IMakr STARTT - 3D Printer Upgrades!

At only $99, the STARTT 3D Printer kit from iMakr is a great machine, allowing you to learn the fundamentals of 3D printing by assembling and using your own 3D printer. The STARTT (actually a rebranded TRONXY XY-100) is based on the design of the Prusa i3, one of the best 3D printers on the market, and features a decent 120 x 140 x 130 mm build area and a 0.4mm nozzle. It can be a great printer to start out with, and in this instructable, I am going to show you some affordable upgrades (a heated bed, more stable printing, etc.) that can make it function like a $750 dollar 3D printer (at least I like to say so!). Most excitingly, almost all of the upgrades can be printed on the STARTT itself, and use the extra hardware that came in the box!

Check out reviews of the STARTT from ALL3DP, 3DPrintingIndustry, Makers Muse, and Jonathan King.

Inspiration:

  • Timothy Hoogland, an early adopter of the STARTT documented his upgrades in this article and video
  • In the iMakr forums, users have shared many amazing upgrade ideas and troubleshooting tips.
  • Many people on Thingiverse (a website to share 3D designs/files) have shared their printable upgrades.

Note: The designs/ideas in this instructable are not all my own. This is simply a compilation of all you can do to improve your STARTT 3D printer!

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Step 1: Upgraded Power Supply (10A)

Problem

In the box, the STARTT 3D printer comes with a 12v 5A power supply. Unfortunately, it is not very well made, and mine would get shockingly hot while running a print at 210°C. Moreover, when the extruder kicked in to heat up the filament, I would consistently experience voltage drops (the fans would slow down because there wasn't enough power).

Solution

Purchase a more powerful (more amps) power supply. I purchased a 12v 10A power supply from "BINZET" on Amazon for $20, but you can choose whichever you want as long as it outputs to a 5.5x2.1mm DC port. Alternatively, you could get an ATX power supply, similar to this one, which would give you more flexibility (especially if you add a heated bed) but you'd have to manually wire it into the 3D printer, whereas the one with the DC port plugs right in.

Step 2: Upgraded Filament Spool Holder

Problem

The filament spool holder that iMakr provides with the STARTT is not well made, and only supports smaller spools of 3D printer filament. In addition, the roll of filament does not turn well, so pulls on the 3D printer frame and extruder motor, messing up prints.

Solution

3D print a new one! The "Tush - Ultimate Spool Holder" by filamentry on Thingiverse is a well designed, elegant, practical, versatile and easy-to-print solution. You can print the files on your STARTT, and only need four 608 bearings (aka. skateboard bearings), to complete the design. I got them for $10 from Amazon, here.

Step 3: Larger Leveling Knobs

Problem

The STARTT requires constant leveling of the bed to get good prints, and the leveling knobs are small and hard to manipulate.

Solution

Print these leveling knobs from Cre8iveLab on Thingiverse. They make leveling the bed much easier and only require a 3M nut (included with the printer).

Step 4: Structural Rigidity/Secure Mounting

Problem

The STARTT frame is prone to flexing while printing.

Solution

3D print these supports by ColdCanuck on Thingiverse. They allow you to mount the STARTT to a piece of wood or a table (I used a 1/4" plywood sheet) and help minimize movement while printing. You'll need to print four supports, two for the front, and two for the back, and attach them with the included M5 and M3 nuts respectively.

Step 5: Power Switch/Cable Management

Problem

To turn the STARTT on and off, you have to (inconveniently) plug and unplug the power cable from the back of the printer. In addition, there is no clean way to do cable management, meaning you are left with a bunch of messy wires.

Solution

For the power switch, you can print this on-off switch bracket and purchase an on-off switch (it should be rated 10+ amps). Wire/solder the switch into the circuit, by disconnecting one of the wires coming out of the port (that the PSU plugs into) and soldering the switch into the circuit. Alternatively, you can print this cable management and switch upgrade, which allows you to handle the cable management and switch all in one. (Personally, I didn't bother printing any new parts, just put the switch through an extra hole that happened to be on the side of the frame after I relocated the extruder motor).

Step 6: SD Card Adapter and Holder

Problem

It is hard to insert and remove the MicroSD card from the back of the STARTT printer.

Solution

Buy a micro sd card to sd card extender, which allows you to conveniently plug and unplug the SD card from the 3D printer. I purchased this one from Amazon and printed ColdCanucks SD card extender housing on Thingiverse to conveniently mount the extender to the top of the frame.

Step 7: Z-Axis End Stop Mount

Problem

The Z-axis end stop mount that comes with the iMakr STARTT is positioned incorrectly so that the Z-axis often misses it while homing (the mount is placed too far back).

Solution

Print this updated Z-axis end stop mount, which repositions the Z endstop so it homes properly. Simply unscrew the existing end-stop and acrylic mount, screw the end stop onto the new mount and attach the mount back onto the printer.

Step 8: Y-Axis Belt Tensioner

Problem

It is hard to tension the y-axis belt on the STARTT 3D printer, and having properly tensioned belts is critical to good print quality.

Solution

Print this y-axis belt tensioner by giacinti on Thingiverse. It allows you to tension the y-axis by simply tightening/loosening a screw. I also upgraded mine with this toothed pully to hold the belt into the tensioner for more stability.

Step 9: Upgraded Extruder Carriage for Better Stability and Cooling

Problem

The extruder mount that comes in the box with the STARTT has a few problems. It is very badly 3D printed, the extruder is not fastened in place securely (so it wobbles/makes terrible prints), and the cooling fan does not shoot air in the right place (which should be right where the filament comes out of the nozzle). This all leads to printing failures and warped, inaccurate, prints.

Solution

The original way I remedied this problem, was by printing this "Extruder Clip" by ColdCanuck on Thingiverse. It goes in front of the bolt that normally holds the extruder in place and distributes the pressure more evenly so that nothing wiggles around. I also printed a fan duct, like this, this or this, that takes the air coming from the radial fan (in front of the extruder carriage) and blows it right where the filament comes out of the nozzle. This helped stop my prints from warping and coming unstuck from the bed.

An even better (but more complicated) solution is a completely re-designed extruder carriage, such as the "STARTT Upgraded Carriage" by BogdanTheGeek. This is a much simpler design than iMakr's and helps fix the cooling and wobbling problems all in one. As an added bonus, it looks great, makes it easier to adjust the x-axis belt tension, and is smaller (lifts the extruder up), meaning that you get a little extra space to print on the z-axis. Unfortunately, the original design by BogdantheGeek requires some complicated manipulation of the Gcode (instructions sent to the printer), so that you can stop the print about halfway through to insert a bolt into the design. The make this more simple, I remixed the design so that you can insert the bolt afterward (it just stays in with pressure). To complete the design you'll also have to print a proper fan duct to handle the cooling and relocate the z-axis limit switch with this design, to compensate for the higher extruder.

Step 10: Extruder High Feeder Mount and Filament Upgrades

Problem

When printing tall objects on the STARTT, the teflon tubing (the white tube that the filament gets pushed through), sometimes gets stuck, caught, or bent at too much of an angle (so the filament has trouble going through). In addition, the placement of the extruder motor makes it inconvenient to replace the filament when needed.

Solution

Change the mounting location of the extruder. TorbenLiltorpMoller on Thingiverse designed the "STARTT high feeder mount" an alternate mount for the extruder motor which integrates it into the top right plate on the printer. This allows for easy access, and more reliability (the filament flows more smoothly). TorbenLiltorpMoller's design also changes the top right plate so that the threaded rod ends in a bearing instead of directly in the plastic. If you don't want to purchase a bearing, I've modified the design, here, to require no extra parts.

Depending on how you originally cut the tube, you might need some new PTFE tubing and/or new pneumatic couplings (they wear out fairly quickly).

Step 11: Nozzle and Heat Block

Problem

The nozzle and heat block on the iMakr STARTT are of low quality and wear out quickly.

Solution

Replace your nozzle with this one from Amazon. It includes a new nozzle, larger heat block, and new Teflon throats. I would also recommend a silicone sock to help the nozzle heat up faster and achieve higher temps (for possibly printing ABS). You could also purchase different sized nozzles (eg. 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6 mm), to improve print quality or speed for your specific job. You can also purchase a hardened steel nozzle if you want to print specialty materials (eg. wood, carbon fiber, etc.)

Step 12: Heated Bed Overview (pt. 0)

Problem

The STARTT 3D printer has a small print area, and parts constantly warp and have trouble adhering to the bed.

Solution

A heated (glass) bed! A heated bed can drastically improve prints, and allow you to print bigger prints in a variety of materials. Many people have put a heated bed on their STARTT"s before, here is a rough list:

Step 13: Heated Bed Hardware (pt.1)

The iMakr STARTT can, at the maximum, support a 6" by 6" heated bed (although you might have to slightly modify the frame to give the nozzle this range of motion. You can pick up any heated bed that you want, as long as it fits into the printer, but here is what I purchased.

  • A 6" x 6" heated bed from Makerfarm
  • Cork insulation for under the heated bed
  • A thermistor/temperature sensor
  • A 6" x 6" picture frame to use for the glass on top of the heated bed
    • Alternatively, you could use high-quality Borosilicate glass (which conducts heat more evenly and is more crack resistant), but this is much more expensive and you would probably have to cut it to the correct size.

Wiring:

  • The heated bed and the new thermistor can be connected directly to the Melzi 2.0 board on the iMakr STARTT.
    • The heated bed wires screw into the green terminal between the terminal for the hotend and the terminal for power. Polarity does not matter.
    • The thermistor plugs into the bottom of the board, into the socket labeled "btemp"
  • Mount the cork on top of the existing bed and use a binder clip to attach the heated bed and the glass print surface. Make a small path for the thermistor through the cork to go directly under the heated bed.

Step 14: Heated Bed Software/Firmware (pt. 2)

Before starting, I highly recommend that you have a general knowledge of Arduino, 3D printer firmware (Marlin, Repetier), and know the basics of gcode commands.

See documentation for the Melzi 2.0 board here. (Especially see ports, and pins for your firmware configuration later).

Although the Melzi 2.0 board has ports to wire the heated bed and thermistor directly into it, to enable heated bed support we will have to modify the firmware. Rough instructions are as follows (also follow the forums linked before as well as this other instructable):

  1. Use the Repetier Configuration Tool 0.92 to configure new firmware for your STARTT board.
    1. This is the Configuration.h file that I configured for my printer. It is set up with the correct pins to enable the heated bed and thermistor. You can import it under the "Upload old configuration section" in the Configurator, and modify/customize the settings as you want.
  2. Once your done download the "Complete firmware" package.
  3. Open the .zip file. You will eventually flash the Repetier.ino file to your Melzi 2.0 board using Arduino.
  4. Download Arduino IDE editor from the Arduino website.
  5. Download Sanguino from Github and install it into your Arduino IDE. This is needed to connect the Melzi board to Arduino.
  6. Follow this guide to flash a bootloader on the Melzi board. You'll need some type of Arduino microcontroller to use as the ISP. This basically allows your computer to talk to to the Melzi via USB.
  7. Now, plug the Melzi board into your computer via USB and upload the Repetier.ino file to the board. Your firmware should have been updated!
  8. Verify that you are getting a temperature reading from the heated bed thermistor and that the bed heats up properly.

Step 15: Conclusion + Further Exploration!

There are many more upgrades that I have not explored. A brief list here:

Check for more upgrades on Thingiverse! Be creative!

I hope you enjoyed upgrading your STARTT 3D printer. Please leave any question/feedback in the comments. Enjoy!

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