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How I built a RapMan 3D printer from scratch

Albert Filice | July 9, 2013
3D printing technology is growing rapidly--it's crawling out of its niche marketplace and showing off how useful and cool it can be. Hell, you can even buy a 3D printer at Staples nowadays. To keep on the pulse, I felt it was time for aggressive expansion into this field: We needed our own printer to use in the TechHive labs. I wanted to learn exactly how a printer worked, so I built one myself instead of purchasing a pre-assembled model.

Locking pliers clamp the acrylic while the glue dries.

Another pain point was wiring. As it turned out, my kit was missing the cables that connect the stepper motors to the control board. I opted to pilfer some wires from abandoned power adapters, and use crimped butt connectors to rig them up. I ended up using electrical tape to hold the wires down. Printing small designs generally makes the printer shake, which would knock connections loose and mess up the print.

Tape holds the connections together while the printer moves.

Even though I am pretty much done with the build, my work is far from complete. I still have a lot to learn about the printer and the actual practice of 3D printing in general. The more I've used it, and the more I've printed with it, the more I've learned--but there's been lots of tinkering along the way.

Done and done. The printer is now ready to print.

The overall process of assembling the printer was a lot of fun, but wasn't always enjoyable. There were moments where I wanted to give up. Taking into account the complexity of the kit and the problems with directions and such, you have to be pretty driven to complete the kit. You've got to want it.


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