So I Bought a 3D Printer

I recently bought a 3D printer. If you are like most of the people that I have told this you think I paid around $10k for it! I wish I had that sort of disposable income. Sadly that is not the case the 3D printer that I bought was a second hand Mendel based RepRap and it was under $500 [Title picture is actually mine]

I am not going to go into details about the printer too deeply. I just want to outline what people should expect should they get a printer in this price range. It is becoming far more available financially. There are several fully setup models out now for well under a grand.

A little bit about me and 3D printing. I have no experiance I have never really used CAD and I work in customer service. That said I do tinker A LOT with electronics, mechanics and computers. To get this printer running well I had to use skills from all of these sets. The 6 year old boy inside me kept yelling at me asking when we could print something all while my 6 year old son asked the same but outloud and every 2 seconds. There was nothing major that was wrong with the printer but many small tweaks and calibrations were needed. I was able to attempt a print very quickly and even was able to get decent results.


This spool holder was the first thing I needed to print. (Sorry black plastic is hard to photograph)

But then I started having major issue on every print that was over a centimeter tall.


I had to update firmware on the controller since I had no clue what version it was running and the update had many improvements. The controller is Arduino based so some might have more ease with this process. I had to make some minor adjustments to the printer settings to get the parts to print accurately. Prior to these adjustments my prints were around 1mm larger than they were supposed to be.

There are a few tools that I used to do this when I say a few I really do mean a few.


Digital Caliper

9-Inch Level


Allen Wrench Set

Flush Cut Wire Cutters


Curved Tweezers

Number 1 is the calipers you have to have a level the one I used is not the best setup as it was too long to use on the vertical supports.


Not sure what actually fixed my issue as I went through and re-leveled the structure and tightened all the hardware. Much of it was loose. I also made sure the Z axis slides were level and parallel. I also installed active cooling and heat sinks to the stepper motors and controllers. I actually think that my main issue was heat but all the others were causing random failures.

Here are a few of the items that I have printed so far.


Anyone with kids that have a wooden train set will know what these are for!

Things are cheaper when you can make the custom parts yourself.


Thingiverse is my friend as this is where I found most of the items I have printed. The fan shroud was something that I designed myself using tinkercad. Not having experience with CAD this is a great tool as it is extremely user friendly. The functionality is limited but only to keep it simple. I have made several complex designs but some of the things you think would be easy are missing like rounding corners. It likely takes more time that something like Solidworks but most anyone should be able to pick it up in a few minutes.


I can say for sure that this is not for the faint of heart or anyone who is simply looking to print things because there is so much tinkering needed to get a cheap kit going some of the parts used are definitely not high quality. I had fun tinkering and my "to print" list keeps getting longer and longer the possibilities are very open if you have the time and know how to tinker and troubleshoot little issues. If you are looking to print plastic stuff then I think the horizon is bright for you with Dremel jumping into the market I can see this becoming far more mainstream.


Dremel Idea Builder 3D

Right now there are too many options for filament for the home user simply due to material type and the manufacturing techniques causing small but very critical differences between each. I have used only a few different types some mainstream some locally produced and have had good results with both but had to tweak settings for each type.


I plan to write another post in the future to outline some of the filament options and what they really mean when it comes to the actual printed part.