Can You 3D Print a 3D Printer? How To Actually Do It
Being able to 3D print a printer is a running joke in this field but is it actually possible? This article is going to help answer this question, plus the extras that you’ll want to know.
It’s not entirely possible to 3D print a 3D printer because there are many electronics and specialized parts that can’t be made with a 3D printer, but most of it can definitely be 3D printed.
Many 3D printing projects focus on printing most of the 3D printer before adding on other parts to complete it.
Learning to self-replicate machines such as this carries the potential to change the world’s way of functioning. It can unlock so many doors throughout different sectors, not to mention the self-exploration and design freedom it offers.
This article will detail how exactly people 3D print a printer.
Can a 3D Printer Print Another 3D Printer?
Making a 3D printer with a 3D printer may at first sound incredibly fascinating and unfathomable. But it’s not entirely impossible. Yes, you can 3D print a 3D printer from scratch.
However, you have to 3D print each part of the 3D printer individually and then put them together yourself. Nevertheless, not all segments of a 3D printer can be 3D printed.
There are a few components like electronics and metal parts to add while assembling the 3D printer.
The earliest efforts to 3D print a 3D printer were made about fifteen years ago by Dr. Adrian Bowyer. Working as a senior lecturer at the University of Bath in England, he began his research in 2005.
His project was known as the RepRap Project (RepRap, short for replicating rapid prototyper). After a long series of trials, errors, and everything in between, he came up with his first functional machine – the RepRap ‘Darwin’.
This 3D printer had 50% self-replicated parts and was released in 2008.
You can watch the time-lapse video of Dr. Adrian Bowyer assembling the RepRap Darwin below.
After the release of the 3D printer Darwin, several other improved variations came up. There now exist more than a hundred of them. In this technologically advanced age, it is possible to make a 3D printer with a 3D printer.
Besides, the idea of building your 3D printer from scratch sounds pretty exciting, right? It is an exciting opportunity to learn and understand the nuances of 3D printing. You will not only gain knowledge but also unravel the mystery that surrounds 3D printing.
3D printing a 3D printer gives you the freedom to customize it in whichever way you like. There is no other technology that allows you to do that, giving you all the more reason to go ahead and try it.
Who knows, you might even have a knack for it!
How to 3D Print a 3D Printer?
Since we now know that you can, in fact, 3D print a 3D printer. The next step is to learn how to do it. Brace yourselves, for we bring you a comprehensive yet easy-to-follow guide to print a 3D printer.
In this article, we will discuss the Mulbot 3D Printer, where you can see the instructions by clicking the link.
If you want some history and in-depth info about the Mulbot, check out the Mulbot RepRap page.
The Mulbot is an open-source Mostly Printed 3D printer, featuring a 3D printed frame, bearing blocks, and drive systems.
The main motive behind this project is to take the RepRap concept to the next level and 3D print components other than just the frame. As a consequence of this, no purchased bearings or drive systems are included in this printer.
The Mulbot 3D printer uses square rail type housings to print linear bearings. As the bearings and rails are 3D printed, they are integrated into the framework itself. All three drive systems of the Mulbot are 3D printed as well.
The X-axis utilizes a 3D printed double-wide TPU timing belt coupled with printed drive and idle pulleys, driving the hot-end carriage. The Y-axis is driven by a 3D printed gear rack and pinion.
Lastly, the Z-axis is driven by two large 3D printed trapezoidal screws and nuts.
The Mulbot 3D printer uses the Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) technology and can be built for under $300.
Below are instructions that will help you get started.
– Print size – 175mm x 200mm x 150mm (dual fan shroud)
145mm x 200mm x 150mm (surround shroud)
– Print volume – 250mm x 210mm x 210mm
The original Mulbot was printed on an original Prusa MK3.
8-1 ½ inches Square Floating Glass Bed
The Prusa MK3 stock cast aluminum bed with PEI flex plate was used as the print surface while making the Mulbot 3D printer. However, a glass bed is preferred.
All components of the Mulbot are designed to be made out of PLA except for the belt and the mounting feet. Those are supposed to be printed out of TPU. The brand Solutech is recommended for the PLA printed parts and Sainsmart for the TPU printed parts.
PLA is best suited as it’s highly stable and does not warp or shrink. Likewise, TPU has outstanding interlayer adhesion and does not curl during the printing process.
You’ll be glad to know that it takes less than 2kg of filament to make the Mulbot 3D printer.
It is very important for you to start by printing the bearings and rails first. This way, if the bearings don’t work, you will save yourselves the trouble of printing the rest of the printer.
You should start by printing the X-axis bearing as it is the smallest and requires minimum amount of filament to print. Make sure that the bearings are exact or else the balls will not circulate accurately.
Once you’re done with the bearings, you can proceed to build the rest of the printer.
You require the following non-printed parts to make the Mulbot 3D Printer –
- SeeMeCNC EZR Extruder
- E3D V6 Lite Hotend
- Ramps 1.4 Mega Controller
- Capricorn XC 1.75 Bowden Tubing
- 5630 LED Strip Lights
- 150W 12V Power Supply
- IEC320 Inlet Plug with Switch
- Blower Fan
Find the full list of items on the Mulbot Thingiverse Page.
You can refer to this video on YouTube to get a better understanding of printing the Mulbot 3D printer.
Best Self-Replicating 3D Printers
The Snappy 3D printer and Dollo 3D printer are two of the most popular self-replicating printers in the 3D printing industry. The main goal behind the RepRap Project is to develop a fully functional self-replicating 3D printer. These two 3D printers have taken remarkable steps toward that goal.
Snappy 3D Printer
The Snappy 3D Printer by RevarBat is an open-source RepRap 3D printer. The technology used in the making of this self-replicated 3D printer is the Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) technology, sometimes called Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology.
Snappy holds a reputed place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most 3D printed 3D printer in the world.
As the name suggests, the Snappy 3D printer is made up of parts that snap together, eliminating the use of non-3D printed parts to a large extent. After printing the individual components of the 3D printer, it will hardly take you a couple of hours to assemble them.
The Snappy 3D printer is 73% 3D printable except for motors, electronics, glass build plate, and a bearing. The few necessary non-printable parts are readily available at various supply stores.
What’s even more fascinating is that the entire build cost of the Snappy 3D printer is under $300, making it one of the cheapest and best self-replicating 3D printers in the 3D printing industry.
Dollo 3D Printer
The Dollo 3D printer is an open-source 3D printer designed by a father-son duo – Ben and Benjamin Engel.
It is the result of what essentially started off as a project. Ben and Benjamin have been active members of the RepRap community for many years.
After printing several open-source printers, they gathered that self-replicating ability could be increased by substituting metal rods with printed parts.
Dollo follows the spacious cube design; its sides are constructed in a way that enables you to scale the size of the printing by adding or removing the blocks from the sides.
With numerous 3D printable parts, common exceptions, and ease of assembling with no additional support, the Dollo 3D printer comes close to the Snappy 3D printer.
It is quite interesting to note that Dollo does not have belts in its construction, thereby preventing inaccuracies caused due to lashing. This feature helps you produce objects with neatness and precision.
It also has a feature that allows you to replace the print head with an optional tool converting your 3D printer into a laser-cutter or computer-controlled milling machine. This is versatility at its best.
There aren’t too many showcases of the Dollo 3D printer, so I would be more geared towards going with either the Mulbot or the Snappy 3D printers.