I have been on a hunt for the past several years to find a cheap and simple, yet moderately high resolution 3D printer. I had 3 different 3D printers partially constructed when I heard about the amazing technology of DLP Stereo lithography (SLA) printers. I have finally found enough parts at the right price to construct a fully functional printer capable of amazing quality with spending less than $100. Top down DLP printers in their simplest form have only one axis of motion, a video projector, and minimal electronics. They do not require a heated or perfectly level bed, there is never a clogged or wrong temperature in the extruder as it does not use an extruder. And the resin used has a comparable price to FDM printers.

I Started this project to show that you don't need a lot of money or special equipment to start experimenting with 3D Printing. While this printer was not meant to give the same quality as an expensive printer such as the form 1, the results I got exceeded my expectations. There are still a few bugs to work out but, it definitely is usable. If you would like to see a video of it printing, the video is in Step 12.

The chimera (ky-meer-a) is a mythological creature that is made up of 3 different animals, this printer is made using the recycled/modified parts of 3 different categories (projector, toys, and old computer stuff), hence the name.

I am always looking for constructive criticism, let me know of any ways I can improve on the project, or the instructable!

Before continuing I would like to apologize for the not-up-to-current-standards pictures and video quality, I am working with almost or over a decade old equipment in bad lighting. I will try to update the photos once I get a better quality camera and/or find a better location for pictures.

Update 7/14/15 This project won one of the enthusiast grand prizes in the 2015 3D printing contest. Thank you everyone for their votes, and thank you instructables for continuing to be the best online DIY community! I am glad I could contribute to this site and hope my next project will spark as much interest as this one did.

Step 1: What is a dlp printer?

Let’s start out with the basics, in 1986 Charles W. Hull created stereo-lithography as a form of fabrication that uses ultraviolet light to cure a polymer resin to create solid objects. Since then, projection technology has opened up a highly accurate, fairly cheap, and easily accessible form of ultraviolet emission. A DLP printer is different from the "normal" FDM (fused deposition molding) 3d printers that have been dominating the community, an FDM machine uses an extrusion system similar to an advanced hot glue gun that is attached to an apparatus that can move the extruder in an X, Y, and Z direction. The extruder must follow a path made by a computer to print objects. A DLP printer uses the stationary projector to display the entire X and Y portions at once onto a resin that turn from a solid into a liquid from the light emitted by the projector in the shape of the projected image, and uses one axis for the Z motion.

Top Down vs. bottom up

  • Resin tank vs. resin vat - The biggest difference in the abilities of top down vs. bottom up printing comes from the limits of the container that holds the resin. In a top down system the platform and object slowly gets submerged deeper into the resin and is limited by how deep the tank is. This is not a problem if you only want to make small detailed prints as I designed this printer to do. Bottom up printers use a shallow tank and the object rises up out of the resin and is not limited by the vat size.
  • Viscosity - Top down system require a low viscosity resin in order to work properly, as it relies on the resin to flow on its own over the platform, and level properly when the object is lifted to skim just below the surface. Without a wiper apparatus you have to wait for resin to settle before you are able to print with your desired layer thickness. Luckily, MakerJuice's SubG+ has a low viscosity and works very well for top down systems. Bottom up printers squish the resin to the desired layer thickness.
  • Warping - Warping effects both types of printers, but effects each printer differently. In a bottom up printer, each layer of the object is created pressed between the bottom of the vat and the previous layers, that combined with the ability to use low viscosity liquids provides very little warping per layer. However with top down systems the object is free to curl and warp if it does not stick properly to the build platform. And low viscosity resins tend to have a slightly higher shrinkage per volume unit.
  • Object stress - Bottom up printed objects suffer from numerous forces acting on it throughout the build process. Every layer has a suction force trying to pull the object off of the build platform, and tilt/slide mechanisms are applying forces in many directions at once, along with gravity pulling down on the entire object. In a top down printer, the printed object has almost the same density as the liquid resin so gravity it not a problem. And the only forces acting upon the object is shrinkage.
  • The ultimate advantage to top down over bottom up is its simplicity, where bottom up printers require tilt/slide mechanisms and expensive/messy vat coatings, top down printers only move up and down and can use almost any container for the tank.

Even though bottom up printers are capable of printing larger and higher quality objects with less resin, I decided to build a Top down printer for its simplicity and ease of construction.

nice economic printer design, just for fun I've buy a projector and build 1 printer similar to yours! thx for give me the starting point
What model projector is that?
<p>looks great!</p>
<p>Nice work! your Eiffel tower turned out much better than mine, what resin are you using?</p>
<p>FTD black</p>
<p>Thanks Mastermind, need some more calibration.. but, it's working!</p>
About the projector, I've ended up switching the uv filter by a regular glass, the first fitted by size but snapped to two pieces because of the hit, the second glass i had didn't fit exactly, it left 2 mm of space, right now I'm working with the &quot;low lamp mode&quot; at the projector manu. I got the calibration cubes at 8 sec exposure, and 14 sec at the bottom. <br>Next thing I'm about to do when I'll have the time, is to buy a tempered glass, hopefully it won't snap with the &quot;high lamp mode&quot;
<p>So adding a piece of glass stopped your projector from shutting itself off? </p>
Replacing*, and yup.. It's working, but with the low lamp mode, which is good enough if your lamp is new (and probably Chinese)
<p>I tried the same thing and the machine would shut down shortly after. So if I switch to low lamp mode it will prevent the shutdown? Did you try low lamp mode with no glass at all? Where did you find the 1&quot;X1&quot; glass? I cut mine from a sheet of cheap picture from glass and was worried it may shatter under the heat. My piece of glass was also 50% too thin but I don't know if that is an issue. I was at 60/75 for exposure with the UV filter in and my cube still wasn't complete. I bought the $30 remote and turned up the brightness and tried a 30/45 last night and I was somewhat of an improvement. I don't know what the issue is and it's at times frustrating haha Thanks in advance for your help</p>
I'm using a 4 mm glass, (the uv filter is 3 mm), the glazier (the guy who cut glasses :) ) cutted it for me. As i wrote, the first glass shuttered to two pieces, the second didn't fit exactly and left 2 mm of space from one side so air could flow through.<br>I tried to use the low lamp mode without the filter but after a minut it shut down.
<p>Thanks for your reply. So the objects you printed were from the 2nd piece with 2mm of space? Were both pieces the same type and thickness of glass?</p><p>I tried the one I cut in low lamp mode and it also had some space left on the sides. It worked for about 5-10 minutes then it cracked in half and shutdown a couple minutes later. I just had it on and running to see if it would crack so I wouldn't waste any printing material.</p><p>It would be awesome if someone found out how to bypass the failsafe shutdown. Save us a lot of time and effort haha. I'm going to look up glass cutters here and see if they can do it. Also my UV filter is only measuring at 2.4 or 2.5 mm, it's weird that yours is thicker. I just want to be able to print haha It seems I've hit every bump in the road that you could hit (some were my fault). Thanks for your help!</p>
<p>same glass. 4 mm thickness , that's what the glazier had.</p><p>the thickness different might be because it looks like my lamp isn't genuine, it's probably a chinese replacement.. </p><p>i was wondering maybe a phone tempered screen protector glass would work.. though it's realy thin</p>
<p>I was thinking acrylic but I'm almost sure it will melt inside. I'd love to know the max temperature the filter area gets to be. I'm going to try to get a hold of a glass guy. And good idea, you can get iPhone and iPad replacement digitizers which may work. I actually have a replacement one here that I don't necessarily need to use. I wonder how heat resistant it is.</p>
<p>Nice work! I really like that lightbox idea. what resin are you using? I had thought that clear resin would have too much &quot;bleeding&quot; but it looks like you have well defined results.</p>
Yey! Just finished my first print. To those who started and got disillusioned with bits on working, my 2 cents. 1) I got the upload error repeatably, changed arduino and it worked a charm. 2) stepper motor just wouldn't step, changed DVD drive and it worked like a charm. The instructions for this ible are perfect so if you've done everything to the letter try changing equipment. Just need to do a little more calibration but well chuffed, I've built a 3d printer! Crazy.
<p>Thank you for the Update, I wonder if one could use an old PC Motherboard instead of an Arduino? or something like Raspberry Pi? My Ultimate goal would be to one day have a large scale High Resolution 3D printer alongside a PVD Metalizing machine, but for now I would be really glad if I could compliment your 3d printer design with my DIY Spray On Chrome(Spray On Silver really) system.. Thanks</p>
<p>Thanks for the feedback! and for sharing your build!</p>
<p>Thank you, matstermind, for the awesome project! I got the printer to work quite well! My first print of the batman bust in the pics, as well as subsequent prints where I was playing with the settings.</p><p>I followed the instructions as closely as I could, even getting the same projector and finding (by sheer luck) the same DVD drive assembly shown in the instructions. My printer does differ in the following ways though:</p><p>1. I could not remove the UV filter or the projector would failsafe and shut down. As a result, I had to up my exposure times to 30s and 45s (normal and bottom layers respectively). It seems obscenely long, but seems to work so far..</p><p>2. I had the hardest time getting the models to &quot;stick&quot; to the aluminum platform, as it would pool a few mm's worth of resin on top prior to the printing. To allow the resin to drain a bit, I drilled a series of holes in the platform and also sanded it down a bit.</p><p>I'm still having a hard time printing a model of the Eiffel Tower, and suspect it's either because the model has too much detail at the size I'm printing and/or my exposure settings are off. But, at least I have a great starting point!</p>
<p>I love it, have to build this!</p>
<p>Excellent work! I had to double the exposure settings for my machine to print the Eiffel tower because the layer points are so small, and it still didn't turn out all that great. I used a needle to scratch the surface to get my prints to stick, and have been meaning to drill holes. I'm glad to see you got it working!</p>
<p>It's look great, I'd like to do it but I have one question:</p><p>Do you think that I can switch the projector lamp with a UV led ? ( less powerful projector needed , I can adapt a LED driver thanks to internet Howto)</p><p>I fear that too many UV will fry the DLP or having too much residual UV hitting the resin ...</p><p>Thanks in advance.</p><p>Br.</p>
<p>Just like to say great instructable. Thanks!</p><p>I made it!!! Still can't believe it works :-)</p>
<p>Thanks to your excellent Instructable and overcoming my fear of soldering I've finally made my Chimera. The shape is a little different but the process is exactly how you've described it here. I'm hoping to be able to swap out the &quot;build platform&quot; and make one that has a larger vertical axis.</p><p>If you're interested, MakerJuice floats on Glycerol. I have mine in a Nutella Jar.</p><p>It tu</p>
<p>Hi, the projector modification is really necessary? I most cheaper projector here cost something about 300US used, and 800x600. A good projector costes 1000US here. =/ </p>
<p>Welp, this was my first instructable that I made, thank you for it! I sure learned a lot and now have a greater appreciation for the mass market machines!</p>
<br>Hi guys I have a problem when I go to print a cube I have problems (see photo ) the parameters with which the mold is these
<p>can I buy one</p><p>Pls</p>
<p>Really good instructable. Whats the maximum you can print? I know initially it is limited by younr container size but surely the projector itself can only go so big?</p>
<p>Is it necessary to have the remote control for the projector in order to use it in this Instructable? Projectors are available on eBay for lower prices that do not include the remote. 3rd party replacement remotes add $25-40.</p><p>Thanks!</p>
<p>Just completed my Chimera, but I've been having issues with the prints coming off the bed. Will update when I've had a chance to fix it!</p>
<p>Hello, i have some doubts about buying my dlp projector. I'd like to use it to manufacture jewelry rings, using castable resin. Is it possible with this DIY 3D printer? And if so, i was thinking to buy a benq Ms524b (Native Resolution: 800x600, 3200 lumens and Contrast: 13.000:1). Is it worh it?</p>
<p>Did the salt water have any adverse effects?</p>
<p>Never mind. I'll just wait for this. Ha ha. https://peachyprinterks.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders/12413</p>
<p>Would it be possible to build a similar machine large enough to construct shoes? Or rather the base of shoes such as the ones in the image(s) I attached. You said it has a hard time with large, flat surfaces - does that mean it wouldn't be good for these kinds of designs?</p>
<p>Hi, I would upgrade my chimera printer with top and bottom limits. What kind of microswitches I need? NO or NC? And how can I change the GRBL?</p><p>Thanks</p>
<p>Does anyone know where I could find a small 1080p projector without a case?</p>
<p>Amazing project! Thanks matstermind :) Just wondering what layer thickness your prints you've shown us here have? is 10 micron possible with this type of stepper motor?</p>
<p>Would it be possible to make bigger printings if the projector would be placed a bit farther away and compensating the light density loss with a bit longer exposure time?</p>
<p>What is the largest that you can make this, and does the ratio matter</p>
<p>How large is the maximum size for this</p>
Hi, what is the purpose of using grbl, do i need to use it every time i am going to print or is it just a on time thing where i set the z axis steps per mm only? <br><br>By the way excellent project!
<p>Built my version a few weeks ago and have been getting decent prints. It took many tries to figure out why my calibration cube was warping. Turns out I needed to turn the Anti-Aliasing OFF. After that it worked like a charm! Just had to tweak the z-height. I changed it from 53.333 to 33 and it's much more accurate.</p><p>It still has it's problems and I'm building a bigger and better printer so it's good enough for now.</p><p>Thanks for a great and thorough instructable!</p>
<p>i think iT is super cool and wel thouth truh</p>
<p>It would be interesting to try and deposit a layer of resin on a copper clad board then etch it. I don't know what it might take to remove the resin after etching but I bet someone knows.</p>
<p>It would be interesting to try and deposit a layer of resin on a copper clad board then etch it. I don't know what it might take to remove the resin after etching but I bet someone knows.</p>
I'm trying to understand his diagram soldering all the electronic together but I think I'm missing something. Anyone can shine some light with more details step by step of all the electronic wiring? Strangerjle@gmail.com. Thanks in advance.
<p>Hi,</p><p>I tried to build a DLP 3D Printer. I am using Creation Workshop and CNC shield (Firmware-GRBL) to control the Z axis.But I couldn't print anything yet.Looks like my resin is not reacting to the projected image.I am using Optoma EP729 as projector and my resin (Red) is from B9 creations.</p><p>Is it necessary to modify projector? like removing the colour wheel and filter. <br>Can you tell me a list of projectors suitable for dlp printer?</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a 22-year old engineering graduate who is constantly tinkering, making, and building. I have always enjoyed disassembling old electronics and re-purposing them. I ... More »
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