N8's i3 Printer

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N8's i3 Printer

This is my self-sourced Reprap i3-styled 3D printer. I'm trying to use some of the makerspace's new tools (like the laser cutter) to enhance it.

a Google Photos album of the creation can be found here.


So, first I decided I wanted to build my own laser cut frame to try to save money. I looked at several options and decided on MDF. I had looked at Melamine, but couldn't get a sheet in 1/4" thickness in a small enough size to fit in the laser from Home Depot or Lowes. While there I saw the smaller sheets of MDF and Plywood. Since Plywood (from Home Depot or Lowes) is strictly off-limits for use in our laser (since the binder glue has bits of metal in it), I decided to go with 1/4" MDF sheet.

I purchased a 1/4" thick sheet of 2 ft by 4ft MDF and set about cutting. The plans I had chosen to work from were the "SGrabber i3 Laser Cut Frame" found on Thingiverse.

After cutting, I took it outside and applied several coats of Blue Spraypaint to it (3 coats in total I believe).

i3 Frame
i3 Frame pieces - bed and sides.

Later on I added an engraving to the frame to personalize it. Again, I used the laser cutter for this.

My frame after it was engraved.

Rods, Mechanics

  • Set of i3 Rework printed parts x 1
  • Set of i3 Rework smooth rods x 1
  • Set of i3 Rework threaded rods x 1
  • Long M8 threaded rod (370mm?) for the back brace since I'm using laser-cut frame x 1
  • GT2 Timing belt (~5M) x 1 (You might want to get extra)
  • GT2 Timing belt pulleys (20 tooth) x 2
  • Bolts, nuts, screws, etc (see i3 Rework plans for approximate amounts
  • Aluminum flexible motor couplers x 2

Once I had the frame pieces ready, I set about gathering the pieces I needed to put together the mechanics. Most of this was sourced from eBay sellers. The plastic pieces I had decided to work with were the Reprap i3 "Rework" parts as they had been expanded upon and "reworked" if you will beyond the initial i3 design. Plastic parts were purchased from eBay for a very reasonable $25 and this saved me the time of printing them on the printers at Make717.

Nate Printer Finished.jpg

Hot End

The hot end is one of the most important pieces in a 3D printer. I decided on the E3D v6 hot end (1.75mm filament size) as it is an all-metal hot end and is the de-facto standard in the industry. Many knockoffs are sold on Alibaba and eBay. I bought directly from the manufacturer in England however as I didn't want to cheap out on the most important part (later on I can do so for replacement nozzles and the like since the market is awash in equivalend nozzles and replacement parts). BTW, nozzle size I chose was 0.4mm since again, this is the de-facto standard.
Finally, the electronics for the hot end was 12v. This is important to realize - you have to keep track of the voltage you're working with from your controller board. i.e. Don't mix a 24v hot end with a 12v control board and power supply.


At first, I was using the extruder that came with the printed parts - this wasn't going to work however as the E3D wasn't fitting in it. For some reason, this extruder didn't have a groovemount for a hot end (again, this is a good thing to look for - groovemounts are almost standardized in the hot ends being sold today - so your extruder should be able to mount one). Then, I ordered a belt-driven extruder. This was a neat idea, but I had been tripped up with a bad extruder before. As I was so impressed with the quality of the E3D v6 that I had ordered, I decided to order E3D's Titan extruder along with their x-axis mount (this came in the i3 Upgrade kit). So far, this decision has NOT been a bad one. I spent the most in this build on the hot end and the extruder, but I feel it was well worth it.

Control Board and Electronics

I'm actually re-using a RAMPS 1.4 control board and Arduino 1280 that I've had from an earlier failed 3D printer build years ago. This has served well - since the latest firmware works just fine here. I did purchase some connectors and heavier gauge twisted wire for this as I wanted solid connectors and wire capable of handling the current I wanted. Also I picked up an LCD board from eBay for close to $6 that allowed me to print from the SD card. For the motor drivers, I've chosen the DRV8825 - this has again been a well-spent upgrade. They sell for around $12-$17, but they have over-voltage protection and run QUIET. Everyone else who has their own printer remarks about how quiet mine is when they're listening to it.

Firmware that I'm running on the RAMPS board is the latest Bugfix RC of Marlin. I had tried the latest RC itself, but was too buggy to run - the latest stable release is feature-crippled also. The Bugfix RC has definitely been the way to go.

Power supply is a heavy LED supply rated for 12v and up to 30A. It's handling my hot-end, motors, electronics, and heated bed with no issues so far.


There have been several upgrades that I've done over time after the printer has been commissioned and capable of printing its own parts. Also some usability upgrades that make things easier for me.

  • Octoprint - I've started to really like Octoprint running on a Raspberry Pi 3 that I had. It allows me to use my computer for other things as well as create little time-lapse videos of my prints and monitor things remotely while I'm at work. It gives me piece of mind that my printer isn't burning down my apartment.

Soon I'm going to add a Solid State Relay so the Pi can turn off power to the printer if something goes crazy, or I want it to shut things down and not waste electricity while I'm away.