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Designer Creates a DIY SLA 3D Printer for Under $30 (Minus the Projector)

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Most of us are aware of the KISS principle: Keep it simple, stupid! And while simplicity is certainly a theme in many 3D printers, they are anything but stupid—and created by those who are the polar opposite—with ingenuity in abundance—which they use to share new innovations with the world.

One quite simply has to give up with wondering what the collective ‘they’ will come up with next and just roll with the idea that the possibilities in 3D printing are infinite. And as progress in the industry and the community of makers marches on daily and hourly, it’s hard not to be astounded by the level of austerity makers manage to blend with elegance and quality in their experimentations that result in new builds–not to mention one design that can morph into another.


While affordability is an issue in 3D printing for sure, and we all take an interest in checking out a printer that launches on Kickstarter for Indiegogo at the $500 mark or less, making us wonder how they did it and whether or not it can really work for us, we certainly haven’t been expecting to learn how to build a 3D printer practically for free. That’s certainly a design worth checking out and perhaps experimenting with yourself if you are interested in SLA and looking at the benefits of a 3D printer that prints from the top down or the bottom up, using Arduino software. Mystamo, also known simply as ‘Mo,’ on the forum took his top-


Arduino with connectors

down design and experimented to see if it would work with his projector for a bottom-up design.

Sometimes the most interesting projects in the end—and those that throughout the ages have led to some very interesting inventions–tend to be the exploratory ones that are ‘just thrown together,’ like Mo’s top-down SLA 3D printer which was then tested in the more conventional bottom-up method with perfect success.

After a weekend project exploring and fiddling around to see if his projector was working correctly without need for further customization, Mo refined this 3D printer which he built for under $30—and he actually lists his personal cost at only $10, after finding an Arduino Uno for only $5 on Ebay (Note that a projector is still needed which will be an additional expense). He employed the Arduino to run a very simple HTL code with only some slight changes.

The Stepper Driver was also an Ebay find for Mo at $2. By soldering that directly to the pins and ‘shrink tubing the whole thing,’ he added connectors for ease in removal. For this design, it runs at 1/16 micro stepping.

While the bottom-up versus top-down style of 3D printing tends to open up a big conversation, with most 3D printing enthusiasts vying for the first option, there are benefits to both—and when it comes to the level of affordability found in Mo’s 3D printer, it’s certainly tempting to explore all the options available.

This particular design does not use any 3D printed parts itself, but rather just items Mo had around the house. SLA, a resin-based type of 3D printing, is usually designed with a bottom-up style due to issues like the need for more resin—thus greater expense—as well as layer height control. With the bottom-up style, the projector is positioned underneath the resin tank where it points up and cures the resin. While affordability and use of resin are a concern, the main point with whichever design you use is that there must be suitable, powerful illumination for providing an efficient, effective build.

Mo did find that his projector, an ACER 5360 720P, was suitable for the 3D printer with a bottom-up design as well. Here is the general list of items you will need, should you desire to attempt something similar:

  • Arduino Unosla2
  • A4988 Stepper Driver
  • Glass Vat – square and thick
  • DVD Drive Laser Rail – also found used on Ebay, affordably
  • 12AWG wire and Perf Board

Mo also discovered that the projector’s focus screw needed to be removed for manipulating the focus wheel, and fine-tuning of the focus was needed. Using FTD Standard RED, Mo was lacking Z-axis limits so he set the build plate just a bit higher than the resin surface with some resin poking out of the perf board holes. After that, the 3D print was ready to begin with 8-second exposures on the first three layers, and 2.5 second exposures on all other layers–at 0.05mm per layer.

Is this a design you are interested in attempting to build, or does it answer some questions you were wondering about regarding the top-down and/or bottom-up design? Do you use an SLA 3D printer, and if so what benefits do you get from it? Tell us your thoughts in the DIY SLA 3D Printer forum over at

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