So you are ready for a 3D printer and would like to build one. First choice to make is if you rather design and build a printer yourself or if you are better of using a kit. If this is your first printer and your 3D printing experience is limited, we recommend you purchase a kit. The list of available 3D printer kits is available at 3D printer category. Use the compare function to determine the differences between the models. You can of course use the kits a guideline and adjust components as you see fit.
What type of printer?
There are different types of 3D printers. Many of our components go along with different types. For example, the electronics we carry can be used in almost all 3D printer types. The following list of pro and cons of each printer type can help you decide which 3D printer type most suits your needs.
This is the most common type of FDM 3D printer. Is has three axis, moving in their separately appropriate directions. As all axis have their own motor, belts etc it's usually easier to calibrate.
Easy to build
Most information resources available
Requires expensive components to get good results
You can choose to have the build platform in order of preferably not move at all, move in the direction of the Z-axis or move in the Y-axis direction.
This type is more suitable for larger printers. The CoreXY mechanism allows for rapid movements over longer distances, because it dived the load over two stepper motor and move the weight of the stepper motors off the axis.
This is a rather fun to watch type of 3D printer. If you look from the top, you will see a triangle shape, hence the name Delta. The three axis will work together for each linear movement, requiring complex calculations to translate the movements in straight lines. The imperfections in each axis are averaged out, giving you great results with affordable components.
Very precise on all axis
Requires a lot of CPU power, limiting speed on low-end electronics
Even with cheaper components you can have professional quality prints
Not very space efficient: increasing the build radius, will reduce the available print height a lot.
This type of printer works with resin rather than filament. The resin will harden when subject to UV light. This allows for a very precise resolution, as good as 20 micron in the Z-axis.
Resin is rather expensive
Components to procure
Depending on the type of printer you need different components to build it. This section will break down the list of components to general categories. You can jump to detailed information from there.
This is the brain of your printer as it controls every component It runs software called firmware, that will control the movements, temperature of your printer. All our electronics are Arduino compatible, meaning you can upload firmware and program it anyway you see fit. The choice of electronics depends on your requirements. Delta printers for example require more processing power, so opting for a Ultratronics may benefit you there. You can compare our assortment of 3D printer controller boards here.
An very important part of the printer and also very complex is the Extruder systems. This part does influence the reliability and output quality of your printer. Important properties of the extruder are:
maximum temperature: for some filaments you need a higher temperature
extruding force: the more force you can apply the faster you can printers
weight: if you mount the extruder system onto an axis, it’s weight influences causing inertia and lash, requiring you to print slower or accept quality loss
The extruder consist of two parts: the cold end for driving filament and the hot end for melting the filament. On both parts you don’t want to save money, generally it’s better to invest in good extruder parts rather than other components.
As hot end we currently recommend an E3D full v6 hot end, as it’s the most reliable one currently available. For the cold end we have different options for compactness or geared cold ends for more power.
To reduce the weight on you axes, you may opt to place the cold end on the side of your printer instead and connect it to the hot end with a bowden (ptfe) tube. This has the benefit of reducing lash in you system. The downside is that you cannot print flex materials very well and you need a lot more retraction to compensate for the extra length of the filament between the cold end and hot end.
Heated print bed
The print bed is where the print will be build during printing. This part is kind of a contradiction as during printing you want the part to stick, while afterwards it needs to come off easily. Also, due to the nature of thermoplastics it will shrink when colling down, causing inner tension in the part. This may result in corners of the print lifting up (warping) and coming of the bed. To fight this we have different print surfaces and recommend heating the print bed (heated bed).
For PLA and PETG you can use 3Dlac directly on glass without a heated bed. We still recommend to use a heated bed at 60 degrees though, as this makes the print come off much easier when you let the heated bed cool down.
You need an adequate Power supply. General rule of thumb is to use max 80% of the available current (amperage). Assuming 12V, depending on the type of heated bed it will take anything from 10A, heater cartridges are 3A, and stepper motors require 2A in total. That gives you about 15A for the entire system, so a 20A power supply is recommended. If you need a bigger heated bed, dual head etc you probably want to go for 30A instead.
You can also choose to go for 24V, if the components accept that. This reduces the amount of current required for the same amount of power.
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