Super Sizing the Printrbot Metal Simple

The Printrbot Simple Metal is a good 3D printer, with a few qualifications. More accurately, the Printrbot Simple Metal is a good first 3D printer. It’s robust, takes a beating, can produce high-quality prints, and is a great introduction to 3D printing for just $600. There are limitations to the Printbot Simple Metal, the most important is the relatively small 150mm cubed build volume.

[ken.do] wanted to print large parts, specifically scale aircraft wings and panels. While the Printrbot can’t handle these things normally, the design of the printer does lend itself to increasing the size of the build volume to 500mm long and 500mm high.

Increasing the build height on the Printrbot is as simple as adding two longer smooth rods and a single threaded rod to the Z axis. Increasing the X axis is a bit trickier: it requires a very flat sheet that doesn’t warp or bend over 500 mm, even when it’s being supported in different places. [ken.do] is engineering stiffness into a build plate here. The solution to a huge bed is a two kilogram aluminum bed supported by heavier rails and riding on a massive printed bushing block. Does it work? Sure does.

If you want to print tall objects, the current crop of 3D printers has you covered: just get a delta, and you’re limited only by the length of the extrusion used in the body. Creating big objects in all three dimensions is a marginally solved problem – just get a big printer. Big printers have drawbacks, notably the incredible power requirements for a huge heated build plate.

The ability to print long objects is a problem that’s usually not addressed with either commercial 3D printers or RepRaps. We’re glad to see someone has finally realized the limitations of the current crop of 3D printers and has come up with a way to turn a very good first printer into something that solves a problem not covered by other 3D printers.

18 thoughts on “Super Sizing the Printrbot Metal Simple

  1. Thank you. I’ll try that to my fdm machine to which I’m planning to have a print volume of the size you mentioned in the blog. Hope this works. I’ll get back to you if I need further clarification.

    1. Extending the Z like this will cause problems. As there is nothing that stops the top from wobbling during printing. So you need to stablize the top. Which is why the older Prusa Mendel models had triangle shaped frames.

  2. I disagree with the comments about the printerbot simple metal. IT IS NOT a good starter printer and NOT a good one over all. I can say this since I own one. The upgraded X axis you can purchase warps VERY easily mine warped within 2 weeks of purchase and this is noted on their forum and on ” Printrbot” subreddit. It has an “auotlevel feature which is pretty much BS and is a selling gimmick.

    1. Autolevel is a gimmick? Did you ever have a printer with a bed that required manual leveling? It was a nightmare. Autolevel is my all time favorite Printrbot feature. I had a Printrbot Simple Metal, and loved it. I know a dozen people with them who love them too. Sorry that you have had bad results, but that’s not consistent with my experience.

    2. I have a Printrbot simple metal that I have upgraded with the extended heated X-axis, and I haven’t had any problems with warping. Before that, I was using a third-party heater on the stock aluminum bed, and I never had any issues.

      Autolevel is not a gimmick. From experience (original Replicator), it can be a real nightmare to level a bed without it.

      1. The Printrbot simple metal is an awesome starter printer. I got the official extended X axis too, no problem with warping at all – its dead flat. I also have a cheap Wanhao i3, there is a world of difference in general setup required.
        One thing I did notice though is the increased weight when it comes to X motion. It made the printer sound as if it were clunking around, increased inertia and all that, not sure if it has affected the prints though, reducing acceleration / jerk may be needed.

        It also makes the printer slowly migrate across my table during prints – never used to do that with the smaller print bed.

        This heavy aluminium slab they’re using for a 50mm bed must seem like a JCB bucket moving around by comparison.

    3. I have the printrbot simple metal, and i strongly disagree. I’ve been printing with it reliably with little to no calibration at all. I made the z-calibration once, made it again when i changed the extruder block for the newer alu one, and that’s all.
      The only major flaw is the basic print bed surface, which is not flat. So take the alu print surface (with or without the heated bed depending on what you print), it is really flat.
      The Z auto leveling works fine for me, i only get a problem once in a while with it, so i check when the print starts that it isn’t too low.

      I also have the X an Z update, but havn’t installed those yet.

      With the alu extruder V2 it works fine with flexible filament (unlinke with the previous alu extruder).

      I also have bought the new ubis all metal hot end that i have yet to mount on my machine, but i wonder if i shouldn’t have bought the praised E3D V6 that is all the rage around. I guess that with similar construction it must be quite similar in performance? I hope so. Anyway it should be a improvement over the ceramic ubis hot end. To bad they forgot to include the fan.

    4. I have a Printrbot Simple Metal (PSM) and the company I work for has an Ultimaker 2 Extended (UM2E). The PSM actually pushes out better prints (I have 3dBenchy’s to prove it) and its my preferred go to printer. It has its short comings but that’s all budget related and easily rectified for those that want to extend its capabilities. In my country the UM2E is 5 times more than the PSM and it sure doesnt show it. As for bed tramming, I have just spent 3 days trying to tram the bed on the UM2! 3 days! And its still not perfect. I have never had that problem with the PSM. It took me about an hour to set the right z-axis offset and its been great ever since.

      So I cant agree with any of your points tbh.

  3. Besides the powerhungry supersized heated beds large 3d printers have other issues.
    The belts used in most printers stretch during all the high frequency movements for “normal” sized printers this is already a bit of an issue, making the belts many times longer makes this a much bigger issue. A bowden extruder makes the moving part a little lighter. On CeBit I have seen only one large size 3d printer that uses spindles that eliminates this problem while sacrificing speed.
    The other is even worse. Even with huge heated beds warping (abs) is still the most problematic issue. If the bonding layer flexes a little you will get crooked prints. If the bonding layer does not flex the print will detach. Look at the print on the kamermaker printer. During the print the print of a low poly torus shape it was literally bolted to the bed to keep it attached while successful it was an ugly print with horizontal cracks and everything. Either way large prints and an FDM printer are not the right combo (IMHO).
    Lastly your print time rises exponentially, your hardware, software and firmware must be extremely reliable. Seeing my printer fail after 11 hours about 90% into a print is extremely disappointing, seeing your printer fuck up after 3 days of continuous printing would most likely have a serious effect on your mood for the rest of the day….or week.

  4. Done my simple metal’s X with a larger heated bed but nowhere as big as Ken’s and fingers crossed it hasnt warped noticably yet (though I can fix it easy if it ever does) , and I’ve got some new longer linear rods and a leadscrew to go on when get around to it to give me a much taller z, only snag its metric pitch as couldnt find a 1/4-16 screw + bronze nut here in europe so probably will have to tinker about with firmware to alter the steps to suit the different pitch.
    The taller it is the wobblier it gets as bot Z & Y are simply supported and the weight starts to bend the Y out of plane at full extension as it gets to the top of its travel and mr nozzle can hit the print which can be incredibly frustrating if it happens, but I’m planning on adding a vertical brace and a keeper to it from the top of the z to stiffen it back up a bit like this one is using the X frame bit. Even the alloy handle printrbot sell improves its rigidity over stock and I’ve long since been clamping it to a weighted down table to damp out the shaking, which if you go fast enough it seems to suffer less with as speed increases, maybe I’m going past its resonant point or as someone else noted, if you go fast enough it doesn’t have time to wobble the table before it reverses.
    I’ve also got a e3d diamond and a extrudrboard waiting & already running a e3d v6 hotend on it and use a xbox 360 205w psu. The extruder is getting remade next as I’m sick of needing a flimsy guide/adapter to print flexible filament pieces as it was a early one with masses of daylight between the hobbed wheel and lower shoe. In between using it of course.
    I agree the simple is a great printer to start with, not because its a super design (mechanically the Y drooping as the head gets to the end of its travel, and I took apart my original ceramic ubis to find the thermistor insulated and tied on with plumbers ptfe tape wrapped round it) but its a great starter because its open, easy to improve on, modify + tinker with when the urge takes you, but you can buy it assembled and just start using it straight away & when I first got it, thats exactly what I needed when I first started with a 3d fdm printer, something that was in my pocketbook range & just worked and wasn’t yet another project.

  5. Its a good idea, I am working on a similar design but for the prusai3.

    Using carbon fiber/fiberglass composite for the bed will give me the stiffness at less mass and can double as a resistive heating element. Trying to build a 1m by 300cm printable area, bed. Should be large enough to print the molds that I need.

  6. Instead of heating the entire bed as a unit, make it zoned with concentric squares, hexagons or rings, depending on the shape. Save energy by only heating the part of the bed under the print. Or get even fancier with a matrix of squares or hexagons.

    Send the free 3D printer to…

  7. For large prints to be successful, you not only need longer axis and higher reliability in hard- and software. My experience with 500mm long printbeds is that you need to have a chamber around your printer with some sort of climate control. ABS seems to be almost impossible to print without that depending on your model (warping), and even the reduced warping rates of filaments like PLA start to give you serious headaches ath these dimensions. I had to reinforce the build platform that was made out of an aluminium plate with square tubing bolted to it, or the warping forces were high enough to permanently bend the plate (if adhesion was holding the print down enough and it would not just pop off).
    I found that printing smaller pieces and use solvent welding or adhesives to join them together is easyer and better than having one massive print to worry about.

  8. Will this work on the wood kit one? I know the metal version is most likely heavier, I just want sure if the word kit simple would accommodate holding up the larger bed. Thank you for the post!!

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