Category: 3D Printing

3D Printer Upgrades for Prusa i3

My blog posts over the last year haven’t been as regular as I’d hoped, but hopefully it will change, at least temporarily for the next few weeks.

I own a Prusa i3 3D printer. It’s a great device, but I haven’t done half of the things I know it is capable of and have barely used it since I first got it but I’ve recently had some time to do some more with it and have had some great success following the previous issues that I had. I did somewhat jump in at the deep end with it, I knew nothing about 3D printers prior to this and I purchased a Prusa i3 kit because it was very cheap compared to other models available at the time. It was a self-build kit, all well and good as I am very technically minded and love a good project. What I wasn’t prepared for were the issues with getting it printing. The software is good and easy to understand, however trying to solve the various issues I had with it was another matter. Luckily, I discovered a local hackspace not too far from me and a awesome chap known as Dino, with his excellent knowledge of 3D printers helped iron out the issues and get it printing well.

Since then, I’ve printed quite a few items with great success, I get the odd hiccup from it but with my new found knowledge and the great online communities on Reddit and Facebook have proved so helpful with any issues I’ve had, and some insightful input on suggestions.

I’ve since decided to do a lot of upgrades to my printer which I’m very much looking forward to.

I will be upgrading the current E3D v6 hot end to a E3D Chimera which allows printing in two different colours or two different materials, something I think will offer some good options for prints I do in the future. For example, I could load up two different materials and not have to worry about changing filaments when I want to print with one or the other. I could also load two different colours as well, something that can have great results from what I’ve seen online. The Chimera hot end is a very compact unit which will significantly lower the weight of my X-carriage so there will be less movement on the frame of the printer from the reduced weight, and also it will allow me to speed up the printing process significantly.

Another upgrade that I’m very excited about is air cooling. At the moment, I’ve get just the bare minimum in terms of cooling. Just a single fan on the hot end is all I’ve got. No fan to cool the print, no fan to cool the electronics or power supply either. The stepper motor drivers currently run very hot which isn’t good for them and has on occasion caused some issues when printing larger items. As I’ve got a decent air compressor at home, a Jun Air silent dental compressor with built in air dryer, I thought this would be perfect for the job to keep a constand supply of cool air running over the various parts of the printer.

I’ve ordered what will hopefully be all the components I need to try this as well as a handful of extras. I managed to snag a 4 way solenoid air control valve on ebay which I think will be perfect to control air feeds to various parts of the printer. I will be running OctoPrint software from a Raspberry Pi computer to control the printer as it is, and this also gives me the flexibility for other automation as well so I could have a range of temperature sensors on different parts of the printer (the power supply, RAMPS board etc) and have the Raspberry Pi turn on/off the relevant air feed using the solenoid valve. I’ve ordered 100 meters of polyurethane tube to run from my compressor in the shed to my printer inside the house, that’s far more tubing than I will ever need but I couldn’t resist the 100 meter roll that was selling for less than many 20 meter lengths on ebay. I’ve got big ideas and I really hope it will be effective and inspire others to do the same.

I’ve so far printed many of the parts I will need for the upgrades such as bearing mounts, axis and motor mounts which are slightly different as I will also be changing the smooth rods on my axis to stainless steel ones (from mild steel, which is going rusty), and changing the regular threaded rods on the Z axis to use proper lead screws which are far better to use for this purpose, I found a very good guide to this upgrade including parts that had already been designed on this blog and have successfully printed those parts so now I’m just awaiting the metal parts that I have ordered.

More will follow with my progress on these various upgrades. I’ll try to actually put some pictures on the upcoming posts as well to act as a good reference source for others.


I’ve recently discovered some software called OctoPrint which allows network control of a 3D printer. This can be beneficial in several ways. Usually, with a RepRap style printer and many others you would need to have it connected to your computer for the entire duration of the print job which can take many hours for larger and more complex prints. That would mean leaving your computer on and hoping it doesn’t crash or have other issues during the print. Running high performance software like games or similar could also affect an ongoing print job if your computer can’t keep up. I just happened to stumble upon OctoPrint which runs on a Raspberry Pi. For those who haven’t heard of this (have you been living under a rock for the last few years?) it is a small but fully functional computer about the size of a credit card, it is very low power and is well suited for this job. OctoPrint is installed onto the Raspberry Pi and the printer is then connected to this along with a wireless or wired network connection. You then get a nice web interface from which to control your printer, and it even has a facility to connect a standard USB webcam or the Raspberry Pi camera so you can watch and monitor your printing even while away from home should you wish to. Although it should be noted that with the heat involved with 3D printing, the printer should never be left unattended in case anything goes awry and it catches fire, it’s unlikely but possible.

3D Printing

Being a recent owner of a 3D printer, I’ll likely be talking a lot about that. My printer is a Prusa i3 with 6mm aluminium frame and E3D 3mm hot end purchased from Semi-U in the UK. I decided to go down the self-build route partly due to the price but also for the possibilities that it allows compared to commercial pre-made products. With the RepRap style printers it’s easy to create your own upgrades to solve a specific problem, easy to add new features such as dual extruders at a fraction of the cost of commercial products. For me as a beginner to 3D printing it was an ambitious project but one I was confident I would get the hang of. The build went well and it was completed in around 4 hours. I’d go as far as to say this isn’t for everyone, there’s no instruction manual so you need to be able to look online when needed to work out what to do next. I did make a couple of mistakes which required ordering some replacement parts but overall it was a great experience and exciting to see the thing come to life at the end of it.