Monday, January 31, 2011

Improved quality

No major new developments with the printer. I received white PLA from and have been using that after the green color all over my apartement started to hurt my eyes.

Green and white seem to behave pretty similar (which is not guaranteed!) but lately I had issues with the printquality being lower than with the previous extruder. For some reason the plastic was not always sticking to the layers below it, but tended to curl up a bit, leave a small void, and than deposit a blob a bit further instead of making a nice line. I tried cleaning the extruder hot-end, varying the temperature, varying the extrusion speed, but nothing gave major improvements. Last weekend I changed for the first time ever the layer thickness from 0.34 to 0.25 mm. This was a major change! Of course you get better details because of the layer thickness, but the plastic does not get the chance to escape anymore to curl up and it will always stick to the layer below.

Some pretty nice quality in the pictures below:

There is a drawback: both running skeinforge and printing takes much more time than before, but for now I can live with that. The remaining unwanted jitter in the surfaces which should be flat is due to many different small factors like: z-axis wobble, belt tension, x and y stepper gear train play etc.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Extruder rebuilt

The extruder worked fine for a long time, but started to become unreliable. Sometimes for no apparent reason the stepper motor missed a few steps; the force needed to drive the filament through was increasing. I increased the temperature a bit, but this did help only for a while. I did not want to risk damaging the rest of the extruder, so a rebuilt was needed.

Though the old extruder worked fine there were some parts which needed improving.
  • An aluminum bar was keeping the hot end in place; this leads to loss of energy causing long warm-up times and heating of the extruder's plastic part in the places where the bolts are attached (see here).
  • The hot end was very short making the placement of the thermistor difficult. basically the thermistor was taped with kapton on the nichrome wire which is not the best place.
I already bought a new hot end v4  form mendel-parts last month and now was time to take it into use. The new hot end has a machined piece of PEEK to keep it into place which solves the slow heating-up problem and it is longer to help in placing the thermistor in a better place. In addition the PTFE part is screwed into the metal tube and not the other way around which make the chance of leaking plastic much smaller (though I never had that problem, others seem to suffer from that).

Because the old hot end was kept in place with a aluminum bar with m3 bolts and the new PEEK bar has m4 holes in different positions, an adapter piece (copper) was made to make it fit.

 The old thermistor and new nichrome wire attached again (old nichrome wire had turned white and the insulation was falling off when taking it off the old hot end).

 Since the new hot end is a bit longer I decided to insulate the it, just like the original makerbot extruder (see here). The insulation tape was bought locally in Finland from

The temperature of the extruder seems to be much more constant. It seems the actual temperature is always about + or - 1degree of the set temperature. The old hot end had + or - 5 degrees.

The extruder with the rebuilt hot end has been printing all day and seems to be OK again. There are some small issues with precision of placement of plastic (belts?) but that is a worry for later.