Building a 3D printer is something that many adults can’t imagine doing – especially without a kit. For 10-year-olds Andi Shievitz and Mallory Moser, however, it was a welcome challenge – and one that they pulled off marvelously. The two girls already possessed an entrepreneurial maker spirit, having raised $200 last summer with a lemonade stand that also sold soap they made themselves. With that $200, plus a matching donation from Andi’s father, they embarked on an ambitious project for their school science fair.
Their goal was to prove that kids could create their own robot that would build toys, as well as useful objects for adults. On a suggestion from Andi’s father Mike, they decided to build a 3D printer, with only $400 plus some creative resourcefulness.
“I explained that ‘kit bashing’ was basically grabbing a bunch of parts to make something new and unique,” said Mike. “They lit up with thoughts of what could be possible.”
To help the girls visualize the capabilities of the printer they wanted to build, Mike showed them the 3D Printer Test Kits from 3DKitbash, supplier of easy-to-print toys and test models. The company’s test kits are designed as simple, quick-printing models for the purpose of testing and calibrating a 3D printer, but they’re also fun designs for kids to print. The girls loved them, and were even more excited when they saw 3DKitbash’s 3D printable Quin doll and a print-in-place toy car.
“What kid doesn’t want their own toy factory?” said Mike.
Andi and Mallory spent three months building their 3D printer, which they based on the delta Kossel Pro and appropriately named 3DKitBasher. Working after school and on weekends, they 3D printed several of the parts they needed on Mike’s printer, and scavenged additional parts from his workshop. Most of the files for the printer and extruder were available on Thingiverse, and they used Repetier firmware and MatterControl printer control and slicing software. The carriages and electronics tray were designed in Tinkercad, with a bit of help from Mike and some YouTube videos.
Andi wanted everything to fit inside the perimeter of the printer frame, so the girls decided to use a Geeetech GT2560 for the controller because it was small enough to install under the print bed. The print bed itself is glass, allowing observers to see the control board, controller, motors, and FSR sensors underneath. Because they didn’t have a kit to work with, the girls had to make their own decisions about several aspects of the printer’s design, which created challenges at times, but they worked their way through each challenge, learning a lot on the way.
“It took a long time, and we made a lot of mistakes, but we kept solving one problem at a time until everything worked,” said Mallory.
In addition to learning about 3D printers, Andi and Mallory learned a host of other new skills, such as soldering, wiring, heat shrinking and assembly.
“My favorite part was teaching Mallory to solder, just like my dad taught me,” said Andi. “She had never done anything like it, but she caught on right away.”
3DKitBasher was completed for a total cost of about $375 – just under budget. Andi and Mallory’s hypothesis – that kids could build a robotic device to fabricate useful objects – was successfully proven, and they took home first place at the science fair. The girls were, rightfully, extremely proud of their work, especially because they had figured out so much on their own without the help of adults.
“Making can sometimes be a long run, but stick with it. You and everyone else will be better for it,” Andi agreed. “Some advice for little girls thinking about inventing or making, Just go for it.”
Discuss further in the 3DKitBasher 3D Printer forum over at 3DPrint.com.[Source/Images: 3DKitBash, provided directly to 3DPrint.com]