Creating 3D models is hard

3D printing is easy. You can buy a 3D printer off the shelf for a few hundred of your Earth pounds, download patterns from thingiverse and be printing solid stuff straight away. Creating your own 3D models is harder, and it seems to me that this is now the bottleneck (at least, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money). There are several options. You can scan a real item, if you have a 3D …

Lathe parts online

Some people (honestly, more than one) have asked for the source files for the parts for the 3D printed lathe. I’ve posted them under the OpenSCAD tab. There’s a direct link here. Don’t forget the Youtube video if you want to see it in action.

It's not my fault!

3dprinting 3d-printing
It’s probably not my fault, at least. If you’ve been following my blog (and why wouldn’t you?), you’ll know that I have had some issues with my 3D printer printing things skewed. It got particularly annoying a day or two ago when a five-hour print ended up unusable. It’s about time I got this problem sorted out. Annoyingly, it seems that every time I do a test print, …

Disappointment is...

… finding your five-hour print is faulty Hmmm. Yesterday I replaced the heater in the printer’s hot end, vastly improving printing. Today I replaced a faulty power switch, reducing the chance of the printer cutting out mid-print. There seemed to be no reason not to make a start printing some of the bigger components I’ve been working on. Here’s the first one: Don’t …

Things are hotting up

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I haven’t posted much about the 3D printer recently (or indeed about anything else). This is partly because I have been trying to work out what was the cause of poor print quality. I’ve finally worked out what the cause of the problem was. I’d been finding it increasingly difficult to print larger objects, particularly those which involved long continuous print movements. The …

Richmond revealed

3dprinting 3d-printing
I was at one of Rob’s excellent rather useful seminars yesterday. As it was about 3D printing, Rob asked me to say a little bit about my printer. Having not prepared to do anything, I relied on some bits of video I found on my tablet. Thinking about it, I realised that although this blog has quite a few posts about specific parts of the building process, there isn’t really a post just simply …

Turn again, Whittington!

3dprinting 3d-printing lathe
As a devoted reader of my blog, you will know that I’m engaged in a continuing quest to improve the precision of my 3D printer. The most recent improvement was to replace all the pivots in my original design, which were simply composed of screws passing through holes in plastic, with proper miniature ball bearings. This has had a huge benefit – there is now very little play in the movement of the …

The funny thing about thermoplastic…

… is that it melts when it gets hot. “Well, duh!”, as my daughters would say. PLA, the thermoplastic used in most 3D printers, is a very practical material. It’s light, strong enough for most purposes, and melts at a reasonable temperature. Which is why I’ve used it for many of the parts in my printer. Most of these parts have no chance of getting hot, so the fact that PLA softens as it heats up …


Generally regarded as a Good Thing in an Englishman, eccentricity is rarely desirable in pulleys. The drive mechanism of my printer uses six pulleys, all of which have themselves been printed. In my ongoing pursuit of accuracy, I have discovered that some of these pulleys are not entirely circular, nor are they mounted entirely concentrically on the motor spindles (though exactly what ‘concentric’ …

Concerning calibration

Or, Why You Should Always Listen To People Who Know More Than You. There are many 3D printer designs out there. I took ideas from some of them, and designed my own. I’ve built it, and it kind of works. My prints are dogged by a number of problems. Principle amongst these has been a distinct slant to all the printed items (and by ‘distinct’, what I really mean is ‘45 degrees’).

Solid printing at last!

The hot end is assembled and fitted. The filament drive extruder is assembled and fitted. Even the LCD panel is fitted and (mostly) working. this means that I can now print solid plastic parts. In theory. In practice, there are teething troubles. Levelling the bed. Layers of plastic must be deposited at thicknesses of less than 0.35mm. If the print bed is not level with respect to the print head …

Some like it hot

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve got the printer to a point where I can send it G-Code commands in the reasonable expectation of it carrying them out. At the moment, the print head only has a pen mounted in it, so I can check its positioning, but it will draw things on a piece of paper. There’s a rather poor quality video of it doing a calibration test print (or should that be a test plot?

Pink plastic printer parts printed

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Last weekend, the ever-generous Rob very kindly printed out a whole batch of parts for my 3D printer: With the ones he’s already done for me (and a few bearings, nuts and bolts and bit of carbon fibre rod) these comprise enough to build the printer completely, apart from the ‘hot end’. So that’s what I’ve done over the last few days. Although the parts were printed to quite high accuracy, with …

It’s Alive!

Yesterday, Rob very kindly printed a few more components for my 3D printer: a stepper motor mounting bracket, the top end idler pulley bracket, an idler pulley and a drive pulley. The drive and idler pulleys are version 2 components. I had to modify them to allow for a phenomenon I’m choosing to call squeezage. This is the behaviour of molten plastic which causes it to extrude slightly sideways …

Scary maths

Or how to convert from x,y,z coordinates to delta robot position With a simple cartesian robot (or printer), the mechanism moves directly along rails in each of the x, y and z directions. If you want to move a print head from the origin to, say, (10,10,20) you simply direct the motors to move it 10mm along the x axis rail, 10 along the y axis rail and 20 along the z.

Motorized mayhem

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Caution! Hyperbole warning! All right, so there is no mayhem involved. But there are motors. Stepper motors, to be exact. Four of them. Over the weekend I built my RAMPS module (Aah, solder fumes!) and I am pleased to crow about the fact that it worked first time. In case you don’t know, this is an arduino shield which integrates the majority of the external components required for a 3d printer.

Something for the weekend, Sir?

I love the smell of solder fumes in the morning. Raw materials for my 3D printer keep arriving. It’s not surprising, as I keep ordering them, but it is fun. I’ve now received the aluminium extrusions I’m going to use for the vertical posts in my design. I ordered them from a place in Surrey, and was a amused to watch their delivery progress on the UPS website. Amused, because they started their …

Printer Claus has come to town!

As you know (because you follow my blog very closely), I’m building my own 3D printer. Today I received a box of stepper motors, an Arduino Mega 2560 board and a RAMPS controller board kit. These are the major items that I had to buy (rather than getting Rob to print for me). Having spent actual money, I’m now really committed to building the printer. Any day now I should receive the aluminium …

Creating a new world

One layer at a time 3D printing is not particularly new. It’s not quite commonplace yet, but in the last couple of years it has become sufficiently cheap that even a tightwad like me can consider it. I could buy a printer or a kit, but that would be too easy. Instead, I’m working on my own design for a printer similar to the marvellous Rostock printer. While most 3D printers are based on a …