FDM Printers for Framebuilding


FDM printers are the most common consumer-grade print. They work by extruding a bead of plastic layer by layer, and are affectionally referred to as hot glue gun robots.

  • low cost
  • easy to use
  • print quickly

Creality Ender 3:

Print Volume: 220x220x250mm
Fillament: 1.75mm
Cost (2023): $180
Where to buy: https://www.amazon.com/Comgrow-Creality-Ender-Aluminum-220x220x250mm/dp/B07BR3F9N6

The Creality is the cheapest 3D printer you can get. It is based on the opensource PRUSA architecture. This is great printer if you want to dip your toe into 3D printing.


  • no technical support
  • limited to ABS and PLA printing
  • expect to learn how to fix and reallign the printer

Artillery Sidewinder X2

Print Volume: 300x300x400
Cost: $429
Link: Artillery Sidewinder X2 3D Printer | MatterHackers
Artillery Sidewinder X1 (and now X2) are fantastic FDM printers at a slightly higher price point than the Enders with a larger build area. ~$450ish. I’ve bought an X1 as my first foray into CNC/3D FDM and it has been flawless pretty much since day one with very minimal maintenance required. I’ve used it to build bending dies, jigs, etc. My first frame was built entirely using extrusion and 3d printed plates/blocks. -StratoCycles

Lulzbot TAZ Workhorse:

Print Volume: 280x280x285
Filament: 2.85mm
Cost (2023): $2950
Where to buy: LulzBot TAZ Workhorse 3D Printer | LulzBot

The TAZ is what I used all throughout the graduate school to build robots. Its standout feature is the 2.85mm filament diameter nozzle. This allows for faster prints and stronger layer adhesion. You could even upgrade the print head to .8mm and 1.2mm nozzles to print more than twice the speed

In 2022, Lulzbot released a budget printer (~$1300), The TAZ SideKick 747 to compete with the low cost printers on the market. It also uses the same print head system as the TAZ workhorse, and could be a good option for a builder on a budget. I don’t have any experience with the printer. If you do, please let the community know!


  • Very reliable
  • Uses 2.85 filament
  • Print more complex plastics (fiber reinforced nylons)

Useful Framebuilding Filaments: [Work in progress]

PLA: the gold standard

Software: Updated 12/23/22


#1 Prusa Slicer:

Link: PrusaSlicer | Original Prusa 3D printers directly from Josef Prusa
Pursa Slicer is currently my favorite. The UI is much snappier and easier to use. My favorite is the “place on face” feature saves a ton of time. It also has a pretty advanced “variable extrusion width” feature called Arachne.

Unfortunately, your printer may not have a default PrusaSlicer profile. You may need to manually import your printer settings, as I had to do with the TAZ workhorse.

#2 Cura:

Cura is the most common 3D printing slicing software. Chances are, your printer comes with some co-branded form of Cura (Creality, Ultimater, Lulzbot). It works, and if it aint broke don’t fix it. However, native compatibility is the only thing going for this slicer. Its a bit laggy and clunky, but it just works.

#3 Simplify3D

Paid Software: $150
Link: https://www.simplify3d.com/
Update 12/23/22: I would not reccomend simplify3D anymore. It has not seen any software updates for the past 2 years, and seems unsuppored by the developors. Sad, but time to move on!

Simplify3D is an extremly powerful slicing tool. It gives you much more control over the print process and support generation. In my experience, I was able to get much stronger parts with S3D and the Taz. That being said, it is not free, its more complicated, and it is a 3D party software, so YMMV.

Useful Applications in Framebuilding:

  • Tool organization
  • Fixturing
  • Forming dies
  • Bending Dies
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Thanks Daniel. I’d like to shoutout that the Artillery Sidewinder X1 (and now X2) are fantastic FDM printers at a slightly higher price point than the Enders with a larger build area. ~$450ish. I’ve bought an X1 as my first foray into CNC/3D FDM and it has been flawless pretty much since day one with very minimal maintenance required. I’ve used it to build bending dies, jigs, etc. My first frame was built entirely using extrusion and 3d printed plates/blocks.

PrusaSlicer is a fantastic slicer software that I use with my X1. Just another option for people to check out.


Always good to have real-world reviews. I’ll add it to the list

What recommendations do you all have for filament and 3d printing suppliers? I’m going to run out of PLA pretty soon and would maybe like to try PLA+. I’m not quite ready to do ABS yet, eventually I’ll make an enclosure and set up for, but it’s not high priority on the list of things to do right now.

I didn’t even realize PLA+ was different from PLA haha. I have been printing with PLA+ and noticed no difference. I guess the question is: Where is PLA not meeting your needs?

In my experience, strength/durability is the only reason to branch out to other filaments. And for most cases, strength and durability take a backseat to layer adhesion, printability, cost, and warping.

My lab struggled with ABS warpage, even with a heated enclosure. This would be especially pronounced with the large brick prints. We decided it was not worth the trouble, since strength comes mostly from geometry, not the material difference.

I would be curious to find a temperature-resistant filament that is easy to print. But that is the paradox: higher glass transition temps > higher print temp > larger temperature gradient > more warping. Maybe there is a sweet spot for framebuilding?

Here is a good source: 3D Filament Glass Transition Temperatures – 3D Solved

Another interesting route that I want to explore is TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane). I have played around a bit with the material, but never for framebuilding. It is TOUGH. They make a 90a and 95a TPU that should(?) be stiff enough for dies and fixtures.

Lulzbot hooked me up with two rolls of polycarbonate (TG: 147c). When I get some time I will try it out and report back.

I think but the only place where PLA could be improved for me would be with it’s flexibility which is why I was thinking PLA+. I was mostly wondering if any supplier is better than another. It seems like there are 100 filament suppliers but the product is all the same so I’ll just pick one and go with it.

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This video/article goes really deep into the weeds of 3D printing nozzle sizes and slicers. Maybe a bit overkill for framebuilding, but hey, if 1hr of research saves you 1hr of print time every print, it could be worth it.

Tomas Sanladerer’s takeaway:

So with Arachne, should you switch to a 0.6mm nozzle on your main printer? Yes. Absolutely. Well, at least give it a try and see if you start running into bottlenecks. For me, the speed gain alone is something that makes filament 3D printing a lot more fun because it’s more immediate – on some prints, Arachne with a 0.6mm nozzle basically cut print times in half, but if you really need some parts even fast, you now have the option to also use thicker layers than before, and all that without having to upgrade or mod anything except for the nozzle itself. Arachne is amazing for boosting print quality, and overall, I absolutely think that Arachne with a 0.6 is overall perfectly on par with what we used to have with 0.4. Bravo to Ultimaker for developing it.

Ill try getting Prusa slicer and Arachne set up with my .6mm nozzle TAZ and report back!


Good find, it’s always good to be able to get things done faster! Stoked to hear how the 0.6 goes. I switched to a 0.5 a while back and it definitely made things faster. Will have to see if there’s a 0.6 or bigger available for the ender 3, there must be. From my limited experience making random tooling and fixture type pieces, the 0.5 has been good enough quality.

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@StratoCycles Thanks for the PrusaSlicer recommendation. I tried it out, and it works much better than cura and simplify3D. I updated the original post!

I think that goes to show the power of open-source software: continual updates from the community.


PLA has problems with UV exposure and slumping if it’s in direct sunlight. Which might not be a problem for the caves most of us are building in, but I made some improved wahoo mounts and soon realized I needed something better.
ColorFabb XT-CF20 is based on ColorFabb XT. It is a general purpose, odor-free , and temperature resistant co-polyester reinforced with 20% carbon fibers.

The addition of carbon fibers gives this filament unique properties. Products printed with ColorFabb XT-CF20 are strong, rigid and durable with high temperature resistance and a highly attractive matt black surface.

This material is great for a variety of industries, such as RC models, drones, aerospace or automotive.

However, XT-CF20 accelerates the nozzle-wear of standard brass nozzles much faster than unfilled filaments. Using a hardened stainless steel nozzle is strongly recommended.
I’ve had really good luck with it printing on an ender 3 pro s1(heated bed, PEI,direct extruder)


I’d be super curious to see your set up(s) that utilized 3D printed plates/blocks if you’ve got any pictures kicking around.

I’m considering different methods for a cheap(er) entry into building a frame for fun and was looking at the Paragon tube blocks as recommended by some very seasoned builders…but you’re limited in your tubing choice by what they have for blocks at the same base height to keep the frame all in the same plane. Would be great to print tube blocks to hold the frame in the same plane with your custom spec of tubes.


Sure. I used a 3d printer to make a jig when I was overseas. Additionally, when I returned home and kept building bikes, I didn’t have a mill, so most things were 3d printed using extrusions. If you look up the tube blocks on Thingiverse, that’s my post. Those tube blocks worked great and held up to the heat of light tacks.

Here’s some photos of the original 3d printed jig and my first revision of a CS jig as well as a knock off Cobra toob bender I messed with.



Very cool! I am curious how the dies held up in the bender. Do you have any experiences and thoughts on that project to share?

So I learned CAD by sitting down and trying to recreate Joe’s bender in SolidWorks for fun. Learned a lot about assemblies and the whole process. This was when I was deployed and had access to a machine shop.

Originally I went to 3d print the whole thing but printer size limitations and other failures led me to water jetting the arms and some other bits out of aluminum. By the end of it of my experiments, I basically was only using the base block, the die, and follow block as 3d printed. After more failures, I eventually just printed them solid out of PLA which worked ok. I did have to add aluminum panels to the side of the base block to prevent the top arms from shearing out.

When it came to bending straight gauge tubing, I could make it work but did have creasing on the tighter bends. I had to experiment with filling the tubes with soap ice which was just a mess but did reduce the crimping. Overall, I don’t recommend it. The dies worked and didn’t fail but my implementation wasn’t the best. Ended up buying the Toob Bender from Joe once I had a few frames under my belt.

I did print dies for a mandrel bender we had at the deployed location and they worked great though. Additionally, I had a project to develop a system for a team to hand move F-22 external fuel tanks. In order to be able to test the system on a pod, I had to prove the strength of the printed part. I made the part several times with varying wall thicknesses/infills and set up a universal test stand with a 2000lb tensometer. The strongest part failed at just over 1600lbs! Pretty impressive for 100g of PLA.


This is just…chef’s kiss :pinched_fingers:

Thanks so much for the photos, this is exactly a concept I was considering as a way to build some fixturing with no consistent access to a machine shop (to hand file/braze a frame). Do you think you’d ever post the other fixture parts like the ST/HT/Dropout parts?

Great work and thanks again for sharing!


I can post them or email them to you. They’re really rough but they worked for a frame. Probably wouldn’t work too long for any brazing though.


Whichever is easier for you works for me. I really appreciate you sharing! I’m still playing with the idea of even starting down this path beyond research so this will be helpful if only for getting a better understanding of fixturing concepts.

Thanks again

I don’t see much mention of PETG. Are there any benefits of that over PLA?

Its the classic plastic 3D printing tradeoff:

  • stronger material > higher heat generated > more warping

I think most part designs and most printers can be printed with PETG without issue. People who are serious about printing non-PLA will have an enclosure to prevent warpage.

Bump of thread. I am excited for my first FDM printer to arrive next week. Pulled the trigger on a Black Friday sale of the Creality K1. It got some weak reviews on it’s initial launch but Creality put a new hotend on it and has been updating the software frequently. Re-reviews are most positive on it.

First bike related prints will be some missing tube block sizes and a tube v-block. Bolt on cable guides will get used on the next build will print those (bolt holes will be flow drilled and roll tapped).