Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snips & Snails

What are little printers made of?

In case anyone is curious, I worked up a list of materials and what I paid for them (to the best of my recollection) or what they would cost now.

Materials: About $500-$600 total
   It depends on how much you have to pay for shipping and what you can scrounge up for free. (I did it for about $375 with scavenged/recycled materials and some leftover stuff from previous projects). Since I spread out the spending over 2 years it really didn't seem like much at the time. The projector was the single most expensive item but if you watch eBay you can usually find one for a reasonable price. If you want to have a build envelope larger than 4x6 you might want to look into a higher resolution projector (with a higher price tag).

  • Projector – Mitsubishi XD430U (1024x768, 230W UHP bulb) $150 from eBay
  • 1 Stepper motor for Z axis – Scavenged from old equipment (about $10 surplus from
  • 1 Stepper motor for shutter (optional) – also scavenged from old equipment (about $10 surplus from
  • 2 axis bipolar stepper driver – I had one, (it was about $40 from eBay a few years ago) obviously if you only use 1 stepper you can get away with the cheaper 1 axis controller
  • AC relay board - to control the air pump. $18 from
  • Basic Breakout board – Had one of these too, ($10 from
  • 24V Power supply – Had an extra one. ($20 from eBay) or convert a pc supply.
  • Aquarium air pump - $14 from Walmart
  • Switches – assorted mechanical and optical, had a bunch of these scavenged from old equipment.
  • Parallel printer cable and assorted wire from my Box ‘O Stuff

DIY Z axis :
  • Scrap MDF / Pine 2x4 – Free?
  • 1” Steel angle bar stock – about $16 from Home Depot
  • 1” Aluminum angle bar stock – Had some from a previous project (about $5 from Home Depot)
  • 8 roller skate bearings - $5 from eBay
  • Assorted Nuts, Bolts, Washers and Corner braces – about $10 from Home Depot
  • Acme threaded rod - $19/3ft from (I only used 16” so really $9.50)
  • Coupler – Had one of these too ($15 from
  • DIY leadnut – You can make one for next to nothing, if you have the Delrin, or buy one (about $20)

Resin Vat:
  • HDPE Cutting board material 1” - $17 from I could probably have used MDF if I wanted to go extra cheap.
  • HDPE cutting board material ½” - $9 from I could probably have used MDF if I wanted to go extra cheap.
  • 2 Hinges – medium/small brass from Lowes $4
  • Glass – $10 for a 12”x12” piece of double thick (5mm) glass from (I cut 3 windows from this so I have a few extras ready for quick replacement)
  • Bolts, threaded inserts, washers – about $8 from Home Depot
  • Sylgard 184 – $50 / .5 Kg from eBay. That’s probably enough to coat 20 or more 4x6 pieces. It’s really a consumable but I’ll include it in the build cost.
Build platform:
  • More scrap wood
  • HDPE scrap from the vat construction
  • Cheap cutting board - 3/8" thick about $3 from Walmart
  • Aluminum angle left over from the z axis
  • ¼” 4x6 Aluminum plate – about $5 from
  • More corner braces - $5 from Home Depot. I could have cut these from scrap wood and glued them in place but I got lazy.
  • Scrap MDF, Plywood, Melamine shelving
  • Scrap steel for projector mounts and front supports – from an old server rack mount
  • Even more corner braces - $5 from Home Depot
  • Red Plexiglas for door and projector shutter (optional but nice) - $30 from local supplier
  • Drawer pull, hinges and magnetic cabinet latch – Had these in my parts box. (About $7 from Home Depot)
  • Misc screws/bolts – from workbench

I'm already thinking of ways to improve/simplify the design and will undoubtedly recycle most of the parts for the MkII


  1. Hi John, Great blog! For your vat, it looks like you're sandwiching the glass between an upper and lower pair of frames? What do you use to seal between the glass and the frame(s)?

  2. For now I just run a bead of aquarium sealer (the clear silicon stuff). I have to let it dry fpr a few hours before I can use the vat. I'm thinking of looking for some soft silicon sheet that I can make a gasket out of. That would let me make quick changes.

  3. Hey awesome blog!
    Could you tell us what software you used for the printer?
    Or perhaps write a post about the software? Your blogs real interesting and has really helped me with my process of building a printer and has really excited me.

  4. Bradley, Thanks. I'm actually getting ready to work on a V2.0. One of the upgrades is going to be switching to an Ardino controller. That will change my whole software workflow (and hopefully make it easier to print). Stay tuned