I'm thinking about buliding my own 3D printer from scratch.
Is it better to buy a starter DIY kit and try to build your printer around it, or to order separate parts for printer, and then to combine a printer?
Three great answers have already been posted, and it has been extremely interesting to read them. I shall try not to repeated what has already been said.
I have sourced the parts separately for three different printers:
- P3Steel (the frame was a kit, mind: Orientation of long thin rod on P3Steel v4)
- Wilson II
- Kossel XL and Mini
I have been coding Arduinos and Pis and building robots and quadcopters for a few years now. Then, in November 2016, because I needed a prop guard for a ZMR250 quadcopter that I found hard to obtain, but easy to print, I started reading about 3D printers (mostly RepRap wiki, and then individual blogs of straight forward builds, as well as design modifications, of Prusa, P3Steel, Wilson and Delta/Kossel printers), watching countless construction videos and asking questions here on SE 3D Printers, and reading other's questions and answers, as well as going through eBay for hours at a time, looking up parts and making numerous Bill Of Materials (BOMs) and blogging the information that I gleaned. So this gave me a good grounding and starting point for when I did get around to ordering. In fact, the process is still on going...
After ordering the parts, in December, piecemeal, I then had to wait for a month for the parts to arrive from China, during which time I read some more, and revised what I had already learned.
I then, finally, got to work on the P3Steel, in January, but two and a half weeks later, before I had finished it, I had to move to BKK for an extended period.
I suffered delays with the P3Steel build due to postal latency, obviously, but also, some partial kits where missing critical parts (see Is the 8mm x 20mm bearing axle for the X-axis idler (of a P3Steel) a custom part?), so I had to get them machined in Thailand (because it only costs around $3 to get something machined here). Hopefully, when I get back to the UK, I should have everything to hand and be able to finish the build in a few weeks maximum
Once in Bangkok, I started sourcing parts for a Wilson II, and then, subsequently, a Kossel, mostly because the aluminium and steel rods are a quarter, to a half, the price that they are in Europe. Also, I had to go through the ordering process again, getting parts from China for these two printers - however, the parts from China only take two weeks to arrive to Thailand, not a month or so, for the UK. The Wilson II parts I plan to take back to the UK, in order to complete the build there, hopefully printing the plastic parts on the P3Steel, when/if the P3Steel is completed.
Note, that seven, or eight months, down the line from when I first took an interest in 3D printing, I still haven't completed a single printer, yet. However, I sure as hell have learnt a lot. Note: most of the delay is due to the six month relocation away from my printer build in the UK.
Also, due to my reading of the modification blogs for the Wilson and Kossel, I have recently been re-purchasing upgrades, before I have even fitted a bolt together, for the Kossel and Wilson, let alone completed either of the base builds. For example, I have just purchased Chinese aluminium vertices, rather than the plastic PLA prints that I got from Sintron. So I have ended up with a fair collection of spare (redundant?) parts, but again, it has helped me gain a great insight as to what works well, and what does not.
To reiterate that which TestGeek has said, one major tip I would have is (and I read this on a forum when I was first getting into 3D printer building), if you are sourcing the parts separately, is to buy bulk (get packs of 10 pcs, 50 pcs, 100 pcs), and buy more than you require: nuts, bolts, bearings, GT2 belt, GT2 pulleys. The price comes down phenomenally, and you can resell the spares, locally, for about as much as you paid for the whole lot, online, thereby covering, or almost covering, the cost of the printer. Plus, spares come in handy for further builds down the road. Don't buy anything from the US (unless you are already in the US, I guess) - the import/postage fees are outrageous.
In the same way as you learn more from building a kit as opposed to buying a pre-built printer, you will learn more sourcing the parts separately, but it might cost more, in redundant parts. Also:
- Research extensively first
- Buy bulk
- Be prepared for delays, be patient
- Be prepared for an iterative design