Over the next few weeks, I will be designing* and constructing a 3D printer, focusing on an aesthetic which will fit in my living room or even kitchen. So many home-built 3D printers and printer kits are bare skeletons of extruded aluminum and rods, with tangles of wire harnesses and exposed components. While this is typically the easiest approach for DIYers (as they don’t have to mess with building a complex frame that doesn’t add any strict functionality to the printer), I don’t think it really fulfills/reinforces/encourages the idea that everyone will someday have a 3D printer in their home. Moreover, I think that industrial designers put considerable effort into making household tools and appliances beautiful (everything from hot water kettles to stereo players) and a printer should be no different.
As this is an “aesthetics of design” class, I think I am going to focus more on the aesthetics this semester than creating a fully functional printer. Thus: I do not expect to be able to readily print anything by May (with the intention to work on the project more over the summer). Rather, I expect to have all of the mechanical components designed, fabricated, and assembled for presentation as part of this class. My goal is to focus on bringing an aesthetic to an otherwise commonplace homemade 3D printer setup.
I want this piece to be presentable in my living room, bedroom, or kitchen, and thus I want it to fit in with the surroundings of a typical house or apartment. This project will hopefully make even skeptics of 3D printing want a unit of their own as a fashion/design statement within their homes. Unfortunately, at this point I have a better idea of what I don’t want this project to look like, than what I really do. As I’ve mentioned, most printer kits, walk-through projects, and entry-level printers that you can find online look pretty bare-boned. Here are some examples:
One option that does look pretty good is the Micro by M3D. However, its small build volume and limited customizability options make this a fairly entry-level printer.
I have several constraints that I would like to meet in my design. First, I’d like to ensure that the build volume is comparable to the nicer (~$2500) printers, which are roughly 25cm x 15cm x 15cm. Many of the kits out there and entry-level options are smaller by comparison (the printrbot above does 15cm x 15cm x 15cm, the M3D does 13cm x 11cm x 11cm). Having the ability to do larger builds is great for around-the-house sort of projects.
I’m planning on following the build instructions for a kit called the “Prusa Mendel i3”, which is a “RepRap” design. This category of printers is open-source and contains lots of support materials online. While this model is bare-bones like all of the others, I’m planning to build a custom enclosure for it.
I have a cool sketch of what I’m hoping it will look like, but the WordPress site won’t upload it. I’ll save it for next week.
I’m planning to order parts this weekend, and then start tinkering with it every free moment afterwards!