Hobbyists Design & Build ‘Big Red’ Self-Replicating Printer — Almost Entirely 3D Printed

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What could be more exciting than checking out cool stuff made from a 3D printer? We’d have to say the next best thing is checking out a new 3D printer that can make another, and another, and…well, in this case, we’re checking out the Long Bed Printed 3D Printer by Instructables member dmserve, also known as Dennis to his friends.

The 3D printer came about with some great features after Les Hall and his buddy Dennis were having a quick conversation one evening, including the topic of 3D printing technology and equipment.

One - first prototype - Little Red

Little Red

“Dennis asked me what I would like to see in a 3D printer,” said Hall, a 3D printing enthusiast. “Long story short, six months later he’s got this self-reproducing all-plastic printer design that just totally amazes me!”

Both Dennis and Les brainstormed together regarding their idea for an all-plastic 3D printer that could self-replicate. The first prototype of the 3D printer by Dennis was called ‘Little Red,’ and was functional and printing by December 2014.

“After proving that a plastic printer was practical, the next step was to add reproducibility,” said Dennis. “This led to the Big Red design which incorporates the long bed from the modified i2 design. Work began on Big Red December 13 2014, with a projected First print on April 11 2015.”

Getting a kick out of the idea of not only a self-replicating 3D printer, but one that is nearly all plastic, Dennis made that a primary focus. The only parts that are not plastic are mechanical pieces such as rods, motors, and chips, with the entire project highlighted in Dennis’ Instructables project.

“Working to design a frame that could be printed on a heated bed, soon I discovered I needed a larger build surface,” said Dennis. “After making a way to accurately control a larger bed, I had the maximum size that the frame pieces could be. By combining different parts I was able to get the main frame down to nine pieces.”

With a print area of 200 x 425 x 100 mm, Big Red’s printed frame pieces are the following:

  • Lower Center Frame
  • Lower Left Side
  • Lower Right Side
  • Lower End Plate with motor mount
  • Lower End Plate with idler
  • Upper Motor Mount
  • Upper Left Side
  • Upper Right Side
  • Upper End Plate

“The upper table moves faster than the lower table, and this keeps support and proper alignment under the print head,” said Dennis. “I recommend using auto level (auto compensation) with this design.”

Other unique features are the X Carriage, which is designed to pass by the vertical part of main frame, giving more X travel—as well as the extruder (modified wades style) which is rotated 90 degrees, also increasing X travel.

red

This version is using 3.0mm filament, but Dennis states that he has not tried 1.75mm. In a frank discussion of his 3D printer, Dennis mentions he doesn’t tout his second prototype as the best design out there, and he is well aware there are certainly ‘more expensive’ ways to do it.

“This proves the theory of operation, and can be developed further,” said Dennis. “I am planning to test and monitor current design and see what areas have weaknesses and failures, and improve them.”

big red print bedIn his Instructable, Dennis leads the user through building a design like ‘Big Red,’ beginning with assembling the main frame. He states that if you don’t have a printer large enough to print it, hold tight, as he is currently in the process of “making another Instructable for the large bed modification for i2’s, that can be modified to fit other printers.”

Prints for the main frame vary from three to ten hours, with no supports required, while Dennis has experimented with varying infill amounts, described in Step Three of his Instructable.

Once the frame is printed, Dennis walks you through:

  • Assembling the main frame
  • Assembling X and Z axes
  • Assembling Y axis

In the final steps, he offers additional information for optional builds. For instance, if you don’t want or need a long bed, you could also:

  • Use either a heated or non-heated bed.
  • Use the smooth rod clamp to hold the Y axis rods.
  • Attach a bearing holder to the table.
  • Slide table assembly on to the smooth rods and attach the GT2 belt.

If you do not want to use the auto level, you could also:

  • Use the spring method to level the bed.
  • Employ the back-up Z end stop for homing the Z Axis.

“We plan to open source both designs for non-commercial use so that anyone can print their own Little Red or Big Red,” said Dennis.

Cost for the machine is estimated to be that of an average RepRap 3D printer, and users can expect to go through roughly 2-2.5 rolls of filament to print the main frame, with 1-1.5 rolls used to print the smaller parts.

Is this a design you are interested in 3D printing, or modifying for your own use? Tell us about it in the Big Red’ 3D Plastic Self-Replicating Printer forum over at 3DPB.com.

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