[Figure 1: Full Explanation Video]
Conveyor belt 3D printers are arguably the most exciting development in 3D printing since RepRap. With its unique design, a conveyor belt 3D printer has two features which no other desktop 3D printer can offer: automatic part ejection and infinitely long printing. Resultantly, a conveyor belt 3D printer can both mass produce parts and print extremely large parts. If it works…
Over the past half decade, a number of desktop conveyor belt 3D printers have been released to the public. Unfortunately, these machines are buggy and finicky; their print quality does not meet our expectations of a 3D printer in 2022. Current conveyor belt printers are reminiscent of hobby 3D printers from 2007-2009: low quality, unreliable, prototype adjacent, but also lots of fun! The caveats and details of conveyor belt 3D printers still need to be ironed out. I believe that there is a missing ingredient that will rapidly move this design forwards: community. In its early stages, amateur 3D printer designs made rapid progress due to a large, committed, opensource community that was working together to make low cost 3D printers viable. Conveyor belt 3D printers need the same open source catalyst.
I have built many, many, many, many, many conveyor belt 3D printers. From the knowledge gained through these successes (and failures), I have designed a new conveyor belt 3D printer that is extremely simple for people to build. The 3D printer is completely free and opensource with the CAD and firmware available in this document. I have also provided detailed build instructions to make it straight forwards for others to replicate (and hopefully improve) the 3D printer. Due to the opensource nature of this project, I have aptly named this 3D printer design OpenBelt - The Opensource Conveyor Belt 3D Printer.
[Figure 2: Printing Sword Demo]
[Figure 3: Printing Skateboard Demo]
[Figure 4: Printing Funny Thing Demo]
[Figure 5: Printing Cricket Bat Demo]
My goal is that as many people as possible are able to replicate this 3D printer. Therefore, I tried to make the design accessible and easy to follow for people from all technical background. In pursuit of this goal, I made the following design choices while developing this project.
- All components for this project can be 3D printed
In my previous conveyor belt 3D printer designs, I used a lathe and mill to machine some of the components. I am assuming most people attempting this project do not have access to such expensive machines. So I specifically designed all of the fixtures, jigs, and other components to be 3D printable. I hope this makes it easier for others to fabricate these components.
- Simple Design >>> Perfect Design
I chose to make this conveyor belt 3D printer as simple as possible. There are many extra features that I would love to add to this machine. But I chose to only include the bare essentials for this tutorial.
- Starting with a 3D Printer
In this tutorial, we start with an existing 3D printer and convert it into a conveyor belt 3D printer. If I were to instead build the 3D printer from scratch, I would have to include a lot of additional details that are irrelevant to the key conveyor belt aspect. There are already many tutorials online that document building a 3D printer from raw materials. I see no point reinventing the wheel. If you are looking for a good resource on building 3D printers from scratch, I recommend Dr. D Flo’s YouTube Channel!
The first time I used a 3D printer was in my freshman year of high school. After a few hours of working with the machine, I realized that a conveyor belt would be an excellent way to automate 3D printers and allow them to print a continuous stream of parts. After doing some online research, I came across the defunct Makerbot Replicator...Read more »