Since the first 3D printer was built by Charles W. Hull in the 1980s, 3D printers have become much more available and affordable. And though there are several different types of 3D printers, in this article, we’ll focus on fused deposition modeling (FDM), the dominant desktop machine due to its low price and ease of use.

The options are many, from a quality, basic FDM 3D printer, which costs anywhere from $150, to over a professional-grade printer, for over $5,000. That said, if you want to start printing high-quality prototypes right away, we suggest you invest in a fully-assembled 3D printer that’s been calibrated and quality controlled.

On the other hand, if you’re a 3D printer enthusiast and up for a bit of a challenge, you might want to consider building your own 3D printer. You’ll need time and some patience, but it can be much cheaper than buying a fully-assembled machine. More importantly, when you build a 3D printer, you’ll learn more about the machine’s inner functions and the endless possibilities for customization.

There are two main ways to build a 3D printer: from a kit or from scratch. In the following, we’ll give you an overview of both methods and some tips to make the process as easy and smooth as possible. Let’s get started!

Building a 3D printer from scratch, though challenging, can be even more fun than building one from a kit. Naturally, it requires some knowledge about how 3D printers work. In particular, you’ll need to know what parts to get and how to assemble them.

3D Printer Parts

Controller: An Arduino Mega and a RAMPS shield (from RepRap) are commonly used, being good enough for standard 3D printers.


Arduino Mega 2560

Stepper motors: You’ll need at least four motors for your printer: one for each of the X- and Y-axes, two or one at least for the Z-axis, and at least one motor per extruder. You’ll be very lucky if you can get all your motors working on your first try. You’ll usually need to adjust the potentiometer on the top of the motor driver to match the motor current. It’s also important to pair the wires for the motors. This video on identifying and pairing wires can help.

stepper motor Nema 17

Stepper driver DRV8825

stepper driver A4988