Getting a new 3D printer

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I had ordered a new 3D printer. The day before Thanksgiving I got a new 3D printer kit in the mail, a Prusa MK3S+

This kit cost me $798.26 shipped. Now you don’t have to spend that much to get a 3D printer. My first one was about $250ish. I hear lots of good stuff about the Ender 3 which tends to run about $200.

You don’t need an expensive printer to get very nice prints. But it is much easier to get good prints from a more expensive printer. You can find all sorts of articles about how great the Ender 3 is, but then in the article they start to list all these various upgrade you should do. After years of seeing people get a Prusa printer and start printing right off the bat better prints than I was getting after lots of tweaking and upgrades, I finally broke down and got a Prusa.

Interestingly, I ordered a MK3S, but Prusa start phasing into the slightly upgrade MK3S+, so that is what I received in my order. While most of the changes are small, I would have been annoyed to finally get a Prusa printer and them release a newer version the following week.

I spend the evening before Thanksgiving, and a fair bit of Thanksgiving day building this kit. It took me about 12 hours, but I have built a 3D printer before. I’m sure it can be done faster, I know the first printer I build was spread over a few days, and I read it takes most people several days to assemble a 3D printer kit.

If I were to get another Prusa, I’d be sorely tempted to spend the extra $250 to just not have to assembly it my self. 12 hours is a good bit of time. I’d expect that to be a great deal longer for someone who hasn’t build a 3D Printer before. “Fun to assembly” is what their website says, I liked the mechanical side of assembly, but didn’t enjoy the wiring very much.

While the Prusa was easier to assemble then the first printer I had. But it also had a great deal more parts, and steps to folow.

I’m not going to go into a crazy amount of details into the assembly process, as Prusa has a great set of instructions on their website if you wanted to read them and see what is involved. There are also many videos of these printers being build.

Over on Youtube, ThisOldTony has a great video about the Prusa printer. I’d suggest you check it out:

When I got mine, everything was packaged up rather well. Prusa sorted all the parts, labeled them well, and has a full color manual.

There have been many versions and updates on the Prusa printer line. Back when I bought my first printer, I shied away from the Prusa line because they used 3D printed parts in their design.

I was under the impression that the biodegradable PLA plastic was unsuitable for rigidity and long term stability. Some of the stuff I used to read about PLA by 3D printing enthusiasts were heavily pushing the eco/biodegradable so much that I got the impression that PLA parts would turn to much after a few months. Instead I picked a printer that used waterjet cut acrylic parts. Acrylic parts that could flex and shatter.

Look at that hunk of metal, plenty rigid.

There are many things I like about this newest Prusa design. Parts are well labeled and high quality parts are used.

The other printers I had used knockoffs of the E3D hot end. This uses a real E3D hot end. Fans like the Noctura brand work better and are so much quieter than the generic cheap fans on most printers. Prusa printers now have a silent mode. I haven’t tried it, but the standard printing settings are so much quieter than my old printers.

That is not to say I didn’t have any hang ups during the assembly. I ran into problems in 3 main areas.

In this printer design, there are only a half dozen or so areas where a bolt is just screwed into plastic. Usually there is a nut inserted into the plastic parts for the bolt to screw into. In the picture above, there is a little slot for a nut that is where the end of the Allen key is sitting. On the part I received, there is some plastic debris or malformed printing there, and the nut would not go in. I spent quite a bit of time trying to scrape out that area. Finally just held a flame from a lighter to it for a moment and that cleared it out. This solution only took a few seconds but it took me a long time to think of it.

Where you see these two nuts in the center of the part, I had the plastic around the closer nut strip out allowing it to spin freely. This irritated the hell out of me and I spent some time trying to decide how to address the issue. That channel needs to be clear, so I couldn’t just leave it loose. I’m sure I could have just taken that bolt out and it would have worked fine. Or I could have printed a replacement part on my other printer. What I ended up doing was flipping the bolt around and putting the nut on the other side. While that might have been the worst solution, as it will make taking this area apart much harder if I ever have to in the future, it made me feel better to do this.

I don’t like wiring. I don’t like trying to get wires to fit in places. Running the wiring around the hot end had a bunch of tight 90 degree and Z bends. The instructions have me bend some wire horribly, then tell me to be careful with the wire so I don’t damage it. I was really worried that the hot end fan wire might have gotten damaged, but it all worked fine.

Cramming all the wires in the control box was a pain in the ass.

But, in the end, it was worth it. This MK3S+ prints faster, higher quality, and is easier to run that my previous printers.

Still, with time and effort you could get the same results from a cheaper printer. It is just going to make you work harder for it.

Best of all, the gummy bears were tasty.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting. Thank you.

    Definitely good to know about the kit vs assembled option tradeoffs … and your write-up provides good info for making the downselect.

  2. Thanks, Howard.

    I’d love to hear what the options are for doing the 3D modeling piece of this. I know you’ve said there’s a learning curve there if you want to do anything other than just download and use other people’s designs.

    • I like Solidworks for use, I hate it for its’ price.
      Fusion 360 was the hobbyist choice until the price was upped this year.
      People are looking for a new good low cost option. Not sure what that will be yet.

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