So you are interested in purchasing a kit or “DIY” style 3d printer. The purpose of this post is to give some tips and insight to hopefully save you some time as well as headache when assembling your 3d printer. This article should even be useful for those who own 3d printers but have never purchased a kit as they are completely different beasts.
I have assembled multiple kit 3d printers (successfully) and have learned a few things through trial and error to do and not to do that would have been oh so useful before starting. Some of these may seem to be common sense but they will not be to everyone.
Lets get into it!
To start lets talk about things to look at before even purchasing the kit. For starters the build log. Even before receiving the parts or ordering you should look through the complete build log a few times to see that it all makes sense and that you will at least have an idea in your head already mapped out about the order of operations you will be taking.
Secondly, I think before purchasing a kit printer it is generally a good idea to see what kind of support exists. For example one of my kits the FolgerTech Prusa i3 2020 had a huge community of people who where available in forums and had created many upgrades in regards to the machine. This is a much better scenario than a kit nobody has purchased with little to no feedback or help.
Once you have finally decided upon the machine and ordered it, before even thinking about assembling you need to separate all of the parts. I experienced a kit missing all of the m3 nuts and did not realize it until halfway through the build. It was pretty frustrating having to run to the hardware store mid build and I do not want this to happen to you.
Most of the time with kits there is a Bill of Materials included and if not, you should be able to find it on the product page (you may need to ask the company you are purchasing from for it). It may seem tedious but I highly recommend you separate and go through every little nut and bolt line item by line item to make sure that you kit indeed has all of the parts you need to actually assemble the machine.
After confirming you have all of the parts needed it is time to assemble. Make sure that you take things slow and look at every picture and detail accordingly. I ended up installing a pretty important part backwards and about 3/4 through the build had to take things apart to fix what would have been a simple fix had I caught it earlier on.
Seriously, there is no race to complete it. I understand that it is exciting and you just want the damn thing to be printing already but (hopefully) you will only have to build it one time so make sure you take your time and do it right. Building a 3d printer is such a great way to learn the ins and outs of your printer and gain a huge appreciation for the machine.
Once you have completed the hardware it will be time to get all of wires connected. I strongly urge you to pre-plan a bit on how you plan to accomplish cable management. You do not want a rat’s nest for multiple reasons. One, it looks awful and two, all it takes is one cable to be caught in a threaded rod or gear and there goes your thermocoupler. Cable management is a necessity for any kit printer.
The software (should) be relatively simple most of the time it either comes already flashed onto your arduino or they give you the file so there is little no work with the exception of maybe editing the z axis height for your printer height starting point. Also, the company should give you the details you need to enter your printer in to your software (repetier-host in my case).
Congratulations! You should have a fully working 3d printer right now. I strongly recommend looking at what other awesome upgrades exist and sharing your experience with others on any difficulties you may have ran into to help them out. It is the sharing of information that has helped this community grow so quickly!
Any other tips you can think of please leave them in the comments below!