Construction Of A DIY 3D Printer Part 1 – Planning

PLEASE NOTE: Over the coarse of construction of this printer it has gone though many revisions. So this is not a step by step build. It is not a finished product nor professionally designed only by hard knocks.


I would love to skip this part, but I can not. I want to just get out in the garage and start cutting parts. Let’s cut some digital parts and not waste any time and money.

I started by drawing in Google SketchUp all of the details of the Tronxy X3. On GitHub, they have posted many of the plastic parts. So I downloaded and imported each piece. Watching the assembly video shows the lengths of aluminum and how they connect to the frame. Parts like the NEMA 17 stepper motors are on the 3D Warehouse site. So after a couple of evenings, you could say I built my first 3D printer. I can look at it from every corner, but can’t print anything on it. ;(

Tronxy PrinterThe Tronxy X3 has many great reviews and it would be a good first printer. If I wanted the easy route to 3D printing, I would order it for $200 and be happy. But not me. LOL Let us do it the hard way. And may end up a whole lot better off, plus earn a level of knowledge that you could have never attained if you would have had it done for you.

Design elements I do not like on the Tronxy X3 are the all one piece control and stepper drivers board. One goes out it all goes out.

Tronxy x3 control board
Tronxy Controller

The 20 amp power supply is the first thing everybody is upgrading after they buy it. The printing area is bigger than most so it is not a negative for the price point. I just want to take the best from the best in an act of evolution for my printer and see where it takes us.


I saved the original file then started saving different versions as I would modify. After 8 files the printer does not look like the Tronxy X3 anymore. The core concept of the X axis on a bridge that is pushed up with a threaded rod on both sides of the Z axis is still there. The build bed plate that moves in the Y axis is the same, as well as using stepper motors to drive the motion.

The design features that I like are…

  • A Hot End carriage that is as light as possible to allow a future dual extruder.
  • A heated bed so all possible filaments can be used.
  • A controller that is modular in the event a Stepper driver burns out you would not have to replace the whole board.
  • The main board that is an Arduino because I’m very familiar with its function.
  • Room to upgrade the size of the print bed.
  • Vented print area.

All of the parts are now everywhere on the internet there has been an explosion truly because of home builders, makers, and college engineers moving this technology forward. Couple that with parts that can be bought oversea for an ultra low cost.

I will be breaking the project into manageable steps and won’t at this time be using any 3D printed parts because I do not have access to a printer. Thou more room will be there I plan on only using a 200mm x 200mm heat bed and A single extruder. I just want to see it work, then the moon.

As I read about motion and weight I feel the way to go for the extruder design is to keep mass low on the moving head. A super strong stepper motor could overcome that but then you have to lift them in the Z axis.

I all most wonder if a lifting weight on a pulley that balances out the weight like in an elevator would be the answer. It would be just enough to cancel out the bridge, motors and head weight. At that point, one stepper motor would be used to overcome the moving mass. The motor on an elevator does not lift the car, the balance weight does that.

IMG_20170331_004207The “Cold End” or filament feeder is not on the moving head. It will set on the left side of the bridge and when the second head goes in, it will be attached to the opposite side. The filament is forced into the feed tube that is free to move with the head. The problem I see is that the feed tube is going to be long on mine and it needs to be for the soft bend and wide movement that it must perform. I will keep thinking.

The filament spool will be on the outside of the printer and will feed below. I will be putting some type of out of filament detector on it so the printer will be smart and stop printing when it runs out.

The bed plate will be on 16mm sliding rod bearings. Why 16mm you may ask because I have a bunch of 16mm rod from an old HP 5500 60″ printer and it is free. I just have to buy the supports and bearings. This is the same way the bridge will be supported.

ramps-1.4-schema-1920pxThe computer will be an Arduino Mega connected to a RepRap adapter shield and the stepper driver chips plug into that.

I love the little addition you can get and have it hook up to the WIFI that will give me controls of the printer, notifications of progress, and a webcam. The future is cool!

Let’s get cracking…

NEXT -> Part 2 The Frame


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