Apr. 13, 2015 | By Alec

3D printing is fun, creative, revolutionary; you name it. But to be honest, there is a huge downside to all our desktop FDM printers at home: it's an expensive hobby. While 3D printers are steadily becoming cheaper, anyone who prints regularly will have noticed that those rolls of filament add up quickly. Even the cheapest spools tend to be around or above $30, and we seem to go through them will tremendous speed.

Of course, there are alternatives. Over the last few months several interesting filament extruders, that turn very inexpensive plastic pellets into filament, have launched on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. While they typically cost a few hundred dollars, these machines have the potential to save much more than that through the simple investment of time and effort. And they are evidently quite popular among the 3D printing community, as this model, a fully automated desktop filament extruder & grinder 'ProtoCycler' raised more than $100,000 on Indiegogo a few months ago.

But when we’re focused on saving money in our 3D printing activities, why splurge on an extruder if there are even cheaper options around? That’s exactly why Turkish hobbyist Borsaci has decided to build a DIY filament extruder using a couple of web-based designs. Most importantly, he has shared his project for free on Instructables and he encourages everyone to follow his example.

As Borsaci explains, it is remarkably easy to make using existing parts and common RepRap parts. ‘After some research on the internet, I decided to use this simple design which is the core of many commercial filastruders. I prepared a simple CAD model for you to conceptualize the design easily. All these parts are easily found at every DIYer's parts bin. Only serious design I made is the steel barrel body which is made by one of my friends who has a lathe,’ he explains.

While this project will require a bit of hands-on engineering skill, as Borsaci hasn’t written up a step-by-step guide for this filament extruder, it should be a fun and challenging project for experienced makers. The principle is similar to every other filament extruder. Buy pellets online, and load these into the upper cone. The screw carries them to the front of the contraption, bringing them into contact with two cartridge heaters. The molten plastic is then extruded through a brass nozzle to form filament. ‘According to my calculations the entire system can be driven with a powerful dc gearmotor or a big stepper like the one in the pic (nema23). Even a household drill can drive the system for few a hours.’ Borsaci adds.

To build it, you will need the following items:

  • Metal body in which the screw mechanism will work
  • 2mm diameter wood screw
  • 2x cartridge heaters
  • 100K thermistor
  • Gearmotor (I am using scrap hand drill but windshield motor will do better)...
  • Arduino of any kind
  • IRLZ44 Mosfet (any powerful logic mosfet will do the job)
  • 10K pot
  • 16x2 LCD (optional to monitor heating values)

This means you might have to do some improvising, depending on the parts you still have laying around. Borsaci designed to system to extrude 1.75 mm filament for his own RepRap 3D printer, but you can add other nozzles to fit your own 3D printer. ‘The radius of output filament can be monitored by a sensor for accuracy but I do not think I will need that as long as the shaft is driven at constant speed,’ he adds. The heating system itself features the ceramic 12v heaters and 100k thermistors also used in moth RepRap 3D printers. You could also add a PTC thermostat to measure the temperature and ensure a consisting melting temperature.

In short, this project relies on quite a bit of ingenuity and building skills, but as you can see in the clip below the results are definitely 3D printable. It’s a perfect option for making 3D printing as affordable as possible.



Posted in 3D Printing Materials


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