3D printers: a tool for the homestead?

I live in two worlds.  My 9 to 5 is software development.  My homestead time is spent building hardware.

Right now, I’m building a fodder system that involves less tromping back and forth to the kitchen sink.  Other times, I might be working on aquaponics, solar stuff or a better latch to keep the goats in.

The software work pays for the hardware.

It would be nice to spend a little less on the hardware.  There’s a way that I can use my software skills to do it.

I saw a post on Facebook.  This guy needed a new handle for his screen door.  He printed it.  Another guy needed a lawn sprinkler.  He printed it.

These people are making their own parts out of ABS, nylon, PLA and a few other materials.

I could use one of these printers for so many different purposes.

  • print parts for PVC greenhouse.  Last year, my greenhouse failed because the PVC fittings cracked.  What if I made my own, sturdier fittings?
  • print parts for aquaponics.  I made so many runs to home improvement stores, only to find out they were low on the fittings I need.
  • print cases for electrical/electronics stuff.  Like my solar setup.  Paying $12 for a project box is ridiculous.
  • print custom insulators for electric fencing.
  • print parts for household repairs (like replacing that crockpot lid handle)

I could go on.

I also think printing plastic parts would be great for metal casting.

There are thousands of plans online and you can design your own parts as well.

So, I’m gathering parts.

There are two main kinds of 3d printers.  One uses a laser.  Not going that route.  The other kind works a lot like a glue gun.  Instead of a stick of glue, a plastic filament is fed into the hotend.

I’ve decided to build a specific model.  It’s a Prusa (the designer’s last name) i3 (I assume i stands for iteration) rework.

Here’s what the Prusa i3 looks like…


You can look at the plans here.

I have some of the parts for the printer already.  I’ll do my best to record my expenses and guess at the cost of the stuff I already have.

Don’t expect this build to happen quickly.  I plan on assembly to begin in February but I probably won’t have all the parts until May.  I hope to keep my costs under $400.

I’ll also do a few posts about designing your own parts.


10 thoughts on “3D printers: a tool for the homestead?

  1. As my best friend always says….why re-invent the wheel? It is almost always more cost efficient to obtain the parts than make your own. He once thought it would be more cost efficient to make some parts for an off road race truck he was building….after spending 35k to produce parts that were widely available for 2k he thought otherwise.

  2. Great point, Fred!

    This is the kind of stuff I like to think about…

    And $400 is a lot of money. I can buy a lot of parts for that kind of cash.

    Part of the value I see is in my current circumstance.

    I’m driving a kid to school and picking her up. I need to hurry to work after I drop her off. She’s waiting for me before I even get off work. Her school is close to my house, away from the city where all the hardware stores are. This makes it difficult to pick up parts during the usual week day drive. A special trip is usually required to get parts.

    Onto the special trip. Even on the weekends, there’s timing. The animals need to be fed sometime in the morning and sometime in the evening before it gets too dark. The fodder has to be rinsed. There are other chores. So, when a parts run happens, it usually means a meal in town, even if it’s only fast food. This means even more time spent in town.

    Usually I have three stops in town as it is. One place has my aquaponics stuff, a big box store has plumbing, electrical etc, and then I hit a farm store for goat feed, mineral supplements. This means that time, in addition to money is gone.

    If I want to spend time with my family, they’re coming on that trip. This means more meal cost and more stops.

    My biggest issue is that I run out of time on all of my projects. A lot of my time is spent getting parts and materials. Some of those parts aren’t in stock when I am able to go shopping. This means a longer trip or worse, two trips.

    Some of the parts I need are seasonal. It’s not easy finding garden parts in January. There’s not a lot at the big box hardware stores and not at Walmart either.

    Additionally, some parts are too expensive for my budget. I’m not ready to drop $4k on a fodder system right now. That means I’m building my own parts.

    The 3d printer will justify itself if it can make robust enough parts for the PVC greenhouse. Best of all, I can be working on other stuff while it’s making a part. No trip to town needed.

    I measure things with the Fast vs. Cheap vs Good metrics. I completely agree with you that this is probably not the cheapest way to go.

    I do think it will save me time, at least daylight hours that are precious, not making a trip to town AND working on stuff at home is a double savings.

    I hope that the good metric is a win as well. I should be able to design parts that meet my specific needs, rather than bodging parts that were designed for other purposes.

    I will lose time designing parts. The good news is that this time can be spent at night, when I wouldn’t be able to work outside (safely) anyway.

    We’ll see how it goes. Sometimes I don’t make the right choice. I have a tractor that hasn’t done any work in three years. *shrug*

  3. Pingback: 3d Printer pt 2: Prusa i3 wood frame | This Happy Homestead

  4. Pingback: 3d Printer pt 3: Designing your parts | This Happy Homestead

  5. Pingback: 3d Printer pt 4: Assembling the base | This Happy Homestead

  6. Pingback: 3d Printer pt 5: X axis | This Happy Homestead

  7. Pingback: 3d Printer pt 6: Attaching X axis | This Happy Homestead

  8. Pingback: 3d Printer pt 7: Y axis motor | This Happy Homestead

  9. Pingback: 3d Printer pt 8: Installing the Z motors | This Happy Homestead

  10. Pingback: 3d Printer pt9: Installing X axis motor | This Happy Homestead

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