5 Hacks and Mods for Custom 3D Printer Upgrades (from Easy to Insane)

3D Printing & Imaging Digital Fabrication

You’re probably the sort of person who likes to tinker with your gear. And why should your 3D printer be any different? Go ahead, get hands-on with it!

Photography by Christopher Garrison
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Build a thermal enclosure

Having trouble with large prints warping? Grab some fanfold insulation, a utility knife, and some packing tape and whip together an enclosure to keep them warm. This can be as simple as a box, or more elaborate with form-fitting lines, ports for viewing, and vents to keep electronics from overheating.

Enhance Your Print Surfaces

One of the simplest printer upgrades is a nice new print bed surface.

  • PEI: Polyethylenimine (PEI) polymer holds a print firmly while it’s hot, and then releases it gently at room temperature. And it’s tough — gouges or scratches won’t require replacement.
  • BuildTak: Similar to PEI, this proprietary plastic comes in printer-specific sizes and shapes, including circles. Just order, peel, and stick to your bed for a quick performance upgrade.



Add a New Extruder

Sure, all-metal hot ends are all the rage. But get a grip! Let’s not neglect the other end of your tool head.

  • E3D Titan: E3D, makers of the oft-imitated v6 hot end, now offers this extruder boasting the unusual ability to change between 1.75mm and 3mm filaments without swapping any parts.
  • Bondtech QR: This extruder features machined gears on both sides of the filament, promising an unparalleled grip. Left- and right-handed configurations offer dual-extrusion goodness.
  • Diabase Flexion: Do soft filaments keep worming out of your extruder every which way except through the nozzle? The Flexion extruder, from the people who invented NinjaFlex filament, uses a short, constrained filament path to help tame those wayward noodles.


Controller Board Swap

Powerful ARM boards are ushering in new capabilities over Arduino-based electronics.

  • Smoothieboard: An ARM Cortex-M3 adds full Ethernet support, 1/16 micro-stepping, and 2 amps per stepper.
  • Duet Wifi: Get all the power of an ARM Cortex-M4 processor and an independent Wi-Fi chip. This board can handle up to 7 extruders, a touchscreen, and 1/256 microstepping.
  • Pronterface/Printrun: Printrun software and a Linux board can turn a tether-needy printer into a network-enabled, remote-controlled workhorse. The included Pronsole app gives you full control of your printer from any machine with an SSH client.



Powder Printer Conversion: Willing to rework your printer’s tool head? Then consider Aad van der Geest’s ColorPod. It adds a commercial-grade powder and binder process to consumer 3D printers, so you can create full-color prints like the pros.

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