Jun 3, 2015 | By Alec

While there is a very healthy do-it-yourself community out there for building and 3D printing your very own 3D printer, some designs are easier and cheaper to emulate than others. In that respect, one Instructables user has just shared some designs for a truly remarkable build that relies on the key toy in any child’s arsenal: Lego bricks.

The LEGO 3D printer has been completely designed by anonymous user going by the username gadema, and essentially revolves around a staple of do-it-yourself RepRap printers: the Prusa l3 rework printer. As the creator explains, this project started out as a bit of tinkering with lego and stepper motors, and grew into so much more. ‘The printer started as a A4-plotter with stepper motors from an old HP printer. After upgrading the stepper motors to Nema 17 motors I decided to build a X, Y and Z axis machine. This evolved in this printer,’ he writes.

And while you might think that using LEGO bricks sounds fun but a bit childish, you’d be surprised at their potential for at-home making. ‘LEGO and Nema 17 stepper motors are a perfect match. A default LEGO brick of 4 by 2 studs is 32 x 16 x 9.6 mm. Nema stepper motors have m3 holes at a distance of 31 mm. Attaching the Nema 17 stepper with LEGO technic, using a felt damper/isolator and m3 x 15 bolts, gives a solid base,’ gadema adds. A careful look around the web will thus reveal a number of LEGO-based 3D printers, such as this fun machine that actually ‘3D prints’ LEGO blocks. However, this machine by gadema is nothing less than a fully functional plastic extruding 3D printer, and therefore well worth checking out.

To be fair, this machine isn’t 100% LEGO, as it does incorporate a number of non-LEGO electronics, though most of these could be replaced by parts from the LEGO Mindstorms set if you’re looking to approach 100% as much as possible. Nonetheless, this build is impressive and LEGO enough to check out and possible recreate yourself. The non-LEGO parts used by gadema are four stepper motors, a Ramps, an Atmega 2560, four Stepsticks, three endstops, an extruder with a Nema stepper, a power supply, a heatbed and glass plate, and an extensive number of wires, nuts, bolts and so on. Now if you are actually intending to build this very cool LEGO 3D printer, you can with the help of gadema’s detailed tutorial. However, it is not for the faint of heart and it is best done with a constant eye at general Prusa 3D printer tutorials, specifically this one: Building a Prusa i3 3D Printer.

It is, in fact, an unusual 3D printer building tutorial, in that gadema starts with the Y Axis,motor and belt, rather than with the entire frame. The base itself is a LEGO sheet with 34 x 64 studs(19.2 x 51.2 cm), which is used to determine the exact location of the axis. The motor powering the entire 3D printer is held in place with technic bricks at the back of the machine. Only after combining the base and Y axis are the Z axis and X axis added with the stepper motors, of which the final X axis is the most difficult to attach. ‘The original Prusa X axis consists of a separate left and right side connected by two rods. I've made one large X-axis, using long technic bricks, for stability,’ gadema explains. He also opted for an already assembled Geeetech MK8 extruder, which features a default 0.3 mm nozzle size and uses 1.75 mm filament, though you could add any you still have laying around. End stops – which prevent the extruder from trying to move out of the frame – are added afterwards.

The extruder.

Finally, it’s a matter of hooking up all the electronics, testing the equipment and installing the software. As gadema ran into a couple of common issues with scratch-built 3D printers himself, he very usefully walks you through those in his tutorial as well. Calibration and configuration can be a bit complicated, so it’s best to keep the Reprap wiki nearby, but otherwise gadema’s tutorial covers all the steps carefully, enabling you to build a fantastic but especially cool 3D printer using (almost) nothing but LEGO blocks. Perhaps the biggest advantage is the modular nature of the bricks, that can easily be altered even after taking the 3D printer in use, so definitely check out this fascinating build!



Posted in 3D Printers


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