I have been looking to buy a Ender3 because I wanted a printer that I was able to upgrade using the many designs that have become available from the Ender3 users. This printer is actually really good and with the pedigree that Creality has it was always going to be a winner.
Here it is on Thingiverse https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2999885 and this is the UK version. The UK version uses 20mm electrical conduit where as the other version (US) uses 17.8mm conduit.
Here is the US version of the Piper 3D printer https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2966295
If you would like to see a YouTube build of the process then head over to “Inside the mind of Matt’s channel” found Here
To join the Facebook group for the Piper 3D printer go Here
So why this and not the Ender3? Well first off I think the design is amazing and the fact that you can make this printer from some electrical conduit which is available from many DIY stores and builders merchants makes sourcing the main components which is the frame very easy and affordable.
The other thing is that it’s going to be easy to upgrade this 3D printer because it uses totally inert design principles. You have to take your hat off to “Alex Balako” because he has not just designed yet another 3D printer. He has invested time and a great deal of effort to produce something that can be built by anyone and to the configuration of their choice (200mm, 300mm, 500mm. models) In this post I will be building the 300mm version.
This printer comes in two different designs. There is the Piper 1 which is the one I am currently building in this blog (pictured above) Then there is the Piper 2 which is the “Core XY” this printer is more complicated, but still doable and one I have my eye on for later.
I know there are a lot of printer designs out there already, but most of these designs are by users for themselves and then deciding to share their designs. I think what Alex wanted to do right from the start was to give the community a printer that could be taken and changed, improved and developed by anyone who wanted to.
If you want to build this printer yourself be prepared for a fair bit of printing, although saying that the parts are well designed and I printed all of my parts without any support at all. Check before you print, that you have the part the right way up. The fact that you don’t need to do hardly any post processing of the finished parts is again testament to the time and effort that Alex has invested in the design of the printer. Here is a picture of all the parts I have printed so far. This is 95% of them. I have a few more parts that I am waiting to print, but that won’t hold me up in this particular post. Plus the fact I just want to get building now.
There are certain parts that you will need to print more than once. I will list these below I will also picture these parts in the position I printed them so you won’t have to worry about support if you follow the same positioning as I have here.
The Black parts are ABS, the Yellow parts are PETG and Green parts are PLA the gold parts are a mistake and I will print those ones again before I get to that part of the build. I thought I had run out of green PLA.
All of the joint brackets are ABS because I wanted a harder plastic to hold the nuts and bolts. I find PLA gives over time and bolts become loose. ABS settings are as follows. ABS was made by HicTop, extruder temp was 238c bed was set to a sultry 90c. Infill was 40% speed of the first layer was 15mm/s then 35mm/s for the rest. No fan.
For the PETG settings they were. PETG filament was from Real Filaments. Extruder temp was set to 238c and the bed was set to 70c I used 50% fan and it printed at 35mm/s. Pictures of the parts as below are as they came off and while PETG has a tendency to string I set the retraction at 6.5mm and the speed of retraction was 40mm/s. All in all I think the PETG came out rather well and I do like how PETG bonds it’s layers together.
I use my own build plate adhesive which I have formulated and tested over the past 6 months and is for sale on Amazon. If you want to try it yourself go Here It’s safe to use on any type of bed surface and can be washed off with water and a scourer. One application lasts for multiple prints.
Lastly, I printed all of the parts at 40% infill to give them a little robustness and strength. I think you could get away with printing these parts with less infill say 30%, but I just wanted it to be over engineered as I think I will be using the Piper a lot once it’s built.
Parts that are printed more than once
The parts listed below are only the ones that you require more than one of. The other parts that you will find in the parts list just require printing one of. I kept the same infill settings of 40% and most are plain old PLA. As I said before anything black is ABS the reason behind this decision is one of heat resilience and strength.
You are going to need 20 joint brackets. These fix onto the end of the different joints and make the frame rigid.
Two front X, Y corner brackets. These hold the front bottom X tube and the Y bottom tube together
Two Z support brackets. These sit on the bottom Y rail and are also where the Z uprights are positioned. They also hold the Z motor mount
Two Rear corner brackets with Z support joints
Two Z support brackets. These are located on the top X rail and give support to the Z axis
Two Z, X corner brackets. These join the tops of the Z axis tube to the X top rail that runs along the very top
Y axis rail holder
X axis roller mounts
Z motor mount which will be attached to the Z support Bracket
X_axis_Bracket. Printed on it’s side
The X axis bracket can be printed without support if printed on its side. Mine are printed in ABS, but if you are worried about warping try this trick to keep your prints from potential warping or moving. Go into Tinkercad and import the part and then get a cube and make it a little bigger than the thing you want to print. Then make the cube 0.2mm high and move the bracket so it sits on the 0.2 base. Don’t move the bracket up so it sits on top of the 0.2 layer, leave it so its touching the work-plane. So now the 0.2mm layer is part of the first layer of the object you want printed. What you are doing is effectively giving the object you want printed a much bigger bottom to stick to the build plate. So it looks like this in Tinkercad.
Here I duplicated the bracket and placed them on the 0.2mm layer and exported into Cura and printed them without warping. Here they are in Cura all ready to send to the printer.
Non-Printed Parts List
There are other materials that you will need in order to get Piper 3D printer built. The below list does not include everything needed to build the Piper, but does include the parts required for the process as laid out in this particular blog post. In subsequent blog posts on building the piper I will list the parts that are needed for the nest step.
The tubing used in the construction of the frame being the main consideration. I am building the “UK” version which uses 19.9mm “electrical conduit tubing” I sourced mine from Here I will just warn you that should you buy yours from ScrewFix then you should know that they will give you the conduit in 3m lengths! So you might want to take a hacksaw so you can cut it into more manageable pieces to get it in your car. Unless of course you have a very long car.
I brought three lengths of 3m tubing and had just over a 1.5m left over!? But that’s okay because there is always the “Piper 2” to build.
I cut the tubing to the lengths specified in the build sheet then I ran a Dremal with a sanding attachment over the ends to clean them up a little. As far as getting the ends dead straight and whilst is is important it’s not imperative. The design of the parts allows the ends of your tubing to be just a little off
Check for blobs of “over galvanising” on the tubing once cut. In this I mean check for little artifacts or blobs from the galvanising process that might be present on the tubes. This could lead to the rollers having an uneven path as they travel up and down the axis tubing. These bumps will result in corresponding bumps in your printed parts. I didn’t find any myself, but definitely worth checking for just in case.
Now, you will need to cut the required lengths of tubing that go to make up the Piper. Here I will be building the 300mm by 300mm version but feel free to build the version you want. The build instructions come with the required measurements for each option, so it is quite easy to know what you need based on your requirements. The great thing about the Piper 3D printer design is that you can really play with the dimensions. If you wanted for instance a 300mm X and Y axis, but a 500mm Z height, you can do that. Also, if you built the 300mm diameter printer, but later realised you wanted the capacity of the 500mm model. You would only need to swap/change the tubing.
Here are the measurements of the tubing based on the printer size. I am currently building the 300mmx300mm model, but I have taken a screen shot from the Piper 3D printer website which shows the other dimensions and measurements of the other available printers.
Nuts and bolts
You will need a good amount of these as listed in the build documentation. Again, I got mine from ScrewFix, but feel free to look on eBay. I did have a look on Amazon, but they were a bit more expensive and most had to come from China which is okay if you don’t mind waiting – I do which is why I went to ScrewFix. The screws I brought are listed below.
You will need 35 of these I got mine from Here x 2
The Build Process
First thing I did was to fix the “joint brackets” to their corresponding parts. From this…
Now, it’s time get the four lengths of tubing required for the base of the printer. Get these sorted out and lay them down in roughly the required position. This will make it easier when we start to marry the parts up and bolt the base together. Look at the base as one of the most important parts of the build. The rest of the printer will depend on on it being straight and true so spend a little extra time getting this right.
- Base front along X axis 1x485mm
- Base back along X axis 1x467mm
- Base along Y axis 2x426mm
Don’t forget that the base has other parts that need to be installed before you finally tighten the retaining collar. Here are the other parts that need to be slid onto the tubing before final assembly of the base takes place.
I’ll talk little about the Z axis motor mounts as I had a head scratching moment when I was putting these together. Only because I didn’t have the right fasteners to put them together.
So what you have to do is to attach the Z motor mounts to the Z support brackets as seen above.
The problem I had was that there is very little clearance inside the motor mount, and really you need a countersunk head on the bolt because any bolt that is too long will stick out too far. But luckily the design allows you to move the motor forward and backwards.
As you can see in the picture on the left there are also two smaller holes below the main screw hole. The length of that bolt has to be less otherwise it will hit the tubing that makes up the base of the Y axis so make sure you have the right size as it needs to be shorter.
One bolt will hold okay plus the fact these parts are made from ABS so I was able to really tighten that one up. I used some smaller bolts that I found for the lower holes, they went in tight which should hold them. The Z axis doesn’t come in for a whole lot of work but it has to be tight so I will have a little think about how to make it stronger. For now this isn’t stopping me getting on so at least I can continue with the build process.
I used a 30mm bolt for the top hole because this is able to pass right through and you can put a nut on the other side to make it tight.
Even though the bolt head I used was too big there is still enough room to place the stepper motor without anything getting in the way.
Anyway once you have that bolted up slide each one onto the base along the Y axis, but don’t tighten it up fully – just enough so that it’s held in place because you will need to move it a bit later.
Now it’s time to slide the Y rails through the Y axis holder as below. When they are in place tighten the Y rails to their holder first then once they are tight tighten the Y rail holder to the Base X rails. The reason I did it this way was because it’s easier to slide the Y rail holder along the X rail when trying to find the exact center point.
- Y axis 2x503mm
That’s the base just about done. Now we can start putting the rest of it together starting with the Z tubing then the Z support.
- Z axis 2x527mm
- Z support 2x552mm
- Top along X axis 1x485mm
In the picture below I have started putting together the top X rail. You will need to slide the Z support brackets into the middle then on each end you need to cap the ends with the Z, X corner brackets.
Then get the Z support tubs ready placing the Z rails in the brackets along the base of the Y axis.
In the picture below I have all the parts and the tubing ready to put into place. You may find it easier if you slip the Z, X corner brackets off of the end of the X axis bar. This will allow you to position the Z support bar into the brackets at the top. Once you have these in place it becomes easier to handle. Then when the Z support tubing is in place you can then fit the brackets to the top of the Z axis tube and the ends of the top X axis tube.
Once it’s all in place you can if you want start to tighten the fasteners to stop it wobbling quite so much, but don’t tighten fully as there is an important step along the way. This is where you measure and place the Z axis brackets from the rear of the fame. I have taken a screen shot of the measurements that you need depending on the dimensions of your particular printer and highlighted the one I am building. This information is taken from the piper website Here
So that’s what I did, I made sure mine was set to 64mm Once that was done I tightened both the bottom Z brackets and then moved onto the top. Tightening a couple of joints and brackets till it felt relatively secure. the reason I didn’t tighten all of the joints was because we will need to install more parts onto the chassis in the next part of the piper build, but until then it’s great to look at it built and all together. Looks striking I think you’ll agree.
Feeling slightly smug my work here (at least for today) is done. I really enjoyed putting this frame together. It went together easy and was very forgiving of my mistakes. In the next part of this build blog I will be attaching the bearings to the Y axis bed support. Building the X axis and fitting the lead screw. Until then have a good week.