Building a 3D printer: 8 hours in 2 minutes

TechHive’s 3D printer collection is rapidly growing, and for our latest addition, we decided to shoot a time-lapse video to show the build process from start to finish. Behold: The Printrbot Jr.

Albert Filice
Ta-da!

The Printrbot Jr. costs $499 when you buy it pre-assembled. These printers don’t build themselves, so if you want the convenience of having a ready-to-go 3D printer out of the box, this is the way to go. However, you can save $100 if you order the parts and assemble it yourself. As a recent college grad on a budget (and someone who loves to build stuff), that is definitely not an opportunity I’d pass up.

Albert Filice
Left: A pre-assembled Afinia H-series (and our favorite grumpy feline). Right: The Printrbot Jr. built in-house from a kit.

Either way, the Printrbot Jr. is one of the most affordable 3D printers on the market. But if you decide to build one yourself, there are a few things you should know.

As with most 3D printer builds, assembling the Printrbot Jr. isn’t without confusion. The main problem I had was the disjunction between the online instructions and the pieces that I had in front of me. Printrbot is constantly tweaking and updating its printers to make them better, but the company doesn’t always keep the assembly instructions up-to-date. This can be frustrating at times, but it wasn’t impossible to figure out.

Having access to a range of tools—and some know-how for working with them—came in handy during the build. I also had to get a couple of screws from a local hardware store.

Don’t let the printer’s small size throw you off, either. A bigger printer isn’t always better: They’re less portable, and bigger prints are often harder to manage when it comes to print quality.

What you need most, though, is patience and time. All the information is out there, and plenty of people online are willing to help you. Just don’t try to rush anything and you’ll almost certainly be able to work through any kinks.

printrbot octopusAlbert Filice
The Printrbot Jr. print quality is impressive considering how much it cost and that I built the machine myself.

If all this sounds like something you want to take on, I recommend that you save some cash and build a printer yourself. Building is fun, and it helps you understand the inner workings of your printer: Knowing how every piece fits together will help you fix problems that might crop up later. Besides, you can put the money you save into upgrades to your printer—say, a heated build platform or a bigger print space.

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