Monday, September 1, 2014

3D Printer

Not really a new project but more of an ongoing endeavor with a really cool hobbyist product. I give you: The Makerfarm 8" Prusa i3 (Thats their updated version, but its pretty similar).

Even though it cost over 600 dollars when I bought it, this thing is not exactly "plug-n-play." In fact, its quite difficult to get it producing really nice prints, like those objects that you see in common media about home 3D printers. I think I spent about 12 hours actually assembling it, but really that's the easy part. Check out all the parts used to construct it:

Yeah, well, there was a lot of parts, but all of that construction was well documented with video instructions. Not a problem besides some "percussive maintenance" requited to fit some of the parts together since the guy's laser cutter he used for the wood was misaligned and the cuts had a slight angle to them. I think a nut on the printer extruder may have also gotten stuck in the plastic and I had to dremel it out as well but I can't remember. Whatever it was it wasn't to much for a 15 year old in his basement with some basic tools. After construction is where the instructions drop off. The calibration procedure was either like a sentence long, I couldn't find it, or non-existent. After scouring the web I found more and more info on these RepRaps, which this one is after all, and I managed to work through the settings which, to be fair, pretty well set up default-wise. I got my first print in no time—a little model of the space shuttle. The quality was absolute crap, but hey, I just turned a 3D model into a real object. That's pretty dang cool.

This is where it gets tricky. There are sooo many settings on these things to tune to get nice prints. It could be the Steps/mm out of whack, the axis acceleration, the filament size, the extruder nozzle size, or a bunch of other things that could all cause very similar problems. Not to mention you could have a hardware issue too.

I went through a bunch of these, and my prints did improve. I was getting sharp corners and clean edges, but but on round edges I noted they sort of flattened out and the extremes in the y-axis. Turned out my belt on that stepper was loose, and its easy too see how the direction change at that part of the print could cause that symptom. This is what is known as "backlash" and is a fairly common problem in devices with 3-dimensional movement like these printers.

Through many weekends it got better and better, and now its pretty good to the point where I'm satisfied, but I still think any holes I print come out just a little too small. I've learned it just isn't worth my time when I can simply over-size the hole in Autodesk Inventor to work on it more. Hey, its working well, why risk breaking something else in the process. Here are some more print and action shots:

Printing Herringbone planetary gears
Little stand-offs for the antenna on
my RC Transmitter
Half way though a print for the
camera mount on my Quad-Copter


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