Monday 21 January 2013

Building a 3D Printer

Much has been happening on the 3D printing front. A few delays in sourcing parts (as will be explained), but otherwise things are going smoothly.

After some research and help from the donor of the seed parts, I chose the Ecksbot as the basis for my first 3D printer. Even before completing the first, I've got plans for an OpenBeam-based printer with a larger print area and finer print resolution.

I initially thought the electronics aspect would be the cause of the delays - I suspected I'd get it built and it would gather dust as I desperately tried to source the electronics and wire the thing up. Not so (so far), the biggest delay has been on a couple of the mechanical parts.

From the outset, I wanted to source parts from good businesses with great products - a combination of British, German, Japanese and even US-made parts. My aim is to find as many manufacturers in the UK and EU to source my parts from for all projects. Of course, if I were to be an utter purest, none of my projects would come to fruition, so I have been forced to source from China for some bits (the electronics at the moment being the sole parts for the printer).

Seed Parts
Printed in British-made extruded PLA, all are the standard parts (the majority of the Ecksbot parts are already are based on the improved versions of the RepRap's parts) with the moving parts in orange and static in black.
Mechanical Hardware
The majority of fasteners are A2 stainless steel hex cap-heads some of the M3 are rounded heads, similarly the threaded rods are A2 stainless steel. The smooth rods have been the hardest to source, even at the time of writing, I've still not found a company able to supply them to me for a realistic price - not to mention the majority of suppliers have neither responded nor acknowledged me.
Looking around at the available hot-ends, it proved easier to get it straight from Eckertech especially since they engineer and test each one to high tolerances. Plus, their pre-sales support was helpful in selecting a nozzle size. I plumped for the standard 0.4mm nozzle, even though I will want finer printing in the future, it's best to start with a standard construction and work from there.
Electronics & Motors
Settling for a RAMPS 1.4 platform, PCB heatbed (with custom made aluminium heatsink) and a set of upgrades including the LCD panel and SD reader. Not much to say here until it's built up and I get to grips with the pros and likely cons of the RAMPS platform.
Once I can source the remaining parts, I'll be able to complete construction. I've built up as much as possible (working around the missing parts when the structure permits), so I'm keen to get these last few parts. The shopping list now; hobbed bolt, smooth rods, T2.5 belt and stepper motors. The hobbed bolt will also be coming from Eckertech, the belts and motors I just need to collect, leaving the smooth rods to procure.

Next update should hopefully see construction complete and the majority of electronics connected.

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