Of course we 3D print, too!

If you've attended a Maker Faire or Mini Maker Faire in the past few years, you've probably strolled past a table where someone seems to be tending to a jumble of wires and metal rods, and there's a whiff of molten plastic in the air. You might have stopped and watched as a plastic object appeared (slowly) and you might have been amazed (slowly) at the possibilities. You may have suspected this, but yes...we haven't been left behind, macetech has been 3D printing right along with the rest of the cool kids!

My first 3D printer was built in 2011, after reading up about RepRap and finding an older cartesian assembly robot on eBay, made by Sony. It was huge and heavy, and I drove deep into the Santa Cruz mountains to pick it up from a barn crammed with an analog and relay computer collection. I purchased an extruder from MakerGear, and practically duct-taped it to the robot in order for it to print better mounting parts. The original control board was stuffed with FPGA's and a 486 processor, but I had to remove that and hack the stepper drivers to receive pulses from an Arduino Mega. It's been useful over the past few years, allowing us to create various brackets, adapters, holders, prototypes, and even parts of the LED Shades. Here it is today:

SonyRap 3D PrinterSonyRap ExtruderSonyRap Electronics

The position of the extruder isn't great for fast movement, a lot of wobble will appear unless printing pretty slowly. I've gotten some great prints, but decided that we needed something a little more modern, portable, and fast.

Prusa i3

Enter the Prusa i3! This is one of the newer RepRap variants, with two large non-printable parts, but the rest is fairly easily printed. It can run a lot faster than my old SonyRap, and it a lot easier to work on and transport. It was actually found on a local Craigslist ad, and needed some work to get tuned up.

I printed X, Y, and Z limit switch holders:
Prusa i3 Y Limit SwitchPrusa i3 Z Limit SwitchPrusa i3 X Limit Switch

Two types of cooling fan ducts and a new X carriage:
Prusa i3 Budaschnozzle CoolerPrusa i3 Print CoolerPrusa i3 X Carriage

Clips for the RAMPS controller board, power supply mounts, and an LCD case and jog wheel:
Prusa i3 RAMPS ControllerPrusa i3 Power Supply MountPrusa i3 LCD Case

Of course, this is a mechanical device that's supposed to achieve sub-0.1mm precision easily, and most of it is made of plastic...over time, parts are guaranteed to break. That's why, when your printer is working, you print lots of spares!

Broken Extruder GearPrusa i3 Greg's Wade's Extruder

Prusa i3 Spare Parts

It's very useful for printing little widgets to connect stuff to other things, or organize something oddly shaped. Here's an iPhone stand that you can fill up with pennies for weight, and a bracket to hold a webcam for streaming 3D print video:
iPhone PennystandiPhone PennystandWebcam Mount Adapter

But....sometimes you just have to print something useless!
3D Print Examples

If you have any questions about 3D printing, feel free to ask in the comment section below. It's not something that can solve every problem, nor can it directly make you money, but it can be an extremely valuable tool to all kinds of hobbyists, tinkerers, and crafters.

Submitted by Garrett on Sat, 04/05/2014 - 22:54.

Hey, I just recently bought

Hey, I just recently bought a Makerfarm Prusa i3 8", so it was surprising to see that you use a similar one as well.

Did you print that power supply cover, or did it come preexisting when you bought it?
I've seen a lot on Thingiverse..

Also where do you usually buy your filament from (PLA, ABS)?

The power supply cover was

The power supply cover was something I printed off Thingiverse, but the supply isn't actually a Meanwell so it doesn't fit quite right. Most of the other upgrades (except for LCD case) were things I designed in Inventor. I usually get filament from Matterhackers.