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Seeking advice on a simple inexpensive 3d printer "spindle"

Posted: Thu Jun 06, 2013 3:20 am
by northbear
Goal: Simple inexpensive 3d printer "spindle". Would plan on being able to remove the z axis makerslide and replace with all components needed for a 3d printer. Just connect 120VAC and stepper motor cable and go.

Idea of how to do this: I am thinking I would need need an extruder, simple PID temperature controller and DC power supply all attached to the z axis makerslide. I am planing PLA to start so no heated bed would be needed. The QU-BD extruder seems simple and inexpensive but seems to have mediocre reviews. The PID temperature controller and DC power supply I would try to source from e-bay. I have a spare stepper driver for the extruder and would plan on using LinuxCNC and slic3r for the software.

The details:
This is where I get stuck. So many extruder options at vastly different prices (QU-BD MBE Extruder v9 for $49 to Makerbot Stepstruder mk7 for $200) and many options for the temperature controller, not sure what size power supply will be needed, and a bit fuzzy yet on how to wire it all up (still have some learning to do)

Does my goal seem reasonable? Any advise on the details? If things get too expensive it would seem to make more sense to pickup the latest inexpensive 3D printer on Kickstarter or something from printrbot then pulling double duty on a shapeoko. This would be my first 3d printer and so want to start inexpensive before I go all out and buy a Replicator 2 or the like!

Re: Seeking advice on a simple inexpensive 3d printer "spind

Posted: Thu Jun 06, 2013 3:31 am
by WillAdams
There's a bit on the wiki: ... ting_Mach3

w/ links to the forum. I'm interested in it myself.

Re: Seeking advice on a simple inexpensive 3d printer "spind

Posted: Thu Jun 06, 2013 10:06 am
by bjbsquared
This depends on how much of a "project" you want. You are trying to reinvent the hardest part of a 3D printer.

Just because you have X,Y,Z axis doesn’t mean your 1/2 there - your about 1/8th.

You'll probably want to upgrade the arduino to a MEGA and a shield that supports 3D printing.

You WILL want a heated bed. PLA will still warp - just not as much as ABS.

A few years agoI made a McWire 3D printer. It was enough of a project where I felt that I would wait for the technology to evolve more and then buy one. So that’s what I did.

I saved my pennies and bought a Mosaic (now known as an M1) from MakerGear. Great printer.Great company. Great customer service. No affiliation... just a customer. If the M1 caught fire today I would buy an M2 tomorrow. No question.

IRC chat on the reprap channel is your best source of knowledge. Makergear also has a channel and will answer general questions about 3D printers.

Good Luck!

Re: Seeking advice on a simple inexpensive 3d printer "spind

Posted: Thu Jun 06, 2013 10:09 am
by cvoinescu
Here are my two cents. QU-BD is so-so for ABS and completely unusable for PLA, according to many conversations I've seen. It can be made to work with some modifications, but by that time it's no longer cost-effective. I've had excellent results with a J-Head MK V-B (from -- there are cheaper MK IV clones on eBay, but they're of very variable quality) and this extruder. I'm using 3mm filament. For 1.75mm filament, a direct-drive extruder will work too and will be simpler, smaller and possibly cheaper; some work with 3mm filament too. There's a new extruder from SeeMeCNC, with favorable reviews so far at

I've had my Wade/J-Head extruder mounted on my eShapeOko for quite a while, and it's driven with RAMPS-like electronics (roughly the same schematic, but motors and heaters run at 24 V, and there are two Y drivers). It runs Marlin, which does the PID control in software. Because it's useful to be able to read and change the temperature when printing, I'd say temperature under the control of the firmware is better than a separate PID controller.

About wrapping: small and medium-size PLA objects stick very well to Kapton tape on a thermally insulating base (e.g. wood). They stick less well to Kapton tape on glass, which would need to be moderately heated.

Re: Seeking advice on a simple inexpensive 3d printer "spind

Posted: Thu Jun 06, 2013 5:25 pm
by northbear
Thanks for the responses...

WillAdams: Thanks for the link. I had seen it, but the total price was more then I was thinking it would be and was looking for a "bare bones" type setup.
bjbsquared wrote:This depends on how much of a "project" you want. You are trying to reinvent the hardest part of a 3D printer.
Just because you have X,Y,Z axis doesn’t mean your 1/2 there - your about 1/8th.
bjbsquared: Thanks for your comment because that is what it felt like! Seems like it should be simple, but the more I dig into it the more I realize how much is involved.

cvoinescu: Your comments on the QU-BD mirrors much of what I have read. Thanks for recommendations and your experiences with extruders. For me, going with a more complicated / expensive extruder and new / dedicated electronics is more then what I want to get into at this point

I am currently waiting for parts for my ShapeOKO style CNC to be made and in the meantime was looking at a simple / inexpensive way to try out 3D printing after I get it built. But looking at something just to try out 3d printing, maybe I should consider the makibox A6 LT for $200 (whenever it comes out) or the printrbot simple for $300 rather then build my own? Really just want to just slap an extruder on in place of the spindle and go to town, but from what I gather it is not that easy.

Re: Seeking advice on a simple inexpensive 3d printer "spind

Posted: Thu Jun 06, 2013 6:06 pm
by Althiels
I was thinking I wanted to be able to do the exact same thing except use my TinyG controller, Slic3r, a seperate PID controlled temp for the extruder and a QU-BD. I have the QU-BD and it is still in my desk. I ended up getting in on the printrbot Simple Beta and am liking it so far. Just got it together last weekend and made a very shotty first print. Hopefully i'll have some time this weekend to play with it some more and get it dialed in. The thought was that for $250 (will now be $300) I'll get the functioning extruder and hotend along with the printrboard. Now, I have the choice of making myself a little board with Molex connectors that I can use as an adapter to swap my motors between my 24V TinyG setup and my 12V printrboard setup for the Shapeoko. That way I can use printer software (repetier), which is really nice, along with built in temp control and a great control board. I think in the end, this will prove to be much better bang for the buck/time investment. I guess we will see.

Another thought that i have been playing around with is what to do with my 4 x 375 mm makerslide once I pull the trigger and make my shapeoko bigger. (hopefully with the new motor/end plates when they become available) I was thinking it would be neat to see if there is a way to use the extra's to make a larger version of the simple's geometry/design ideas. or a delta bot. or an Hbot. The possibilities are limitless!!!!! I know Kbot made an Hbot style 3D printer using makerslide and is talking it up a ton so maybe that is a better idea?

Re: Seeking advice on a simple inexpensive 3d printer "spind

Posted: Thu Jun 06, 2013 6:37 pm
by WillAdams
Here's a rough sketch of what I'd like to do, which I think is at the low end in terms of performance and cost:

- get an extruder (which one? I'd be satisfied to start w/ PLA)
- use the un-used stepper on my AtomCNC board (advantage of a driveshaft upgrade)

Things I'm still hazy on:

- do I need a second power supply for the extruder or can it run off the 24v powersupply driving my ShapeOko's motors now?
- will Grbl 0.8a which I'm currently using work for 3D printing or do I need to re-flash?

What else is necessary? I'd like to avoid the complication of a heated bed.

I'm almost tempted to get a full 3D printer kit, then try to scavenge parts out of it --- that way if it doesn't work, I could just assemble the printer.


Re: Seeking advice on a simple inexpensive 3d printer "spind

Posted: Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:11 pm
by Will Winder
I briefly considered using ShapeOko as a 3D printer platform, but ended up building a separate printer. My deciding factor was that the CNC electronics and 3D printer electronics are too different, you'd have to re-flash it each time you want to switch between printer and router. Also if you already have an arduino running GRBL then you're out of luck, I believe all the current firmware flavors for 3D printing require at least an arduino mega. (supposedly you can 3D print with Mach3, so if you've gone that route this may not apply).

If you are determined to 3D print with the ShapeOko I would make it a PLA-Only machine, that you don't need to worry about setting up a heated bed. My standalone 3d printer does have a heated bed, but I've only used PLA so far and have not yet turned on the bed. Also you would need to make sure that your steppers are terminated in such a way that they can easily be swapped between the different electronics.

As for parts, I would get this extruder: ... -70780.htm
coupled with this hot end: ... duct_id=88
all controlled with an Azteeg X1: ... ax13dp.htm

Re: Seeking advice on a simple inexpensive 3d printer "spind

Posted: Thu Jun 06, 2013 9:42 pm
by northbear
Looking online a bit I found someone ("Jon") who did a CNC conversion very similar to what I was looking to do. ... inter.html

In the comments of that section he mentions he has now gone to a standalone 3D printer and that the Temp controller he was "waaay off on the temps it was reading which I think was causing a lot of problems"

It also sounds like it took him a while to get the QU-BD to work -- ... -jams.html
but did get it working in the end.

Re: Seeking advice on a simple inexpensive 3d printer "spind

Posted: Sat Jun 08, 2013 6:57 am
by kbot3d
as far as the inexpensive part, this is not where you want to save money. the extruder is to the printer what your engine and transmission is to your car. would you buy a camaro with a 4banger?
spend the money on a good reputable hotend or you won't get the quality you want in a print

there are two parts to the extruder setup. the feed system and the hotend. I have tried every popular version of the feed system. each has its own issues with the geared system using a hobbed bolt being the most reliable. direct drives look nice but don't operate as well in practice. the qubd out of the box is junk. I worked up a few parts to get it to function but in the end threw both of them in a drawer. bowden systems are tube fed with the feed system separate from the hot end. they are best suited to the rostock or delta design where weight savings is needed. the additional friction and retraction /restart causes its own headaches.

in the end I designed my own that is easy to reset and doesn't require springs. I happen to have a few handy as I am still working out lettering for my logo. you will need a hobbed bolt and a few bearings and bolts which I can provide for a small charge. I'll give you the plastic for shipping costs.

The hotend has as many variants as nike has shoes. I use the jhead from hotends mostly because I got a good deal buying ten of them at once. they beat the ebay clone hands down but will melt if you don't keep a fan on them. all metal hotends are nice but the heat will creep up to the top causing the filament to soften then spill off to the side ruining your print. No feed equals no print. This sucks 12 hours into a 13 hour print.
ceramics are nice but hard to keep cool. after writing all this I'm not sure I've said anything helpful. if you would like one of mine to try, pm me. you will need a jhead from and a fan. I have a drawing to match for an aluminum keeper which is a must after so many hours of printing to keep it from working its way out and ruining not only the print but the feed setup if you are setup for aluminum. i use 1/8 6061 plate.