Prusa i3 X assembly

by barneyj, published

Prusa i3 X assembly by barneyj Apr 17, 2013
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Prusa i3 X assembly by barneyj is licensed under the Creative Commons - Attribution license.

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The plastic parts that came with my i3 frame kit were unusable. And I wasn't able to print Prusa's original SCAD files from github very well. My other printer doesn't do long bridges well so I redesigned these parts to eliminate or at least minimize them.

I was a little concerned about using zip-ties but they seem to work well in holding the X rods and LM8UU bearings. The extruder isn't modified much from the original except for the placement of mounting holes. I ended up moving them around to get a good fit to the X carriage. That led to the J-Head slot mount plate's bolt hole placement being asymmetrical.

The laser cut holes for the Z rods were a bit oversized so I made a pair of supports. The Z rods are 12.5" versus the original 12" to accommodate them. Now that I think about it, I could have just printed the top header piece with a clamp built into it.

The top left X rod support needs to be carved out quite a bit If I intend to use the full volume in the Z axis. The extruder motor will hit it when it's at or near the zero position in the X axis. Maybe I should think about making a smaller extruder.


The parts were all printed at .33 mm layer height and 25% infill. I'll go over a few points about each component group:

endstops: The bigger one is for the Z stop. Use 2 x 12 mm bolts and nuts to attach a switch and 2 x 14 mm bolts and nuts to secure to the Z rod. I use the smaller bit for my Y endstop. Run a zip-tie through the shorter end and secure the block to the Y rod. Then attach the switch with a zip-tie and wrap around the Z rod. I don't need the Y to stop very precisely so the ties work great.

extruder: The standard Wade's extruder won't mount due to interference between the motor and X rods. The motor mount is elevated in this design from Prusa's github repository. I added additional support material in the bearing pocket. Use 3 x 50 mm bolts to secure to the carriage. I know. That's some long bolts.

extruder_gears: It's my biohazard gear (thing:53103) with a proper hex depth. The conical piece is used as a spacer between the spur gear and bearing. It replaces the 3~4 washers you'd normally use. Put the wider side against the spur gear. Print the washer/shim to whatever thickness you need to align the hobbed bolt properly. The gear ratio's higher than the standard Wade's at 43/13 but it doesn't stress my stepper motor at all.

hotend_fan_mount: Use 3 mm nuts and bolts to secure a 40 mm fan and 3 x 15 mm bolt to attach a J-head to the extruder.

x_carriage: There's a provision for an endstop adjustment screw. Use a 3 mm tap to form threads. Get a spring from a retractable ballpoint pen and cut it in half. Use it to apply a bit of tension to the adjustment bolt. Save the other half of the spring.

x_ends: String zip-ties from the back and secure the X rods into the U-grooves. Make it tight so the rods seat well in the groove. It's okay if the rods can slide, as long as they're not too loose. Use ties to attach LM8UU bearings to the front pieces and drop 5 mm nuts into the well for Z axis threaded rods. There should be some float in the nut wells to minimize Z axis wobble. Use a needle file to clear out the cavity if needed.

For the motor mount side, use 2 mm nuts and bolts to secure an endstop switch for the X axis limit. The motor mount holes are slotted so adjust belt tension there. Use a 3 mm tap to thread the Z stop bolt hole and use the other half of the spring to apply tension to the stop bolt.

On the idler end, break off the support material in the idler bolt hole or drill it out with a 5 mm bit. Use two 5 x 10 x 4 mm bearings and a 5 x 18 mm bolt and nut for the idler. I had some .5 mm spacers for RC cars so I used one between the bearings and another against the bearing and the top half of the X end. Print some spacers out if you don't have them lying around.

z_support: Use 3 mm nuts and bolts to clamp and 2.5 x 12 mm screws to attach to the frame.

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I have printed the x-ends and noticed something that i never knew. I have the acrylic (black) HICTOP version. I have completed the Prusa i3 Rework for the print bed with no issues-however my printer came stock with 8mm threaded rods and smooth rods (as measured by caliper on the outside of the threaded rod teeth, not sure if this is correct way to measure). Also, the distance between the threaded rod and the smooth rod is completely different. Does anyone have any suggestions other than printing the z-top/bottoms from the rework kit, drill new mounting holes for said brackets, and mount on my existing acrylic (black) hictop frame?

My goal is to use the x_ends with a previously printed geared bowden setup. I also want to test out using printed bushings to replace the bearings in the pics and found your design perfect for this. Everything thus far fits on the x carriage itself, however to replace the x-ends i'll need the rods in different positions.

You wouldn't be able to use my x-ends with 8mm threaded rods. The design captures a 5mm nut. But since the distance between the threaded and smooth rod is greater on your printer, maybe you could design a "clip" of sorts to fit in the nut cage and interface with the 8mm threaded rod?

thanks for this design, i made one , it is much better than the equivalent parts I purchased. your attention to detail and precision is evident when assembling. Everything is well thought out, has a purpose and works as designed.
It prints easily and quickly. Thanks very much keep up the good work.

Thanks for the comment.

I've noticed on my i3 that the nozzle is set up great for 3 movement directions, but when moving the Y bed front-to-back, if anything catches on the nozzle, the nozzle is drawn downwards, which can cause head crashes. So, how to make it as rigid as possible? I'm trying a little reinforcement for the nozzle near the bottom rod. Even so, with my current, mostly original set of parts, as I move the carriage around I feel play in the LM8UU bearings plus some play in the x gantry, mainly around the Z bearing holders. It looks like your parts may be better than these original parts in this area. I assume zip ties will have less play compared to these cut-cylinder PLA bearing holders. I also need to look at better bearings and rods. For now I'll try using PLA bushings + PTFE lube on the X axis in place of these choppy LM8UUs.

I found the same issue with the original design. In my case, beside the loose grip the plastic had on the LM8UU bearings, the X carriage "twisted" a bit. The original X carriage design has the top bearing to one side. This allowed the extruder to pull away at the top. I moved the top bearing on the carriage to the center and that helped quite a bit. I also adjusted the position of the extruder's mount. As for play in the bearing itself, I haven't had that issue. Perhaps you may have knocked a few balls out of the bearings?

you need bearing on top of z threaded rod

This is terrible advice, please don't ever give it again. You want the threaded rods to float so that they aren't influencing X/Y movement of the extruder. If you overconstrain the rods, you'll exhibit what is known as "z wobble".

There's noticeably more Z wobble in the prints with the bearings than without. For the time being, I have them out. I need to find straighter threaded rods. I tried straightening the ones I have best as I could, but I think I just need to start with straight rods.

Nice slim design. Can't quite see how the extruder attaches to the x-carriage - could you put up some photos showing this please?

One of the photos show the extruder off the carriage. Two 3 x 50 mm bolts join them.