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Is It Cheaper To Build Your Own 3D Printer?

As a 3D printer and DIY enthusiast ready for some challenge, you may have it in mind to build your own 3D printer from scratch. Is it a good idea? Are DIY 3D printers cheaper to construct your own?

It is cheaper to build your own printer on the surface, and that option offers the chance to customize it. However, you need to consider the complicated nature of building a 3D printer from the ground up and the fact that parts may be harder to find should you need repairs. 

No matter if you’re beginning your 3D printer journey or you’re an experienced user, read on for tips and tricks you can use to be the most successful you can be.

What To Consider When Building a 3D Printer

If you’re up for the challenge, you can build a complete 3D printer from scratch. This is a long and strenuous process that will take up a significant amount of time and require advanced technical knowledge. 

In the long run, you’ll need to decide if the ability to customize your printer is worth all the extra time and effort spent building. You may find that the cost of building versus the cost of buying is comparable once you account for your time and the cost of materials and repairs. 

They’re Easy To Customize

A great perk of building your 3D printer yourself is that you can customize the device as much as you want. There aren’t decisions about colors, materials, and other details that have already been made for you by the manufacturer. 

If you want a massive printing board, you can make your printer have one. If you need to make the device Braille accessible, you can! The possibilities are endless when you are making the device all on your own.

This means you can also customize your printer to work with your unique computer or mapping device. You can make sure all of the ports are going to work, and the cables connect properly. You can adapt the specification to make sure that it is all going to function effectively.

There Are No Official Step by Step Guides

There is no user manual to guide you; you will need to find a guide from someone who has done this before and follow it if it is your first time. 

Depending on the type of device you want to build, there are usually YouTube tutorials. 

For example, this YouTuber named Dr. D-Flo has a whole two-and-a-half-hour tutorial about how to build an entire 3D printer from scratch:

His channel features several guides about how to install modifications and construct different types of printers. 

This is one of many channels that talk about building a 3D printer from the ground up. These guides usually provide lists of parts and other specifications so you can prepare for the process ahead of you.

Parts May Be Hard To Find

You will also need to find a source for all of the parts. This can be anything from your local Home Depot or Lowes to a Best Buy or another tech supply store. 

Sometimes, you might be able to find a smaller tech store that supplies DIY parts. Amazon is also an excellent option for some of the harder-to-find parts, especially if you live in a remote area.

The Process Will Be Time Consuming

You have to take the time to source the materials, prep them for assembly, and then go through the whole assembly process with testing along the way.

If you are a person who has a nine-to-five job and wants to work on this in your free time, you may have to expect a longer and more drawn-out timeline. These aren’t devices you can throw together in one night.

There May Be a Lot of Trial and Error

There is a significant risk associated with building your own printer. You can make mistakes with installing different pieces, you’ll have to do all repairs yourself, and there isn’t a support line you can call for help. 

These hazards can take many different forms, and each poses its own challenge and dangers.

Installation Mistakes Are Common With Hobbyists

Installation mistakes are the most common problems you may face during this process. They can be incredibly frustrating to fix, especially if they were made early in the process.

These can be anything from a missing screw to a missing piece of tubing. All of these errors can impact how your printer functions. 

They can also be pretty dangerous, depending on what error has been made. If there is a problem with the heating element, you could accidentally start a fire or damage other printer parts.

Another issue could be fume-related. If the fume hood or other fume removal system isn’t hooked up correctly, there could be issues with the fumes building up around the heating element. One stray spark could ignite the fumes, or it could be hazardous to the user’s lungs.

The worst thing that could happen is that you complete building your printer, and then when you go to turn it on, it doesn’t work. This is a problem that could require you completely disassembling the printer to fix it. 

All of these are things that mean you need to be responsible for what you built. Unless you are a professional or highly experienced yourself, you shouldn’t sell your completed device.

Most kits come with an assembly manual that should guide you through any major issues that crop up. However, unlike kits or pre-builts, repair work is a murkier question that’s harder to answer.

There Will Be Nobody To Help With Repairs

Your 3D printer will also need repairs from time to time as it ages. Occasionally, you may need to fix the damage that has occurred, such as if water spilled or something just broke.

You will need to complete repairs by yourself. Since your homebuilt device is custom, not many places will offer repair services.

This is because the repair companies do not always know what the customer has done to their device. They may not know what tools they need to do proper repairs and may not have them in the shop. 

One perk of building your printer from the ground up is that you can complete repairs by yourself, presumably, since you made the whole thing yourself. Like custom PC users, you will have a greater understanding of how your device works.

No Support From Manufacturers

There is also no support if you have any questions or concerns about your device. You can’t just call in to a company’s helpline and get answers. 

There will not be other people who can help you with your exact problem or ID common issues with your specific build. No two home-built 3D printers will be identical. 

If you are particularly stumped, there are all kinds of repair forums and printer groups you can seek out. These communities are willing to help newbies, and developers figure out how to fix and manipulate your devices.

You can find these groups all over social media and in various programmer or 3D printer forums.

What To Include in DIY 3D Printers

You should include many things in a DIY 3D printer that most kits and scratch plans won’t have. These can be crucial if you want to upgrade your printer or make a few adjustments.

These can be considered modifications to the original designs, but they can be instrumental when adequately utilized.

Fume Containment

A lot of kits come without some form of the fume containment system. This makes the building capacity even larger. 

Most hobbyists or casual creators won’t ever need to worry about this since the modern printer feed is safe for DIY use and does not generate fumes.

If you’re using unique materials that aren’t your standard printer feed, you need to make sure you have fume protection in place. While some materials are safe, others can generate untold amounts of fumes that could be very dangerous if inhaled.

It’s a good idea to develop a fume hood or ventilation device to ensure you will not get hurt by the fumes. You can’t be too careful.

Large Build Areas

Many kits will come with a primary build area that is a smaller size. However, if you build a custom setup, you can make an even bigger area.

These can accommodate even the most significant projects with more than ample room. That means there’s no limit to what you can make!

You should make sure that the feeding toward is tall enough to accommodate your projects.

If you take these suggestions into your thoughts about building your printer, you should have a much safer and happier time. All of these will save you money, time, and stress down the road. 

3D Printer Options and Costs

prusa 3d printer kit

Chuck Hull made the first 3D printer in the 1980s, and in the years immediately after, the only way to get one was to build it yourself. The first mass-produced 3D printers hit the shelves in the 1990s, but they were costly and reserved for unique processes, like military technology.

Now, they are readily available, and the prices are much more consumer-friendly. 

3D Printers Can Cost Between $150 and $5,000

Nowadays, you can buy pre-built printers for as much as $5000 with an average price of $700 for hobbyist 3D printers. These can handle everything from printing buttons to making an anatomically correct human heart. You can trust them for both personal and professional use.

A 3D printer can be an invaluable tool for repairs, gifts, and art in general. For most people, the price tag associated with the pre-built 3D printers is a turnoff. You can cut down on the cost by building the whole thing yourself.

Do not build your printer from scratch if you want to start making professional-grade models right away. There are plenty of affordable and high-grade pre-built printers out there that will give you the results you want. 

Buying a pre-built model means you can be sure that the device is protected by warranties and has support networks if something happens to it. It also shouldn’t have any risk of breaking down due to an assembly issue.

Pre-built printers will arrive and be ready to go once you plug them in. They are the best choice for someone who doesn’t want to bother with the time and responsibility of making sure the printer is assembled correctly.

Building the printer yourself will take time and energy and isn’t a commitment to be undertaken lightly. You will need space and tools to put everything together. If any issues come up from the building process, they are entirely on you, and you’ll have to be the one to fix them.

There are ways you can cut down on time, but you have to be meticulous every step of the way. One of the easiest ways you can cut down on time is by purchasing a 3D printer kit.

3D Printer Kits Can Cost Between $150 and over $5000

If you don’t want to build a 3D printer from complete scratch, there are many kits you can buy and assemble. These are great if you aren’t exactly the most tech-minded.

These come with instruction manuals and all the tools you need to succeed. They will have every part you need and diagrams. Many repair shops will also accept your device if anything should happen to it. 

Even building with a kit will be complex; 3D printers are complicated devices. Constructing a kit requires some basic knowledge of construction and mechanical engineering, but they try to make it easier.

One of the best deals for a kit is the Ender 3 from Creality. Though there have been several different generations of Ender, the Ender 3 is still a reliable and affordable option.

While the Ender 3 is consistently recommended, any of the Ender series make for good kit options. The Ender 5 Pro 3D is also an inexpensive and high-quality printer that you can find on Amazon as well.

If you’re looking for a printer with a larger than standard printing space, you should go for the FLSUN QQ-S Pro, which is another kit you can order on Amazon.com. This printer has a higher than usual print volume which means you can do taller and more complicated projects. 

All of these kits make great gifts for the programmer or designer in your life. They are some of the best rated on the market today. They are fun and exciting to put together and should keep more intrepid builders occupied for at least a couple of hours.

However, since the costs of kits are so similar to pre-built printers, you might want to save yourself some time and opt for the ready-made version.

Final Thoughts

Building your 3D printer can be a fun adventure and learning tool for you and anyone in your family who might be interested. 

You can completely customize your device to your specifications and develop your own programs while working on a rewarding endeavor. 

However, once you take into account the time spent and the price of parts and potential repairs, you might find that it makes more sense to buy a ready-made printer that comes with the convenience of a warranty and professional tech support.