Irritating RepRap

The Irritation that is My 3D Printer

If I had to write a list of things that I am finding irritating right now, it would be quite long: Long enough, actually, for me to categorize the things on it, and list them: a meta-list. Three of those categories would be:

  1. (Paid/career) work generally,
  2. Various technologies in my possession that don’t work properly (or at-best intermittently), and;
  3. The countless projects that I have got to 80% finished but then got bored with and left, useless and unfinished.

Things fitting into two or more of these categories, needless to say, are going to be right up there at the top of the primary list. My 3D printer sits in (2) and (3). Thankfully the technology cogs at my work turn far too slowly for 3d-printing to be an office thing as well.

My 3d printer is extremely irritating. I have spent an amazing amount of time trying to get it to work, yet I can count on one hand the ‘useful’ things I have printed on it. I should just bin it…but I just can’t bring myself to, so I empty more time into a-lost-cause.

A colleague of mine said he had bought his son a 3d printer for a couple of hundred bucks off AliExpress. “Wow, they’re THAT cheap and easy now?”, I thought “Maybe I’ll ditch my homemade 5-year-old Prusa i3 and just buy a new printer”. I think the UltiMaker (dunno which version) was around $2000 when I built mine – which is why I opted for the cheap option.

ANET3D board. I think its basically a RAMPS1.4, Arduino (ATMEGA12? .. should be an 8 or 80 there) and stepper drivers all integrated onto one board

Well. My colleague showed me what he had bought – it’s just a knock off of mine. And despite his only having to put bits together, as its a single board and all the bits are there. It still doesn’t work though, frustatinglu for him and his son. So, I figured I was okay with what I had for the minute – at least I know how to fix it – and I resolved to revisit my ageing RepRap to see if I could get it working again.

I do not really follow where 3D printers are at now, but it looks like you’ll still be paying around $2k for a prosumer one.

Flashforge Guider II. Looks pretty smart eh? Basically exactly the same as mine though, if you look at the spec sheet – it just got a nice case. And the whole printing figurines. Don’t get that really.

Operation Get RepRap Working

Stage 1: Patience.


Various prints of a bit of the drag-knife model I was trying to print.

  • Left-most: actually down with the auto bed levelling. Annoyingly the best of the four. The first few layers are pretty rough though so I’d say this was a fluke.
  • The rest: No bed levelling. Various degrees of missing steps on the x-axis. I had to redo the pot on the Pololu driver and tighten things up.
  • Right-most: One missed step half way up. Dah!

Stage 2: Upgrade the Power (again)

In this post, I wrote about how I had ‘upgraded’ from an XBox360 power supply to an ATX one. Well, I did not have much luck with the ATX supply either. I ended up connecting the XBox supply into the heated bed. As part of my project building a CNC machine, I stuck a 12V 30Amp switching power supply onto one of the orders.

New power supply. Nicely sits on side of printer. Its doesn’t have the PS-ON that the ATX had, nor the 5V for RaspPi/OctoPi. But current no problem.

Stage 2: Screw the Self-Leveling Bed

The whole power upgrade above stemmed from my struggling to get the self-leveling bed function to work. The self-leveling works by printing in t model on the piss by continuously changing the Z as it goes (with a layer), consequently the two z-axis motors are going all the time. You run G29 to probe the ‘plane’ of the bed prior to printing things are adjusted accordingly.  I did not seem to be able to get the z axis to stop stalling/ missing steps – I didn’t know if it was the power supply or the drivers.

I reverted to my Technic Lego Z-axis end-stop. It works.

In the end, I figured that it was less bother to just have the bed level to start with – at least I was getting prints with that. So, after spending quite a few hours screwing around (which cascaded to changing the power supply, blowing & replacing a Polulu driver, and having to resolder my heated bed LEDs) I ripped out the Z-probe servo and probe arm and returned to the vanilla Z_MIN end-stop. Phew! What a relief – I should have never gone down the auto-leveling route to start with. I noticed the new Pruse i3 MK-II boasts self-levelling…they can have it!

Stage 3: New Hot End (Not yet though)

I ordered a new hot end. A couple of times the current one has got clogged and I’ve had to hack it around to clear it. It looks a little worse for wear now. It clogs when the filament on the spool is wound over itself and its gets knotted, so rather than the filament flowing through the hot-end, it just sits in there and bakes. Ideally, the spool would be ‘well wound’ to avoid this, but I have noticed in Marlin that you can detect if it occurs and shut down the print.

My new (wrong) J-head hot end. Looks pretty neat, except it wrong.

Anyway, I ordered a new hot 3mm filament, 0.5m nozzle J-head off eBay (from China) and a 1.75mm filament, 0.3mm one arrived. Grrrr! Mr China asked me to send me a photo of what the problem I was having was. I thought this was kind of weird (it either is or it isn’t the right thing…and it’s not) so I am not holding out on them sending me another one. Given it was only 15 bucks, it’s probably easy to just get another one (from someone else in China).

Stage 5: Fine-Tuning (and more PATIENCE)

It’s all about Layer One right, and whatever parameter I fiddled with and however much I fine-tuned the Z end stop and bed level, I could not get the first layer to stick.

My tip for the day…slow down the print speed of the first later rrrriiiiiiggggttttt doooooooowwwwwwnnn!!!! And then I was away!

I put this setting in Slic3r to 30%. The default is 30mm/sec (i.e. 60% of default print speed)

Stage 5: Print Drag Knife for CNC machine.

It’s one of these...I’ll cover it in an another post.

What I am trying (currently in vain!) to print

Series Navigation<< Reprap Prusa i3 updates