Turning Your 3D Printer Into A 2D Printer

3D Printing & Imaging
Turning Your 3D Printer Into A 2D Printer


“Bam” on the lulzbot forums shared an interesting project recently. He printed a small mount for his extruder that allows it to hold a pen, essentially turning his 3D printer into a standard plotter, or 2D printer. A few custom settings in the software package Cura allowed the gcode necessary to keep drawing on the paper to be created quite easily.

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I loved the idea. There’s something a tiny bit silly about it, most of us have regular inkjet printers in our home. Watching something being printed in the style of a plotter has its charm though. I wanted an attachment that I could pop on and off when I needed it, and that could hold any number of writing utensils. To achieve this I opened up Design Spark and quickly cobbled together what you see above. If you have a lulzbot printer, or any other printer that holds the extruder stepper motor at that peculiar angle, you can print this yourself. Otherwise, the one created by Bam might be much more versatile.

First, load the .ini file supplied by Bam into Cura. Note that the custom .ini keeps the extruder from heating up. Then be sure to set your layer height to .01mm and total height to .05mm on the import dialog.

You’ll have to play with the settings a bit to get the desired effects. In this instance I liked the look but found that the paper was getting saturated with ink. I was afraid it might rip through!

7 thoughts on “Turning Your 3D Printer Into A 2D Printer

  1. Layne Harris says:

    Fun stuff! Keep them coming!

  2. Charles Haase says:

    Does Cura have a “Z-lift on travel moves” feature like Slic3r? That might get rid of some of the extraneous lines.

    1. Luis E. Rodriguez says:

      It does. Go to Expert | Expert Configs and then the “Z hop when retracting (mm)” box. A suggestion of .075 is mentioned in the hover text.

  3. Joe Fields says:

    Inkscape has a gcode export extension. I tried out the path to gcode option and it seemed to work well. There are tutorials on youtube for using it. It automatically adds the pen lifts too.

  4. Guest says:

    Could I create designs that I could then apply to smooth surfaces? I’m thinking of cases for instruments or the cover of a laptop or tablet or a car door or a window or …

  5. bibulb says:

    While this seems like a “ha ha, how cute” idea, this plus either a Circuit Scribe or the Bare Conductive paint means that you have the makings of a primitive in-house
    “PCB” maker… (Without needing etchant handling practices, that is.)

  6. James says:

    This is a cool hack. I just tried it myself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9R_hPWVIhY. I used Inkscape to generate the tool path and a hacked Inkscape Plugin to convert to GCODE. I’m thinking of 3d printing a spring loaded holder to even fit the pen better.

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I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. You can find me on twitter at @calebkraft and on youtube

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