My Prusa i3 3D Printer, Experience And Upgrades

I am in the process of upgrading my Prusa i3 with a dual extruder, which I will document in another post. But I thought you might like to know a bit about the printer first so here is the back-story. Last December I decided to enter the world of 3D printing. I have wanted a 3D printer for some time now mainly because I would like to make some custom cases for projects and print out some of the models I have created with Blender. There were several options open for me:

  1. Buy a printer like a Makerbot.
  2. Source all the parts myself and assemble it.
  3. Buy a kit and assemble it myself.

Buying a 3d printer was out – if I wanted to make things larger than a 120mm cube then pricing rockets above the £1000 mark. I don’t mind, and rather look forward to, building it but sourcing all the parts? Sounds to much like hard work and what if I ordered incompatible parts? Whereas at least with a kit, I know it will work as long as I follow the instructions.

So, I would buy a kit, but which one? Doing some further research it came down to either Nophead’s Mendel 90 or Ooznest’s Prusa i3 with an aluminum frame. The Prusa i3 won as it was about £150 cheaper, that buys a lot of filament, and I could have it before the New Year so I ordered it.

The Prusa i3 was easy to assemble thanks to the well laid out instructions, it took me a full day from opening the box to my first print. It came with a roll of ABS filament and the Cura profile for that filament.

Within a few days I wanted to try out PLA filament. I’ll admit I did have some problems until Ryan, at Ooznest, suggested seasoning the hot-end with Canola oil. This entailed extruding Canola oil soaked filament two or three times through the hot-end. Once I had done that there was no more filament jamming.

Getting PLA to stick to the print plate also took some experimentation… I tried blue tape, that didn’t work for me, so then I tried ABS juice on the bare glass and it worked a treat. Though recently I have had good results with a 9:1 mixture of  water and PVA glue.

Prusa i3 Upgrades

Prusa-i3-upgradesIn everyday use, there were some things that just bugged me, so I “fixed” it as these things arose.

1> The filament roll sometimes catches on the holder and I had to move it to free it. So I looked around Thingiverse and found Spool Roller 3, so I printed it off and assembled it and it has worked great ever since.

2> The right Z bracket. You press the filament into a slot in the bracket for support. From the extruder to above this bracket the filament is in a bowden tube, which moves about as you print. This action sometimes made kinks in the filament. So I took the STL of the bracket into Blender, removed the slot and inserted a 4mm hole. The bowden tube fits in this hole, no more moving around – no more kinks.

3> Sometimes the electrical cables from the hotend/extruder would rub against the vertical z thread. In time this could wear away the insulation so, again in Blender, I added a zip-tie holder on the left x-axis bracket. No more friction.

4> The LCD display is mounted on the front frame, this covers the y-tensioner, so initially I took it’s mounting brackets, turned them 90 degrees and sat the display on top of the frame. This was okay for a while, but I have since made a proper mounting that has a swivel.

These upgrades to the Prusa i3, have not improved the quality of printing but they have made it’s daily operation  somewhat smoother. At some point I really should upload the STLs for these items to Thingiverse for others to benefit like I have.

The Prusa i3 has been a real work horse, there’s rarely a day when I haven’t used it and it has work almost flawlessly. I have printed some cute stuff and some useful stuff, but most of all it has opened the door to projects that were previously out of reach. As with most 3d printers the Prusa i3 is NOT a “consumer” product like a regular printer is. There are times when you will have to fiddle or experiment with it to achieve the desired results. It does tend to bring out the “inner mechanic/engineer” in you.  If you’re happy with that I can heartily recommend you to get and build your own Prusa i3.