3D Printing still costs a few dollars and may be out of reach of hobbiest who do not have any budget.   The goal of this instructable is to construct an FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printer extruder (a key component) using a $3 Hot Glue Gun.   If you don't think you have seen an FDM machine, you probably have.  There are many hobby versions out on the market now ... Think Up!, Makerbot, RepRap, Up!, PrintrBot, Solidoodle etc.).   The least expensive being around $500 to start.   These printers typically use ABS or PLA plastic and push it into a hot extruder much like a hot glue gun. 

There are many parts to a FDM printer and in this instructable I am going to concentrate on the extruder.  I will briefly go over the XYZ computer controlled plotter (mechanics, hardware, software).   I use a home built CNC router for this.  After showing you how to build the extruder and how to  attach it to your XYZ Plotter or CNC router type machine I will go over the software I use along with settings (these are very important) and show some example models that I printed out with it in pictures and maybe a video or two.

Before I get any further I would like to extend a big "Thank You" to the open source community and all of the people who have contributed to the 3D printing community.   Without all of their work I would have had to put in a lot more work to accomplish goal.

So let's get started shall we.

Just in case you want to see it in action before you do some reading, view the video below.

Here are some more videos of printing with the Hot Glue Gun Extruder:

Mario (at least the front half)

Apple Logo (the one with the bite out of it)

The Pink Panther Woman Bust

The apple turned out the best.  Mario really was a terrible quality print job and the Pink Panther Women didn't turn out too great either.  The apple was really nice.  I used 0.5 mm layer height on that one.  It took forever... but it came out nice.


Step 1: Stuff You Will Need


Materials are first.   The tools you can improvise.   You will need the following items to build the HMA (Hot Melt Adhesive) Extruder:

* 3/8" Plywood (~6.5" x 4.5")
* NEMA17 Stepper Motor (Unipolar - match up to your driver) with Gear (8mm - 16 teeth)
* Large (46mm - 100 teeth) Nylon (or some sort of plastic gear) with teeth that fit your Stepper Motor Gear (I got mine from a Lexmark Inject Printer)
* 4 Metal Bearings - mine are 15mm outside and 6 mm inside.
* 9 to 10 - #8 1.5" Bolts and/or #6 Bolts 
* #8/#6 Washers (I used about 20 in this design)
* #8/#6 Lock Washers (I used 2)
* #8/#6 Nuts (8 to 10 used)
* #6 0.5" Screws (I used 4)
* Metal L Bracket 1.5" x 1.5" with 2 holes in each side
* Mini Hot Glue Gun - Low Temperature (HiTemp is shown in picture - Do Not Get This) from Walmart ($2.97)
* Mini Hot Glue Sticks - Low Temperature - Bag of 30 from Walmart (~$3.00 or so)  *** You can get colored ones and different kinds from Craft Stores such as Micheal's or Benjamin Franklin's (on the East Coast).  Walmart just has 1 kind.  Be careful ... some are .27" in diameter... some are .28" in diameter.   You will want to just get 1 diameter and stick with it otherwise you will have to adjust your bearings again.
* Popsicle Stick
* Slotted Metal Bracket ~2" Long (slot needs to be able to fit #6 or #8 screws)
* Big straw or tube of some sort ~4" long and ~3/8" inside diameter... make sure a glue stick will slide freely using gravity.
* Wire - around 4 feet long with enough conductors to wire your stepper motor to your stepper driver.  My wire had 6 conductors and was 28 gauge (an ex PS2 keyboard cable I think).
* Small Zip Ties
* Piece of Glass (I got mine from scanner) to print on
* Isoproply Alcohol for cleaning the print surface (glass)

* Computer to talk to your printer's electronics.
* Software (I use Pronterface => https://github.com/kliment/Printrun )

If you do not have the 3D printer electronics already like I did not then you will need those too.   I am using an Arduino Uno with Teacup firmware.   I have built a custom stepper motor driver for my Extruder.  I use a 3 axis stepper motor driver from HobbyCNC.com (http://www.hobbycnc.com/).  It is a really nice kit and works great.  Instead of using the parallel port from the computer the Teacup firmware and Arduino control the HobbyCNC stepper driver through a shield I made that basically wires some pins to a 25 pin DSub to pretend it is a printer port.  The custom stepper driver I made I basically designed on my own using 2 ULN2803A chips stacked on top of eachother to give 1 amp per coil.  I regulate the current with an automotive lightbulb (not sure how many watts).  I then modified the Teacup firmware to control the 4th stepper motor for the extruder directly instead of using a driver with step and direction control.

and finally you will need some sort of computer controlled XYZ platform such as a CNC router or RepRap.   I made my router from parts from Lowes and plans from Solsylva.com -> http://solsylva.com/cnc/13x13x5.shtml . It is their 13x13 machine and it cost roughly $100 in parts to build (without the motors and electronics).   You will need the Stepper Motors and Electronics too.  This is probably where most of the other money lies in a 3d printer besides the extruder cost.   There are some really great Instructables that feature how to build low cost CNC machines that will work great.   One of the least expensive and most popular would be the McWire CNC Mill -> http://www.instructables.com/id/Easy-to-Build-Desk-Top-3-Axis-CNC-Milling-Machine/


* Hot Glue Gun - Hi Temp for gluing stuff to wood.
* Screwdrivers (Flat Head and Phillips Head)
* Drill (Hand drill is fine)
* Step Drill Bit (http://www.harborfreight.com/3-piece-titanium-nitride-coated-high-speed-steel-step-drills-91616.html)
* 1/8", 9/64", and 1/4" Drill Bit and a few others ... just a set from Lowes - I have a set by Dewalt which are nice.
* Dremel Tool with Router Attachment and 1/4" router Bit
* Dremel Tool with some sort of wood eating bit
* Wood Chisel
*** This is used to recess the hot glue "Hot End" into the wood so the glue stick is even with the gear and bearings (which are right above the surface of the wood).
* Needle Nosed pliers for adjusting nuts and stuff.
* Exacto Knife
* Side Cutters
* Soldering Iron and Solder
* Electrical Tape and/or Shrink Tube

<p>excellent ! what a great way to 'braek into' 3d --- lotta people have a desktop cnc or can fairly easily whip something together .. but not as many havve3d capability - implementing that extractor using the everyday glue heater - is great - the step motor and big gear (source?) and the skate bearings? -- all good stuff, extruders arent cheap ... hot glue is easily attainable and a great way to get a feel and learning curve started before taking the plunge of a 3d printer ..</p>
<p>Lol, a long time...</p>
<p>Belive it or not you can also feed it weed eater cord, old proof of concept 3d printers used this.</p>
I often wondered why a modified hot glue gun had not been used as the basis of an extruder. <br> <br>Cool build. <br> <br>I've had my EZ driver boards, stepper motors, hardware, t-slots in boxes all over the house for over a year now. So many projects, so little time.
I have been tinkering with the CNC machine for 3 years now. I have had loads of trouble getting my junk stepper motors (X and Y ... Z works well) to do my bidding. I had tried K-Cam, Mach3, and GRBL (that is what I initially built the Arduino to Parallel port shield for). I think Arduino + TeaCup drives it the best so far and I am going to try milling with that combination. <br> <br>Also learning the whole tool chain: CAD-&gt;CAM-&gt;G-Code Controller (at least finding them and figuring them out and getting them to work right) has been the hardest part so far. <br> <br>I hope you are inspired to finish your CNC project!
what you are talking about is so deep ?
I was wondering if the low-temp guns could be used with the ABS spools normally used in a 3d printer. It looks like the melting point temp and low-temp gun temp are pretty close. <br> <br>Has someone already done this? <br>
ABS might be a bit above without getting the temp up in the glue guns available from Walmart. You could try a variac which usually can up the voltage to 140VAC... you can try running it off of 220VAC with some sort of voltage controller like a variac or even a dimmer switch. <br> <br>PLA should work in a Hi-Temp Hot Glue gun according to what I have read. The temp should be fairly well controlled though for best results. <br> <br>You should try it.
if you could post the code for teacup it would get me up and running. the way you did it looks great thank you <br>
Ok. I will try to post it this weekend. If I don't... please keep bugging me about it. Thanks!
I am still trying teacup without any luck! If you could post a link so i can see your config.h and the change you made to dda.c I have ran the printer with grbl but thats only 3 drivers. so I haven't made anything yet. and yours run so great thank you Dennis <br>
I apologize for taking such a darned long time to put this up. I have been really busy with lots of things. <br> <br>The code can be downloaded from here: http://www.fab-favreau.com/index.php/Main/HotGlueExtruder3DPrinter <br> <br>I still need to make some comments on what I did. To summarize it though: <br> <br>Take a look in dda.c and config.h . I modified those 2 files. The config.h file contains all of the steps per mm and extruder steps per whatever numbers. dda.c has the modified code for the extruder (E Axis). It sets up the stepping sequence pins on port d (upper nibble?) and controls the step sequence in code instead of sending the step and direction signal to a stepper controller. I did that so I could use a simple stepper driver (basically 4 transistors). It can do half stepping or full stepping. I forget which one I have in there currently.. I think half stepping. There is a teacup.ino? file in there you can open with the Arduino IDE and compile and upload the whole thing from there into your Arduino. I used Microsoft Visual Studio as an editor inorder to use full editing highlighting and searching... it is nice for that. Then use the Arduino IDE to compile and upload. Let me know if you have any questions. I will try to add more to my web site this week.
Flashing Teacup should be easy. It comes with (or maybe I made it myself) a Arduino IDE project file. I use that to compile and program Teacup into the Uno. In order to run Teacup you will need to configure it for your stepper drivers in the config.h. If you do it like I did it you will have to drive the 4th stepper (extruder) with a simple stepper driver . I modified the Teacup code in the dda.c file I think. If you want I can post the firmware I used to this instructable. I didn't originally post it because I thought it was beyond the scope of this instructable. <br> <br>
real nice job, i have build it all look good but can't seam to flash teacup on my uno how did you set up Teacup?
And this he said for the price: http://www.topsellings.com/es/tb6560-cnc-3-axis-stepper-motor-driver-controller-board-p18807.html?language=es&amp;currency=EUR
And this he said for the price: http://www.topsellings.com/es/tb6560-cnc-3-axis-stepper-motor-driver-controller-board-p18807.html?language=es&amp;currency=EUR
And this he said for the price: http://www.topsellings.com/es/tb6560-cnc-3-axis-stepper-motor-driver-controller-board-p18807.html?language=es&amp;currency=EUR <br> <br>I'm Spanish.
And this he said for the price: http://www.topsellings.com/es/tb6560-cnc-3-axis-stepper-motor-driver-controller-board-p18807.html?language=es&amp;currency=EUR <br> <br> <br>I'm Spanish.
3 axis controller Arduino = Yes or No
So basically my setup (I apologize for not elaborating on this more) is a 3 axis CNC router -&gt; http://solsylva.com/cnc/13x13x5.shtml . I have a DIY Hobby CNC driver (http://www.hobbycnc.com/products/hobbycnc-ez-driver-board-kit/) for the 3 stepper motors that control the XYZ axies. I use the analog IO pins to provide a step and a direction pin for each of the axies (X Y and Z = 6 IO pins). The DIY Hobby CNC driver has no enable pin. Since the CNC stepper board provides only 3 axis I had to provide a 4th stepper driver. You CAN buy a 4 stepper driver from HobbyCNC (their Pro supports 4 axis). I would recommend doing this... their drivers are nice and can do microstepping where as my homemade simple stepper driver can only do 1/2 stepping and uses a lightbulb for current limiting.
The Arduino controls ALL 4 stepper motors using the Teacup Firmware (for 3d printing ... also probably can do CNC routing too.... See here : http://reprap.org/wiki/Teacup_Firmware <br> <br>I have a custom version of it that drives the homemade stepper motor (provides 4 phases instead of step and direction).
And as (where) connect the 3 stepper motors?
hello, tell me which of these Arduinos are supported?
I used an Arduino UNO. There are enough IO pins on any of the &quot;normal&quot; sized Arduinos for this to work. The Arduino Mega is overkill and has way more IO pins than needed. You can also use a Arduino Duemilanove (Arduino 2009) too. Anything with a ATMega328 on board I believe. The TeaCup firmware needs a fair bit of space .... it might run on a 168 however I think you will be squished for space. <br> <br>Currently I am working on building a smaller RepStrap like bot with a real ABS extruder. I am using a similar set of boards and the Teacup Firmware so far.
I think the point is that you need 6 IO pins for the 3 Axis CNC Stepper Driver (Step &amp; Dirrection x 3) and 4 IO pins for the on board stepper driver. You will need 3 more if you want limit switches for each axis.
I use the Analog IO A0 to A5 for the 6 pins driving the 3 Axis CNC Stepper Driver.
buy it
love it, seeing something created using glue sticks/hot glue it reminded me of icing. I think I may try something like this but adapted to extrude things like royal icing, any other cake dec. and modeling....you could create some amazing sugar based items.
You should check out the &quot;Frostruder&quot; from Makerbot: http://wiki.makerbot.com/frostruder-mk2 <br> <br>The original MakerBot was named &quot;Cupcake&quot; because I think it was made to frost cupcakes among other things. <br> <br>I would really like to see a 3d frosting/sugar based 3d printer on a Food Network competition. That would be really exciting.
nice work!
Excellent! <br>Working with Nylon, Delrin, PET, Acrylic and Polycarbonate, I've wondered about the possible applications of low temperature glues and adhesives. Seems like a good way to make unusually shaped gaskets or unusually shaped glue tabs, where a shaped tab is installed and later heated to make the bond. <br>These X Y Z E machines offer us a unique ability to find new printable materials that may lead to new processes. Thanks for a great Instructable! <br>Taulman
Excellent ideas. I really liked your instructable (the 2BEIGH3 3D Printer). That is a great idea to make gaskets and similar items with it. I will store that away for the next time someone asks me what it is good for.
Bravo! Really good, very clever. <br> <br>Not wanting to state the obvious, but one of the advantages of filament printers is the small gauge of the filament. All you need to do is use a smaller orifice tip--you are not limited to the glue gun tip. Of course, you could always take a drift pin and press it into the tip to reduce the diameter, that would give you finer detail in your models. <br> <br>No matter though, great instructable!
&quot;Of course, you could always take a drift pin and press it into the tip to reduce the diameter&quot;<br> <br> That is a Great! idea.&nbsp; I am going to try that this weekend.&nbsp; I was going to attempt to tap the outside or just find a glue gun with a smaller or replaceable tip.&nbsp; I am pretty sure Ace Hardware and Lowes/Home Depot carry those.<br> <br> Thanks!
What else can we say, but, Great Project! <br>Done, just gone up this page to vote... <br>I bet this results in a much less whimsical extruder than those Plastic and whimpy resistor outfits, that will short circuit at the first opportunity... <br> <br>A question, will this also wotk on a bar of Cerrosafe? Melts at 74 &deg;C (165 &deg;F) a <br> <br>From the Wikipedia: <br>&quot;One alloy is called Cerrosafe. It is mainly used by gunsmiths for making a reference casting of the chamber of a firearm. When it solidifies it first shrinks, allowing easy removal from the chamber. When it cools it expands back to the exact size of the chamber. The casting can then be directly measured with calipers or a micrometer to determine the dimension of the weapon's chamber, which is important for safety.&quot;
I don't know about less whimsical. I would say this is just a different kind of material extruder. I still would like to see an ABS/PLA plastic extruder in person. Not all of them are based on resistors either. The orginals used heaters that used nichrome wire. I think this one is a great &quot;Starter&quot; as the investment is low. It takes ~$20 and a few hours to make one. It requires no temperature control and is very forgiving for mess ups like running it into your base or pushing too much material into it. <br> <br>It might work with Cerrosafe. You might have to reduce the temperature in the hot glue gun. You also have to get it into some sort of stick form. Also the shrinking (depending on how much) might be an issue. But I am not sure about that. I am still very much a beginner with this stuff. I have spent a lot of time reading but it really does not sink in until you go to apply it. <br> <br>If you are interested in playing with 3D printing I would recommend either buying a kit if you really want to just print or if you want the full experience ... start with a CNC router, get used to how that works and then put an extruder on it. It is quite an adventure. <br>
Yes, it is, a fun adventure, and the more options, the better! .) <br> <br>Cerrosafe is a very special Metal Alloy, it shrinks when it solidifies, then it expands when it cools! <br> <br>Is that good, or bad for 3D Printing? <br>Hummm... I guess, we'll know only when sombody tries.
Just dawned on me, you can even save more money, if you use this Extruder with on a 3D Pantograph! <br>And a steady hand, of course...
Really a wonderful work. I had the same idea and I'm finishing building the 3d movement frame for the hot glue gun extruder. <br>Keep up the good work! <br>@David: I think the main problems are: <br>- too low temperature for the hot glue gun to melt ABS <br>- no build in way to control the temperature
PLA looks to be close to that of the temperature range (~180C) of a cheap Hi-Temp Hot Glue gun. Temperature control could be as simple as a relay controlled by the Arduino + Teacup. You would have to add a temperature sensor too. You could always accomplish temp control manually using a light dimmer. Those work well on resistive loads like heaters and regular light bulbs.

About This Instructable




Bio: I like to tinker and build stuff.
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