Dec 15, 2015 | By Alec

If there’s one problem surrounding a widespread adoption of desktop 3D printers by hobbyists, it’s that they’re still relatively expensive if you know nothing about them. How many parents would buy their kid a $300 machine they’ve never heard of? And while there are a few good DIY build options available, one instructables user has just shared a tutorial for what could be the cheapest and easiest DIY 3D printer option available. Depending on what you can scavenge, this machine by gigafide costs just $50 to build.

If the name gigafide sounds familiar, that’s probably because the maker is something of a YouTube making celebrity having posted dozens of videos for various building projects, hacking tips and a lot more – with most clips getting tens of thousands of views. Check out his Tinkernut YouTube channel here.

However, throughout those projects 3D printing has been largely absent, but that all changes now. Like the rest of us, gigafide said he was disappointed by the extent to which DIY 3D printers use expensive parts – making them a lot of effort for little returns. “This idea was inspired by all of the CD-Rom CNC machines that I've seen on Instructables. I've seen them used as drawbots, laser cutters, drill presses, but I haven't seen one yet used for a 3D least not a reasonably priced one. So the goal of this instructable is to show you how to make your own 3D printer from old CD-Rom drives a cheap 3D printing pen,” he explains.

What’s more, this project is all about scavenging parts. If you work with small engineering projects regularly, you’ll doubtlessly have boxes full of unused parts taking up space – all with the goal of using them in the future, but never actually doing so. If that sounds familiar, this project is perfect for you as virtually everything can be scavenged from old computers. “Aside from the 3D printing pen, see if you can scavenge [these parts] from thrift shops, college dumpsters, government or school buildings that are getting rid of them, etc. It shouldn't be to hard to find a free old CD-rom drive these days,” the maker encourages us. You’ll need three CD or DVD Rom drives, three stepper motors, a PC power supply, an Arduino Uno and some nuts, bolts and some box covers – whatever you have laying around. Really the only costs involved are the 3D Printing Pen & Filament, which can be found online for approximately $45 – can a 3D printer be any cheaper? The building project itself is also quite doable, in part thanks to the excellent tutorial gigafide published on Instructables. Should you undertake this project, check out the full tutorial here.

As gigafide explains, most of the build actually revolves around these disassembled CD Rom drives which form the axis on which the printing pen moves. “Taking apart Desktop optical drives is really very easy”, the maker says. “You can take apart and salvage anything that you think you might have a use for, but for this project, we are specifically interested in the metal motor tray with the stepper motor (the one with the spiral rod) and the laser housing. The reason we want this specific part of the optical drive is because it offers a motor, track, and housing that can mechanically provide a smooth back and forth movement, which is ideal for a CNC axis.” If you’ve never done this before, the tutorial carefully covers all the steps, so it should be fairly easy to retrieve.

After retrieving them, you need to create a type of casing to mount the motor trays on, for which gigafide actually used the optical drive cases themselves. While this is an important step – especially the Y-axis needs to be aligned perfectly straight as it moves back and forth – it should be very doable by following gigafide’s instructions. “Once you have all of the drives mounted, the final step is to attach the X & Z axis to the Y axis. You want to mount the X axis perpendicular to the Y axis( looks like an “L” shape) and adjust them so that the Z axis is aligned over the Y axis. Scrub through each axis to make sure none of them are overshooting or running into each other. After you have the alignment set, screw everything together,” the maker says.

To get everything wired up, you can then attach the Arduino and the stepper motor drivers, as well as the Power Supply Unit. While those typically have a big mess of wires coming out of them, gigafide also provides a chart to help you to determine what’s what and what’s safe to use. Perhaps the most complex step is hacking the 3D Pen, which you will need to largely disassemble and create a switching circuit that connects to the ‘forward extrusion’ control. This will require some very careful soldering, but as a ready-made extrusion system quickly costs three times as much as a pen, it is by far the cheapest option.

Should you manage all that with the help of gigafide’s tutorial, it’s a matter of mounting the pen into place on the Z-axis. “I simply used clothes pins and hot glue to secure it into place. You want to make sure it doesn’t wobble around,” the maker adds. That is, in a nutshell, all there is to the hardware portion of the project. After that, it’s a simple matter of installing G-Code interpreter Grbl on your Arduino, and calibrating and testing the complete setup. While perhaps a bit too complex for the beginning maker, this excellent project by gigafide results in one of the more impressive (and certainly the cheapest) DIY 3D printers we’ve seen in a long time.



Posted in 3D Printer



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