Introduction: Extremely Low Cost 3D Printable 3D Printer / Plotter / CNC Machine

Picture of Extremely Low Cost 3D Printable 3D Printer / Plotter / CNC Machine

In this Instructable I will talk about how to build a basic three axis CNC machine. the machine itself relies on easy to find parts and the mechanical parts are all 3D printed. all of the 3D printed parts are designed by me and the files are provided, though they may need to be slightly modified depending on your specific parts. I don't intend this as a "Build this it is the best machine ever" type of Instructable. I am simply trying to dictate what is truly possible using free easy to use sdesign software and a little time. I am a 17 year old with no training on CAD at all and this shows how advanced 3d design has become, and how accessible it is to anybody. This is truly an educational Instructable, but the machine also does work.

Just a quick reminder before we get started, this instructable is being entered in the Dremel 3D Design contest, so if you enjoyed the work that I put into this and learned something from it, or just liked the machine, feel free to vote for me. Thanks, it is greatly appreciated

Step 1: Overview of Parts

Picture of Overview of Parts

--Printed parts-- (all files for the parts, with matching names to each part are provided below)

-X-Axis Assembly

-Y-Axis Assembly

-Bed Mount- this could be used as a bed for simple things like pen plotting, but if you need a really flat bed, this has mounting holes to attach a leveled bed ontop.

-Z-Axis Assembly

-Z Assembly Stilts (2 Of These)

-Z Stilts Connecting Rods (2 Of These)

-Motor Mount Pins- these are little pins that get glued in to hold the motors on. it makes it so you dont need to buy screws, just print and glue on.

-Stabilizer Piece- This is sorta optional, but if there is wobble in any axis, these can be glued on to the slide to tighten it up and make it slide really nicely.

OPTIONAL: Pen Mount Z Piece- This was a test for the Z axis that is a simple pen mount and moves on the Z.


--Non-printed parts--

-Base Piece- Simply grab a decently big piece of flat wood, and that will work great for mounting everything.

-Motors**- The motors are simply DVD drive head motors. they are super easy to get out of dvd drives and already have a screw on them to move the different axis of the machine

-Linear Rods**- These rods are taken directly from the DVD drive laser assembly. you can get them out of the same drives that you get the motors from.

-Ribbon Cable- This ribbon cable for wireing the motors can be taken out of an old computer. if you are already taking old computers apart for the DVD drives, this should be super easy to find in the form of IDE cables.

-Driver Board- This will be a RAMPS board which is easily found on ebay

Here is a link to a search that will bring you options to choose from for the driver board - Link

**These parts are taken from old DVD drives. in total you will need three DVD drives.


**update on current electronics setup**

As requested in the comments, i am going to really quickly explain what i am using to drive my build of this machine. For my testing i am currently using L298 motor drivers and an arduino mega. i decided to do this for testing instead of go with the RAMPS because i had the parts on hand. i still recommend using the RAMPS boards because of the easiness of setup with standard 3d printing software. if you have any questions on how to get everything wired and working, feel free to drop a comment!!



The tools for this project are very simple, you will need a phillips screwdriver, a hot glue gun, and a 3D printer.

Step 2: X Axis/Base

Picture of X Axis/Base

This piece holds the x and y assembly's. the whole piece is 3d printed and prints on its side without any support. the motor mounts on using the motor mount pins that can also be printed using the provided files.

Step 3: X Slide and Y Motor Mount

Picture of X Slide and Y Motor Mount

This part slides on the x axis under power of the X motor, but also holds the y motor

Step 4: Assembly of the Different Pieces Into Bigger Components

Picture of Assembly of the Different Pieces Into Bigger Components

By now all we have talked about is the different pieces of the machine. we have not gone into detail on how it should go together. Assuming that you are using the same parts as me, which may not always be the case, this is relatively easy to do.

--Motor Attachment--

Start by taking your motor and placing it in the motor mount in the position it will be attached. then take the motor pins that you printed and place them first through the motor holes, then through the mount. You should have a small piece of the pin protruding through the back.. Hold your motor firmly to the mount, and aply hot glue to the protruding pin on the back. Hold until the glue is dry. Repeat this step with the other motors. the steps are the same for each axis.


--Attaching the X and Y together--

Start by taking your linear rods and pushing them through the press fit holes about an inch through (picture above). Once the rods are through, take your Y piece and push it on. After the Y piece is on, simply push the rids through to the other press fit. Repeat this step on the Y axis to attach the bed.


At this point in the process you should a piece that looks like the 5th photo.


Step 5: Bringing Those Bigger Components Together

Picture of Bringing Those Bigger Components Together

In this step we will finish the whole mechanical aspect of this machine.


First we are going to start out by mounting the X-Assembly, with the Y and Bed on top, onto the wooden base. I did not design any mounting holes into the X-assembly, so you can drill holes to screw it down, or simply hot glue it down. The most important thing is that its flat. and as level as possible. This is described by the first photo, but I can help if needed.


Now we will attach the whole Z-Assembly as one piece. Take the stilts and use the mounting holes and some small machine screws to attach it to the Z-Assembly. Now take the pieces of the connecting rods and put some glue into the holes and press them together. depending on what glue you use, you may have to let it dry for a while. glue the Connecting Rods into the notches in the Stilts. The second two photos show the screws, as well as the gluing of the connecting rods.


Now we will mount the Z-assembly onto the Base. Place it over the X and Y and line center of the large hole up with the corner of the bed as seen in the photo. Now take screws and screw it to the wood base. if you don't have wood screws, just hot glue it down. You can see in the fourth photo how the center of the circle is lined up with the corner of the bed.


You should now have a device with a with a freely moving X, Y and Z, as seen in the last photo on this step. try to move them by hand and make sure they move freely and smoothly.

Step 6: Taking It Further, Ideas for Future Expansion / Conclusion

Picture of Taking It Further, Ideas for Future Expansion / Conclusion

Up to this point I have simply spoken about the mechanical aspects of getting a 3 Axis Gantry system built. This design could easily hold a 3D print head and be converted to a 3D printer, though all we went into detail about here was getting the basic mechanics done. The above photo is from the other 3d printer I own. It is simply the hot end, which could be mounted and used with my gantry design. all that wold be need is a mount. It could also possibly hold a small machining head and be used as a CNC router. The possibilities for a well build gantry system are virtually limitless. The important thing to remember is the power of 3D modeling. all these parts were designed over the course of a week by a 17 year old (me) on sketch up. With more time, you can literally design and build anything these days using free software, as long a you are willing to put in the effort. I hope you enjoyed my Instructable. Thanks for taking the time to read!

Just a last reminder that this is being entered in the Dremel 3D Design contest here on Instructables. if you enjoyed the work I put into this, please feel free to vote for me!


TC78 (author)2015-01-15

Totally awesome; ) wish I had a 3D printer..

graydog111 (author)TC782015-01-16

Why don't you just print out your own 3D printer, TC78?

Oh, I forgot, you must have a 3D printer to print out your new 3D printer. Well, you can print out........oh, forget it. :)

HarshM20 (author)graydog1112016-05-04

REP.....RAP.....REP.....RAP.... well, you get my drift!

Bowtie41 (author)graydog1112015-01-16

Kinda like making a VHS tape on how to rewind your VCR,lol(Look it up kids,it's an old guy joke :-)

wootin24 (author)TC782015-01-15

glad you enjoyed it!

DrakeDillard (author)wootin242015-03-01

I'd love to but the printed components to make this from you please! let me know!

javidal (author)TC782015-01-16

Why don't you make a cheap 3D printer out of plywood and try to print a better one with the one you built?

It'll take quite a bit of time but it is better that than nothing :)

mayurnath5r (author)2015-08-04

Hey, i'm living in india and a kid of 12-yrs-old, can i have the parts printed and shipped??

YouriM (author)mayurnath5r2016-04-26

Sorry for being so late, but you can use a 3d hubs service, it's a service that allows you to request a specific 3d model for a small price. Look it up on google.

IrfanG6 (author)2016-04-05


what is the weight of the 3D printed objects? my local printing services measure the price by weight.

Roman_Tenger (author)2016-03-08

Nice little invention!

Can you upgrade this to print from a mobile phone?

Hyperlinks1 (author)2015-12-19

This is really cool! I will definitely try to print this once I finish building my ow printer. But what are the dimensions of the print bed? What is the max print size?

mayurnath5r (author)2015-08-04

Can it print stuffs?

Yonatan24 (author)mayurnath5r2015-12-12

Well obviously...

mayurnath5r (author)2015-08-04

I also'd like to have all the items shipped too.....

mayurnath5r (author)2015-08-04

Hey, i'm living in india and a kid of 12-yrs-old, can i have the parts printed and shipped??

mannu12 (author)2015-05-27

what printer head should I buy for that size?

profort (author)2015-05-15

Wonderfully built tell me more and also the dimensions and cost please.

ignacio.naval (author)2015-03-19

I can replace the Ramps board with an arduino uno?

pindog (author)2015-03-19

I like!

CK101 (author)2015-03-07

Amazing , make a video

LostboyTNT (author)2015-02-27

would you mind listing the wiring diagram, and the firmware/code you used?

Len726 (author)2015-01-25

Very nice. A complete RAMPs set can be had these days on ebay for around $30.

gal-x-e (author)Len7262015-02-12

can you upload a link?

Len726 (author)gal-x-e2015-02-12
gal-x-e (author)2015-02-12

can you please say how long to print it and how meany grams is it?


JavaProgrammer (author)2015-02-03

I am definitely interested in getting the parts but I would like to know if it works for a 3d printer because that is what I want. also what would you use to control this? an arduino? raspberry pi?

Tchello (author)2015-01-18

I really like this idea, especially when I think about a very cheap PCB printer.

I just don't know if these step motors have the strength to 'cnc' the copper from the PCBs and about the software. Any hints?

kedwa30 (author)Tchello2015-02-02

You can use a gear box on each motor to increse the strength. This would be at a cost to speed, but you would have the additional advantage of increasing the resolution. More turns of the motor to go the same distance means higher resolution. There is usually some loose-ness between the gears that needs to be compensated for, though, if you really need accuracy. You can harvest gears from printers, or you can get some from a wind-up music box or a wind-up clock or kitchen timer. Or print them. :)

Antzy Carmasaic (author)Tchello2015-01-27

There is another better approach using these weak stepper motor CNCs for making PCB. You cannot mill the copper but you can use coat a copper board with toner and use a laser attached to CNC head to melt the toner. Then wash away the excess toner and then etch the PCB.

1candy (author)2015-01-31

Need Help. Could not download the stl files

kezza3006 (author)2015-01-28

what programs can i use for this?

treyes4 (author)2015-01-25

Welp easy part done.... next step nosebleed O_O and that is calibration for the Gcode.

TimP2 (author)2015-01-24

dear author and it's credited , i wanted to to tell you did a brilliant job on the creativity , which i value ... see the world needs gifted people who are brave enough to be a hero at our politics , spiritual world and demographical assistance and that's what our world needs and what being gifted is about,... i know i am gifted too, and hope for your a sacred blessing and thanks for enabling the ability for gifted legendary creations and our true world will thank and embrace these divinities good luck

SamusAran28 (author)2015-01-22

Printed the bottom piece today! Looks and works great!

Could you add another step to help with wiring it to the ramps board? I don't know the pi outs on the motors.

killercatfish (author)2015-01-20

Very cool! I'm a middle school teacher and have a few 7th graders wanting to make a 3smd printer as their final stem project. I like the idea of using this as a drawing machine! Do you have any additional info on the arduino end of the project?

wootin24 (author)killercatfish2015-01-20

Basicly the recamended option is to use a ramps board. Its pretty much an arduino shield that drives all the motors and talks g code to the computer. Just Google ramps setup and you should find a lot

Edgar (author)2015-01-19


Went to my Blog:

cailteux (author)2015-01-18

Definitely interested in printed parts!! Please let me know

wootin24 (author)cailteux2015-01-19

if your you could send me a private message I can absolutely print them for you!

crazy-croco (author)2015-01-18

This looks pretty cool! It might be a good idea to add a picture where your printer is set next to a recognizable object (a matchbox, lighter, pen or something) so you immediately get an idea of the scale of the thing. I might just print these parts and have a go at getting this thing working. Thanks!

leash9418 (author)2015-01-13

wait................. THIS CAN ACTUALLY PRINT STUFF????

wootin24 (author)leash94182015-01-13

In theory yes, although to this time all I agave tested is basic pen plotting, but adding printing should be easy to add to this basic system!

Make it BIG (author)wootin242015-01-14

I don't think so. I built a very similar machine (no 3D printed but wooden frame) and therefore I know how weak the little stepper motors are. There is no way they can lift the extruder. But if you exchange the Z-Axis motor with a stronger one or use counterweights like in this project: it should be possible.

Anyway I like this project gave it an Upvote!

kedwa30 (author)Make it BIG2015-01-17

An alternative to counter weights is to use a gear box so that the motor would make more turns to go the same distance and thus have more torque. Yes it would be slower to go up and down, but that is a good compromise. Also, there is a gain in control the more turns it takes to go a certain distance.

JayWeeks (author)Make it BIG2015-01-15

OH! That's a good thing to know! I've been working on designing something very similar to this, inspired by Gelstronic's 3D printer (the one you linked to). I'll admit that I was more than a little sad to see that I've been beaten to the punch. I wasn't planning to add counterweights to mine, but if you think they'll be too weak, I'll have to add counterweights to mine.

This is really cool! I will have to use this for inspiration.

harvsch (author)JayWeeks2015-01-16

Another approach would be to get the motor off the moving stage. The extruder can be coupled to the hot end with a Bowden tube as in the delta printers. The reduction in mass may allow the smaller motor to move the hot end successfully.

baratacus (author)Make it BIG2015-01-15

how heavy is the extruder? would this device from wootin24 be able to use something like the LIX 3D pen as an extruder?

looks like it would fit in the pen holder even.

wootin24 (author)Make it BIG2015-01-14

thank you so much for the vote, it's really appreciated!

kedwa30 (author)2015-01-17

This is awesome! I think it is closer to making a self replicating machine than the RepRap. Now here is an idea: design one that rolls or walks around on a flat surface so that it can lay down parts that are bigger than itself. Rather than moving the table, it moves on the table. That way you can have a small one to make a larger clone of itself.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm just your average high school kid who enjoys to make stuff!
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