Micro 3D printer

This project uses upcycled DVD and floppy drive stepper motor gantry assemblies, along with a repurposed PC power supply, as the heart of a very small format 3D printer. Electronics used are Arduino Mega, RAMPS 1.4 controller, and Polulu motor shields, with option touchscreen display; we used a kit from Amazon.

We sourced our recycled components from the junked electronics collection at the local high school’s tech center; Best Buy, Goodwill, or amateur radio conventions (e.g. hamfests) are other good places to look. The trouble is that what was left from the floppy drive era already seems to have been recycled (or at least buried), but you should still be able to find them in older stores and/or electronic part collections.

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This photo shows the printer and its accessories. The micro printer uses 1.75 mm filament, propelled by a NEMA 17 stepper motor and a 3D printed drive assembly and melted by an air-cooled RepRap hotend.

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The printing area is shown here. The frame of the machine was cut from 1/4 inch plywood, as was the print bed itself, but we sealed this with a polyurethane spray to make it smoother and more conducive to adhesion; when we get the printer running, we will likely use apply stick glue to the surface of the print bed to reduce PLA’s retraction tendencies.

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The back of the machine. The Arduino Mega is not visible in this photo because it is directly behind the controller board, but it is mounted to the plywood frame using two machine screws and is the foundation for the shields stacked on top of it. This photo shows the layout of the Polulu shields and the leads going to the stepper motors, power supply, thermistor, and touch screen. Note that as this was a rather cheap Chinese PCB board, some pins needed to be bent straight for everything to fit.

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The PC power supply was relatively easy to repurpose, supplies more than enough current for this application, and – perhaps most importantly – it was free! We have since reclaimed and used power supplies out of everything from early 90’s printers to X-ray machines, powering high-demand equipment like the workshop’s HF transceiver.

 

This printer is based off of two very well-written Instructables; mikelllc’s $60 EWaste 3D Printer and mrogivue’s Curiosity $120 Ewaste Educational 3D Printer. We used mikellc’s Instructable primarily to reference CAD/CAM software toolchains, while we took building directions for the object from both articles, focusing more on the clear assembly photos in the documentation for the Curiosity printer. The price point for our build was closer to that of the $120 Curiosity than the original $60 EWaste.

We still have not printed anything with this machine, however, because we cannot get its software working. The Marlin Arduino sketch requires a few tweaks for the unconventional layout of the Micro printer, but the best we were able to accomplish over the course of two weeks of troubleshooting was to get the hotend warm enough to melt its housing and to light the touchscreen module of the printer. Further tests will require a software engineer, but we have finished all the other electrical and mechanical aspects of the machine.

If you are interested in building your own Micro 3D printer, then we suggest you read both Instrucables linked to in the above paragraphs. Be aware that while the print volume is quite small (at 3.7 x 3.7 x 1.7 cm), there are still many applications for parts this small; the printer itself is also quite compact, especially when you stash the power supply and filament.

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