High School Student Designs a Portable Battery-Operated 3D Printer

For a summer project, this teenager was able to make a mini 3D printer that's also controllable via smartphone.

Cameron Coward
a month ago3D Printing

The vast majority of 3D printers today utilize a process called fused-filament fabrication (FFF). They accept thermoplastic in the form of a thin strand of filament, which is melted and then deposited onto the print bed in successive layers to fabricate the desired part. Between the motors, fans, hot end, and heated bed, FFF 3D printers can consume quite a lot of power. That could be anywhere from about 50 W to several hundred watts, and peaks much higher than normal while the bed and hot end are heating up. That makes it difficult to power them from a battery, but this high school student was able to design a mini 3D printer that is portable and battery-operated.

Redditor BingoFishy, AKA Nick Li, is a high school student, and designed and built this tiny 3D printer for a summer project. That’s incredibly impressive when you see how professional-looking this 3D printer is. It looks as good or better than most of the 3D printers you will find on the market today. But this isn’t just a lesson in good industrial design, because this printer is completely functional and manages to accomplish a feat that we haven’t seen before. The entire printer is roughly the size of a gallon jug of milk and is capable of printing continuously for about three hours from the built-in battery. Yes, the build area is very small at just 50 x 50 x 46 mm (1.97 x 1.97 x 1.81 inches), but that’s still enough to print many useful objects.

While the design of the printer is completely custom, it was built using primarily off-the-shelf components. The stepper motors and linear rods for each axis were salvaged from DVD drives. The X and Y axis each have a single stepper motor, while the Z axis has two. Those are controlled by a SKR E3 DIP control board, which is the same board used in the Creality Ender. This is paired with a Raspberry Pi and OctoPrint, so BingoFishy can operate the 3D printer using a smartphone without the need to connect a computer. Extrusion is handled by a Creality all-metal hot end with a MK8 extruder upgrade. Power comes from a set of six 26650 lithium ion batteries, each with a capacity of 5300mAh, wired in 2P3S configuration with a battery management system board. The battery level indicator is a cheap 3S touch sensor module. The print volume may be limited, but we think this mini 3D printer would be perfect for a Maker Faire or other hacking event.

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