PiMaker 3D Printer

by wjsteele, published

PiMaker 3D Printer by wjsteele Aug 6, 2013




PiMaker 3D Printer by wjsteele is licensed under the GNU - GPL license.

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This is the PiMaker 3D Printer. It utilizes the Printrboard set of electronics to drive a circular build plate instead of the standard cartesian coordinate based system of most other 3D printers. The benefit is that it has a very large build volume for it's relative chassis size. In fact, this particular configuration utilizes an 11" build platform (with 10.5" usable) and and 8" height, giving it a build volume over 650 cubic inches.

It utilizes all the sandard firmware and software with the exception of a single post processor script that does the polar conversion. This utility is currently written in C# (Mono.) It's usage is simple... just pass it the name of the file you wish to convert. It will create a backup of the file and rename the new one with the old name. (There are a few more modifications I'll be making to this file, but it works as is right now.)

This whole project is a work in progress, so check back for updates.

Here is a video of the PiMaker printing a 25mm calibration cube. http://youtu.be/wCeXioay_Us


Here are the assembly videos on Youtube. Please note, they are not complete yet, but I will be posting them when I get them finished/uploaded.

Step #1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_mLRedsPNI
Step #2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZMLEf7hn4w
Step #3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7RSbNlqCHQ
Step #4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2EHDEI4i0o
Step #5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOUDIm9aPHY
Step #6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M78CC8BB5p4
Step #7: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNHQRtg2pQw
Step #8: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q54NbrXpJBY
Step #9: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5xxBVUUuNo
Step #10: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sj9iPAkkwlM
Step #11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQfiNUkLSfI
Step #12: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zp-VZ8qn7w
Step #13: ... {coming soon} ...

I've also attached the PolarConverter.exe file I use to post process the file. Simply add it to your favorite slicer's post processor passing in the filename of your GCode file. It will create a backup of that file and name the new file with the same name.

The basic theory of the post processor is to do the simple conversion to polar coordinates, however, due to the design, it needs to break down each line segment into sub millimeter units and process them individually. You can tune it to your liking by adjusting the code. I personally use 1/3 mm increments and it seems to work out fine. However, you can go higher, which is slower or lower, which will be faster. The latest Marlin firmware G2/G3 calculations do the same thing but they only process down to 1mm segments.

As for software, I use the latest Repetier with Slic3r... and have also used/tested Prontorface and ReplicatorG. None have had any issues. The firmware I use is here: https://github.com/mlaws/solidoodle2-marlin and I am running it on both the Gen6 as well as the Printrboard Rev D boards.

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In the build videos you keep saying "M10" which is going to confuse anyone who knows how metric fasteners work. The sizing goes M(thread diameter) x (length). Those look to be M3 x 10mm bolts but the video is not clear enough to be sure.

Yes, it's M3x10.

Very cool design and concept. I tried experimenting with the polar coordinate conversion in Repetier and I noticed that if I placed anything in quadrants 2,3, or 4 (any quadrant with negative Cartesian coordinates), it would not slice correctly. Am I doing something wrong or is there a fix for this?

Also any issues printing objects through the origin? Seems kind of like the event horizon to me...

Doing it in a post processor winds up being a lot of load on the connection to the printer... it's about 10x the traffic after conversion than before. There is a branch of the Marlin firmware that can do it onboard the printer instead, so that any 3rd party software can be used to drive it if it understands Marlin.

You can find it here: https://github.com/kory75/Marlin_360


Hey does anyone know where I can buy one of these?

I designed it and don't really recommend it... it was a cool looking design, but the chassis is just way too hard to assemble and get perfect. Also, there isn't really much support for it. (New firmware is available from the R360's fork of Marlin, which is nice!)

I shipped a couple dozen of them as kits... so you might be able to find one of them... if you really want one. Also, I know I still have about 6 of them in unopened kit form from the failed kickstarter, which I could sell for parts. They're complete, but they had the QU-BD extruder, which was basically junk out of the box and you'd have to upgrade it with a better drive mechanism. The drive for the build plate was a bad design, in hindsight... and I'd go with a more aggressive gear pattern to keep it from slipping. The electronics are great... being the Printrboard Rev D... and the power supply should be fine for PLA... (It's a non heated bed.)

With that all said, mine still prints beautifully. In fact, it's been printing perfectly since the day I built it. I've seen one other that prints pretty nicely as well.

Cool... Let me know if you have any questions.


I'm thinking in use a 32 bits board and i was asking in a forum about 1/16 or 1/32 microsteppers.

They said me with 1/32 steps maybe I lose a lot of torque. What do you think about it?

With motors and board have you used?

Any recommendation about that?


The load on this printer's motors are very light except for the R axis (Rotate.) You should have no issues dealing with the 1/32 steppers. If you do... simply back that axis off to 1/16 and readjust your steps per mm settings. I've used the Cupcake electronics (which I believe are 1/2 or 1/4 stepping), Gen6 (1/8th stepping) and Printrboard (1/16 stepping) with success. I prefer the Printrboard to the others. There are a few vendors selling them for less than $80 on eBay. (But stay away from the Geeetech boards... they're only two layer boards and total junk. The black boards from Printrboard or MakeMendel are great.)


Hi Zetousse,

Actually, I won't be working on any more videos, however, from the Cupcake upgrade standpoint, it's just a matter of installing your electronics and wiring it up.

As for the AI files, I can open them up just fine. Have you tried the PLT file? It should work just the same.


thanks a lot,

the problem with AI was the zoom!

I'm going to try to build it!


I want to develop that project. Are you going to finish the video-manuals?

The .AI documents are in blank??

Thanks for you help!

FYI... everyone from the Kickstarter has been refunded.

William "Bill" J. Steele has claimed in a backer only post to have filed for bankruptcy protection and included all 90 of the Ultra-Bot Kickstarter backers... see more at the project page http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/wjsteele/ultra-bot-3d-printer/commentshttp://www.kickstarter.com/pro... or http://www.crowdfundinghallofshame.com/forumdisplay.php?fid=4http://www.crowdfundinghallofs...

According to Bill Steele on Kickstarter, in August he brought Ed Estes on to help run the business and everything's great, production is in full swing. Then 2 months of silence. Now? According to Bill on Kickstarter he's filing bankruptcy, saying that others will be building polar printers based off of his designs as well now. During this same time Ed Estes is starting this new company Pixie Printers, using a similar polar build plate and Bill's polar converter tech? But Bill is "not affiliated with them" in any way. All of those backers, left in the cold. Now Pixie Printers LLC is planning their own crowd funding campaign. hmm.

Check the kickstarter page for updates. Tl;dr = bankruptcy protection from creditors...including kickstarter backers.

Hey! I was just wondering when you were going to fulfill your Kickstarter backer obligations? It's been more than a year since we (backers) gave you $45,540 and you have fulfilled no rewards with working machines.

I was one of the Kickstarter backers for this project. Originally we backers paid for something called the Ultra Bot ( http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/wjsteele/ultra-bot-3d-printer?ref=livehttp://www.kickstarter.com/pro... ) At the estimated time of delivery for the Ultra Bot - Nov/Dec 2012, This printer, the PiMaker was announced instead. I paid for the top tier pledge of $1449.00 for one of the first ten fully assembled and ready to print units to be made. Over a year later I have not received anything to date, while many others have received non functioning parts & assembled units. His website is offline, and he's not returning emails or calls. If you have purchased one of these units, be sure to ask for an in-person demonstration if you can, to ensure it's functionality before accepting it. The design looks fantastic, and may turn out to be a good printer in the future, but be VERY careful if you're considering paying for one.

I swear to god I had a dream where I owned a printer that works like this one(before I saw the video) I have to say though, I was pretty disappointed that it was a pimaker and not a piemaker.

We were just talking about this at the RR Techshop last night - great how the word has gotten around.

Really ingenious ! I'm quite impressed by the imagination of 3d makers :)

Looks cute!

What's the resolution? How do you even measure the resolution? I guess it's smaller in the center and bigger on the outside?

I've printed at 50 micron layer height with it with no issues... however, the horizontal positioning is variable depending on the radius, as you suspected. However, I designed it to have a very high resolution at the edges so it only get's better towards the center. It easily matches my other printers in print quality.

Sounds a little like the raptors on Jurassic Park!

Yeah, the prototype does make a little noise... not very loud, but you can hear it... I can fix it with a belt drive instead of a direct drive.

does this design actualy need that long of an x(?) axis? it seems like if it were to only print on one side of the circle it could still print the whole area of the build plate? idk if that is a way to lower costs

It doesn't actually need it, but it actually adds to the complexity if you cut it shorter because both sides then would have a different design. Also, this way allows you to attach a second extruder to the other end. You can drop the motor extruder drive and add a second extruder both fed by Bowden tubes from the drives in the bottom.

I think you could get away with only 180 deg build plate rotation if you use the full X travel. Although continuous rotation is more fun.

One other benefit is that you can bridge across the center with the full span design. Stopping halfway to rotate would require a tower in the middle to stop on.

I've always wanted to mess with one of these. Thanks for releasing the files! I like the flex cuts you've incorporated in the acrylic.

Wow...have you tested the polar conversion software yet?

This is definitely on my "build list"

I just posted a video of a test of it.

How do you home the R axis (isn't that what the big circle is called?)

Do you plan to release a BOM, for those who would want to self-source?

Yes, I have a BOM already, I just need to clean it up a little. I'll post it in the next day or so.

This is one of the best-looking printers I've seen, and definitely the best DIY printer I've seen.

Where can I download the polar conversion software (assuming you're going to release that with the kit)

Kudos for what's probably the first functioning polar printer!

Thanks! The PolarConverter.cs file is already attached to this thing.


How do you run a .cs?

Is it a slicer thing?

I don't have a printer running yet, so I haven't done much with the software side of things...

No, it is a C# file... can be run in Mono. I'll also attach the PolarConverter.exe to the project for others to download.

Not to be too much of an open source geek but any chance of doing this in C, Python, or another language that doesn't require either .net or mono? I'm on OS X so I'm not going to be able to run this.

I just confirmed it by running it on my Macbook Air... it runs perfectly without any modifications. I just installed the current version of the Mono framework and launched it with "mono Program.exe test.gcode" command line. I normally use Repetier, which is already Mono based and I just added a script to the Slic3r post processor with that command line.

Mono is open source and runs just fine on OSX on my Macbook Air but you should be able to port it to any language you like from the code I posted.

And you feed in your sliced .gcode file, and it outputs another .gcode file, for a polar printer?

with normal hardware and firmware?

Yep, that's exactly how it works. (Thanks!)

Actually, that's the "A" axis (A for Angle)... and it's just the Y axis on the electronics. There is actually no need to home it because it simply rotates 360 anyway. You can start anywhere with it. The "R" axis (X on the board) is actually the gantry... and it has an End Stop on the end of it as well as one on top for the Z axis.

I get it now...

Great idea, I like the footprint. No prints yet? It must be really beautiful to see it print with the object rotating all the time!