Making a $144 pikachu

Published: January 16, 2023

This is a short post about me purchasing, upgrading, and buying my first 3D printer.

The $144 Pikachu

Down the Rabbit Pikachu Hole

My friend Daniel sent a message with a coupon code for a 3D Printer.

This is a massive savings! Normally this printer goes for $200 + shipping, and returns are a nightmare. On Amazon, it currently goes for $236, so to get the printer for $100 + a filament discount is huge ๐Ÿคฏ

The ender 3 (and itโ€™s clones) is almost unanimously the best budget 3D printer you can get for the money โ€” at least according to reddit experts โ€” until you start getting into the $400+ range, which then you might want to pick up a Prusa MK3S+. I immediately went to my local microcenter and picked it up along with some blue PLA filament. I have no idea what Iโ€™m doing, and had to have a conversation with a random dude to make sure I got the right kind ๐Ÿ˜….


After fashioning a makeshift table, I began the setup process, following this great guide. When it was time to level the bed, My bed was physically too low for the hotend nozzle, even with the springs extended fully. I ended up snipping a piece of plastic on the z-axis limit switch (this is what tells the printer what the lowest point it should go is) so that I could go lower than intended.

My first print

Printed out my first benchy, and everything turned out great!

I โค๏ธ photobooth!!!

I had a couple noticable flaws:

  • Zebra stripes in the print itself
    • Usually due to a not tight belt
  • Poor print quality on the bottom layer
    • I had set my bed a mm too high
  • Seperation in the middle of the boat
    • Not completely level x-axis beam

Upgrade Time

Overall, I was pretty happy, but it was time for some upgrades ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Since the bed leveling process was so annoying, I purchased a BL-Touch sensor that can help me autolevel the bed (well really, the CR-Touch knockoff for only $10).

I also purchased a set of upgrades from Amazon including:

  • Capricorn Bowden Tubing
  • Metal Extruder Assembly
  • Metal turn knobs and stronger bed springs

These parts are the most likely to break in the first month of printing, and I figured it would be best to replace them as soon as possible. Interestingly, all these parts are Creality branded, showing that they know their printer is a piece of shit care about their customers!

Moving to Campus ๐Ÿ˜ฒ

I transported the printer to campus with my upgrades in hand, ready to set it up again. After installing my set of upgrades (The BL-Touch will arrive later), I was ready to print (or so I thought).

I set it up on a cheap table from Walmart and realized that I forgot my usbC to microSD dongle so I literally cannot put files onto the 3D printer. So, I decided that the easiest way to solve this issue was obviously to reflash the firmware so I donโ€™t need a microSD card ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

This idea isnโ€™t a total waste of time I swear. Now I can print sitting in my bed, 5 feet away from the printer instead of walking over!!!

By swapping out the default Marlin software with Klipper, and hooking up a Raspberry Pi 3, I would be able to print remotely from my computer, and print at a much higher speed, as I can take advantage of the tuning and processing power on the Pi. I was able to use this great tool to first install Klipper, and the web UI, Fluidd. I decided on Fluidd, as the most popular option, OctoPrint, has a supposedly slow UI, and Mainsail, the default option with Klipper, can be complicated to use and setup.

The UI, mid print

I followed this guide to reflash the Ender 3 firmware.

Finally, I downloaded my model, and using Cura sliced it with 100mm/s print speed.

Then I ran into a series of issues ๐Ÿ˜ต

  1. I forgot to plug in the Extruder motor, so the Filament wasnโ€™t feeding

  2. The table was too wobbly, and ruined the print quality. The fast back-and-forth of the stepper motors was rocking the table. So I moved it to the floor.

Pikachu Monstrosity
  1. After moving it to the floor, I forgot to relevel the bed, which led to nothing coming out of the printer as it was too low. I releveled the bed.

  2. The hotend had backed up, and I had to unclog it.

Finally, it was all working!

The screen showing the Klipper progress
Printing the Pikachu

The Pikachu only took 1h20m to print! I am happy I decided to set up the printer and do all the modifications myself, I learned a lot about 3D printing.

The total bill of this Pikachu came out to:

Item Cost
Ender 3 Pro $99
Inland PLA Filament $15
CR-Touch Sensor $9
Part upgrades $15
MicroUSB cable $6
Raspberry PI+SD Card owned
Total $144

Thanks for reading!

Let's stay in touch.

/ ยฉ 2024 Pete Stenger /