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I am working on my portable 3d printer again, is it still worth it?

Posted by mbhassan 
I am working on my portable 3d printer again, is it still worth it?
July 03, 2017 02:04PM
Hi everyone,

Many years ago I have made a couple of attempts at designing a portable folding 3d printer (Project Create and Project Resha). Back then I had very little money and time due to my studies, which prevented any meaningful progress. Now I have slightly more time, so I decided to revisit the latter design, though progress is still too slow.

I had thought that by now someone would have built a commercial printer like that, but none did. I thought maybe no one really cares for portability, but then Ultimaker made the Go, and nearly everyone I spoke to in person said it's a fantastic idea (after actually seeing the prototype). On the contrary, most people I spoke to online think its a bad idea, especially for a product.

So I am asking you, do you think its a good or a bad idea? Some details are here: https://goo.gl/forms/b1c0M5JIlPZJbBEx1 . I would also love it if you fill the top three questions on the form.

Also, I made a small basic electronics board for it which works with the Raspberry Pi Zero, which I will be selling on tindie soon for generate some cash to support with developing the printer.

Please let me know what do you think of the printer and the electronics board.

Many thanks
Mo
Re: I am working on my portable 3d printer again, is it still worth it?
July 03, 2017 11:30PM
The stepZero looks interesting for a small laser engraver or such. Does it have spare PWM pins?
I've tried to make use of the PiZero, but it always ended in a mess of cables and adapters. It seems you've sorted that out and even have micro-USB WLAN support?

I haven't yet thought about a portable printer. Who's driving around with a printer in his backpack? If I want to join conventions or exhibitions, a huge but foldable printer makes sense. But I can't find an "excuse" to have one in my shop. They are busy 24/7 anyway, so no need to store them neatly. My major interest is reliablity.
Re: I am working on my portable 3d printer again, is it still worth it?
July 04, 2017 03:21AM
Is it worth it? what your end goal?

To make money? unlikely, you can not compete with china's mass production of cheap 3d printers (some of them are even ok). Also if it should turn out to be popular they will just clone your design and under cut your prices...

If you want a portable printer because you really want a portable printer. Go for it
Re: I am working on my portable 3d printer again, is it still worth it?
July 04, 2017 04:07AM
Thanks for your replies.

o_lampe:

Yes, there are a couple of PWM pins, but that depends on how many end-stops do you plan to have.

Because I didn't have any space on the left side of the board (I needed at least two expansion ports, one for extruder and one for bed), I broke out the two PWM pins on the connectors that are originally intended for the x-axis end-stops (see here stepZeroR2 pins). If you only want one home end-stop per axis, then you can connect the x-axis end-stop to the spare y-max and use the x-min and x-max as PWM.

I have used a micro USB WLAN dongle on the regular RPi Zero at first, but I would recommend using the RPi Zero W if you want WiFi. Not only for saving space, it's more reliable, very close in terms of cost, and you get to keep the only USB port free for something else.

I am interested in your idea about the laser engraver, are you planning on building one?

My printer design is certainly not suitable for a shop or a workshop. It's useful for individuals who have little space, move a lot, or go to events or temporary workplaces with their printers. This could be for example people who provide 3d printing training (that's the only example on Ultimaker Go page).

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/04/2017 04:08AM by mbhassan.
Re: I am working on my portable 3d printer again, is it still worth it?
July 04, 2017 04:22AM
Peter:

I definitely will continue to make and improve one for myself, I actually need one at the moment as I had to give away my regular-size desktop printers due to moving to a city centre flat, so no space for hobbies.

But I also wanted to make some money. Yes, I totally get your point, it's hard to compete on price with Chinese mass production. But as you said "some of them are ok", there is definitely a market for quality. If I would allow myself to be discouraged by the prospects of Chinese copies then I guess there's no point in any attempt to make anything new.
Re: I am working on my portable 3d printer again, is it still worth it?
July 04, 2017 06:47AM
I think that if you need a portable printer that folds up, it's a great project that you should continue to work on. Projects like that are always worth doing for the experience, and you may develop something for it that can become more widely useful, even in non-portable printers, or even in other types of machines. I don't think it's a trivial task to design a high precision mechanism that can fold and unfold and maintain print quality. There are a lot of interesting problems to solve there.

However, I also don't think the market is clamoring for a foldable printer. The only thing I see the market clamoring for is a cheaper printer. Very few people care enough about high quality machines or prints to pay the cost of achieving either. It's hard to imagine a market where people are willing to pay for a folding mechanism. The mass market for 3D printers is a "good-enough/cheap enough" market. Your folding printer seems like more of a personal interest project to me. But what do I know?


Son of MegaMax 3D printer: [www.instructables.com]
Re: I am working on my portable 3d printer again, is it still worth it?
July 06, 2017 07:48AM
You almost certainly know more than me, not to mention I'm biased (the reason I'm working on this in the first place is because I like to have one).

Anyways, regardless of the commercial potential, I'll keep working on it and publish updates on hackaday.io and my website, if anyone is interested.
Re: I am working on my portable 3d printer again, is it still worth it?
July 06, 2017 10:17AM
I have a bit of a soft spot for portable machines since I went to an out of province university and currently live in an apartment. My most complete attempt at a portable device was a cnc router: [hackaday.com]
It suffered from rigidity problems (too much Z-travel + unsupported rail) which more or less constrained it to plastic, however it saw considerable use at school and even travelled it through airport security multiple times.

Traditional machine design is already quite challenging, but a well designed portable device must also consider weight, compactness, wire management, repeatable unfolding (preferably without tools), and be very robust. If you build a printer for travel expect it to take abuse. The Printrbot Go was a commercial portable printer, but the design was pretty clowney (to be polite) and I'm not surprised it never gained traction.

Although 3d printers seem more suited to portable designs, I had trouble fitting one into a matching briefcase because I really wanted to include filament and a permanently connected bowden within the case as well. There are already plenty of printers small enough to toss into a backpack so if your portable design requires set up and spools of filament there isn't much point.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/06/2017 10:21AM by 691175002.
Re: I am working on my portable 3d printer again, is it still worth it?
July 06, 2017 06:08PM
I think a nice portable printer could easily be made from my Gimbal.
With the addition of a few more parts like this(you could even try 45 deg printing)

or

either single Z or dual, ideally just one but it would be a sturdy little beast with 2,
or make something a little cheaper,
so vertical Z bar £20 with linear rail (or just utilize the dovetail), H bar another £20(same again), then maybe belt or an expanding Y.
One that Moved in XYZ and printed on the Table would be cool.

Maybe these could be used for 100mm axis X & Y maybe even Z, flex cables to turn knobs, a few extra holes drilled to help. At less than £7 metal slides...add some teflon film.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/07/2017 04:36AM by MechaBits.
Re: I am working on my portable 3d printer again, is it still worth it?
July 07, 2017 01:25PM
Hi Ryan,

First of all that's an awesome build, I hope it's still alive and kicking.

As for my design, I am aware of such requirements. I was originally designing mine with steel inner structure and carbon fiber housing and using relatively expensive components, unfortunately at the moment that would also mean higher price, which is currently the biggest challenge that I need to work on if this is to ever be a product. I want to make it so as to require minimal set up, such as unfolding the bed without tools. I am also hoping to make a compact filament spool that fits inside it.

Anyways, regardless of it's commercial potential, I'll keep working on it and publish my progress. I hope you like it when its done.
Re: I am working on my portable 3d printer again, is it still worth it?
July 07, 2017 01:28PM
John, I am afraid I'm having hard time imagining what you're describing. As for printing on the table, that would be cool indeed. You'd most probably still need some print surface on the table for the filament to stick to it though.
Re: I am working on my portable 3d printer again, is it still worth it?
July 07, 2017 01:57PM
The way Printrbot does its X axis could be done with the sliding focus plate ie hotend on the end of plate, join it to another for the Z with the circular thing and Z could rotate. Y similar but not printing on table at the moment. Y would need to be attached to base of Z to have the thing move in all 3 axis, possibly an alternate part or 2 to make it work. ie a normal plate with something like this

[www.ebay.co.uk]
You would need to use their plates for better compatibility, ie it has holes for the linker. could be used in more axis.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/07/2017 02:04PM by MechaBits.
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