3D Printing

4 minute read

Beginning 2013, I decided to jump onto the 3D printing train and built a Printrbot at a workshop hosted by 3D Parts.

On this page I collect my experiences, problems and solutions, as well as the modifications I make while solving problems and making improvements.

This page is under the section Embedded because of its close relationship to hardware and embedded systems. One of my goals is to create an embedded system to replace the printerboard - or at least create and addon - to remotely manage printing (which happens at my garage).

The Beginning

Although quiet a few of my fellow technology addicts have been involved in 3D Printing for some time, I waited until the moment that 3 months in a row I caught myself thinking “If I only had a 3D Printer now I could …”.

By February 2013 I reached that moment and decided to build one. Having seen pretty nice results (given the associated price tag) from the Printrbot that was sold and build by 3D Parts, I went for it and registered for one of the workshops.

Below is a Flickr slideshow of that workshop up to the point where I installed it at home in my garage and started printing my first prints.

Prints

Although this list will soon be out-dated, I’m going to try and keep a list of things I print. Most of them come from Thingiverse, some of them are own creations, some of which should also be uploaded to Thingiverse :-)

  • Naked Woman Shooter Glass
    This is a very nice introduction to show what is possible with 3D printing.
    V = 16.7 cm3

  • Bumba Cookie Cutter
    First experiment with custom shapes.
    V = 6.4 cm3

  • Wallace++ components (failed and complete set)
    My printrbot is nice, but it can be improved. This Wallace++ modification gives it a much more solid base and the horizontally mounted X-axis should also improve its general stability.
    V = 2x 75.2 cm3 + 38.7 cm3 + 41.8 cm3 + 19.3 cm3 + 7.9 cm3 + 2.5 cm3 + 3x 1.9 cm3 = 266.3 cm3

  • a replacement terminator for a tent pole
    After the first time playing with their new toy tents, a tent pole terminator was lost in action. My wife suggested I try to print a replacement. With only a simple ruler it was a 10 minute job. First real home-improvement success :-)
    V = 0.6 cm3

  • keychain-style experiments with a beautiful names. To experiment with infilling and various other parameters, I tried a rather difficult shape: the name of my daughter. Not much later, she asked me to do one for her best friend’s birthday party. V = 1.8 cm3, V = 4.2 cm3 and V = 4.4 cm3

I try to take pictures of every print and add them to my 3D prints set on Flickr

Problems

3D Printing at home (at this price tag at least) is not (yet) simply setting up and go. It’s a bit of a craft and requires a lot of love.

In the weeks following my workshop I encountered a lot of problems. But, having built the printer myself, I was also able to track down the source and fix it.

  • Tilted extruder
    Apparently I didn’t tighten the screws of my extruder will enough and it was no longer nicely perpendicular to my plate. This caused very bad prints, but once solved did improve the prints a lot.

  • Loose screw on extruder servo gear
    After a few prints my X-axis suddenly stopped working. The small screw that keeps the gear in place had come loose, making the motor spin with no effect. Remember to check and tighten that screw from time to time.

  • Blocked large extruder gear
    The large gear that drives the filament into the extruder had become blocked. Adding two big washers between it and the extruder mount solved that one.

  • Too little tension on belts driving the axis
    From time to time and more and more, my prints suddenly shifted along the X- and Y-axis, causing kind of a staircase effect. After searching a bit on the net, I found out that the cause could be that there wasn’t enough tension on the belts. And indeed, putting a lot more tension on them solved this problem.

  • Loose screws on X-axis servo mount
    I still had problems with a lot of vertical wobble. I initially though it was due to the Z-axis, until I discovered that my Y-axis servo motor was not firmly connected to its mount. Adding a nut to remove the spacing resulted in a firmly mounted servo motor, but suddenly also reasonably good prints.

Changes

Having built the printer myself, I’m also able to modify it. There are many people out there experimenting with new designs, so there are a lot of sources to learn from.

Transformation into a Wallace++

Our workshop at 3D Parts was the last one that produced pretty standard a Printrbot. After that, Stefaan decided to go for an improved model: the Wallace++.

During the first weeks, I used the components needed to assemble a Wallace++, to get to know my printer and tighten a lot of loose screws and belts.

With all components ready now, I’m soon going to upgrade my printer. To be continued.

Future

3D Printing in itself is nice, but it’s also a testbed for me to try out new stuff. Being stoked about embedded systems I’m starting to assemble a wish list of things I want to build around this printer.

  • Build a remote-print-manager system