This is a list of tools I found invaluable (hey, I’ve no idea what your workshop situation is like – I hope this is not your first experience with nut and volts…)
- Cheap digital multimeter – for resistance and voltage measurements.
- Stainless steel digital vernier caliper – for frame setup, for measuring printed parts for calibration, and because vernier anythings are cool.
- Soldering iron (suitable for electronics, not for plumbing) and rosin-core solder.
- Two small thin adjustable wrenches that open to at least 13mm – for tightening and locking the frame nuts, and the temporary locknuts on the extruder nozzle. You can also use them on the bed-levelling nuts if you aren’t lucky enough to have matching meccano spanners like I did. I guess you could use non-adjustable C-spanners if you have them in the right sizes. My C-spanners live in the garage, while my adjustable spanners live in my art space/laboratory.
- Moveable alligator-clip device (“Third hand” or “helping hand” type) – for holding wires in place while you solder or crimp them.
- Small needle-nose pliers – for crimping evil crimp connectors that I don’t have an expensive specialised tool for.
- Diagonal cutting pliers – small ones for clipping stripped and tinned wires to length.
- Small round file – for clearing out stringy holes in printed parts.
- Drill and drill bits – for drilling mounting holes for the print bed. One of the bits needs to be at least 8mm and better 9mm or 10mm for finishing crucial holes in the X-ends. I guess you could do it with a medium sized round file if you had to.
- 2″ wide Blue Painter’s Tape – for covering the printbed pcb, whether you heat the bed or not. It doesn’t have to be the 2″ wide version, the 1″ wide version is just more fiddly to apply, and isn’t any cheaper.
- Bubble level – for levelling the frame to ensure your X-carriage rods and Z-rods are exactly at right-angles to each other. A small one used to come with the kit, but not any more. It needs to be less than 230mm long, or it won’t fit on the top bars of the frame. I compared three different bubble levels I had lying around, and trusted the two with the closest readings. ( I guess I shouldn’t have expected much from a sailing dinghy compass with built in sailing-attitude bubble level…)
- Metal straight-edge ruler – for measuring dimensions and convincing myself that things were flat enough.
- Chocolate (or your mood-lifting activity of choice) – things will get confusing or annoying, and you will, at times, have to gently put down the thing-that-isn’t-cooperating and go off and relax. Come back later when the red mist has lifted and your hands have stopped shaking. Or maybe that’s just me...
- Confidence – you can do this. It is possible.
- Patience – It won’t happen overnight¹, but it will happen.
It’s a great kit of high quality components, and the sense of expanding possibilities as you get it running is awesome. Just remember that each time you disassemble something (to fix something you didn’t understand the first time) you have learnt something. You are smarter than you were. You understand your machine so much better than someone who bought pre-assembled. You’ll recognise problems so much faster in the future, and the solutions will become obvious.
And you can improve it – make it better. More perfectly suited to how you think, and what you want to make. Add blinky lights, increase the build volume, add another extruder, add an ink-resist pen to make your own circuit boards.
Building your own 3D printer like this – with all its mechanical, electronic and software elements – is a huge demonstration of your personal competence. And that sense of confidence and possibility will flow over into other parts of your life. Well, unless you already build life-sized working aircraft carriers as a hobby, or something, because then building a 3D printer from scratch would be something you’d do while preparing dinner.
¹ Unless you live in the arctic circle, or on an antarctic scientific base. A six month long night should be plenty of time for anyone.