P3Steel Build Log (#01) – The Laser Cut Frame

This is the start of my build log of the Prusa i3 P3Steel, and the start to most of these kits – you need something to screw and bolt everything else to – a frame!

Wait – prologue…!

After some initial research online I was going to build a Prusa i3 as my next 3D printer, but looking at the designs and feedback I saw that the steel version (known as the P3Steel – extra reading here!) was a more study and sound edition than the original i3 – at a little more cost due to the frame, but with added benefits of strength and longevity.

Looking into the P3Steel there has been several frame versions, each improving on each other, along with a couple of different versions which seem to be considered “non-p3steel” derivatives due to how far different they are. There also seemed to be a big Spanish vibe about the P3Steel, with most kits, video and RepRap history from Spain. After some thought I decided to go with the P3Steel 2.5 DXL frame (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:894550), which is laser cut from 3mm Steel. The benefits of the frame from version 1.2, 2.0 and 2.01 can be found on the RepRap Wiki pages.

After deciding on the frame version I discovered via Thingiverse of an improved version of the available printed parts by user Toolson. Lars has updated almost all plastic parts of the P3Steel after his working experience with the printer. With this in mind, my printer choice had been made – I was going to build a P3Steel Toolson Edition!

Getting The Frame

There seems to be a lack of suppliers of the frame, possibly due to it’s cost to laser cut, or the ones out there don’t seem to get good reviews. Either way, you are looking to getting the frame cut yourself. Unless you happen to have a steel laser cutter lying around – you need to source a local steelworks/laser cutting merchant. You’d be surprised how many places offer laser cutting – so just Google your local area for “laser cut steel” and speak to them.

You will need the DXF and/or the DWG files to give to your local steel cutters, and they usually work out the cost based on these. Basically you are being charged for how long the laser is on, and how much cutting is needed. For the 2.5 DXL frame, you should be looking arond £60-100 (€80-120) for all the parts cut in 3mm mild steel, more if you choose stainless or galvanized.

The 2.5 DXL frame template has twenty five pieces in total, but there was a part missing initially for me, but a day later it was found and delivered to me – can you guess what part it was, and why I wasn’t that bothered?!

Below are a few more pictures of the frame in all it’s raw form. It comes straight out of the cutter, with some scuffs, oil and burn marks.

With the frame in hand I couldn’t help but test out the fit and mock it up. The tolerances between parts is great so even with no screws a lot of the sections will slot together long enough to say cheese and get a picture taken.

I was very impressed with the accuracy of the cuts and how well it all looked! You can see from from some of the close ups how the steel frame slots together, and I couldn’t resist testing out the fit for my M3 nyloc nuts and 12mm M3 hex socket cap bolts (which will all be in carbon black to match the frame). The 12mm M3 bolts fit perfectly for the frame.

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