3D Printing: The Hobbyists' Microwave Oven!?

I've been 3D printing since I received a Creality Ender 3 Pro as a Christmas present in 2019. Since that time, I have not only heavily modified my printer, but I've also used it extensively for ham radio-related projects. I'll cover both in this post.

As any ham knows, ham radio is a hobby of hobbies. Not only that, but it also serves as an intersection between multiple non-ham-related hobbies. For example, I am continually combining ham radio with 3D printing and microcontrollers (think Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and that ilk). And I often find that 3D printing is really the enabler for many of those projects--it's literally the "glue" that holds projects together, gives them a protective cover, enables or simplifies the process of creating the project, etc. It's one of those technologies that until you have it readily available, you didn't know what you were missing. Maybe not as universal as a microwave oven, but for me, pretty darn close--it's the microwave oven of hobbies!

In this blog, I'll provide a quick overview of my current 3D printing setup, along with a list of ham radio-related projects I've created and/or printed over the past few years. 

My current 3D printer setup

My heavily modified Ender 3 Pro

As I mentioned above, I started out with a stock Creality Ender 3 Pro back in late 2019. At that time, the Ender 3 was still pretty new and Creality was already establishing itself as a major player in the 3D printing market. Since that time they've released a flurry of new printers, along with many upgrades to their existing printers. The Ender 3 Pro, out-of-the-box, is definitely a capable printer, but as I came to find out, a few upgrades made a massive difference in the quality and speed of the prints that it generates. The upgrades I've added to the printer include:

  • Replaced the stock build plate with a glass one (Creality branded): much improved prints, especially if I use Elmer "purple glue" to aid with adhesion
  • Upgraded the stock printer controller with V4.2.7 board (much, much quieter printing)
  • Replaced the stock build plate springs with stronger versions and larger handles (better bed leveling)
  • Added an "auto leveling" sensor (first the BLTouch, then replaced that with the better CRTouch) (compensates for small deviations in the build plate's "level"
  • Added a second z-axis motor (the stock Ender 3 only came with a motor on one side) (more stable prints, especially tall ones)
  • Replaced the stock non-touch screen with the Creality touch screen...and then replaced the whole thing with Creality's Sonic Pad controller (better user interface and increased speed by offloading the print computations from the printer)
  • Added a Logitech USB webcam which allows remote monitoring of the print along with AI-based print error detection (it can theoretically stop a print if it goes off the rails, although I haven't seen it actually do this yet)
  • Replaced the stock printer firmware with "klipper" open source firmware, which works perfectly with the Sonic Pad
  • Replaced the stock extruder and hot end with a Creality Sprite Pro direct extruder (faster printing, much easier filament load/unload, ability to print at higher temperatures with more exotic filament materials)
  • Added an LED light bar to the top gantry, making it easier to see prints in progress, particularly when watching remotely
  • Moved the printer control board and enclosure to the rear of the printer, opening up space in front for storage
  • Printed storage drawers for the left and right side front of the printer, and a custom rear controller case
Yes, this is a long list of upgrades, although since I've had the printer 4 years, it's not that many per year. More of a gradual process. And if you're thinking about buying a new Creality 3D printer, you can buy the same thing, with most of these upgrades already installed, with the $373 Creality Ender 3 S1 Pro, which is a bargain compared with all of the upgrades I bought and installed myself. Of course, the S1 Pro wasn't available when I got my printer, so there's always that. :-)

3D printing and ham radio

Not a ham radio project, but one of my favorite 3D printed projects: Star Wars Venator Destroyer

Now that I've described my current printer setup, I'll describe some of the ham radio-related projects I've printed with it. Here's the list; I'll include links to the projects where possible. Most of these came from previously designed projects found on Thingiverse, although I tend to tweak "remix" the projects to fit my own use case:
2-meter Moxon antenna constructed with 3D printed components

And here are some projects that I will likely be searching for or creating/modifying in the future:
  • QRP off center-fed dipole unun case plus winder
  • Combination handle / carrying case for my Elk antennas log periodic VHF/UHF antenna
  • Components (case, antenna tripod mounts etc) for an automated satellite tracking mechanism for the above antenna
  • Improved tripod mount for my Alexloop "Hampack" magnetic loop HF antenna
  • Backpack improvements for my ICOM IC-705 SOTA knock-off backpack similar to this one
  • Common mode choke and housing
  • A mobile mount for my IC-7000 that will allow me to quickly and easily move it in and out of the car
  • Improved versions of many of the above projects, which were originally printed using PLA (not the best for durability and not UV resistant) using ABS, PETG or other strong filament types


If you're a ham radio operator, you're probably a gadget person like me, and you definitely need a 3D printer. If you don't have one already, you're in luck: there are a ton of great options out there. For a beginner printer, you can't go wrong with the Creality Ender 3 line, but take your take a look at all of the options. I'd definitely recommend you look for the upgrades I mentioned above already installed; it will save you a lot of time and money in the long run, Good luck!


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