Whether you want to 3D print, or you’re just a hacker who wants to create a 3D printer from scratch just for the fun of it (or to understand the whole thing), DIY printer kits are a great way to get started. With such kits you have a host of information that allows you to understand the whole design with its specific and relative complexities.
And because they have been created to allow you to put them together, open source design files make it a snap to configure and tweak the whole thing to your specifications. Today, kits are available for all kinds of filament materials as well as a range of other parts including but not limited to extruders and enclosures/housings.
Overview of the Best DIY 3D Printer Kits
check out the table below to get an overall understanding and then read the in-depth reviews below:
||RepRap Prusa I3
||Bob’s CNC RP9
||PLA, ABS, Nylon
||PLA, ABS + others
||USB, SD card
||USB, SD card
||USB, SD card
|Weight (in pounds)
|Build Volume (in^3)
RepRap Prusa I3 Review
RepRapGuru took a new turn with the Prusa I3 offering an open printer with minimal DIY proceedings. Because it has no enclosure, getting to the parts is easier than eating cake. Each part can be assembled and put together without complications with the help of regular screwdrivers, a much needed flexibility.
Because of the open, simple and transparent design, the printer requires no cutting or drilling to put together. It prints with ABS and PLA filaments, allowing a build capacity of 8” x 8” x 7”. With the help of a heated bed, ABS will get printed as easily as PLA. The whole setup runs on 110v (or 220V).
Click here to see reviews and prices for the RepRap Prusa I3 on Amazon.com
Q3D OneUp v3 Review
Q3D has a host of 3D printers in its products catalogue. Least expensive of all is the OneUp, optimized for PLA but the heated bed option allows Nylon as well as ABS filaments to print with ease. Based on the skill level, a DIY assembly can take anywhere from 2 – 8 hours allowing you to construct the open frame for a printing volume of ~ 4” x 4” x 5”.
Along with all the technical information required before hand, the manufacturer offers a lot of assembly directions and instructions apart from the open source files. The manufacturer recommends going through the information supplied before purchasing the kit which has a Windows/Mac/Linux native firmware. The standalone STL and OBJ functions also allow direct printing from a USB/SD Card.
Click here to see reviews and prices for the Q3D OneUp v3 on Amazon.com
Bob’s CNC RP9v3 Deluxe Review
Bob’s CNC was a garage startup that from the very start, made a point to not grow fancy. The electronic circuitry is quite literally open and displayed out on the front, surprisingly completing the whole “bare bone” look and feel of the printer.
The motors, ramps and wires are also visible, because of the lack of an enclosure and like the other two printers discussed above offers easy accessibility when putting together or taking apart. The best thing about this kit is that it now comes with an LCD display that allows you to select files and other settings right from the printer.
If you don’t have a computer to connect with the USB and SD card options allow direct printing from STL and OBJ formats using PLA, ABS, and some non-proprietary filament types. It’s build capacity is 8” x 8” x 8” and everything needed for the assembly including part files can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website. Check it out here.
Click here to see reviews and prices for the Bob’s CNC RP9v3 Deluxe on Amazon.com
If I had the money to dish out, I would definitely go for Ember (Bonus Section), because of the fact that it has the CAD-granddaddy at its back to offer support and developments. But because of the price tag and the DLP system, my choice out of the 3 above would be the Bob’s CNC RP9. Not only does it have the biggest build volume while being the lightest in weight, the structure that houses the build volume (yes it’s open) allows for the light structure to stay stable and not shake when printing at the speeds it can print at. Apart from this, it has more details than others and offers a lot support and after sales services in the case you get stuck.
Ember, is Autodesk’s way of going open source with 3D printing. The desktop printer, meant to be put together by a tech-aficionado has open source part files and gets accompanied with Spark, an open source software meant to serve as not just the firmware for the printer, but also to serve as a platform for further development and sharing functionality.
Spark can also be tweaked for your own 3D printer, whether Ember or not, along with allowing you to configure it if you want to tweak your Ember printer too. One last thing to remember is that although the printers compared above are Fused Disposition Modeling (FDM) printers, Ember is a Digital Light Processing (DLP) printer meaning it has a projector and uses light-sensitive material for printing.