Monday, 3 October 2011

Current Status : Printing

  • Finish frame
  • Solder electronics
  • Test motors
  • Calibrate firmware
  • Print test pieces
  • Print some parts
  • Calibrate printer
  • ...
  • Profit
Ok, just kidding on that last point - who starts this hobby thinking it's going to be a serious money maker?

The good news is I'm printing.  Yay me! After suffering through multiple extruder jams, the pain of default skeinforge settings and the complete newb-like confusion that accompanies installation and use of PrintRun / SFACT on a fresh Ubuntu install - I was finally able churn out useable objects.

I'm still calibrating my machine - it doesn't print as fast as I think it should, I still have trouble getting the first layer to stick and I think there are some niggling issues with hardware alignment.  Specifically, holes are not round enough, a real issue because I want to start printing my own gears and a new accessible Wade's.

One of my early goals was to upgrade my machine, something proud to have already.  So far I've printed new z-couplers, a y-axis belt tensioner and a pulley idler for my x-axis.  I'm not sure the pulley idler helps as my circles are slightly skewed because of backlash and a possible mis-alignment in my x-y axes.

Top things I've learned so far:
  • Set your extruder motor current to stall so you don't strip the incoming filament.
  • Limiting motor current also helps to prevent extruder jams - forcing the filament into the extruder caused molten plastic to rise up out of the melt chamber.  It's nasty to get out the first time, just plain annoying every time after that.
  • Wing-nuts on the extruder springs.  I haven't done it yet, but after disassembling my extruder multiple times I can see how they would help.
  • A level print bed is essential.  I check the levelling and z-endstop before I start doing a print run.
  • Don't expect the speed you see on youtube videos.
  • Don't expect any sort of quality output.  Just be happy you got some plastic out in the general shape you were after.
  • Need help in a hurry?  Get onto IRC.  It's an amazing feeling to have the guy who wrote the software help you out personally. Not to mention the rest of the community who are so eager to help.
  • Expect to be calibrating for a looong time.  I've seen some amazing prints on the interwebs, and the people behind them are still on the forums discussing how to make them better.
I'd like to send a special thanks to Wildseyed for helping me out so much - I wouldn't be printing anything without his help.

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