3D printers have come a long way since the early open-source RepRap machines. Now, you can get pre-built printers available in all shapes and sizes and with different firmware. However, despite the options available, some users still prefer building and customizing their machines.
If you’re one of those, you can buy DIY kit printers like the Ender 3 that provide printer components with some assembly required. For additional customizability, you can also buy all the needed parts individually and build your own unique DIY 3D printer from the ground up.
In this article, I’ll show you how you can successfully build or assemble a 3D printer without any hassle. We’ll go through some assembly tips for popular kit printers, and I’ll also provide a guide on everything you need to build a DIY 3D printer from scratch.
Let’s dive in!
How to Assemble a Kit 3D Printer
Kit 3D printers are some of the most recommended options for DIYers, especially for beginners new to 3D printing. This is because they are relatively easy to build and put together.
All the parts you need for the printer come in a box; all you have to do is assemble them.
Another reason why they are so popular is their upgradability. Depending on your needs, you can easily buy or print new parts for your printer.
You can run more powerful hardware from the same original platform. Let’s look at some of the popular Kit 3D printer options:
- Ender 3
- Prusa MK3S+
- Voron 2.4
The Ender 3 is arguably the most popular kit 3D printer out there. If you’re looking to start with a DIY-ish 3D printer, this will be the first recommendation you’ll get from any 3D printing community.
It offers excellent value and performance for its price. On top of that, it is very reconfigurable, which means you can upgrade its components as you wish.
Over the years, Creality has added some new features to new iterations of the printer, but the basic platform remains roughly the same. Let’s look at how you can assemble it.
Check all The Printer Parts Before Assembly
- Unbox the printer and lay all its parts on a flat surface.
- Cross-check all the parts with the bill of materials and ensure everything is complete before assembling the printer.
Build the Printer Up From The Base
- When screwing the aluminum extrusions to the printer’s base, make sure they are perfectly perpendicular to the base to avoid binding issues later on.
- Also, make sure you tighten the nuts on the POM wheels properly. This will let the bed and the hotend carriage move smoothly without any hitches.,
Check the Voltage on The PSU
- Before running your printer, make sure you have the printer’s PSU set to your country’s voltage before using it.
- Depending on your country, you can set it to 220V or 110V.
- Also, before turning on the PSU, check all the wires to make sure they are correctly connected and in good condition to avoid electric shocks.
Upgrade your Printer
- One of the best things about the Ender 3 is its reconfigurability. You can easily swap out and change its parts for better performance.
- You can check out some of our recommended upgrades in our article on Best Ender 3 Upgrades – How to Upgrade Your Ender 3 The Right Way.
I recommend using this video from popular YouTuber Tomb of 3D Printed Horrors.
It goes through how you can assemble the printer correctly the first time around. This way, you have a smaller chance of encountering errors while printing.
The Prusa i3 MK3S+ is a kit printer on the premium end of the FDM printer price spectrum. However, it more than justifies this premium price as it consistently produces high-quality prints with little to no printer issues.
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You can order the machine in two ways; assembled and in a kit. The kit version is about $200 – $250 cheaper than the assembled version. However, you’ll have to put it together yourself.
The Mk3S+ has plenty of parts, so installation can be pretty long. However, many users praise its top-notch documentation and instructions, saying it makes the installation process easier.
Prusa also provides an online manual, which many users say is very helpful. It contains helpful comments from other users, high-definition installation images, etc.
Let’s go through some installation tips:
Make Sure You Have Your Own Tools On Hand
- Some users have complained about the quality of the tools that come with the Prusa MK3S+. To avoid this problem, make sure you have your own tools available.
- I recommend getting the Wera – Micro Screwdriver Set for the screws and the Wera 5.5mm Nut Driver for the 3mm nuts.
Organize Your Workspace Properly
- Each section of the printer comes in a different box. Make sure you are done assembling the content of one package before you move to another box.
Follow the Manual Carefully
- The manual that comes with the printer is quite detailed and easy to read. Ensure you follow it carefully to avoid running into errors.
- Even better, you can use the online manual. It is updated regularly and also has helpful comments from other users.
Be Careful With The Plastic Parts
- The plastic parts can crack during press-fit assembly. So, be careful when assembling them.
- Prusa also provides STL files of replacement parts that you can easily print to replace broken parts.
Cross-Check Your Electronic Connections Before Starting the Printer
- Make sure you double-check all the wiring before starting the printer. Make sure everything is plugged into the correct ports on the motherboard.
- Check the positive and negative cables on the PSU.
Here is a great, detailed video from AuroraTech on how to do this successfully.
If you’re looking for a real engineering challenge, this next printer should be right up your alley! The Voron 2.4 is a truly premium, open-source Core XY 3D printer that you can “design” and assemble yourself.
It has a pretty unique system. Instead of selling the Voron 3D printer, the designers created a site where users could build and customize their own Voron 3D printer.
After speccing out the 3D printer, the users get the Bill of Materials (BOM), STL files, and assembly guide for it. This way, they can print/buy the printer components and assemble them.
However, if you want to avoid going through the stress of sourcing individual components, there is another solution. Several third-party companies sell Voron kits that contain everything in the BOM (excluding the printed parts and the Raspberry Pi).
Some of the most popular ones include:
You can also check Aliexpress for more vendors. However, check their reviews carefully before ordering from them.
Here are some tips and tricks for assembling the Voron 2.4:
Always Buy Your Components From Reputable Sources
- Voron recommends that you source the components from the vendors they recommend in their sourcing guide. This is because you can get poor-quality components from unauthorized vendors, which can lead to headaches down the road.
Print The Components Out of ASA or ABS
- When printing out the printer’s body, use ABS or ASA.
- If you use weaker materials like PLA, Nylon, or carbon fiber, the body will not last as long. Many users have reported that some of these materials suffer from heat creep.
- You can also source quality printed parts using Voron’s Print It Forward program.
Use The Community Resources
- Assembling a Voron can be pretty challenging, especially for those from non-engineering backgrounds. Ensure you use the active Discord and Reddit communities whenever you get stuck.
- Also, make sure you use both the Voron official docs and your kit-specific docs when building the printer. For example, LDO also provides official assembly docs for those who buy their kits.
The assembly process for the Voron 2.4 can be quite long. You can check out this recorded livestream from Nero3D to understand the assembly process.
How to Build A DIY 3D Printer From Scratch
If you don’t fancy assembling a kit printer and want more creative freedom, you can build your 3D printer from scratch. All you have to do is to design it, source the parts separately, assemble it, and load the firmware.
Let’s take a look at the part you’re going to need:
- Printer frame
- Power supply
- Extruder array
- Heated Bed
- Linear rail / Smooth rods
- Lead screws & Nut
- Nuts and bolts
- Timing pulley
- LCD screen
- Linear Bearing
- Limit Switches
- Bed Probe
- Plastic zip tie
Building the Printer
Before you start sourcing the parts, you must have a rough design of the printer on hand. Having a design ready will help guide and make the sourcing process easier.
If you don’t have any CAD or design experience, don’t worry. There are plenty of resources available online. You can go to sites like OpenBuilds or DIY Craftsmanspace to get inspiration and custom designs for your use.
You can also create your 3D printer’s frame out of any material. For example, check out the machine this user created using MDF boards.
Another user chose to go with a printed plastic frame and built himself an awesome machine for a very good price.
They created a high speed printer, so they had to go with premium components. For example, the printer required a Pi board in addition to an SKR board for running the Klipper firmware for high speed motion.
It also required a 24V power supply to be able to handle the heated bed and the Volcano hotend.
For a more premium look, you can also go for a metal build. This user created a cool, all-metal high temp printer from aluminum extrusions.
This video from Dr. D-Flo is quite thorough and shows you everything you’ll need to get.
Load The Firmware
The firmware is the printer’s operating system that runs on the mainboard. It helps in translating the G-Code to instructions for the printer’s components.
After assembling the printer, the next step is to load the firmware onto the mainboard’s memory. There is a variety of firmware that you can choose from, but the most popular one for DIY machines is Marlin.
You can follow this video below to see how you can configure and install Marlin on your machine.
For faster printing, you can also install Klipper on your machine.
In conclusion, building your 3D printer can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. By following the step-by-step instructions provided in this article, you can create a customized 3D printer that suits your specific needs and budget.
So go ahead, dive into the world of DIY 3D printing, build your dream machine, and unleash your imagination. With 3D printing, the creative possibilities are endless!