Build your own 3D Printer: Frames and Linear Motion!
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Build your own 3D Printer: Frames and Linear Motion!

August 24, 2019

Hey everyone, Tom here, and while i routinely
recommend just buying a printer kit if you want to build your 3D printer yourself, it
is still very possible to source all the parts yourself and end up with a better printer
for less cash, learn about what makes your printer work and truly make it your own by
adding some individual touches. But don’t get me wrong, if you’ve never built one,
it can be a very daunting task and leave you pulling your hair out as to why certain things
just don’t seem to work. And while i can’t help you with every single issue you might
encounter, i can try to guide you through the process, and hey, even if you don’t
end up building a printer from scratch, maybe you’ll learn a thing or two in the process
anyways. So in these first few videos, i want to cover
the basic set of parts you’ll need to build a printer and what you should keep in mind
when selecting them. Let’s get right into it and start out with the most influential
part of the printer, the frame. There are a few different options here, depending on
what kind of printer you want to end up with. First off, you’ve got the choice between
a regular cartesian machine like most printers or a Delta, basically the choice of a kinematic
platform of the entire printer. Deltas look incredibly cool and do have a few advantages
when it comes to tall machines, but in general, they are a pain to set up, they can be incredibly
wobbly if built incorrectly and have a few other artifacts in their prints that might
be pretty hard to diagnose and get rid of. So in general, unless you know exactly what
you’re getting into, just build a regular cartesian machine.
The most popular types for those printers are the i3- or Mendel90-style sheet frames,
which is what i’ll be using in the form of an iTopie i3, from Sébastien Mischler
aka skarab, thanks for sending that over, made from a relatively thick MDF sheet, more
on that in a second. This style of printer typically has a center sheet that supports
the Z-axis, again, X, Y, Z, when looking at the printer from the front, this is your X-axis,
this is your Y-axis and this is your Z-axis, when looking at movement of the nozzle relative
to the bed, and this is universally true for any CNC machine, if not, it is set up wrong.
So back to the frame, the X-axis will sit on top of the Z-axis with this kind of frame
and carry the extruder and hotend, unless it’s a bowden setup. More on that in the
next video. The y-axis will be the moving print bed, which isn’t optimal, since you’re
also lugging your printed part around and increase the drafts around the heated bed
should you choose to add one, but it’s good enough and works for normal-sized printers.
Now, the other type of frame are box frames, like used in something like the Herculien,
and I’d consider them mechanically superior, but not in so much that the i3 frames would
be completely unusable. These box frames are typically made from aluminum machine profiles,
like the ones from Misumi or Rexroth, and they are industry standard parts, so they
should be available wherever you intend to buy them. These printers typically rely more
heavily on printed parts than sheet-based ones, require more assembly, but offer fewer
possibilities for inaccuracies in the frame parts since the aluminum profiles are typically
cut precisely to length by the seller. You’re typically also going to need more fasteners
and especially the expensive T-nuts that allow you to attach things onto these profiles.
While there are some sheet frames like the Mendel90 that you can cut and drill yourself
with a jigsaw and a cordless drill, it’s probably smarter to get the frame ready to
use, and like this one, CNC routed or laser cut. There are plenty of sellers that offer
ready-to-go frame kits. If you do opt for a wooden one, which really isn’t a bad choice
especially if you get one that is thick enough or has these back braces that keep the wood
from warping, especially if you’re using plywood, it still a good idea to seal it with
Primer and a top coat of paint, and i mean, it also makes it look better than plain brown
MDF. The next thing that you’ll need are printed
parts, these are entirely dependent on the printer frame you’ve chosen. If you’ve
got as FabLab or Makerspace nearby, that might be a good start to printing them yourself
or having them printed – also, if you want to machine the frame yourself, that’s the
place to go as well. For the standard printers, like the original Prusa i3, you’re also
going to find plenty of cheap printed parts on ebay. Free market for the win! Definitely
get them printed from ABS, PLA parts will not stand up to the temperatures around your
3D printer, especially those around the hotend or heated bed.
The next thing you’ll need are linear guides, again, dependent on what type of printer you’re
building. The most popular one is still the combination of 8mm rods and LM8UU bearing,
they’re incredibly cheap, they work well and practically last forever if you’re using
the right rods, but they are not the stiffest type you could choose. Again, they’re good
enough, just remember to buy proper chrome-plated and hardened rods for them, you can get those
on ebay or Aliexpress. The more high-end option are linear rails like the MGN types from HiWin,
and since you can screw the rail to whatever surface you’re using along the entire length
of the rail, they’re going to be incredibly stiff, but they’re also way more expensive
overall, especially the carriages are much more expensive than LM8UU bearings.
So that should have you covered for building the printer frame. In the next videos, we’re
going to dive in and look at the parts you’ll need to add motion to the frame and make it
an actual 3D printer. Because, at this point, you could still absolutely turn it into a
laser cutter or a super-light-duty CNC router.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Will you be covering the CNC, and laser cutter options once you have done the printer bit? Go on, you know you want to! The laser will even give whiffs of smoke without it being the electronics going tit's up, which is how I usually make smoke indoors!!

  2. there is many i3 frames on the market, i've made mine 3d printer with "Steel MM Large" one from MoebyusMachines. It has many hi-end features and all the printed parts are open source on Github

  3. I am currently in the process of building an over sized Lulzbot. Printed all the plastic parts on my ORDbot, alum frame from Misumi and my linear rails I got from aliexpress. Mine is going to have a 350 x 350 print bed for now but has room for a 400×400. Originally I was going to make it the standard size but I type-oed on my Misumi order and instead of getting my frame in 500mm sections I got them in 600mm sections. OOPS, oh well roll with it and make it bigger!

  4. Wo bekommt man am besten hierzulande vernünftige Stangen her ? Hab eine der China Stangen von mir bereits mit einer lokalen eBay Stange ersetzt weil sie krumm war und ich sie nicht gerade bekommen hab.

  5. I have a hobbyking replicator (nobody should buy that) and I'm going to change the extruder. I have been thinking of buying the e3d v6. Is it a bad idea to buy those ebay fakes, or is the real deal worth it's price. If I can get 80% of the functionality I'd rather save the money.

  6. Wondering if you are going to make a series on how to build a CNC machine.
    I assume most of the concepts are the same.

  7. Good to see you starting this series. I just got the last of my parts in to build a dual extruder i3. Unfortunately, I decided to go with 8mm ACME thread after I purchased my plastic parts. Now I need to source x-axis parts that I can fasten the ACME nut to, or modify my existing parts.

  8. +Thomas Sanladerer Have you ever considered reviewing a MakerFarm i3v? I and many other owners of them swear by them. The owner, Colin is extremely supportive and helpful. Plus the printers themselves are extremely well engineered & thought out. The prices are great too. You can get a full 300x300x300mm, (12inch) build volume for $677. 🙂

    Would love to hear your thoughts on this!

  9. I diy'd myself a corexy monster.. 350x350x450 build volume, well thats the plan when I have lengthened the extruder and z-axis motor cables! Currently around 300x300x300 🙂

  10. Hey Thomas, I wonder what is the hot-end you used on Lulzbot mini? I am having some issue with the hexagon hot-end on my mini. And now considering swap it with some 1.75mm hot-end.

  11. I built a corexy printer last week, it was the first major building project I've done. It was a lot harder than I expected but I learned so much and the printer I built is awesome.

  12. This is a helpful video! I am designing a compact, foldable printer based on the reprap Prusa i3, parts on their way!

  13. Awseome video as always there Tom. Das good ya! With that said I agree the Delta is not the easiest thing to get correctly but when you do get it to work nicely. It is both art and extremely fast. 🙂 Love the work do!

  14. You should seal all open cut edges with a 50/50 mix of water/carpenters or white glue, let dry, then lightly sand. Paint won't soak in after that. Painting the frame with a roller was interesting.

  15. I disagree on the material point. I use PLA for all my parts on my printer and I haven't had any issues, even around the hotend. Of course, I didn't really have the option of printing ABS until recently anyway.

    FWIW, my printer is the Eustathios, which is what the Herculien was derived from. You should build one and review it!

  16. corexy is current state of the art

    and rods+linear bearings are old and tired. you have a solid frame, use it. stop wasting space and ride the rails!

  17. what perfect video timing , i just started a mostly scratch/scrap build . I'm going to try and use as much recycled and salvaged parts as i can . except the print head.
    Great videos man.

  18. I've nearly finished building my second RepRap since building my first in 2011, which has been tweaked beyond recognition and been a faithful printer which has always been using the same thermocouple.
    Still, nearly 6 years on, my financial status hasn't improved and the general requirement for a 3D printer mean't that my second printer is nearly finished, nearly 2 years worth

  19. Hi Thomas. I'm not sure if your going to read this but how do you feel about Solidoodle printers? They look good on paper but have you ever used one

  20. Thank You Thomas!
    I have been considering how best to enter the 3D printer arena. Your video series is exactly what I needed and where I plan to start. There are a couple of areas that would truly help a noob like myself the first being specifications. Additional detail the spec's would be appreciated. The other being sourcing If you can be as specific as possible with respect to where to order items I would appreciate the help. These two things came up when I tried to order the iTopie I3 but found no way to order it nor the thickness of the MDF used.
    Really looking forward to the series and getting the benifit of your experence on this area. It will really help me and others with the things you mentioned value, quality & understanding.
    Thanks, Steve

  21. I tried building one as my final year project for my diploma and yes, it was nerve wrecking and frustrating. in the end, my group and I got it running but the material did not stick on the print bed. we're gonna make future upgrades on it for educational purposes. by the way, your guide on marlin was awesome. helped a lot

  22. I have to say my delta frame is more rigid and stable compared to the original prusa i3 i had. Also i totally agree setting up a delta is a entirely different beast when setting up and configuring. Mine came with a IR sensor instead of an inductive one or the springloaded allen wrench with and endstop. I am learning more about gcode since the delta requires more knowledge than other style of printers, but i am excited and get frustrated at the smae time but i eventually get it and i leave with a sense of accomplishment.

  23. Hi Tom, wanna say that I really like your videos and reviews. Your descriptions of the Smoothie board actually drove me towards researching it. Now that I have one, I can do some pretty good printing, however, I really want to learn more about Volumetric Extrusion and there's so many different conflicting things I've found on how to implement it. I thought that since your starting these "how to build a printer" vids, you could cover the volumetric vs regular extrusion.

  24. I see you've built your delta because it's there in the background. Have you compiled enough build time yet to review deltas with the same depth of coverage as the Cartesian designs.  You have done so well with the component and system reviews of the Cartesian designs that I'm anxious to see what you've learned about deltas.  I find you to be a reliable and trusted source for 3d printing, and I've had my issues with my delta and I'm constantly looking for more insight.  Keep up the excellent work!

  25. This is a great topic Tom! My first printer was a QUBD TwoUp kit. I will reserve my less than favorable comments regarding that product. I will say, however, that it was enough to get me to the point where I could build a better printer using parts printed on that printer.

    I've been working over the past year to develop a printer that would make a decent kit for teaching students how to build a 3D printer. I designed a printer loosely based on the QUBD TwoUp called the A51Z ( It utilizes as many printed parts as possible for the frame and bed. After many iterations, this printer has proven to be quite a workhorse. From that I developed the A52Z ( and soon the A4 ( With the 1Z and 2Z I have produced kits for classes I teach here. Over the past several months, both printers have been running pretty much nonstop to build kits. I've printed close to 1000 parts in that time and the printers have performed way better than I expected.

    All the parts for the 1Z are available as STL and STEP files.

    I really like the DIY possibilities for 3D printers and it's great to see you promoting this topic. Looking forward to more!

  26. Nice idea for a video series. Looking forward for more videos.
    I'm currently trying to plan and source all the parts for a Wilson-Style RepRap (, basically similar to an i3-frame, but built with aluminium extrusions.

  27. You shouldn't use chrome plated rods, as their surface is too smooth. Also the thin chrome plating can be damaged by the ball bearings.
    Instead use hardened and precicision ground rods made of 1.1213 (CF53) Steel.

  28. Hey, i've been trying to make a 30$ 3d printer but i've had no success with the firmware, teacup in my case, do you have any suggestions on firmware that can fit in an arduino nano 328p ?
    I've had many problems, first the teacup firmware didn't start, after fixing that it didn't build, after fixing that it won't upload the build ! arrrrgh *pulls hair out* I'd love to bring my project to daylight and make an instructable on the world's first 30$ ( all parts plus some filament included in the cost of materials ) DIY ( slow, small but better than nothing ) 3d printer but the firmware is driving me nuts.

  29. nice video with good information! something funny I noticed, @ 2:20 you move the Y axis and because of that the fan started to move a bit from the energy created by the motor that you moved.

  30. Greetings, got a link to where i can buy that MDF Frame? i once bought a kit with an acrylic Frame that i want to switch to something more sturdy. and i am not to happy about whit i can find at ebay, at least not in Germany


  32. Any chance you'll be doing a video explaining the different pros and cons of various design approaches such as moving bed (Y axis/Mendel), vertically moving bed, fully stationary bed, etc.? I'm looking to rebuild my Mendel and might want to switch to a different motion setup if there are decent quality/rigidity improvements. Thanks man!

  33. Any chance you would be doing a "Tom Approved" diy 3D printer.
    I mean where we can follow your build live weekly?

    Maybe 10 to 15 episodes or so? That would be so awesome 🙂

  34. What's your opinion on building a 3d printer in the same configuration as a cnc mill, where the bed moves in the x and y and the nozzle moves in the z? Would that have any disadvantages as far as accuracy goes?

  35. Hello Thomas.Want to thank you for all the input videos and tutorials you have done.
    Phenominal! You are the man!

    I have developed some projects around the 3D world. First I started with hephestos (with excellent results) and then (as a base in this excellent video) I chose to build the itopie.
    In this way, I want to leave my testimony to this base i3, named itopie.

    Firstly, it is an excellent DIY machine, very solid and with few printed components, which makes it more accessible monetarily.
    Easy to manufacture / assemble and with a very simple and elegant final look.

    However not everything is perfect ……

    At the speed of printing, you get 80mm / s but the quality of the printing leaves a little to be desired. The ideal is 60mm / s in large parts and 40mm / s in medium-sized parts.

    The worst in this frame are the vibrations!
    Because it has a solid frame, all the vibrations coming from the motors go to the printed part.
    There is a lot of work to eliminate the vibrations, from sponges between the frame and the table, use of dampers in the axes, slowing the printing (the lower the speed the vibrations worsens!), Etc …I was able to eliminate the vibrations of the X and Z axes (using damper), but in Y I can not get rid of them!

    If you have any tips to lower this vibration of Y …
    Again, many thanks for all the vídeos!

  36. whag do you think of K8200? i am planing on making it from scrach…becouse kit is low q motors and controler is not the best and if i calculated corectly it will be cheaper tho the hustle of colecting parts….

  37. Did you see at 2:21, when you moved the bed on the lulzbot, the inductance actually spun the part cooling fan! that can't be good for the electronics.

  38. Thank you for the awesome channel.
    What about comparing frame and printer types in terms of the result, better prints

  39. Hello ,
    I want to ask you that Can we use the Nema 17 Stepper motor with less input AMPs and volts Does it make any difference in the working of the 3D printer and one more thing what type of material do we need for the Rods of 3D printer.

    Please do reply, I would be waiting for your answer

  40. Hey man, I'm a huge fan of your videos, thier informative, concise and interesting. I'm in the process of designing a high performance Cartesian printer for use in my drone company. I have a number of questions I believe you may have the answers to. please message me back if your interested. If you do I shall source all my parts exclusively from your links. Thanks , Will Lewington.

  41. hey Thomas great videos you put out, have learned about 3d printing from them, im about to make my own diy kit and was wondering what your opinion is of quality linear rods vs v slot

  42. If I build my custom 3D printer, let say 500mm x 500mm x 500mm, can I use for example Anet A8 main board to control my step motors, my custom extruder?  I can program my slicer Cura for larger bed, no problem.  But again, what about main board? Do I need to reprogram something in the board? If I go for larger step motors, can I still use the Anet A8 board to control them?

  43. seriously Thomas, Youtube "video" is for viewing and not for hearing. You can do podcast instead of videos! Most of your videos we "hear" a lot of talking from you than seeing actual doings.. please talk less and show more.

  44. Bleh… I keep getting bent rods and lead screws. It's such a pain finding metric parts in the US unfortunately, too. On the bright side, I'm almost done painting my 2020 aluminum extrusions.

  45. Delta printers are stupid. half or more of the printers height is unusable for working space as it's just due to mechanical limitations, and no added benefits.
    A regular cartesian printer is more compact and only needs ~15% of the height/width due to mechanical limitations.

  46. I used a thinned down ABS slurry to seal a wood project, it worked well for painting a plastic paint on.

  47. I did get a 3D printer kit but now I do want to make my own 3D printer from my Anet A8 I have. 🙂
    It is the first thing I thought about doing I just know it will take awhile to print one up. xD

  48. Well t-nut isnt that expensive. I think if you build your own printer you buy the most parts in china an in china 100 t-nuts cost around 2€

  49. You're saying right here "In the next videos we'll dive in and look at the parts you'll need to add motion to the frame and make it an actual 3D printer" – i have been waiting for it for 2 years now.

    I would like to see an in-depth discussion of different motion systems. Where different motion imprecisions could come from, for which systems the quality of which parts is more critical, the various engineering tradeoffs of the Mendel-style, vs. Ultimaker-style vs. XY cartesian with one moving motor and raising bed vs. Dual Wire Gantry vs. CoreXY, plus the discussion of why H-Bot failed.

  50. in the early day of home 3d printing, you need a 3d printer to make a 3d printer, with out a 3d printer it hard to build a 3d printer if you have not got a 3d printer

  51. i have a problem.. my printer starts printing in mid air. i think it's a problem with z-axis. can you please help me. please guid mme in some direction.?

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