A Functioning 3D Printer For 10€

There was a time when crowdfunding websites were full of 3D printers at impossibly low prices. You knew that it would turn out to be either blatant vaporware or its delivery date would slip into the 2020s, but still there seemed always to be an eager queue ready to sign up. Even though there were promised models for under $200, $150, and then $100, there had to be a lower limit to the prices they were prepared to claim for their products. A $10 printer on Kickstarter for example would have been just a step too far.

There is a project that’s come close to that mark though, even though the magic figure is 10 euros rather than 10 dollars, so just short of 12 dollars at today’s exchange rate. [Michele Lizzit] has built a functioning 3D printer for himself, and claims that magic 10€ build price. How on earth has he done it? The answer lies in extensive use of scrap components, in this case from broken inkjet printers and an image scanner. These provide all the mechanical parts for the printer, leaving him only having to spend his 10€ on some hot end parts and the printer’s electronics. In an unusual move, the frame of the machine appears to come from a set of cardboard biscuit boxes, a master stroke of junk box construction.

The claimed resolution is 33µm, and using the position encoders from the inkjet printers he is able to make it a closed loop device. We salute his ingenuity in building such an impressive printer from so little, and were we ever locked by the bad guys in a room full of IT junk and lacked a handy escape device, we’d wish to be incarcerated with [Michele] any day over [Angus MacGyver] or [Sgt. Bosco BA Baracus].

You can see the printer in action in the video below the break.

We’ve shown you another 3D printer made from inkjet parts, but not quite so cheaply. If you want to see how far we’ve come, in 2011 a cheap and easy 3D printer came in at $500. This is progress.

41 thoughts on “A Functioning 3D Printer For 10€

    1. Mass production is actually possible, it is much cheaper to mass produce a 3D printer with a DC motor and an encoder rather than using stepper motors. This is the reason why 2D inkjet printers have already abandoned stepper motors a long time ago.
      The cost of a mass produced axis can be very low, a new inkjet printer now costs under 30$, of which only a marginal cost is represented by the axis/encoder/DC motor, a large cost is due to the inkjet nozzle for example. Mass producing only the axis itself could be done for quite cheap, and such a 3D printer would offer a lot of other advantages over the current stepper-based 3D printer design.
      In fact the whole idea behind this project is to demonstrate the feasibility of a 3D printer, using the same linear encoders and DC motors currently used in 2D inkjet printers with an accuracy comparable to that of a stepper-based 3D printer.

        1. Indeed… years ago I was doing work experience at high school… working for a second-hand computer dealer. They were selling bundles with brand-new Lexmark printers that were at the time about AU$50. The cartridges sold for AU$80.

          This was in 2001.

      1. It is possible, but not at that price. The motors, DC as they are, were essentially free. You’d have to pay for those. The casing, cardboard from discarded boxes, would need to be sourced. The metalwork would need to be designed, then cut out and folded.

        None of this subtracts from the cost, it adds to it.

        1. Sure, mass producing a 3D printer for 10€ is almost impossible since you can’t rely on used parts in a large production, but still DC motors are a lot cheaper than steppers: an encoder costs about 0.5$ and a dc motor 2-3$. There is also the advantage of having closed-loop control and lower power consumption (and a cheaper power supply) while having an accuracy equal to that of a stepper motor.

  1. Ok, the built is wonky because of the cardboard construction and costed 10 bucks but I do not think this is the most important ..I assume this is only a proof of concept. I am convinced that DC motors are the way to go with 3d printers. even if nema works of course and are wildly used …Congratulation this is really promising.

    1. precisely..this is why Inkjet printers use the tech they have, I love it that someone is resting these dc motor/encoders over steppers (that everyone claims are in inkjet printers, but not in the eight or nine I’ve disassembled so far!)

      1. I did find quite a lot of stepper motors in injket and laser printers i disassembled.

        Also quite worth to look at are flatbed scanners, those will very likely have a stepper in them.

        1. Scanners are a toss-up, i’ve seen some with very small/weak steppers, but most with dc motors and encoders, but much finer precision encoders than in an inkjet. But a flatbed would still make a great x or y axis with minimal modification, assuming the motor’s up to snuff.

  2. It’s not because you can do something, that you MUST show everyone that yoûre abble to do it..
    Like, teaching robots self awareness, or building a $10 printer that’ll end up involving a 200°c+ hotend and a peace of card board as a printbed..

  3. Love it… Im all for making things out of stuff you can find and even if the print result is not the best it defiantly gives you an experience as to how to make things better. Its a great platform to use as a foundation to build form. love the use of the DC motors as well.

  4. Not sure I can believe the 33um resolution number means much when you can see the print bed moving horizontally several mm during printing… maybe it’s just vertical movements that are fooling my old eyes.

    1. I’ll give him that claim, in that it’s the movement of the head the printer mechanism can do. But yes, with a shaky cardboard print head it’s not entirely of use.

    2. That’s another occasion which shows that resolution is not to be mistaken for accuracy. :-) Resolution needs only a fine encoder or stepper, but accuracy (repeatability) needs a sturdy construction.

      1. Or at least enough sensors that sturdiness can be emulated (compensate positioning so that the real position is reached and/or wait until the structure have stopped moving). But for a weak construction material like this even that (with advanced compensation models) would result in very slow printing.

    1. This is Hackaday, not Dependable Mass Production Supply Chain Solutions Daily…

      Also there’s a pretty steady & reliable supply of mass-produced scrap inkets out there, enough that you could imagine a range of standard 3D printer designs based on certain makes/models of dead printer.

  5. My 3D printer only required the purchase of a hot end and RAMPS board.

    But the true cost would be $500 for the scanner which made up the base $20,000 for the two infusion pumps that provided the z axis stepper motors $100 for the inkjet printer for the x axis.

    A couple of cornflake boxes certainly comes in a bit cheaper ;)

  6. It’s a nice project, but i don’t think it will be a great 3D printer. Good for experimenting on a really tight budget, probably not so good if you need some printing to be done without messing around for days (and maybe finally getting up because of too bad quality of the print)…
    Oh and don’t mix resolution and accuray. This device might have 33µ of resolution on the axis, but the repeatability (?) is certainly MUCH worse. Still a nice hack though.

    1. He can always add bits as he goes along, particularly finding stuff to replace the cardboard. If it actually works, he can print himself some better bts of equipment, for some things.

    1. The replicator you’re thinking about wouldn’t be a physical object, though, since the technology to create robots that can recognize hardware and disassemble it and make more robots out of those parts just doesn’t exist outside of very limited laboratory settings yet.

      What could exist, though, would be a website that helps people replicate a given printer design. Imagine, if you will, something similar to Instructables.com, but focused on e-waste recycling. You give it a model number, it provides instructions on how to disassemble and salvage useful parts from a given device. Pair that with some machine vision (for reading and parsing part numbers from pictures taken of stickers), a project management system (for telling you when you have enough of a given part, and possibly what to be on the lookout for) and a store for those pieces that cannot be cobbled together by a bright teenager who can use a screwdriver and a soldering iron. Additionally, someone would want to set up something to allow people to assemble customized firmware for whatever controller gets slapped on the design, along with a large and robust testing suite to guide newbs through adjusting their code.

      That system would _still_ be a titanic multi-year project to get off the ground, think the entirety of the Raspberry Pi project to date and you’re in the neighborhood. However, it’s totally within the reach of the first world right now, if not necessarily within their will.

  7. For what it is, and what it can do, I think this was a great project. For not a lot of additional money, this could be stiffened up a bit to make a much better printer out of it.

    1. Yes it is a bit strange IMHO. Steppers are good for small production or things where one doesn’t have much control electronics available but manufacturers of 3D printers do large enough production runs that cheap DC motors + a cheap sensor would make better sense. OTOH stepper motors are relatively cheap nowadays.

  8. I’ve often wondered if a couple creative people could do this as performance art.

    It probably can’t be any random printers, but a couple “‘cheaper” printers from Target or Walmart. Narrating the careful disassembly, with random “accidents”. Using hot glue, a drill and maybe a legit hot section, and controller. Using the one printer for X and Y, with the other printer providing the Z. The cases could be partially disassembled, then glued together.

    It could be fun to watch at a CON or other Electronics Trade Show.

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