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Fitting Large Prints on a Small Printer

Sometimes you may not be able to afford a 3D printer with a gigantic heated bed with a Z-axis that could bump into low-orbit satellites. In these situations the need to get creative with how the objects are printed arises. A small combination of tools will grant even the smallest of printer the ability to print large objects.

My first and only 3D printer is a PrintrBot Simple Metal. I ordered by a few years ago from Amazon and assembled it myself. It didn’t have a heated bed either. I printed everything on blue painters tape with a little glue. Since wider prints still warped it wasn’t until I installed the heated bed that I realized how limiting a small printer could be. After some digging around across the vast reaches of the internet I found some tricks to help remedy this problem.

Design

If you’re designing your item then keep the size constraint of your printer in mind. If the print is too large then split it up. Dove tail joints can be used, but I prefer to use screws to hold things together if they’re supposed to be functional. Flat cuts and some epoxy work fine for prints that are displayed. Using all the dimensions to your advantage to get the most of you space

Positioning

Play around with the positioning. If the print won’t fit on the bed try angling it 45 degrees relative to the bed and see if it fits that way. If that’ doesn’t work it may be possible to rotate the item along the Z axis to print it vertically.

Cuts

If I cannot print a part because it is too large I will typically cut the part up. I’ve primarily used the free (deprecated) version of NetFabb to cut my prints. There are several other methods to do this as well. SketchUp can cut prints as well as TinkerCAD and Meshmixer. I’ll make a second post about cutting up prints in the future.

Services

There are several online services available that will print your part for you. If your printer can’t print your part in one go and it must be done in one part then perhaps one of these services would be the correct option. Some examples are ProtoLabs, Sculpteo, or Shapeways. I haven’t used any of these myself so I am not able to recommend one service over the other.


I’ll update this more as I find more methods to work with a smaller printer since I don’t see myself upgrading to a larger print area anytime soon.

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