DIY 3D Printer : Make Your Own 3D Printer
3D printers can be game-changers because they flip the manufacturing industry as we know it upside down. For decades, the average consumer relied on manufacturers to bring them products. If the Average Joe had an idea for an item, Average Joe would have to design it and hire others to make a prototype. It’s an expensive process and makes you wonder about how many ideas have been lost because someone didn’t have the money or time to see it through.
3D printing puts manufacturing in the consumer’s hands. If you have an idea and access to a 3D printer, then you can make your stuff. And we’re talking about more than just producing toys. We’re talking life-changing, life-saving stuff. An example is The Collective Project , which uses 3D printing to make bionic body parts for children. 3D printers can create organ tissue, and are well on their way to creating entire human organs. There’s even a report of a 3D printer making a beak for an injured bald eagle.
There’s no shortage of controversy around 3D printing. Some say we’re playing God when we make human organs or animal parts. Then there’s the 3D printed guns. Other controversies include issues of copyright infringement, trademark violations, and intellectual property disputes. Even with the controversy, there’s no doubt that 3D printing will change the way we think about product manufacturing.
How 3D Printing Works
Different 3D printers use different technology. Most 3D printers are additive in nature, meaning the items they make aren’t carved from bigger pieces of plastic or metal, but rather created by adding things on, layer by layer. Here are a few types:
- Selective Layer Sintering: SLS uses a laser to fuse particles of plastic, metal, ceramic, or glass powder into a 3D shape. The laser scans layers, generated by the printer’s modeling program, on a powder bed. After the printer scans a layer, the powder bed is lowered and a new layer is added. The process repeats until the item is created. Unused powder can be reused.
- Fused Deposition Modeling: FDM uses a plastic filament or metal wire that is unwound from a coil. This supplies material to a nozzle, which can turn the flow on and off. The heated nozzle melts the material and can move vertically and horizontally, controlled by computer software. The printer layers melted material, which hardens immediately after exiting the nozzle. This is also known as Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) and most DIY printers, such as RepRap, use this method.
- Stereolithography: SLA uses a vat of liquid UV curable photopolymer resin and a UV laser to build layers of objects. The UV laser cures the resin and solidifies the pattern, as well as joins it to the previous layer.
Let’s face the truth: 3D printers are expensive machines. They’re far less expensive than the old way of manufacturing and they’re getting less expensive, but they still cost a pretty penny. Like all technology, as 3D printing becomes more popular and as 3d printers become more readily available, the price will continue to drop. Some 3D printers cost less than $500.
And now, people are starting to make their own 3D printers from kits and from … other 3D printers. Enter, RepRap.
In 2004, Adrian Bowyer founded RepRap, which is short for Replicating Rapid-prototyper. The idea was to develop a 3D printer that could print most or all of its components. It was, and still is, an open-source project, combining knowledge from a community of 3D printing do-gooders. Four years later, RepRap introduced Darwin 1.0, which can make half of its own components; the rest are cheaply available, costing between $200 and $350. According to the RepRap website, “it’s accessible to small communities in the developing world as well as individuals in the developed world.”
RepRap is still in the early stages, and because it’s open-source, many different designs are available. RepRap isn’t the only DIY 3D printer either, but it is the most popular and probably the most advanced. They also made others realize that open-source was the way to go if you want to make cheap, DIY 3D printers.
Other DIY 3D Printers
- EWaste $60 3D Printer: One of the coolest ones is the EWaste $60 3D Printer, an Instructable by user mikelllc. It’s made from electronic parts that you can find around the house. The instructions are pretty easy to follow. The hardest part is the programming.
- Eventorbot: Eventorbot is designed to cost less and be easy to use. It’s frame is single solid steel, so it uses fewer parts, thus reducing costs and complication.
The list goes on. One place to find more is here, a DIY kit comparison at 3ders.org.
Conclusions and Disruptions
We aren’t advanced enough to print televisions or cell phones, but 3D printing is disrupting the world. Forbes lists seven industries that 3D printing has disrupted. I’ve already mentioned medicine, electronics, and military/guns. The other four are food (yes, we’re printing meat and chocolate), jewelry (gold, anyone?), toys (think about children getting toy designs for Christmas instead of toys), and automotive (prototype 3D printed cars are out there).
DIY looks like the inevitable future of 3D printing. You buy a kit or find the parts for the first one and put it together, then you can create the parts for the next printer, and the next, and the next. As more printers become available, the price will go down, and more people will be able to purchase printers or kits, and create more items, including more printers.
Here’s the kicker: This is only the beginning. We have barely tapped into the potential of 3D printing. When it started, the notion of printing food or human tissue was just a dream that has since become a reality. What can we dream of next?