A mobile 3D printer is a great idea, and would be incredibly useful if you often travel to Maker Faires or other kinds of conventions. Unfortunately, there aren’t any truly portable 3D printers on the market. So, Thomas Sanladerer built his own by converting a Printrbot Play.
“Alright hotshot, I’ve seen portable 3D printers before. This isn’t anything new!” you say.
Well, made-up straw man, I think you misunderstand me. I’m not saying this is just another 3D printer with a handle bolted to the top. I’m saying it’s completely portable. It runs on batteries, and has it’s own WiFi access point so it can be controlled with a smartphone. If you had the inclination, you could strap this to your back and 3D-print while you hike through the wilderness of the Yellowstone backcountry.
Sanladerer chose the Printrbot Play for this conversion because the sheet metal frame is incredibly sturdy. Printrbot has unfortunately gone out of business, but they built some very robust 3D printers. That means it can be carried around without throwing the axes off square. The Printrbot Play also doesn’t have a heated bed, and only consumes about 30W of power.
That low power-consumption is important, since it’s running on batteries. Those batteries are 7.2V NP-F 7900mAh lithium-ion packs intended for Sony cameras. There are six batteries in total, which give capacity of 47,400mAh. A boost converter brings the battery voltage up to 12V to run the printer, and a buck converter brings it down to 5V to run the Raspberry Pi.
The Raspberry Pi runs Octoprint in WiFi access point mode, which creates its own WiFi access point that you can connect to from a smartphone. With the printer running on batteries, all Sanladerer has to do is connect to the access point and start printing whatever STL files he likes. He reports that the batteries are enough to run the printer for about six hours, so this is actually a very practical conversion.