This project is a totally redesigned new version of the Trash Printer, which I originally built as part of my entry to the 2018 Hackaday Prize. This new design includes the original extruder head, but now also includes full documentation for the entire 3D printer gantry as well.
This new design is cheaper, easier to build, and makes bigger parts than my previous two versions, and is fully open-source!
To give you context for what a breakthrough this new design is for me, it helps to understand how I got to this point. So gather around kids, and let me tell you the story of the Trash Printer.
It all started way back in 2016, when I first built the Precious Plastic open-source plastic shredder, using money from my Patreon. The shredder allowed me to shred up plastic trash into small flakes, and it's what got me started on this whole wild project.
In March of 2017, I built the Precious Plastic Extruder, and I was finally able to start extruding those shredded plastic flakes into... well, basically spaghetti. The Precious Plastic community has done some truly incredible things with this extruder, but making anything useful with it is time consuming and requires a lot of skill, and to be honest, I didn't really have the patience for it.
But the long strands of plastic that came out of the extruder looked a lot like 3D printer filament, and it got me thinking. The day I built the extruder, I took it over to the CNC router in my friends' shop, and I said, "I wonder if we could just strap this to a robot...?"
In December of 2017, I started making design sketches, taking what I had learned from the Precious Plastic design, and putting it on a vertical axis so that it could act as a 3D print head.
In February 2018, I started asking my friends who knew about 3D printers how I might go about getting the extruder actually moving. At the time, I knew basically nothing about how 3D printers worked. With A LOT of help (Big thanks to Darcy N, Molly M, Jonathan D, and Nathaniel G) I 3D printed the parts to build the MPCNC (Mostly Printable CNC) designed by V1engineering. I picked that gantry because it was cheap, 3D-printable, and it used common, hardware store parts.
My goal was to figure out how to build a fully functional Trash Printer by October of 2018, as just one part of my submission to the 2018 Hackaday Prize. It proved to be a lot more difficult to do than I had hoped, and by the time the deadline for the Hackaday Prize arrived, I had only succeeded in building the gantry and getting the printer moving for the first time, making these first, very basic shapes.
The deadline came and went, and I failed to make it to the finals, and I gave up on it for a while. I wasn't able to even look at it again for a few months, but in the spring of 2019, I finally made my first actual prints, with actual layers, which were the first things you could really call "things".
After that, my prints improved quite quickly, but I was still limited to pretty basic shapes, and the prints weren't very consistent. I started using shredded up polypropylene test tubes as my feedstock, which provided a nice, stable, clean material to test with, even though it wasn't really the same as using post-consumer household trash, which was always my goal.
One of the first things I ever printed was this little, 4" tall "wind turbine". It was a promising proof-of-concept, but hardly functional. Still, it did prove to me that the concept was workable, and until that point, I hadn't really been sure if what I was trying to do was even possible.
By the Summer of 2019, I was printing simple vases pretty consistently, but not with real trash, and not anything very big. I kept messing around with settings, and testing out new motors, upgrading from a NEMA23 stepper motor to a NEMA23 with a 5:1 planetary reduction (I'm now using a 15:1 reduction), in order to get more torque.
I decided that I needed a bigger...Read more »