Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The 'Makr-B-Bot' Part 1: Getting started

When the 3D-Printing hype started a few years ago with the RepRap and it's followers, I immediately considered building one. By that time however it was not really easy to collect the parts. People were building their own electronics, frames and extruders from scratch which included a lot of experimenting and tinkering to get it right. Round the same time I ran into a product called 'MakerBeam', an aluminium T-Slot profile for small constructions. This seemed like the right framework for a 3-D printer so I bought the starter kit. Bolted a few parts together and decided it would still be a lot of work to build a printer from this. So the kit ended up in a closet, and I have not used it since..

In the following years the 3D printer market exploded, and at some point even got mainstream with little €1000,- plug and play printers you could buy at the supermarket. So I lost interest.  The idea of building one did stick at the back of my mind however. And over time I did collect some parts like a set of stepper motors, some extra Makerbeams and  some electronics.

Until recently I got inspired by pictures of the Printrbot Simple Maker kit . This amazingly simple design is probably the most minimalistic printer possible, yet it performs remarkably well for it's price, which is as low as US$350 for a complete kit. Now US$350,- is absolutely a good price for the full kit, but unfortunately that only works if you live in the USA. Once you get it to Europe the total price has become a whopping €550,- (= US$ 590,- !) which more or less defies the idea of a 'cheap DIY printer'. 

Since this is an 'open source' printer so it is possible to download the drawings and make the plywood parts yourself, but that would still be quite expensive for a single unit.
While looking for additional pictures of the PrintrBot design I also found the R360 Printer by Replicator warehouse :

This looks almost identical, but they chose a rotating bed to print on. That seemed a bit too experimental to me, although I understand it works pretty well. I do think it's a little bit too much plastic...

So I wondered if it would be possible to build this specific design using standard Makerbeam parts.

And I did not want to spend too much money on it so I spend quite some time to find the cheapest parts....


  • Makerbeam starter kit.+ extra set of right angle brackets. ( €100 )
  • Acme rod (trapezoidal thread) with nut . ( €20 ). This one used to be hard to get, but nowadays most 3D printer shops sell the standard 30 cm version that is used in the RepRap Mendel  (MakeMendel,VanAllesEnMeer (Dutch) )
  • Flexible coupling 5 mm to 8 mm.n (€6,50) Any 3D printer shop has these in stock
  • 2 pcs Aluminium pully, T2.5 (€ 6,50)
  • 1 m. of T2.5 5mm Timing belt (€4,50)
  • 12 pcs.  LM8UU linear ball Bearings (€12,-) (€1,- / each is really good deal ! Kromhout Electronixs (Dutch))
  • 3 pcs. NEMA 17 stepper motors (€30,- (special package deal, might be hard to get them that cheap now..))
  • Funduino Mega 2560 R3 Module (Arduino Mega compatible board) (€15)
  • RAMPS 1.4 interface board (€18, including the Motor Drivers)
  • 4 pcs. 4988 Motor Driver (Polulu or compatible) 
  • Geeetech MK8 All Metal 3D Printer Extruder (DealExtreme) (€45)
  • AT Power supply (second hand, from an old PC)
  • Lots of Ty-Raps
  • 16 Hose clamps, 12-22 mm (€10)
  • 2 pcs. 1m. 8mm.  Steel Rod (€15)
  • Heated bed (€15)
  • 16x24 Photo frame (€1,50)
  • 12V/ 20 A Power Supply (€24,-)
Total: € 322,50
 (Actually a little less since not the whole MakerBeam kit is used)

Again, the US$350,- for the the PrintrBot Simple kit seems like a bargain. You probably have to buy all parts in really large quantities to get that low. Not to mention the US$179,- TIKO 3D , or the US$199 Genesis UNO  ..
And with the colourful DaVinci minimaker entering the local toy-shop, 3D printing definitely entered the realm of consumer goods.