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How to 3D-print your own printing press

Hi everyone! In this blog post we’ll show you how to 3D-print your own tiny etching press! Because the press needs to be as durable as possible, there are a few things to pay attention to.


A) 2 x side part – B) upper roller – C) lower roller – D) press table – E) roller wrench – F) lower roller pin – G) 2 x M5 screw – H) 2 x M5 hexagon nut – I) top connector – J) 2x side connector – K) printing cloth/felts

Step 0: Downloading the files
First you will have to download the files on Thingiverse:  https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2841592 

Keep in mind that they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.


Step 1: Printing the parts
The press-assembly consists of 10 3D-printed parts, two M5 screws and two regular M5 hexagon nuts. We suggest using PLA instead of ABS, because it's much more durable, easier to print and not as flexible!


A) 2 x sideparts
This will be the most time consuming part to print. We recommend printing it with at least 40% infill, 0.2 mm layer thickness, 1 mm wall thickness and flat on the ground to make it more stable against the amount of pressure that is going to be applied to the press table. After these are finished you need to use a wrench to free the moving parts in which the upper roller is going to be placed later (a). Make sure they can easily move up and down. If your printer is welding these parts together you might need to edit the STL file and change the tolerance of the parts.

Making these parts solid (100% infill) will make them very sturdy, but if you don’t have the time or material, we suggest increasing the perimeters/wall thickness of the part. It’ll make the part stronger than just using higher infill percentages.


B) upper roller
50% infill, 0.2 mm layer thickness, 1 mm wall thickness and standing up! Some 3D-printers will need to use support structures for this to print successfully.
Keep in mind that this roller needs to be as round as possible. FDM printers might not be perfect at printing circles, so measuring the roller after printing and smoothing it with some sandpaper can be helpful. Also make sure that the bearings of the roller fit the bearings of the side parts. Use a file or more sandpaper to ensure a smooth movement of the roller. Putting a bit of vaseline between roller and side part can help as well.

If you can modify the placement of the seams in your slicing software, we suggest using a random distribution of seams, it’ll make it more round.

C) lower roller
50% infill, 0.2 mm layer thickness, 1 mm wall thickness, standing up and with support structure! This part has to be rather smooth as well. The teeth of the gear have to fit with the teeth that are under the press table! Sand them if necessary.


D) press table
at least 50% infill, 0.2 mm layer thickness, 1 mm wall thickness lying upside down, teeth facing upwards. The side that doesn’t have any gear teeth needs to be as even as possible for it to work properly. You might want to use some sandpaper and roughen this surface to decrease slipping of the intaglio plate.


E) roller wrench
25% infill, 0.2 mm layer thickness, 1 mm wall thickness, lying on the flat part.
Used to move the lower roller.


F) roller pin
100% infill, 0.2 mm layer thickness, 1 mm wall thickness, lying flat
This pin is supposed to go into the lower roller, so that you can use the handle to rotate it.
It will have a lot of stress on it, so it might be wise to print two of them in case one of them breaks after a while.


I) & J) 3 x connecting parts
These parts will connect the two side pieces and secure the rollers in between. You might need to sand them as well in order for them to fit the holes.


Step 2: Assembly
First make sure that the rollers are moving freely and without jamming. After that place the rollers in between the two sides and use the connection parts to hold them together. The lower roller should now be able to move the press bed back and forth. Notice that they only work in one orientation due to the tilted gear teeth.
Congrats! You successfully assembled your very own 3D-printed pess! It’s time to start printing with it!



Step 3: Additional Materials
You will need some Materials for the press to work. Most importantly: two M5 screws with two M5 hexagon nuts. The nuts (B) are placed above the upper roller in each side part and will help build up pressure later. Once they fit (you might need the help of your file/sandpaper again) you can now screw in your screws (A) from the top, through the hexagon nut and into the moving part.
The press is designed to work with regular bolts, but it can be useful to find 50mm long wing bolts, so it’s easier to adjust the positioning of the upper roller. In general: The more pressure you have the better the proof will be in the end!
Another thing you need to have is an etching press blanket! Try to get some wool blanket from an art supply store. Synthetic felts might work as well. While you’re there you will need to pick up some printmaking paper (professional etching paper is good at absorbing ink, we suggest Hahnemühle, Fabriano or Somerset) and intaglio ink as well. They usually come in small cans or tubes.

So to summarize you need:
2 x M5 bolts (about 50 mm long)
2 x M5 hexagon nuts
one or two blankets in the size of your press table (ca. 150 x 75mm)

Step 4: Your first print!
We collaborated with Make magazine to write a short tutorial on how to use the press, you can read it here: https://makezine.com/projects/3d-printed-etching-press/


That's it!
Have fun printing! If there are any questions about the whole process of 3D-printing or printmaking please feel free contact us via martinschneiderart@gmail.com
Also, please feel free to share prints and colourful presses on Instagram #openpressproject https://www.instagram.com/openpressproject/

Happy printing!