December 2015 51
REAL WORLD USES FOR THE ELECTRONICS EXPERIMENTER
original Cupcake printer worked when ABS was the only
choice back then.
What I have found is so many of the prints I want
to make for my bench — including custom tool holders
or knobs for potentiometers — can all be printed on the
Fabrikator Mini without having to break up the design
into sections. The speed also isn’t an issue because it just
churns away quietly while I solder together a board or two
or write some code.
After a while, the noises coming from the hot end
moving back and forth to extrude the melted plastic forms
a sort of calming “music” that is easy to listen to. Plus,
since most prints are small, very little plastic is used making
it seem less expensive to operate.
LCD and SD Card Control
One disadvantage to the Fabrikator Mini design is the
need to control it from the USB port of your computer.
The Repetier software sends the G-codes to the printer
through that USB connection. I wanted a way to let it run
independent of the computer, and I found that in an open
source LCD module with SD card support. The board is
called the Reprap Discount Full Graphic Smart Controller.
It can be purchased from a lot of different places
on the Internet. What makes it special is the ability
to completely control the
Fabrikator Mini from a multi-turn
potentiometer with a switch
underneath. A few turns and
a click, and you have a print
loaded and running from the
inserted SD card. All you have
to do is use your computer
to create the G-code file from
the Repetier software, save it
to the SD card, and you have
“computer free” 3D printing on
The Smart Controller
requires a firmware upgrade
to the motherboard of
the Fabrikator Mini. The
open source nature of the
machine makes this as easy as
programming any electronics
module. I can step a user
through it on my You Tube
Channel. There are many other
places to get the details, as well.
To make the printer more
attractive and easier to use
with the Smart Controller, I
I printed the LCD case, stand, and base on my larger
3D printer, but with some help from Fabrikator Forum
member, Roger_1994, I now have the designs broken into
sections that are small enough to print on the Fabrikator
Mini; they lock together with puzzle piece ends. I put the
files on my webpage dedicated to the Fabrikator Mini at
www.elproducts.com. This way, I can give back to others
the way I’ve been helped.
I have an X-Carve CNC machine that I’m using to learn
how to carve out wood cases and circuit boards. One of
the additions I added was a Z axis knob that allowed me
to manually adjust the home position of the cutting bit. I
found a design from You Tube creator I Like To Make Stuff
and printed it in flexible plastic on the Fabrikator Mini.
This again isn’t the recommended type of plastic for this
Post comments on this article and find any associated files and/or downloads at
n FIGURE 3. X-Carve CNC Z axis knob.