How to assemble 3D printer kit

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There are many 3D printer kits in the market today and they become quite mature, robust and affordable.  The 3D printers manufactured in China presents good kits that can compete with commercial assembled 3D printers.

For a newbie it might present a big challenge. Reading this article will save you tons of time and frustrations.

So, you saw a cheap 3D printer kit from china and you consider buying and assemble it? – You are a brave person!

Assembling such a kit requires some knowledge and ex perience with mechanics, electronics, electricity and plastic materials. Don’t worry – you will get all this knowledge soon. J

The best advice I can give you – find someone who have done this before and do the assembling in his supervision. I assembled my 3D printer in a small 3D printer lab located in my town. This can save you weeks of delays and many frustrations. They also have supplement tools and materials you can use.

Murphy’s Law

Murphy’s Law seems to work overtime during the assembling process. The manufacturers did not learn yet how to create parts that cannot be hooked in the opposite direction. This means that you will assemble several parts in the wrong position and will have to disassemble the part and assemble it again. It is advised to find wrong assembling as soon as possible. The best way to find it soon is to look at the pictures. The assembling instructions come with pictures that show you how the assembled part and the whole printer should look like. After every step look at the picture and check that is does not looks owed compare to the picture. If it does, figure out what was wrong, disassemble the part and assemble it again.

Preparing for assemble

You need to have clean and tidy place for doing the assembling. Nuts and bolts has tendency to jump of the table frequently and if the floor is not clean you might not find them. Brace yourself to crawling on the floor to locate Nuts that have jumped.

You should have large enough desk to house the printer, intermediate parts you are assembling, lamp and tools. Do arrange the table from time to time and keep it tidy. Every time you finish working on the 3D printer arrange everything and cover the printer so no parts will be lost.

Find the assembling instructions that come with the printer. The instructions in my printer came in the SD card. You can print it or use it of your computer screen. Don’t use small screens like tablets as you might miss some details.

Assembling

Follow the instruction of the printer manufacturer. Look at the pictures from time to time to check for any anomaly.

Some parts are connected using nut and bolt. The nut is placed in the middle of plastic part and keeping it in place when screwing the bolt might be tricky. I recommend using duck tape to hold the bolt in place during this process. Look at the instruction: Does it indicate that a washer should be used? Follow the instructions. You are not building an airplane, so several nuts bolts and washers left out are not that critical. However they might impact the printer operation and printer quality. When you finish the assembling process, you might have small amount of nut/bolts left. If there are too many it might indicate that they should be placed somewhere in the printer and you should find out where and fix it.

Bigger parts left off – this is a big indication that you assembled the printer wrongly and need to check everything again.

Assembling the conveyor belts

The conveyor belts should be stretch when connecting it. Not like a guitar wire, but still. Loose belts will results in small fragments in the prints you generate.

The X belt might be stretched in the following way:
the lower printer floor is fastened by using two screw rods and two nuts on its end. Before securing the lower printer floor connect the belt and secure it. Now using the nuts enlarge the bottom floor a little and secure it. This will fasten the bolt to the desired tense.

The Y belt can be fastened by the belt with a pliers and then securing it. This operation might need two people. I have heard on using clothes peg metal spring. Put it on one side of the Y belt. The spring will tight the belt. Make sure that the spring does not bump into things during the operation.

Connecting the electrical components and wiring

Follow the instruction to connect the power supply and the controller card in place. Connect the electricity wires according to the instruction. Wrong connection might be terminal for the printer. Double check everything.

The wires are moving along with the bed and the extruder tray. Move the bed and the extruder height and verify that the wires are loose enough and will not tear when the printer work. After you very it, cover the wires with encapsulation tube supplied so they are housed properly inside a tube. Check again that the electrical wires move freely as the printer bed and extruder height are moving.

Use rubber band to connect the electricity wires to the printer frame, so the will not be cut by moving part.

Make sure that the wall electricity wire contain ground wire and connect it. It is advised to have power on/off switch connected to the electricity wire. This will save you the need to jump to the wall and plug out the electricity in case of an emergency.

Lubricate the metal rails and rods of your printer. I used Vaseline which is clean and white for that.

 

After assembling

Congratulation! You have the printer assembled and ready for its first use. Not many screws are left and everything looks just like in the picture.

So, it’s time to operate this thing.

Connect the power cord to the wall outlet. Be ready to pull the power cord from the wall when you hear strange noises from the printer. Using the control panel select “Auto home” instruction so that the printer calibrates its home location. The bed might get to its end if the horizontal position sensor is not operate as expected resulting in loud Brrrrrrr noise coming out of the motor. The vertical sensor might not work properly and the extruder might bump into the bed. In such a case unplug the electricity and debug the problem.

After successful home positioning you can attempt to do your first print. My printer came with a sample print to show off (and brag) its printing capability. This print was really impressive. I recommend printing a sample print that show off the printer weaknesses – The “Benchy” boat.

Software that can be used

Operating 3D printer requires some software tools to design compile and transmit the designs to the printer.

I am using the following software:

  1. Tinkercad. This is a great intuitive tool allowing you to design and change 3D objects easily. It is “cloud” based which means you use the tool inside your web browser with no software download.
  2. Repetier-Host. This is a good GUI front end for compiling and printing. It contains two compilers (“slicers”) and another one can be downloaded from the internet at installation time. I use “Cura engine” in it for complications.
  3. Repetier-Server. This is a server that allows you to control the printer and print on it from remote locations. I installed in a Raspberry Pi machine and it operates and works like a charm.
  4. Netfubb basic. This is comprehensive software. It is used primarily by me to fix slicing errors.

 

 

Modding

After assembling the printer you might want to enhance it in several ways. I recommend on:

Shock absorbers for the motors

This enhancement smooth the motor shocks during operation reducing its noise level considerably.

Some finish touch

3D printer kits today are very basic and missing some fine tune touch. You can find many parts on the thingaverse to put some glam to your printer.

 

For detailed assembling instruction you can see this instructable.

 

Enjoy your 3D printer!

 

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