by General Fabb
Those new to the concept of 3D printing are often even more amazed to find out that it's entirely possible to actually build a 3D printer yourself! It's not particularly easy and you must have very reasonable hardware talent, but definitely possible.
You'll need to select a method of depositing print media from many potential concepts, prepare a design for your build chamber, engineer a precision movable print head mechanism, a housing, electronic interfaces and a power source. Oh, and you must develop sophisticated control software to ensure it all works perfectly.
Doesn't sound quite so possible now? Perhaps.
Don't fear! There are several approaches that just might make your project a whole lot easier. Consider the paths taken by others to simplify the work:
- Re-engineer an existing 2D printer mechanism. There's quite a bit of truth when someone explains that a 3D printer is similar to an inkjet. The print head moves across X and Y dimensions already - you merely have to add the third Z dimension. This greatly simplifies the work.
- Use an existing design already perfected by others. There are a couple of excellent projects that can provide the necessary designs and even the required software. The leaders in this category would of course be the RepRap project and Fab@Home.
- Buy a kit. It's not only a proven design, but it's also all the parts and instructions you'll need. Two leading kit makers include MakerBot and The Rap-Man. You can also purchase assembly kits for RepRap and Fab@Home, too.
It is entirely possible to build a homemade 3D printer. You simply have to decide how much effort you wish to put into the project. If you are up for a difficult technical challenge, design and build it yourself. If you want the assurance that your build will actually work, consider RepRap or Fab@Home. Finally, if you just want to get it done quickly go for a kit.