By Christopher Addy
Make your own home printing dreams come true with a printer kit.
I’ve been very fortunate to work at place where I have access to 3D printers. In fact, it’s the probably the only reason I even got into 3D printing. We’ve had a handful of different models in-house, ranging from a Uprint SE Plus to a Fusion F306 Dual Extruder and multiple iterations of Makerbots. I have long wanted a 3D printer at home, but they were cost-prohibitive. However, the market has had time to mature, and costs have steadily dropped, making printers more affordable. So, I took the plunge.
For just under $200 shipped, I received my printer, an Anet A8. It has a single extruder and a 220x220x240mm heated build area. One of the biggest reasons I chose this printer in particular is because there is a large community behind it. With almost 14,000 members in the Facebook group, there is no lack of support and ideas for this machine. The best part, for me? It’s a DIY kit, all assembly required!
It took me two evenings to put together. The first night was spent unboxing the printer, verifying all the parts, and putting the frame together. The included instructions came on an SD card, and there are a few build videos on the internet I found to follow along with. The instructions are clear and straight-forward, and in combination with the videos, assembly is a breeze. Although, I must admit, it was rather time-consuming. After plugging away at it for a few hours that first evening, I got as far as assembling the frame, mounting the Y-axis motor, and installing the build plate before calling it a night.
I couldn’t wait to get back at it the next day, so I hurried home after work and continued the assembly, much to my girlfriend’s disappointment. (In my defense, I did apologize in advance for any transgressions that may have arisen due to my new obsession.) I mounted the Z-axis rods and motors, then the X-axis rods and motor.
Finally, there was the electrical wiring. Oh, all the wiring! Everything is clearly labeled, but by the time I got everything hooked up to the main board, it was quite the spaghetti mess. Thankfully, there is plenty of cable wrap included to keep everything nice and tidy.
I must admit, even though I consider myself to be a handy, DIY Maker-of-Things, I was a little nervous about doing the electrical bit of the build. Nevertheless, I carried on, made it to the end of the instructions, and built myself a printer!
I took a step back and admired my newest creation, feeling very satisfied. Then came the moment of truth. After checking—and then double-checking—my electrical work, I plugged it in. The LCD screen lit up and she gently hummed to life. I smiled quite big, exclaimed my triumph, and was really grateful I didn’t start a fire.
Of course, the first thing I wanted to do was print something, but there was some calibration and bed leveling that needed to be done. After that, I ran the sample test box model that was included on the SD card of the printer.
Not too shabby for a just-assembled printer using the default settings. I didn’t order a roll of filament when I ordered the printer, and I quickly ran through the 10 meters of filament that came with it. So unfortunately, I had to stop for the evening (good thing too, as my obsession was keeping me up late).
And so, after two late nights of assembly, I had put together my very own 3D printer! There are, of course, many things to tweak and adjust. But the best part about building your own printer from a kit is you know every screw, wire, motor, rod and belt, becoming intimately knowledgeable with all mechanical aspects of the machine. This makes it easier for you to identify potential issues, troubleshoot effectively, and find solutions.
I’ve had the printer for about two weeks now and am very pleased with it. If you are considering getting a 3D printer, a DIY kit like this might be the route for you. It’s the perfect step into the 3D printing world, and putting it together is a fun build project—well worth the learning experience! The cool part is that you can print things to improve your printer and its print quality, but we’ll save that for next time. Happy printing everyone!
This article originally appeared in The Blast. Get more 3D printing and product design news and ideas delivered to your inbox by signing up today!