Self Recursive 3d Printing and Scratching Your Own Itches.

Posted by ezmobius Sun, 23 Oct 2011 08:10:00 GMT

Self Recursive 3d Printing and Scratching Your Own Itches. This past summer I built a Makerbot Thingomatic 3d printer kit. It took about 5 weeks to get the kit after I ordered it and it took me a 22 hour straight session to assemble and get it printing reasonably well. Since then I have been fine tuning it to get better prints and re-learning 3d modeling and CAD software I used to use when I wanted to go into computer animation in the mid 90's ;)

If you just want to skip to the photo gallery here it is or you can read on to get the full story.

But I've had this annoying thing going one where the spools of 1.7mm ABS plastic that gets fed into the hot end "extruder" of this printer was jimmy rigged on the side of my makerbot with a makeshift sspool holder and it would jam up and was not reliable enough to print things without staying in my lab and babysitting it until it was finished. Some complex prints can take up to 4 hours to complete and even more so this gets old as you can imagine.

I've just put up with this because I have been working on my 3d design skills in my spare time nights and weekends and have printed a number of things have mostly spent the majority of the time relearning how to model objects. Designing an object takes way longer then printing it unless it is very simple! But babysitting my makerbot was getting really old and I have some new designs I want to start printing at night so I need my machine to be reliable enough to not need me there watching it.

Luckily makerbots are kissing cousins of RepRap 3d printers which are the cool idea that started much of this craze where the RepRap can print copies of itself(not including electronics and metal parts... yet). Think abvout that for a moment... self recursive machines. This means once you have one 3d printer you can use it to bootstrap yourself into a larger or different style 3d printer to scratch your own itch. Or you can rewplace parts of the printer itself with parts that it printed for itself ;)

So I finally decided to print a spool holder that would work well enough to bve easy to change the plastic rolls, as well as foolproof so I no longer need to babysit the damn printer. I went to (awesome site where people share their objects they have created so you can print copies yourself), and searched around until I found a variant of the spool holder that I liked the most and that had good reviews etc.

It took me 3 hours to print this spool holder and while I was babysitting it (for the last fucking time!!) it got me thinking about how cool it is to have this machine in my home. I can now conjure up just about any physical object I can come up with on a computer, at any time, for very cheap. The ABS plastic is about $40/kilo and this part I printed weighs 22grams so it cost me only $0.88 for the material costs and probably $0.05 for the electricity(probably a lot less). Poit is for less then $1 my machine was able to upgrade itself so that it functions so much better now its like owning a new machine! I can now print whatever I want and just leave it there without worrying it would bind up and pull my house down a black hole while I was sleeping.

The quality of the object is awesome and it does its job perfectly. I've now printed 20 objects without touching the plastic roll or waiting around to watch it to make sure it didn't core dump.

So while I was waiting for the spindle holder to print(finished it at 4am) I started reading more on the reprap wiki about just how hard it would be to use my Makerbot, which has a 5"" cubic build area(approx), to bootstrap myself into a much larger prusa mendel reprap with a build area of 12"x12"x"10", almost a cubic foot. With a print area that large I can make some seriously cool things. Ånd the whole idea of using my first 3d printer to bootstrap myself into a larger printer blew my mind entirely.

So I have started ordering and collecting the needed electronics and metal rods/rails and hardware needed to combine with the printed plastic parts I will print myself to build a reprap.

I am going to bootstrap myself into a much larger, more hackable(cuz I built it all myself) printer and then I'm going to sell my makerbot(contact me if interested, not selling it til I complete my reprap so it will be about 1 month from now and I will probably sell the fully assembled makerbot for less then the makerbot kit itself(makerbot sells fully assembled bots for twice as much as the kit form or around $2500)).

Anyway, have a look at the photos of the print process and mounting this object went through to get an idea of how these things work. I used a 30% object infill so when you see the honeycomb pattern of the interior of the object that means this thing is smart enough to slice the 3d object up and make the outsiude solid but the inside honeycomb and only 30% as dense. This is plenty strong to do its job and prints a heck of a lot faster then a 100% infilled object.

Anyway I have decided to start blogging about my new hobbies/home hackerspace here. So stay tuned for more 3d printing, multi rotor RC helicopter UAV's, CNC machines and laser cutters as well as borosilicate glassblowing posts as these are the tools I currently have at home at my disposal.



  1. Josh said about 2 hours later:
    Rock on dude, im a ruby developer building a reprap prusa mendel. so was super happy when this post popped up in my rss reader. for your new printer, consider copying some of the ultimaker's hardware setup (the x/y axis in a cross formation) apparently its very stable and fast. also which CAD are you using? trying to find a good open source option...
  2. grantmichaels said 1 day later:
    You might check out Draftsight's CAD package, it's cross-plat and works just fine ...
  3. Lars Goldschlager said 1 day later:
    On the negative side: I hate you with a passion now Ezra :P I wish I could get my hands on a makerbot like that. I'll end up building my own CNC someday and trying to convert it into a 3d printer somehow. On the plus side: This is the future, slowly but surely I think this is a step thowards Diamon Age's technology, which will change the world, and make IP wars cruder. Btw from what I see of the base the screw holes are equidistant. Some advice my friend, rotate the instalation of the spool holder 90º right or left. From the way you've mounted it, the weight of the spools will bend the top tab over time so that it doesn't click the spool into place in time and the spool rolls off. If you rotate it 90º the pressure would be applied parallely to both tabs, instead of perpendicularily to only one. And the "dome" curve form of the tab should dissipate the weight without damage. Lars.
  4. said 7 days later:
    4 hours is way too long. The reprap is much faster. Large parts take less than an hour and that spool holder would take about 40 minutes for me. You are going to enjoy your reprap.
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