When I first purchased my Maker Select, I already had a hefty list of mods planned before it even arrived. I spent weeks researching every ounce of information available, prepared to replace or upgrade any parts that would help improve my prints. While these machines have fantastic results right out of the box, a few changes can create even better prints that rival machines several times their cost.
In a nutshell, the Maker Select is essentially a low cost foundation that can be further improved over time. A quick trip to the hardware store is often all that it takes, where much of what you will need can be printed off that very machine! There is a wide range of part designs readily available, including everything from belt tensioners to cooling fan shrouds. We will look at the most important mods that every new owner should be made aware of, explain the reasoning for it and where to find more information.
The MOSFET Board is hands down the absolute most important upgrade for your 3D Printer. The electrical connectors which power the heated bed are not rated for the amount of electricity it consumes, where they will eventually melt and burn out. To remedy this issue, we use a MOSFET Board to bypass the underrated connectors and draw power directly from the power supply instead.
While you may be second guessing your purchase at this point, let me assure you that it is far from complicated and actually quite simple to do. My very first guide on this website covered the entire process, where I had absolutely no electrical wiring experience going into it. After having it completed, it was far from the intimidating ordeal I had pictured in my head. It costs less than $20 in parts from Amazon, can be completed in under 30 minutes and will ensure safe and happy printing in the future.
The Maker Select and Wanhao Duplicator have an i3 frame design, resembling an upside down T shape. While this is widely used among many budget printers, the problem is that the vertical (Z) axis is not well supported and wobbles during print. As implied by the names, this results in backlash called “Z-wobble” and artifacts referred to as “Z-banding” which create visible lines in 3D printed objects.
The Z-Brace Mods are the answer to this problem, designed to stabilize the frame and make it more rigid. While several variations are available, the fundamental idea is to place brackets on both the vertical axis and the base of the 3D printer, affixing them together using metal rods. In doing so, the upper part of the printer cannot move freely and eliminates defects in prints.
Unless you are printing exclusively in ABS filament, you will see drastic improvements from better cooling. The 30mm fan included with the Maker Select is the bare minimum, only blowing enough air for relatively basic prints. When you have complex designs that require bridges or overhangs, the limitations of that little fan will quickly become apparent.
Using the Dii Cooler or a similar design, in combination with a large blower style fan, we can vastly improve the parts cooling. The differences are night and day, making this not only the cheapest but also the most effective upgrade to the overall print quality. Where the stock fan only blows air from a single side, the Dii Cooler has a 360 degree field of cooling that will ensure the plastic hardens almost immediately.
The Maker Select includes two sheets of Build Tak for surface adhesion. In my initial rush of excitement and confusion, I actually stuck the spare sheet on top of the one which was already installed from the factory. While Build Tak does a relatively good job, it does start to experience wear and tear from repeat usage. Since my spare was no longer available due to beginner’s negligence, it was not long before it needed to be replaced.
There is no better option than glass when it comes to a build surface for 3D printers. It can be removed as needed, convenient when prints are stuck and difficult to break free. A wide variety of adhesives can be used on glass, eliminating problems with bed adhesion and warped prints. It also provides a solid, flat surface that can cover any potential defects in the heated bed.
These 3D printers rely entirely on belts to move both the extruder assembly and the heated bed, constantly going back and fourth with immense precision. From the factory, these belts are kept tight using small metal springs, however they do start to wear out and stretch over time. As this happens, the belts can become loose and are no longer capable of the precise movements required.
Using 3D printed belt tensioners, we can replace these weakened springs and keep the belts tight to ensure accurate transitions. While a quick fix is to simply zip tie the belts, the adjustable belt tensioners will allow for variable tension using a set screw, becoming more taut as it is tightened.
Thingiverse: Simple Belt Tensioner
The Y-Carriage Plate is the square metal base which is below your heated bed. The original plate is stamped metal which actually weakens the structural integrity and results in warping over time. Many owners begin to notice trouble leveling their beds after continuous usage, only to find that the Y-Carriage Plate has deformed and is no longer flat. When replacing mine several months after purchasing the 3D printer, I noticed the original plate was starting to bow upwards in one of the corners.
Several companies have created superior replacements, machined from materials such as aluminum, carbon fiber and laminates. These are flat, thick sheets of rigid material, built to withstand the pressure created by the bed leveling screws. Designed to be a direct swap, they are simple to install and will make bed leveling much easier.
The Maker Select and Wanhao Duplicator i3 are advertised as having a vertical build volume of 180mm. While they are capable of such, they are actually only able to print 143mm without modification. The wires on top of the extruder assembly will hit the printer frame, preventing it from reaching full volume and potentially causing damage in the process.
One option is to rotate the extruder motor, where the wires will be facing the rear of the printer as opposed to the top. This does however require extending the wires to increase the length, where the Z-Extensions are generally the better alternative. They can be 3D printed and installed with ease, raising the crossbeam by 37mm to accommodate the full build volume.
Micro Swiss All-Metal Hotend
While the Micro Swiss All-Metal Hotend is not exactly one of our essential mods, it is a massive upgrade in terms of printing capabilities.
The stock nozzle is lined with plastic PTFE tubing which prevents heat from prematurely melting the filament and causing clogs. The downside is that this tubing begins to deteriorate and can even become toxic at higher temperatures (exceeding 250° Celsius). While this is not a problem for basic materials such as PLA and ABS, more exotic filaments such as PETG and Nylon often print at 250° Celsius or more.
The Micro Swiss All-Metal Hotend replaces the MK10 nozzle, thermal barrier tube and cooling block (optional) with steel and aluminum components. In doing so, the plastic PTFE tubing is no longer needed, allowing for higher temperatures and more abrasive materials to be used. With a variety of exciting filaments available, the Micro Swiss All-Metal Hotend is a fantastic upgrade which opens a lot of doors for your 3D printer!
Moving Forward with Mods
While the aforementioned mods we covered are the most essential, they don’t even scratch the surface of what’s available.
These will however make the most difference in terms of print quality, fixing the most recognizable flaws on the stock machine. The Maker Select and Duplicator i3 have always been fantastic, but a few upgrades can have it printing just as well as the Prusa MK3 and other high end brands.
If you don’t want to stop there, there are still plenty of other mods that can further enhance these 3D Printers. Some of these might include upgrading the extruder gear, perhaps replacing the linear bearings, and flashing a bootloader to use your own choice of firmware and settings.