Intro

3D printing technology is growing rapidly — it’s crawling out of its niche marketplace and showing off how useful and cool it can be. Hell, you can even buy a 3D printer at Maplin nowadays. To keep on the pulse, I felt it was time for aggressive expansion into this field: We needed our own printer to use in our labs. I wanted to learn exactly how a printer worked, so I built one myself instead of purchasing a pre-assembled model.

Is building a printer from a kit easy? No, but for me, that’s part of the fun. I didn't know what exactly I was getting into, but I knew I was more than a match for whatever a kit could throw at me – my over confidence was my weakness. Here are some of the trials and tribulations that come with building a 3D printer from the ground up.

Before tackling my first build – a RapMan 3.1 3D printer kit from BitsFromBytes—I peeked ahead to see what my final result should look like. When complete, the printer is cube-shaped. Steel rods make up the edges, and flat acrylic pieces clamp them together using dozens of screws.

Although the RapMan 3.1 has been discontinued for some time, the parts are up to date, and the printer is compatible with all current open-sourced software. Its instructions were long and somewhat vague at places, but that didn't discourage me: When I got stuck, I turned to online forums and IRC chats for tips.