Ever since I discovered what it was, I needed to get into 3d printing. I picked up Google Sketch Up in middle school and tried to sketch some projects of mine. I got the basic idea across, but it took me hours, and looked like crap. In high school I was exposed to Autodesk’s Inventor software and I went Bananas. When I found out that I could get a copy of it for free through the school (Here,

https://www.autodesk.com/education/free-software/all

If you want to read up about to do this yourself) I was ecstatic, and dreamed of the day I could buy a machine capable of running such programs. As luck would have it, my family’s ritual was to buy the High School Graduate a laptop of their choosing. I told my elder brother (the most tech savvy of us) my requirements for a system, and he hooked me up with a Dell Inspiron 7500 series. I took the first week and got used to the vanilla Windows 8 experience, downloading the few lightweight programs I knew would be on there for life, Steam, Chrome, VLC, etc. and really enjoyed it. I played hipster for the month of June and then got serious. I installed Inventor and immediately went to town digitizing all of the sketches I couldn’t get down on paper. After a while I discovered what tolerances were, and in time I continued to grow. High school had a 3d printer that (at the time) my instructor kept a long waiting list on. Transitioning to community college I dove headfirst into the CAD program, where I discovered a very old (relatively speaking) 3d printer hiding in the corner. I started talking to the instructor, and got it to print a couple of times, with mixed results. The software was difficult for me to use and at the time I was unaware that most 3d printers can use a wide variety of available interfacing software. I abandoned the project after months of different attempts and fiddling around, the killer was talk of buying multiple smaller ones, with the intention of having the technology more available to the student body.

I started hunting, and doing more research, really learning what the differences were between printers. A mix between manufacturers’ websites, YouTube reviews, and blog posts, I narrowed my selection. The internet was in consensus that I needed a kit as my first printer, and the general idea was that the square bodied “Prusa” style was easier to troubleshoot, while “Delta” style printers utilized fewer parts, but tended to have lengthier initial set-up times. I’ve found an inexpensive, really well fleshed out prusa kit online, and am saving up for that, but for now, I’ve discovered a DIY kit that utilizes old CD drives, and an Arduino. It’s described as a form of CNC sketch-artist, but I figure if I play my cards right I can make it strong enough to hold a nozzle. About a week after I gathered most of the parts for that, I was driving between stores at work and noticed a whole ton of aluminum channel shoved in the corner of one of the stores. I discovered they had been display cabinets that had since been removed. As luck would have it, they were destined for the can. I went after hours and disassembled them and hauled the pieces home. The longest lengths stand at 5’-8” (172.72cm) and have identically manufactured connecting rails as the smaller frames. This lends an almost LEGO level of construction simplicity. I need to make a set of connectors for the top and bottom rails and I will be able to have a base frame ready to go. I’m hoping to cast these under a column of aluminum in order to fill out the mold and keep them mostly dimensionally accurate. They’ll be cast in two separate pours in order to maximize gravitational pressures. I may cast them with extra “arms” to play around with a design I’m working through in my head.

Regardless, I’ve done the math for the space I’ve dedicated to it, and I can only afford to build one with a 30” (762mm) round print bed. So I need to locate a section of thick glass in order to build this. I also have to do some research on the type of glass the industry uses for heated print beds already. Borosilicate glass tends to come up the most often, but that’s a little out of budget for me at that dimension. Maybe SeeMeCNC will have some info I can glean from their PartDaddy…

Either way. Anchoring the uprights will be a simple task. I’ll make some shiny castings and clean them up with the plethora of tooling available to me. Next I’m going to work on the extruder setup. Let’s do some math…

I’d like to get a 3-3.175mm print bead for this thing, so I figure I need an 8-10mm filament, which shouldn’t be that difficult. If you’ve never heard of Precious Plastic, or anything by Dave Hakkens, go check his() work out. He’s a design student out of the Netherlands, and developed a line of DIY plastic recycling machines that you could build at your house, should you want to. I’m currently in the process of building variants of the shredder and extrusion, so I figure I can set those up within reasonable proximity to the printer and “make filament as needed” I figure I’ll use the basket-coiling method they use for the steel and copper wire industry, () this way, I can feed material through the top, and pull it from the bottom creating a nice buffer area, that allows me to extrude material even when the printer is off, or if the extrusion machine needs a faster speed then the 3D printer.

Eventually, I’d like to power an air compressor and add laser sintering to the mix, Aluminum would be the starting point, I think.

06-19-2016 UPDATE: I’ve figured out that I’ll get a taller build volume than originally thought, because I don’t need to keep the computer and controls under the printer. So what I’m going to do is snake the cables together and run them around/through the machine where applicable, then plug them into the back of an old desktop I have lying around. I’ll probably see if I can’t make the printer recognized by a VGA port or something, just for ease of interfacing. Either way, I still need drivers, amplifiers, servos, about two days’ worth of castings, a lot of legwork, and some form of power circuit. I’d love to make this entire setup run off of solar power, but I doubt my small selection of panels would make the cut, even in full sunlight.

I’ve reached out to Steve over at SeeMeCNC to find out if he can lend some building tips on this monster. They used some build plate and covered it with paper, which is curious to me, but we’ll see what he says. He also used weights on his carriages, and that seems so counter intuitive to me. I’m assuming it helps with the smoothness & control of the printer head, but I’m honestly lost on it.

I think I’ve got a handle on the nozzle plate. I’m going to use a NEMA-17 stepper I have lying around with a couple of bearings to get the retraction on the nozzle en-pointe. For control’s sake, I’m going to see how the filament runs through a LDPE tube. I figure a 3/8” ID should hold my 9.5mm filament fine. Attaching that to the nozzle plate is going to be interesting. I just need to go to the hardware store to do some sleuthing. 

09-12-2017 UPDATE: I've figured out my "manufacturing" extruder setup, 1/2" NPT (imperial) black pipe, Old auger bit I bought in a toolbox from a garage sale. 1/2" Threaded electrical conduit coupling, A Gas line Adapter, a 1/8" brass pipe nipple, and a chunk of angle iron. Because I can, I've made a model of the "ideal" setup. 

 

Also, on an unrelated note. I purchased a 3D printer... It's a desktop model, Prusa i3 style. Here's the link to what i bought. I needed some custom clamp jaws, and this was right price right time, so I caved and bought one. I'm still going to build the big guy, and this will let me do that better. i can make hubs that are actually 120 Degrees apart. My handyman skills aren't there yet. I'd like to make these out of aluminum, so I think I'll still try to make them by hand. but for starters and proof of concept I'll print them. 

Next thing on the agenda is Heating the extruder. I have a ton of fiberglass cloth and a few dozen feet of nichrome wire (cumulatively) harvested from various things, Hair dryers, Soldering irons, an electric defroster. So i think i'm going to purchase some high temp thermistors and have an Arduino-based control for the system, as I pretty much have everything lying around, or connected to old circuit boards. I'll probably wrap the tube and a thermistor in a fiberglass sock, then wrap the wire around that, then wrap another section of fiberglass around that, and probably just tie it together with some baling wire. I haven't modeled this portion.