MakerBot – Fixing jammed print material

Introduction

This is going to be a quick post on an area of MakerBot maintenance.

In an earlier post I mentioned our printing co-operative was planning on having a training session. Due to illness though half of the co-op was out that day so we postponed the training session. As a result of this I decided to change out one of the spools of printing material and in the process encountered a problem that seems to be fairly common amongst MakerBot owners – jammed print material.

Changing the print material

Following the regular instructions for removing the print material (this is available on the print menu for the Replicator), I removed the spool. I then loaded the new spool of material and ran through the instructions for re-loading the plastic.

Changing print material

Changing print material

At this point I noticed a vibrating noise, and notice that the material wasn’t being fed into the stepstruder correctly. Pulling the plastic out revealed marks on it that suggested that the motor that pulls the print material through was grabbing the plastic, however something was preventing it from being fed through for heating.

Taking the allen keys provided with the MakerBot I took apart the right stepstruder – you can read and watch instructions on how to do this here.

Removed bolts

Removed bolts

Fan removed

Fan removed

Once removed I was able to see that the white plastic had snapped off and jammed when I had unloaded it, you can see the jammed plastic in the photo below to the left of the Delrin plunger:

Jammed plastic

Jammed plastic

Using a pair of needle nosed pliers, I was able to remove enough of the plastic, so that when I reloaded the spool it would be fed in correctly.

After re-assembling the stepstruder, I reloaded the original white spool and ran through the instructions on the MakerBot menu again:

MakerBot Menu

MakerBot Menu

Thankfully this worked and we can see the print material once again being run through the stepstruder.

Printing once again

Printing once again

Conclusion

When unloading the print material be careful that it dosen’t snap off and jam in the stepstruder. If you noticed after changing the spool you have a problem with the new spool being fed through, then try the steps above to check if you have a jam, and fix it.

Quick update – number 2

With summer being here, things have been a little slower on the development/soldering front. However as we approach fall this will change.

Here is an update of what is happening.

3D printing co-operative

This evening the first meeting of our 3D printing co-operative will take place. Now we have ironed out the issues with the MakerBot, the rest of the co-operative is ready to start using it. I’ll be posting the occasional picture up here of any cool objects my colleagues make.

Instructional Videos

As part of the inauguration of the 3D printing co-op we will doing some training sessions on the Replicator. I will try to film some of the important aspects of this (changing material spools, changing the base plate heat etc.) and adding links to these on the blog.

Ordering Materials

I still have some outstanding components to order for my Thermostats, I’ll be sorting these out next week. Once I have them all, expect a post listing each piece, what it does and how it fits together as part of the overall system.

Raspberry PI remote access/ssh

Expect two separate posts, one on setting up the Raspberry PI to be accessed over your home network (so you don’t need a TV/Monitor) and the second on installing the latest version of HTSQL. (Update: these can be found here)

Raspberry PI case printing

Introduction

In my previous post I hd mentioned that having got the 3D printer ready to go again, I planned to print the case for my Raspberry PI. After viewing some of the cases on Thingiverse I located one that had been designed with four wall mounts.

In my initial attempt to export the image to the SD card, everything had seemed to work correctly, however the MakerBot was unable to view it. So during my lunch hour today I removed the file from the SD card and started over.

Exporting the case to SD card

My first step was to load the top portion of the case’s .stl file into ReplicatorG. Using the 3D rendering of the image I was able to align the case top so that it was positioned in the middle of the axis. Once this was complete I then exported the file to Gcode. Finally I edited the Gcode so the heat of the base plate would be 120 degrees F.

I then followed the steps above for the bottom portion of the case.

The images were now ready to export to SD format. Using the option on the menu I exported directly to my SD card, and also shortened the rather long names of the files in case this contributed to the MakerBot not being able to view them.

Ejecting the SD card I was now ready to give printing another try.

Printing the case

Loading the SD card into the MakerBot I could now view the files on the menu and so set the top to print. I left the printer to do its thing and checked back in on it a couple of hours later. As you can see in the picture below, the printing was successful:

Raspberry PI case

Raspberry PI case

And here is a close up of the top portion:

Raspberry PI top

Raspberry PI top

 

With this successfully printed, I now selected the bottom section and set the printer off again. At the end of the work day I checked in on the printer to find the bottom portion successfully printed:

Raspberry PI case

Raspberry PI case

Since I didn’t sit and wait for the objects to print by the MakerBot it is difficult to estimate how long the print process was, however I would guess each portion took around 1.5 to 2 hours to complete.

With the two pieces of the case complete my next job was to clean the lattice off the objects and try the Raspberry PI out to see if it fit.

Here you can see the case clipped together:

Completed case

Completed case

Cleaning the case up

I would recommend for the next steps having some kind of tray to put the case on, an X-acto knife and some sand-paper or a tool to smooth off the plastic (the later being something I didn’t have at hand at home, so I’ll need a trip to Home Depot).

Most objects are printed onto a lattice base, so your first job will be to remove this.

As you can see below, the lattice that the objects are printed on comes off pretty easily, you can snap this off with your hand right after you take the object out of the MakerBot.

Lattice

Lattice

However in order to make the case look good you will need to clean up the edges and sides.

As a note: One thing I have noticed about the quality of the print – in general – is that the objects made on the MakerBot have a lot of rough portions that need to be cut or smoothed off. This takes a little while so with my RPI case I set some  time aside this evening to work on cleaning it up.

Here you can see the bottom portion of the RPI case:

Case bottom

Case bottom

The inside of the print is pretty darn good, however the outside tends to be a little messier, as the image below shows:

Outside of the RPI case

Outside of the RPI case

The side of the case that has been printed onto the lattice has a layer which needs to be cleaned off in order to see the smoother print below.

Using an X-acto knife I gently removed the top layer on the case to reveal the better resolution layer below. However this is a tedious process and even with the X-acto knife didn’t give me the result I wanted. It is also messy so having a tray to catch the off-cuts was handy. At this point some sandpaper would have been useful. Since I didn’t have this at home, doing the final sanding off  had to wait. Once I do this I also plan to spray paint the case, which will be the subject of another post.

Having done a best of a job as possible cleaning things up I now tried placing the RPI inside the bottom section. The RPI fitted in here no problem. I now tried to place the top onto the RPI and close the case. At this point I noticed that one of the plastic lips inside the case was catching on the RPI near the SD card port. Taking the X-acto knife I cut this portion off and now the case closed perfectly.

You can see the final result here:

RPI in the case

RPI in the case

 

Conclusion

So as you can see above, we have our first attempt at a printed Raspberry PI case complete. Once I finish off the aesthetics of the case, I will then be able to attach it to the wall and wire it up to my home network. I still have some configuration to complete on the RPI in the area of HTSQL installation which I will be blogging about soon.

All in all the process has been a great learning experience and given me a number of avenues to investigate, including how to ensure a better resolution and quality of print on future 3D objects.

It’s also been the first project that has been successfully completed on our co-op’s MakerBot leading to us now feeling comfortable with everyone jumping in and printing their own creations.

With regards to cases, for the Arduino thermostat, I plan to design my own housing unit in Blender, which will also be the subject of a future blog posting.

Finally, if anyone has any suggestions of improving the print quality, please feel free to comment below!

 

Raspberry PI case, soldering irons and other such matters

Introduction

This post will be a round up of what has been happening on the intelligent heating project.

In my last post I detailed how we had encountered a problem printing an object on the MakerBot and how this had resulted in some slight damage to the build plate.

Thankfully the damage wasn’t critical. This week we were able to re-cover the build plate with the film (which is a real awkward task and takes a couple of attempts to get right) and start printing object again!

The picture below shows the MakerBot back in action:

MakerBot

MakerBot

Raspberry PI (RPI) case

Now that the printer is back in action I did some research online for Raspberry PI cases. The thingiverse website has a selection of RPI cases however I found one in particular that matched my requirements, as it came with a mounting bracket for screwing the case to the wall.

Since my RPI will be sitting inside a small closet where our electrical box is located, this seemed perfect.

You can see the case here:

http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:25363

I downloaded the STL files and then loaded them into ReplicatorG. First of all I built the Gcode for the base section of the case, and then exported to flash card format.

I now encountered a small problem, the case wasn’t visible on the flash card via the MakerBot menu. I’m not immediately sure what happened here, so I’ll be trying a fresh export on Monday and will try reloading it. Providing this works, then the first version of the case will be printed next week.

I’ll be photoing and uploading the results to the blog.

Soldering Iron

At the end of the month I plan on ordering some components for the Arduino from Adafruit, this will consist of a temperature sensor and a touch screen for the thermostat. I’ve not settled on which products I’m going with yet, but once this is decided I’ll be adding a post to the Thermostat thread details the specs and costs.

Of course in order to attach the components to the Arduino it helps to have a soldering iron. So today I picked one up from Home Depot. It cost around $15 and some extra electrical solder was around $9:

Soldering Iron

Soldering Iron

and

Solder

Solder

So I am now all set to start connecting up the components for my Arduino thermostat.

Raspberry PI and TV

In my earlier blog I had mentioned my plan to install HTSQL on the RPI. I have still not gotten around to doing this as a result of the equipment I am missing. I will need a cable to connect the video out up to a spare monitor  I have ready. My other option is of course to buy another monitor with a HDMI output on it. However I have had some problems with HDMI jack not working on the RPI so I will need to investigate this further.

Conclusion

So the above details where the project is currently at. Expect further updates over the week.

Update on MakerBot

Problems with Printing

We had recently encountered some problems with our MakerBot, and items being printed peeling away from the base. This then resulted in the strepstruder knocking the object out of alignment and messing up the print.

In response to this I adjusted the heat on the MakerBot so the base was now heating up to 115 Degrees F.

The results for this can be seen below:

Black and white cube

Black and white cube

The box above printed nicely in two colors and the print was also clean with few rough edges to be filed down afterwards.

Disaster strikes

However shortly after printing this object we had a major problem.

The build plate must have been a fraction too high as the next object we printed resulted in the strepstruder being jammed into the platform. Unfortunately nobody was watching the Makerbot at the time so it was a few minutes until we saw the problem and canceled the print.

The damage can be seen below:

Strepstruder damage

 

We cleaned off the plastic and also removed the film from the build plate. At this point I also noticed that the black plastic spool was jammed slightly. Having fixed the jam I re-ran the diagnostics on the MakerBot and the plastic seemed to be exiting the extruder as expected, so it looks like there was no long-term damage to the printer.

Our next steps will be to recover the build plate and try another print on Monday morning. As a result of this we will also be instituting a policy that anyone using the MakerBot has to be present for the first 5 minutes of the print to ensure that there are no jams, and the plate is level and hasn’t been knocked out of alignment, thus resulting in damage to the printer.

 

MakerBot – Second print run

On Thursday evening one of the members of the 3D printing co-op did some work on calibrating the extruders. He was then able to print one of the shark models without a problem.
So on Friday lunch-time we tried printing the spiral cup model, you can see a picture of it below:

Cup model

Cup model

After this we visited the MakerBot site and downloaded a 3D Ball in a Box wireframe from Thingiverse, as well as the software required to export it to SD card format.
Once the file was exported and ready to go, we started printing it.
Unfortunately we had problems once again with the half-finished model being dislodged and the print messing up.
So it looks like we will have to do a little more work on calibrating the parts! It appears that when the plastic cools it is lifting up from the heated plate, which is contributing to the problem.
If anyone reading the blog has had a similar problem and was able to fix it, please let me know

MakerBot arrives

Introduction

Exams are over so it is back to blogging and….

…. today the MakerBot finally arrived!

MakerBot Box

MakerBot Box

So just to re-cap. My co-workers and I have formed a co-operative at our company which we used to buy a 3D printer (as seen above). The co-op owns the printer and everyone has contributed approx. $180 dollars. In return for their share they get to use the printer for their own projects. Since a MakerBot can cost you around $2000 for a model that allows you to print in two colors, this seemed like a great way for those interested in 3D printing to have the opportunity to use one for a tenth of the cost.

Getting setup

The MakerBot was fairly simple to set up, the instruction manual that was provided was easy to follow and in about half an hour we were ready to go.

MakerBot set-up in progress

MakerBot set-up in progress

Once setup and plugged in we then ran through the instructions that are displayed on the MakerBots LCD screen. These involves adjusting some of the screws that hold the plate where your object is printed on.

MakerBot running through setup mode

MakerBot running through setup mode

Once complete the extruder that heat and print the material should be a few millimeters above the plate. We also attached the two spools of plastic to the printer that we will be using.

Print material

Print material

With the printer setup it was now time to try our first print run.

Our trial print

The MakerBot comes with an SD card that contains some 3D images you can use to test the printer. We started with the shark models. Since we have the dual extruder, two sharks will be printed at once, one in black and one in white.

Printing under way

Printing under way

Once printing began we soon realised that extruder may have slightly too close to the plate as the they started to catch on the model as it gained some height.

After printing about 10% of the sharks one of them got knocked out-of-place. At this point we canceled the print and removed the models to take a look at them:

Printed Shark

Printed Shark

As you can see above the shark is slightly rough due to it being dislodged in the printing stage.

Conclusion

Tomorrow lunch-time we will be re-adjusting the plate and trying another test print. I would expect a couple of attempts until we get the setup 100% correct, but this has been an interesting first try.

Once I am comfortable using the printer and confident of not wasting material with mis-prints I’ll be able to print the thermostat cases. However first I will need to design them and that will involve learning how to use Blender.

Anyway it is great to now have access to a 3D printer!

MakerBot

MakerBot

Quick update

I have exams coming up in the next two weeks, so the blog will be a little on the quiet side. However once the exams are complete expect a flurry of posts on the Thermostats progress.

In other news, Cnet reports that the Raspberry PI has started shipping. You can read about it here. We are also expecting delivery of the MakerBot in the next two weeks.

MakerBot – 3D printer on the way

I’m very fortunate in that, the company I work for has a number of electronic enthusiasts, folks interested in 3D printers, and the plain adventurous. After several chats over coffee we came up with the idea of starting a 3D printing co-operative at our work place. The idea is each employee interested buys in, and with the funds we then purchase a 3D printer and material that the co-op members can use.

After doing some research we decided to go with the MakerBot Replicator™ and have it shipped built.  The Replicator™ is a 3D printer that allows you to print in two colors at once and clocks in at around $2000 with the dual extruder.

You can see a picture of it here from the MakerBot website:

 

Makerbot 3D printer

 

Around nine of us got together and raised the funds for the printer, and our company also chipped in extra $500 to help us out. They have also graciously lent us a room to set it up in so we have a place to use it.

There is around an 8 week lead time on delivery, so the printer should arrive around the same time as the Raspberry PI is delivered. With access to the MakerBot I’ll be able to print a case for the Raspberry PI as well as cases for the Arduino Thermostats.

One of my work colleagues is a dab hand at the 3D design on Blender, so we are going to have some training session for the co-op members which should be cool.

Once the printer arrives and I get the opportunity to design some cases on Blender, I’ll post the details on this blog – including links to the 3D OBJ files so those readers interested can re-use them for their own projects.