the Pei site.
Auto bed leveling (Nov 2023)
Adding a Bedlevel sensor (BL-Touch)
Upgrade OrangePi and Octoprint (Nov 2023)
Upgrading my OrangePi zero 2 with new OS and Octoprint
Improve construction mount of the build plate
Our next upgrade involves designing and building an enclosure for the entire 3D printer. However, before we can do that, we need to move the motors that are mounted on the outside of the frame to the inside for the future enclosure. To do this, we had to dismantle many parts of the printer, so we also took the opportunity to improve the build plate construction on the z-axel. The current construction is not very sturdy and flexible in the Y direction.
To change the build plate construction we will use an aluminium corner profile. We made a frame of this and mounted the old plate on top of it including the build plate on the springs. How I made the new build plate can be found here (coming soon)
Constructing an enclosure for my 3D printer.
With Motors now mounted inside the frame we can now build the enclosure.
Next Upgrades (Nov 2023)
future upgrades I want to plan
- Add cable management
- Boxing all the electronics