Portugal’s Reprapalgarve Team Shows Us How to Make a Steel Framed Color 3D Printer for Around $600

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reprapalgarveOver the weekend, Adam, who is the ten-year-old son of some friends of mine, purchased a very cool, medium sized replica of the Millennium Falcon from a local maker’s shop. I perked right up, of course, mainly because my kids had 3D printed one of their own back in early March while we were still snowed in here in Colorado and well in need of projects. Our Star Wars ship was one of those ‘start the print when you go to sleep’ and ‘see what you have when you wake up’ models, and it came out swimmingly—so much so that the kids proudly gave it to one of their teachers at school, and it’s on display in a classroom as a great example of major brownie points earned.

But my friends were bemoaning the fact that now young Adam is stuck on the idea of wanting his own 3D printer that costs over a thousand dollars. While most might consider that nominal in price, I didn’t want to see Adam’s enthusiasm squelched, and since they are a family of Star Wars fans and love new technology, I thought they might enjoy quality time while putting together a more inexpensive 3D printer kit as a family. But where to direct them? One potential answer came floating right across my desk this morning, with both the prerequisite low price tag and interesting build.

For under $400 USD (or closer to $600 for color), Aldric Négrier of reprapalgarve, from the University of Algarve in Portugal, outlines how you can make the RGB Steel 3D color printer. This isn’t the first we’ve seen from Négrier—or the 3D printing group famous for their workshops—as we’ve followed them in making everything from the Mega Prusa i3 to a rather comical 3D printed body, made to scale and in the likeness of one of their fellow makers at the university.

FWL443FIOVPO546.MEDIUMNow, Négrier and his team are offering an Instructable for this latest creation, an affordable DIY project that should look pretty darned good sitting on the desktop. Négrier told 3DPrint.com that they believe this is the least expensive color 3D printer kit in Europe.

“The RGB Steel 3D Printer is intended to be a nice looking, low cost, strong carbon steel frame, compact, color mixing, easy to assemble reprap 3D printer,” states Négrier.

Conceding that it is a redesign of the P3Steel 3D printer, Négrier points out that the advantage in this design is substantial: with the inclusion of a Diamond Hotend, you’ll be able to print in multiple colors. Not only that, but in lodging five or more Bowden extruders, you can extend the color mixing even further. The Instructable for the RGB Steel printer also includes information on how to install the Diamond Hotend on any reprap-style machine that’s working with ramps 1.4 and an Arduino Mega.

To get started on the open-source design, you’ll want to download and open it using Sketchup.

“All sizes are one to one scale,” states Négrier.

Then, you’ll need the following:

  • (1) Laser cut carbon steel frame
  • (6 ) Smooth rods
  • (8) LM8UU bearing
  • (2) M5 threaded rods 32cm each
  • (2) GT2 belts
  • (2) 28 teeth pulley
  • (3) Mk8 extruders
  • (1) Diamond hotend and fan
  • (3) E3D extruder heatsink and heatbreak
  • (2) 5mm ot 5mm motor couplings
  • (1) 210x200x4mm glass sheet
  • (28) M3x12mm screws
  • (8) M3x30mm screws
  • (36) M3 nuts
  • (1) Arduino Mega 2560
  • (1) Ramps 1.4
  • (1) Arduino CNC Shield
  • (6) Micro stepping drivers
  • (7) Nema 17 Stepper Motors
  • (3) Mechanical endstops
  • (1) 12V power Supply
  • (1) 12V Heat bed
  • (2) 100k ohm termistor
  • (1) Resistor for heating the Diamond Hotend
Painting the steel parts

Painting the steel parts

Once all the ‘ingredients’ are in order, it’s time to move on to laser cutting a modest array of parts, neatly outlined. This involves downloading the vector file and then having the parts cut from a 3mm carbon steel sheet or a metal that is similar. This carbon frame is going to allow you:

  • Top center LCD mounting
  • Up to five Bowden Mk8 extruders
  • Up to five filament spools
  • Up to five extruders (still untested)

You’ll want to mount the Y axis, using information from the P3Steel  and the same with the Z axis. Are you interested in painting the steel parts for the frame? This can be quite a process, and if so, you’ll want to refer to the notes which will assist you in information regarding filing, sanding, cleaning, and then the painting. You can also include the backlighting feature for the logo, using 3mm Crital acrylic panels.

“The process is simple, you just need to cover the acrylic panels with a red, green and blue piece of thin plastic in order for the white light to turn red green and blue,” says Négrier.


Then, you’ll need to power the LEDs using 12V from the power supply.

Components needed for wiring are as follows:

  • (1) Arduino Mega 2560
  • (1) Ramps 1.4
  • (1) Arduino CNC Shield
  • (6) Micro stepping drivers (x y z E0 E1 E2)
  • (7) Nema 17 stepper motors
  • (3) Mechanical endstops
  • (1) 12V power supply
  • (1) 12V heat bed
  • (2) 100k ohm thermistor
  • (1) Resistor for heating the Diamond Hotend

The simple wiring diagram explains how to connect everything.



For mounting the Diamond Hotend, you’ll need the following:

  • (1) Diamond Hotend
  • (3) E3D V6 or lite heat sinks
  • (1) fan for the Diamond Hotend
  • (3) units of 40 cm 4mm2mm Teflon tubing
  • (6) Teflon tubing adapter

The MK8 extruders are fixed with one screw onto the frame—and for reference, you’ll want to check out the images as shown in Step 11 of Négrier’s Instructable.

Your RGB printer will be able to hold three to five spools of filament easily, and for installing the Teflon tubing for the triple Bowden extruders for color mixing, see more here, again from Reprap.

Repetier Firmware is downloaded in Step 14, and you will need to refer to the Instructable for a list of configurations, as well as continuing to install the Repetier host, and then offer the RGB values for each extruder including the names for each color, listing a few here just as an example:

  • Cyan R0 G255 B255
  • Ocean R0 G191 B255
  • Blue R0 G0 B255
  • Violet R169 G0 B255
  • Magenta R255 G0 B255
  • Raspberry R255 G0 B169


Following, you’ll want to enter the specific scripts for color mixing. Last, the team suggests adding a 3D model with multiple parts to the print plate, positioning it correctly, and then assigning a color to each part. Afterward, select an object for a test print.

If you’re looking for a fun DIY project, the RBG Steel should fulfill that requirement easily, as well as allowing you the added benefit of printing in color. This is just one more great idea from the team at reprapalgarve, where their university continues to offer a list of workshops that allow designers to take the open-source concept to its highest potential. Is this a printer you might want to make yourself? Discuss in the RBG Steel Color 3D Printer forum over at 3DPB.com.

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