3D printing has taken an interesting dimension with several 3D printer designs in the market today. One interesting dimension is the ability to build own 3D printer according to your needs. People have looked at the possibility to a 3D printer replicating itself by printing the component parts of the 3D printer.
It is not entirely possible to print a 3D printer from scratch. However, you can print most of the components comfortably from the comfort of your home. Here are some options that are available at printing your own printer.
RepRap 3D printers
RepRap 3D printers are printers with the capability to replicate themselves by printing all the major parts. Anyone that owns a RepRap 3d printer can use it to builds another one from scratch. The creator of these printers, Adrian Bowyer, designed a self-replicating printer by making use of open source hardware and software to increase the 3D printer penetration.
RepRap has created a community of 3D printer creators and has been driving the ‘print your own printer’ movement. It has also played a great role in ensuring that the cost of 3D printers is moving down to levels that can be afforded by the general population. The next line of action in this movement is to create embedded electronics and motors. When this is possible with combined advanced electronic printing, it will be possible to print the entire printer from another 3D printer. There has been a success in this line in the recent past.
To work with RepRap, you need the parent machine. This machine costs about $2,000. You will get the guide and related instructions on how to go about printing the machine from the community. The problem with RepRap is that you print the parts one after the other and not attached as in a complete printer. You will have to join these parts together to build your printer. This not only tasking but may be a challenge if you do not have the basic knowledge in 3D printing.
Dollo 3D printers
There is also another inventor called Benjamin Angel that is coming up with a Dollo printer, which is capable of replicating most of the parts with 18 hours. The project is currently seeking funds on Kickstarter. It will be exciting to see what will come out of the project once it becomes effective and widespread.
Printing from conventional 3D printers
Even without the Rep Rap printer, most of the structural components of a 3D printer can be printed with ease from another 3D printer. However, you will have to buy the rods and electronics separately and have them assembled together by a creator. With the advancement in 3D printing technology, these printers are able to print conductive filament. This means that even the wiring system can be printed as well with ease. However, there are still some limitations to creating complex conductive filaments, but we are heading there in the foreseeable future.
What are the main challenges in printing 3D printers?
- 3D printers cannot match the required strength of some parts
Parts like the frame and the metal rod on the extruder require strength and accuracy. The surface quality determines the quality of the output. However, meeting the quality standards even when printing on metal 3D printer is very hard. The kind of metal that provides such quality is also very expensive to fuse together in a 3D printer.
The hot end of the extruder can also be printed by the 3D as per now. Unlike other parts, it reaches high temperatures to melt many plastics. When creating it, you must match the heat resistance that may not be possible on a 3D printer.
- Electronic parts are still too complex
Circuit boards are still too complicated to be printed by a 3D printer. Even if it were possible, it might not be possible to print circuit boards at a lower cost than what it takes to produce one with conventional means. The fan system is also not yet printed with a 3D printer.
Despite the few challenges on the way to printing a 3D printer, it is a matter of time before the industry think tanks find ways to go around the challenges and print entire 3D printers.