Budget 3D Printer

I am in the market for a 3D Printer. The problem is funding it. As always I’m interested in the less expensive and more educational DIY varieties.

With a meager budget of £300 – £500 there isn’t a lot of choice. However, there are two 3D printers that stand out. The RepRap Prusa Mendel and the Ultimaker. 110906_Ultimaker_photo50

The Ultimaker has won awards for being a very fast printer, and is open source. However, various makers have had problems sourcing parts to construct one from scratch. This may mean that hard to find parts may need to be substituted. The nice thing about the Ultimaker is that much of the structure is laser cut, in an enclosed box, and fairly rigid, which all contribute to it’s high resolution and print speed.


The RepRap is very much a DIY self-replicating 3D Printer. Its structure largely consists of nuts, bolts, and 3D Printed parts. All of which you can source on your own. However, there are a few expensive parts, and the question is whether to buy it fully assembled or in kit form.

For educational and budgeting reasons, I’m very interested in the RepRap Prusa. My original perception of it was that it looked very ‘hacky’. Bits and pieces bolted together. It did not look as refined as other 3D printers. However, having read more about it I find that the perception was slightly wrong. It was supposed to look that way. To reflect that a fully functional and competitive 3D printer could be made with parts you can find easily, without special machining.

While shopping around I was compiling a list of parts and prices. If I can build the 3D printer slowly over time, will make it easier on my bankroll. Here is what I found so far.

  • Nuts and Bolts kit + Nema17 stepper motors ~ £150
  • 3D Printed Parts + Wade Extruder ~ £60
  • J-Head Hot End ~ £50
  • Arduino + RAMPS 1.4 + A4988 Stepper Drivers ~ £100
  • Hot Bed + Mirror ~ £40

Which brings us to a total of £400 not including shipping, which will be somewhere in the region of £30 – £50.

So how much does a complete off-the-shelf kit cost? £499

So as you can see, there isn’t much difference between a self-sourced kit, and a complete kit. Although, the self-sourced kit has a few things going for it.

  1. It is slightly cheaper.
  2. More control over parts.
  3. Parts can be acquired over time.

RepRap do provide a parts list. But I have yet to comb through it. At this point it is just a rough look at whether to build or buy.

At the moment it is pretty close. Do I spent £500 all in one go. Or spend £50 per week for 10 weeks? Hmmm…


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