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TweakTown's Guide to 3D Printing: Part 2 - 3D Printer Kit Selection (Page 1)

TweakTown's Guide to 3D Printing: Part 2 - 3D Printer Kit Selection

In our last installment, we discussed what made up a 3D printer, and what one should pay attention to when considering purchasing one. Today we are going to take a few more steps down the 3D printing road and discuss how to select a DIY kit.

By: Charles Gantt from Jun 2, 2013 @ 21:59 CDT



There are literally hundreds of 3D printer kits on the market at the moment, and in many ways they are essentially the same kit with the same parts and being sold by a different seller. I am not trying to belittle any of the kit makers out there as piecing together kits is a tedious, and tough task, so much in fact that you do need to exercise caution when choosing a kit to buy. Some kit makers like to pull the wool over customer's eyes and will sell enough kits to order the parts before piecing things together. This can lead to weeks or even months before your kit will arrive.

Another thing you must look out for is kits that appear to be complete, but are missing key components like printed or laser cut parts, extruder parts or even guide rods. While most sellers are upfront about these missing parts, some leave little or no clue to what you need to finish the kit.

In this installment I am going to showcase a few of the best kits on the market, as well as point you in the right direction if you want to go the entire DIY route.

Different types of 3D printing kits

I covered this section in the last article, but I really want to make sure that you understand the two main types of 3D printer DIY kits. One will path will take you into the realm of hardware sourcing, while the other will provide you with almost everything you need to build your own printer.


Scratch Built 3D Printer - Are you the DIY type who prefers to build things from scratch? If so, then you might consider going to DIY RepRap route. While it is up in the air if this method will actually save you any money, there is something to be said for building your own 3D printer from scratch. You become very intimate with the printer and will know every nut, bolt and quirk it has by the time you are successfully printing. The big problem with scratch building is the sheer amount of time that it takes to source everything. With hundreds of nuts, bolts, wires, belts pulleys and much more to locate, order and inventory before you can begin building, this method is by far the longest route one can take. Once all of the hardware has been sourced, you will still need to select and purchase or build a controller board, and depending on your skills level, this can range from easy to almost impossible.


Kit Built 3D Printer - If you would still like to save some money, but not have to deal with the hassle of sourcing parts and modifying them to fit together, then maybe a kit is the way for you. Many manufacturers sell kits with "easy-to-assemble" instructions included. You still must be somewhat mechanically inclined and able to understand basic geometry. Many of these kits come with the electronics already built, but there are a few that require you to break out a soldering iron and populate the PCBs.

If soldering is not your bag, then I would definitely avoid a kit that requires soldering. Like a scratch build, you will need to spend hours adjusting, calibrating and configuring things before your machine is printing at a good level of quality. The image above is the typical RepRap Prusa Mendel kit you will find for sale around the web.

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