Travel Case for Printrbot Simple Metal (3D Printer)

Introduction: Travel Case for Printrbot Simple Metal (3D Printer)

About: Scott Kildall is an new media artist and researcher. He works at Autodesk, Pier 9 and is an artist-in-residence with the SETI Institute

This is my PrintrBot Simple Metal — a low-end but reasonable quality 3D-printer — and I'm planning to bring to Europe with me for an upcoming artist residency for 2 months.

I'll be visiting a number of cities with it, but it's too big to easily port around. So, I broke it down into four parts, which are (relatively) easily disassembled and hopefully will require about 30-minutes of reassembly time. I built a simple wood travel case for it, which fits into my wheelie-bag luggage.

This Instructable will detail the disassembly steps for the Printrbot Simple Metal (PSM) as well as show you the travel case I made.

Most of the steps are blow-by-blow pictures on how to take this machine apart since there are many detailed steps involved.

Step 1: Gather Tools

Tools needed:

snips for zip ties
2mm Allen wrench
2.5mm Allen wrench
pliers for extra poking and yanking

Step 2: Unplug Power Cables and Set Them Aside

I like putting them in a zip-loc baggie and also included the two wooden wrenches and the plastic piece for Z-axis leveling.

Step 3: Clip the Zip Ties Underneath

Not including the power cables, we end up with four pieces.

The first part we want to remove is the print head arm.

We need to unhook several bits of electronics for this. With the wire snips, cut all the zip ties holding the electronics in place.

You'll end up with this a mess of wires.

Step 4: Unplug Y Limit-switch Cable

This is a yellow and black plug, hooked into the main board. Unplug it from the board.

Step 5: Unplug Z-axis Stepper

Unplug the Z-axis stepper cable.

Just a general caveat: I may not get the names of the cables right, so if there is one that I'm missing, please let me know and I'll correct this Instructable.

Step 6: Thread Z-axis Stepper and Y-limit Cables Through Chassis

Pull these two cables you just unplugged through the side chassis hole. Do the Z-axis stepper first since the header is thinner and easier to pull through.

Step 7: Unplug Extruder Stepper Cable

Now, we will unthread the next set of cables.

First, unplug the extruder stepper cable.

Step 8: Unplug Fan Cable

The fan cable is a red and black cable. Unplug this one as well.

Step 9: Unplug Extruder Cable

I think this is the cable for the extruder power (but am not sure). In either case, unplug this one.

Step 10: Unplug This Cable

I'm not quite sure which cable this is, but we'll want to unplug it, too.

Step 11: Unplug the Probe Cable

Unplug the probe cable.

Step 12: Unthread All These Cables Through the Top Hole in the Chasses

You'll have several sets of wires.

Start with the stepper cable since the header is thinnest and push it through the chassis hole. One-by-one, thread all the cables through the upper chassis hole.

You'll have a rats nest of wires when you are done.

Step 13: Remove Extruder Arm

Use your fingers to spin the threaded rod upwards until it dislodges from the threads. Now you can lift up the arm from the two rods and remove it completely.

Congratulations, you've disassembled your first part.

Step 14: Unplug Threaded Rod Stepper Cable

Unplug the cable for the threaded rod stepper motor.

Step 15: Unscrew Allen Bolts From Vertical Rods

Use a 2.5mm Allen key and unscrew all 8 allen key bolts

The long bolts are for the motor (center), the shorter ones go on the outside,

Step 16: Unscrew Threaded Rod Set Screw Thing

Use a 2mm Allen key to remove the bottom set screw. Hold the one of the two smooth rods securely, otherwise the motor plate will drop.

You'll have 3 pieces now, the motor, the threaded rod and the drive rods for the extruder arm. Reassemble these with the bolts in the proper places so that we can pack them as one piece.

Now, you have your second part disassembled.

Step 17: Unscrew the Belt Tensioner

Use a 2.5 Allen key to unscrew the belt tensioner for the bed. Make sure you put the bolts back in when you are done.

Step 18: Remove the Bed Itself

Also use a 2.5 Allen key. Set the bolts aside.

Step 19: Pull the Belt From the Stepper Motor

Clip the zip tie holding the belt. Unwind it from the stepper motor.

Step 20: Remove the Plate That Holds the Arms

Again, use a 2.5 Allen key. When done, pull the arm-mechanism off and then bolt the plate back onto the chassis.

Congratulations, you have the third piece ready for packing.

Step 21: Reattach the Bed to the Arms

Also, I put the belt in a zip lock baggie. This is the fourth piece, ready for packing.

Step 22: Wrap the Pieces

Use bubble wrap to nicely wrap all the pieces together.

Step 23: Make Cut List and Cuts

I made sure that this fits into my carry-on suitcase, for easy travel. I doubt TSA will let me check this in as carry on luggage, but there are plenty of other situations such as train rides in Europe where this could might handy.

The idea is that the box should fit perfectly in my luggage without any chance for it to rattle around.

Checking out the wood that was immediately available — some shorter lengths of 1/2" ply, I made some slight modifications to the cut list. I cut the outer frame on the table saw (not pictured) and ended up with two 14.5" x 7" pieces and two 11" x 7" pieces.

Step 24: Make the Frame

I used the brad nailer plus a little bit of glue to make the frame. Easy!

Step 25: Laser Cut the Bottom and Top Pieces

Because I didn't have enough 1/2" stock, ended up digging into some 3/16" sheets of ply we had in the shop and laser cut the top and bottom pieces. I think this works out better since there's less weight on the top and bottom.

Step 26: Attach the Bottom

Again with the nailer and glue.

Step 27: Check Out Final Fitting

This is a really tight fit. I plan to include the power and USB cables, plus some extra tools. It just fits. Just. There's no chance for any movement, so I'm pleased with the results.

Step 28: Finish Edges

Using the orbital sander, I did some quick edge-cleaning to avoid any future splinters.

Step 29: Tape and Labels for TSA

I taped the lid down with easily-removable tape. I also included a photo of the printer and description of it along with my name, email address and phone number.

Since I'm bringing this on international flights, I expect that TSA might be interested in the contents and want to make it easy for them to inspect.


I hope this was helpful!
Scott Kildall

For more on the my projects, you can find me here: @kildall or

Be the First to Share


    • Robots Contest

      Robots Contest
    • Soup & Stew Speed Challenge

      Soup & Stew Speed Challenge
    • Back to School: Student Design Challenge

      Back to School: Student Design Challenge