The standalone 3D printer

Gerhard de Clercq
Die Hoërskool Menlopark
Pretoria, South Africa
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Entry date: 20-Nov-2014
Final Submission: 01-Jul-2016
3D Printing is an exciting new technology that is taking the world by storm. It has the promise to open many doors for many people, especially individuals. There is one drawback though, current offering are either way too expensive, way to rudimentary or even both in many cases. This project is an attempt at making a 3D printer of remarkable functionality with an exceptional next generation user interface and fairly standard components.

Project details


Last year my friend and I embarked on a journey to try and make 3D printing more affordable and more accesible. The reason for this being that we were quite fascinated and excited with the concept of 3D printing but very put off by the current offerings availible on the market. This took us many places and we even got to a point where Nokia made a video for us, this is the video that I chose as my project video. The reason they decided to make the video for us is because I developed a Windows Phone application for our printer and completed the world's first full 3D print from a smartphone using a Lumia device. As part of the app, I even wrote my own slicing sloftware as well as model visualizers from scratch.

Even though our printer now had an app, the printer was still quite crude. For that reason I have decided that I want to take this project to a whole new level. I want to develop a 3D printer that most people can afford, one that works, one that looks good, one that has cross-platform software and lastly, one that has a proper capacitive touch screen interface. I mean come on, this is 2014, how can anyone offer an even remotely expenive 3D printer without a capacitive touch screen?  I also want my printer to be able to handle slicing on the device itself, as to offer a device that can function completely on its own wthout the need for an external computer or cloud service. This printer will obviously still allow slicing on external device for complete speed freaks and it will allow full control via its own screen as well as via mobile, desktop and web software. This printer will use WiFi (and Ethernet if possible) to connect to a users network and will also be able to create its own hotsot if the user does not have his/her own network. The ability to connect to an exisitng WiFi network will be a key feature as it will not force you to sacrifice your internet connection in able to connect to the printer like some current offerings.

As far as the development of my new printer goes, I have already decided on an design and mechanic and am busy finializing the details. It will be made from powdercoated sheetmetal and use a Core-XY mechanic. I have already found suppliers for most of the required hardware. I am now at the point where I am mainly working on getting my electronics and software developed. I have already managed to find a supplier for a high resolution capacitive touch screen that will be used in my product. I have both an RGB and a MIPI panel that I need to now test in order to see which works beter. In terms of software I have already developed the major components such as the slicer and the visualizers, I just need to develop some hardware specific software that will drive the device. To drive the electronics I will need a powerfull SOM like the Toradex Apalis T30 with 2GB of RAM in order to assure a smooth operation of the user interface and in order to enable the slicing of complex models on the printer itself. This SOM also has support for Windows Embedded Compact 2013 which will be a huge benefit to my printer as it offers a way of easily creating very nice multi-touch user interfaces. Its real time capabilities will also be benificial in driving the printer with simpler and more reliable electronics. The SOM will probably be used in my own carrierboard that I am still to develop in order to drive the price down a bit and make it fit in with my design better, I will though require a standard baseboard to get me started with the software development and in order to serve as refernce for my own design. Depending on how well the baseboard works, I might even use it as-is in my printer.

At the moment it looks as if though I will be able to build my printer for less than 500 euros if I work carfully. I expect to have the my first protoype built by early next year whereafter I will start to fine tune the software. Initially I will only have a Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 app but once finsihed with the physical printer, I will start workign on an iOS, Android, Mac and Linux app. Luckily My software is mainly written in C# so it will in fact be quite easy to port, I will just need to acquire som hardware to develop with first.

As can be seen in the rendering, I am about half way finsihed with the mechanical CAD drawings. It's not that I have only hought my design half way through, instead I am just doing te CAD in two phases where I first just want to see if this half can be fabricated and get an idea of what it will cost me first. I am currently waiting for word from my supplier regarding this. The rest of the design will not have a huge visual impact, it will mainly be a lot of nuts and bolts, pulleys and belts etc. All major component that still needs to come is the printbed. The printbed will also be heated which is another very nice feature as it will allow for printing in ABS. The extruder is also still missing, this will be a bowden type extruder which will allow for less moving weight and therefore less mechanical wear. Finally, it will have two extruders allowing for dual color prints, or prints with disolvable support material.


As was documented in my updates, the scope as well as some details of the of the project have been altered as a result of inevitable change in circumstances. For one, I have moved my entire life (including the project) away from Microsoft technologies like Windows and .Net. I am now solely using Linux (and other open-source tech) and the project is coded in C++ with Qt. As a result of deficient manufacturing from my suppliers and limited funds on my behalf, I have been forced to abandon my plan of building an entirely new 3D printer and have instead went on to adapt my exisitng machine. As a result of some setbacks and other responsibilities munching away at y time I was also forced to scale back on the planned functionality. The goal ultimately pursued was that of having a multi-touch 3D printer that is completely standalone in that it has the ability to load a raw 3D model, manipulate and process it and finally process it, all without the help of an external device like a PC.

Updates Hide

The first update of the design
Update #10147  |  07 Dec 2014
After receiving word that my existing design can be manufactured at a reasonable price I have now started to do some further work on the design and it is now nearing completion.
Update #10156  |  31 Dec 2014
I have been experimenting with the different available OS images and development environments. I am currently trying to get the latest Qt up and running.
Sourced components
Update #10168  |  15 Jan 2015
I finally have finally managed to source all the components that I will need to start testing my electronics with and further my CAD design. I will now be able to go ahead at full speed with my project.
Update #10178  |  22 Feb 2015
I have created a little website for my so called "company", you can check it out at http://www.declercqsystems.com .
Test Board V1
Update #10183  |  08 Mar 2015
I have finally ordered a development PCB that will allow me to connect my touch screen to my Toradex Carrier board and also to drive some heaters, a thermistor and a thermocouple.
Update #10185  |  20 Mar 2015
I finally received the prototype PCB(s) that I ordered for part my development. I have also managed to secure a WiFi module sponsor (ACKme Networks) for my project.
Update #10192  |  14 Apr 2015
I am having trouble getting a workable foundation (OS and frameworks) set up on my board. Unfortunately nothing is really fitting my needs at the moment. I am working on it though.
Update #10194  |  23 Apr 2015
TP-Link have generously decided to sponsor my project by providing me with two wireless adapters that I can use to develop with.
Update #10213  |  06 Aug 2015
After not being able to do so for I while I am back to working on the project.
Update #10215  |  10 Aug 2015
The assembly of my surface-mount PCB is turning out to be harder than I thought with my DIY tools.
Update #10216  |  20 Aug 2015
I have received my "backup" components from Adafruit which luckily work. I am also making progress with my software.
Rendering of final MCAD design
Update #10217  |  29 Nov 2015
I finally came round to finishing my mechanical CAD design and have now ordered my sheet metal components which I should receive in about a week or two.
Update #10218  |  04 Dec 2015
After a week or so, my sheet-metal components are done and I can almost start assembling. Unfortunately a crucial one is defective...
Update #10219  |  06 Dec 2015
After quite a lot of effort, I finally managed to get my components painted. My software has progressed but I am having trouble with compiling the Qt toolchain and won't be able to show it running on my board today.
Update #10220  |  13 Dec 2015
Upon trying to assemble my mechanical systems, I found many of the sheet metal components were manufactured either completely or partially wrong and after days of trying I could not fix them. I will need a new plan going forward.
Update #10221  |  21 Dec 2015
I have finally managed to get a stable software foundation laid that I can build on. There is still a tearing issue but I think that's hardware related at the moment.
Screenshot of STL rendring
Update #10222  |  18 Jan 2016
I am making progress with my OpenGL rendering. I almost done with STL rendering and have started with G-Code.
Update #10223  |  14 Feb 2016
Preliminary single model STL support is done. Grid and interaction support is also coming along well. GCode support is past the proof-of-concept stage.
Update #10224  |  12 Mar 2016
My initial GCode rendering support is almost complete. It still has a few bugs but the major problems are sorted. The rest of the project should not be too difficult from this point.
Update #10226  |  04 Apr 2016
I have had a bit of a vacation and have managed to cram in a load of work. Most of the required functionality is now in a working condition. Next up is printing!
Update #10227  |  25 Apr 2016
I have managed to get the latest iteration of my software running on the board. I'm getting close to being able to print.
Image of printer printing
Update #10229  |  19 May 2016
I have now achieved my revised goal of creating a 3D printer that has the ability to print entirely on its own. It can do everything with a nice multi-touch user interface. It’s not what all I dreamed of but impressive non the less.
Update #10231  |  30 Jun 2016
I have finally managed to tidy up my hardware and shoot + edit a semi-decent video. It still isn't quite what I imagined but still quite impressive and I will improve on it beyond the competition.

Comments Hide

Vinicius Bazan Pinto Fernandes

Hello, Gerhard,

your project looks very cool! I can't wait to see the further improvements that will be accomplished. Let us updated.

Vinícius Bazan - WITRA

Gerhard de Clercq

Hi Vinicius, I'll definitely try to keep you guys updated!