The Quantum Delta 3D Printer


I was doing an “Intro to 3D printing” event  at the Chicago HackerSpace, Pumping Station One.  We were showing about 5 or 6 flavors of printers.  Someone commented how complicated the delta  printer looked.  I tried to explain that they were actually simpler in my opinion.  Rather than having 3 different designs for each axis, a delta uses three common linear actuators.  The delta was a Rostock Max and it does look a little complicated.  I decided to try to design the simplest delta I could.

I wanted to make it small to keep the cost down.  Once I decided to make it small, I decided to make it really small.  I used the Tantalus and Up Mini as the benchmark for small.

  • Make it smaller than a Tantalus or Up Mini
  • Use as few parts as possible (part count).
  • Use as few unique parts as possible (part type count).
  • Use MakerSlide because….duh.
  • Try to use parts I had laying around.  I only had about 3 days to before the first build day.
  • Try using the Spectra Filament instead of timing belts.
  • Clean look and simple wiring.
  • Limit fabrication to 3D printed parts, laser cut parts and simple tools.
  • Try to build it in 1 night at the weekly PS:One meetup and involve as many people as possible.

Somewhere early in the design I got the idea to invert the end effector.  The bed would move and the extruder would be stationary.  This vastly simplified the design and I could use an extruder I already had.  If I limited it to PLA, the bed would not have to be heated and no wires would have to go to the end effector.  With the extruder on top, all electronic items except limit switches could be placed on a single laser cut plate.

The design was bounced off Jeremy BP of a few times in an email thread titled “Latest Crazy Idea”.  This is the rendering of the design going into the build.  There is a pop can rendered on top for size reference.

Meetup 1:

I sent a note to the CNC Build Club forum asking if a few people wanted to help with the build.  About 10 people showed up.  I spent all my time handing out jobs.  Jeremy BP was the primary fabricator and ran the laser cutter and other shop tools.  There were a lot of newbies there so many of the jobs like setting the current levels on the stepper drivers turned into mini classes.  There was a little SNAFU with the laser origin which wrecked the middle round piece.  PS:One had plenty of replacements, but no black, so the middle piece is a creamy white 🙂

Here is a part of the team, One is tapping extrusions, one is pressing inserts into brackets, one is assembling V wheels and Jeremy is setting up the laser job.

Everything was going well until it came time to assemble the Spectra filament driven linear actuators.  It was sort of a puzzle to work with the tiny pieces.  AVRC and I could not agree on the best way to do it.  Finally we each grabbed one and did it successfully different ways.  The actuators worked but it was clear the design was not robust and might wear quickly.  At about midnight we had the basic thing assembled less the rods and end effector.

Meetup 2:

I had posted the progress on the Delta Robot 3D Printers forum and several good suggestions came through.  The best was the suggestion to use off the shelf rods.  At this rod size there were a few that would work right out of the box.  These are Traxxas 5538 parts.  They are actually a turn buckle so they can be finely adjusted.  I ordered them from eBay and got them just in time.  They were only about $3 per linkage.

We laser cut a template that was used to set the rods all exactly the same length.

The template holes have been added to the lower circle piece so an extra piece is not require in the future.

The Spectra drive systems was replaced with pulleys and 1/8″ wide MXL Belt.  Jeremy laser cut some toothy clamps out of delrin.

Motor mounts for the NEMA 14 motors and 18 tooth pulleys.  The mounts have a captive nut on one side that can be used to pull the motor up to tension the belts.

Here is the electronics plate.  It gets pretty tight even with small motors.

We assembled the end effector but the rods touched parts of the carriage as the outside edges.  This was limiting the range.  We installed some spacers to fix the problem.  We also configured the firmware.  We called it a night early this time at about 10:00pm.

Meetup 3:

All that really needed to be done was to setup the limit switch actuators to level the bed and enter the Z height information into the firmware and Repetier Host.

The first test was a simple calibration cube and printed perfectly.  The part stuck tight to the tape and was a little tricky to get off the bed.

Everyone kept saying the printer looked inverted so we tried flipping the printer upside down while it printed.  It finished the print without any problems.  You could see a little line in the layering where we flipped it but both sides of the line looked perfect.


Source Files.

The source files are on Thingiverse and the STEP file is here.

YouTube Video

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

19 Responses to “The Quantum Delta 3D Printer”

  1. Lucky

    What was the total build cost?
    Do you have any final prints?
    What is the resolution?
    Love the project. Would be great to have on my desk at work, as I look at 20+ Stratus machines that things like this are making obsolete.

  2. bdring

    I used a lot of leftover parts from other projects so it was not super cost optimized. The biggest cost driver is the extruder. This used an $170 MakerGear Stepper Plastruder. The electronics are the next cost driver. This can use a PrinterBoard, which cost in the $100-$130 range. The rest of the parts are about $100.

    The MakerSlide is sold at Inventables. They are talking about stocking most of the parts that would be required to build this.

    The resolution on deltas is complex mathematical answer depending where you are in the work areas, but the linear actuators run at 2222 steps/inch. You are probably well over 1000 dpi anywhere in the work area. The nozzle I uses is 0.35mm. I print at 0.18mm-0.25mm layer heights, but you could go lower.

    There are links in the blog to the design files.

  3. The Quantum Delta 3D Printer #3dthursday « adafruit industries blog

    […] The Quantum Delta 3D Printer, from the Buildlog.Net Blog: I was doing an “Intro to 3D printing” event at the Chicago HackerSpace, Pumping Station One.  We were showing about 5 or 6 flavors of printers.  Someone commented how complicated the delta  printer looked. I tried to explain that they were actually simpler in my opinion. Rather than having 3 different designs for each axis, a delta uses three common linear actuators. The delta was a Rostock Max and it does look a little complicated. I decided to try to design the simplest delta I could. […]

  4. Sebastian

    Hello, i would like to know the max build volume.
    Thanks and congratulations on your work.

  5. bdring

    The build area is about 100mm dia by 50mm tall. It can be taller if you limit the diameter. This goal was to force the entire printer into a tiny volume and just have fun building it. With that said it is actually kind of a cool little printer. It is fun to carry around and does a good job. The whole printer weighs about 4 pounds.

  6. Dan Defelici

    Wow great concept, good job..
    I have a couple questions. I definitely like to do this build. Mechanically I’ve got plenty of skill including Haas TM 2 for fabrication.
    My needs require slightly larger and taller build platform, if I make the overall diameter larger how difficult will it be to change the code of the machine (which is my weak point) to recognize the larger building area?
    Do we lose all advantages and maybe bigger disadvantages with bigger platform or heated platform if we decide to build bigger?

  7. bdring

    The parts are a little awkward to remove on the movable platform, but not too bad if they are small. I might make a detachable bed if I went larger. If the parts are really tall and skinny you might have issues, but half the conventional printers in the world move the bed in at least one plane.

    I made a magnetically attach bed I want to try.

    Edit: The code is very easy to change. There are just a few dimensions you need to plug in.

  8. TrayRacing

    What sort of problem did you run into with the spectra? Thanks.

  9. winneymj

    What firmware did you use?

  10. bdring

    I am using Marlin, but many people with Deltas like to use Repetier

  11. bdring

    @TrayRacing…the spectra fiber was just a pain to setup with such small parts. It looked like is was going to wear and might wind over itself. The 1/8 MXL belts have worked flawlessly.

  12. winneymj

    I see you uploaded your STL files to Thingiverse…any suggestion on the cheapest/best place to get the parts 3D printed? Hopefully it would be cheaper than buying a cheap 3D printer (chicken or the egg)


  13. Samer

    Have you considered or do you know if smaller steppers out of printers work? Those have 7.5 deg steps but can be nice and compact.

  14. bdring

    I don’t think those are good enough. That only yields a little over 500 steps/in at 16x microstepping. I think you want closer to 2000 on a delta.

  15. Samer


    I have a Solidoodle and once my new set of filament reels arrive I can print a set for you with mine.

  16. Tannius

    I am curious, with a smaller nozzle, say .1mm, would the stepper motors be capable of printing small high detailed prints. Basically I’m wondering if the x/y resolution could be increased to print gaming miniatures with decent detail.

  17. bdring

    A nozzle that small might prove to be unreliable. A .35m nozzle can print at higher resolutions. The software adjusts the layer height and feed rate.

  18. Mrtjp

    I want to make this thing from scratch. I am unsure of all the parts that I need. I do have access to a 3d printer so I can print some of the parts. However, I’m not so sure about the rest of them. I would really appreciate some help. Keep in mind that although I have mechanical experience, I am relatively new to 3d printing.


  19. robot man

    this printer would be interesting to use in experimenting with direct pellet extrusion, as the extruder is completely stationary.