Make Your 3D Printer Draw Things


Introduction: Make Your 3D Printer Draw Things

Hey, my name is Luke Rodley and I'm 13 years old.

In this Instructable, I will show you how to make your 3D printer draw nearly any image you want it to just by downloading some free, easy to use software. Once your 3D printer finally has the ability to draw any image you want it to, the possibilities are endless, from being able to draw on a variety of materials to even being able to draw your own circuits on paper.

The only things that you will need to do this are:

-A 3D Printer

-A Pen

-Something to attach the Pen to the 3D Printer with (I used a rubber band)

-Paper to draw on

-Some Clips to hold the paper onto the Printer


Step 1: Go and Download the Inkscape Program From Their Website

The first thing that you have to do in order to get your 3D printer to draw things is to go and download a program called Inkscape. All you have to do is go to the Inkscape Website, select your operating system from the download menu, and then download it. Inkscape is a free graphics editor just like any other, the difference being that it uses .svg files or scalable vector graphics as the native format, rather than raster graphics which use pixels or bitmaps. In this program, we will be able to take the raster images that we put into it, and convert them into the vector graphics which are composed of paths. These types of images will be needed as we give our 3D printers the ability to draw.

Step 2: Download the Program, XQuartz (Only for Mac Users)

Go to the Xquartz Website and download the software. It will take you through the steps to download it and will then prompt you to restart your computer in order to complete the process. You will only need to do this if you will be running the Inkscape program on a Mac. This program will allow Inkscape to work on your computer.

Step 3: Download the Extension for Inkscape

The last piece of software that you will have to download is an extension from This Website. All you have to do is scroll down to where it says "Inkscape Laser Tool Plug-In" and click where it says download.

Step 4: Put Extension Into Inkscape

The first thing you will need to do in order to get the extension into Inkscape is to show the package contents of Inkscape. The next thing that you need to do is double click on contents. After this open the resources folder. Once you get this done, open the share folder. after that go and open the Inkscape folder. This will finally lead you to the extensions folder. You can now take the contents within the folder that you downloaded from online, and drag all four of the files into Inkscape's extension folder.

Step 5: Choose the Image You Would Like Your 3D Printer to Draw

Now that you have downloaded all of the needed software, you can now chose an image that you like your 3D printer to draw. When choosing the image you would like, you must take into consideration that the image must have deep contrast between the different parts, preferably black and white, in order for Inscape to convert the image into a nice vector with crisp lines. Once you have this image chosen, you can now import it into Inkscape. Simply go to file, and then select import. This will then let you select the image file you want to use. Once the image is imported, it would be best to scale it down and drag it to the bottom left corner. This would be because of how the extension treats this corner as if it were the coordinates (0,0) on your 3D printer. You should use this corner as a reference to where you would like your image drawn.

Step 6: Convert Your Image Into a Vector Graphic

To convert your image into a vector graphic, first select your image, go to "path", and then select "Trace Bitmap". This will then open a new window. In this window you must select edge detection in order for the extension to work. You may also select "Live Preview", in the bottom right corner, so that you may see what your image will be converted into. Once you have selected OK and converted the image, the new vector you have created will be placed directly above the original image. you can now drag this off of it, delete the raster image, and take your new vector and place it where you would like it to be drawn.

Step 7: Convert Your Vector Image Into G-Code

The first thing that you want to do is select your vector image, go to "Path", and then select "Object to Path". Now it comes to finally getting to use the extension. Go to "Extensions", select "Generate GCode", and then go to "J Tech Photonics Laser Tool..." A new window will pop up. In this window you will have to modify both the "Laser ON Command", and the "Laser OFF Command". We will want this so that it raises our pen up and down as it is attached to the 3D Printer, allowing it to either be drawing or not. All that you have to do is make the on command say "G1 Z0 F5000" and have the off command saying "G1 Z2 F5000". After that you will have to enter in the directory. This will be where your G-Code file will be stored. Once you are done, you can click on "Apply", and it will then generate the G-Code needed to draw the image using your 3D Printer. When the extension is done processing, it will then show you your image made up of arrows directing the path.

Step 8: Load the G-Code Into Your Printing Software

Once you have converted your image into G-Code, you can now find where you have saved it to and import into your 3D Printing Software. Since I the software I use is Repetier-Host, all I have to do is click on "Load G-Code", select my file, and hit open.

Step 9: Attach Your Paper and Pen to the 3D Printer`

Now it is time to take a piece of paper and cut it to the size of the printer bed. After that you can then attach it to the bed using clips. After this, all you need to do is attach a pen to the printer. You can use whatever is convenient for attaching the pen. I happened to use a rubber band. It would be best to have the pen strongly connected so that it doesn't wiggle around much as it is drawing.

Step 10: Set All Printer Axis to Zero and Make Sure the Pen Touches the Paper

Once everything is attached, one of the last things that you have to do is set the printer's axis to 0. You must also make sure that the pen is touching the piece of paper, as this is how you should have every drawing start.

Step 11: Hit Print!

Once everything is set up, you can now finally hit the print button. Your 3D Printer will now draw out your image with the pen! As the printer draws the image, you can also adjust the z-axis by hand to control the thickness of the lines.

Step 12: Experiment With Different Things

Now that you have this done, you can try drawing on different materials that you wouldn't normally be able to print things. Try drawing on things like wood or plastics. Another thing that you could do is draw your own paper circuits. If you get a pen that writes in conductive ink, all you have to do is attach it to your printer and load a circuit drawing.

If you guys liked this Instructable, pleas comment since this is my first one ever. I hoped you liked it. Thanks for checking it out.

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8 Discussions

Hey bud! Great tutorial! Loved it and it was really useful as a first run for my 3D printer! The only question I have is whether you know why the image has so many lines on it. Any ideas?

15 20:52.jpg
1 reply

Thanks so much, that means a lot. I think your problem may lay near step seven. When filling out all of the specifications to create the g-code, you might need to set the laser on and laser off commands so that they raise the pen up and down so that it only draws your image rather than the lines. For example, set the laser on command as "G1 Z0 F5000" and the laser off command as "G1 Z2 F5000". I hope it works out.

Dude, you're a little genius! I've been trying to accomplish this for two years. (Admittedly, a half-assed attempt on my part.) This Instructable gives me more hope that I'll get it done than I've ever had before. I'm gonna try it tomorrow! Thanks!

1 reply

here is the homing code for any body who needs it it works with my 3d printer but unsure about others i created this in replicator g just put before gcode from file.

(**** begin homing ****)

M70 P5 (3d printer homing)

M73 P21 (display progress)

G162 X Y F2500 (home XY axes maximum)

M73 P23 (display progress)

G161 Z F1100 (home Z axis minimum)

M73 P26 (display progress)

G92 Z-5 (set Z to -5)

M73 P28 (display progress)

G1 Z0.0 (move Z to "0")

M73 P31 (display progress)

G161 Z F100 (home Z axis minimum)

M73 P34 (display progress)

M132 X Y Z A B (Recall stored home offsets for XYZAB axis)

M73 P36 (display progress)

M70 P5 (homing complete)

(**** end homing ****)

Then again, you can also adjust the speed of the print which would not have a large affect on the quality, yet it would make the print time much shorter.