Week 06, 2015 – 3D Printering

First off, I’m sure there’s some questions anyone interested in getting their own 3D printer might have, so I’ll try to answer the most basic ones:

Where did you get it?

eBay.  It’s a CTC 3D branded Chinese copy of the original dual-extruder MakerBot Replicator.  I got it for $550.90.  Though it dropped another $50 days later. That got me the printer, a 1kg roll of (in my case) no-name red PLA filament, a bag of screws and stuff, an SD card, etc.  Shipped via FedEx.  EDIT: As of February 21st, the price seems to be back up to the original $700, which is unfortunate.

How good of a copy?

Well, I replaced the generic firmware it came with– which I guess is based on an earlier open source MakerBot firmware –with the latest official MakerBot firmware, right from within MakerWare… Yeah.  In fact, the hardest part was getting the damned timing right for hitting the reset button on the back of the printer, so that the controller board is rebooting just as you try to upload. Basically, other than probably skimping on material quality where they could (Though that doesn’t seem to be a problem… I mean, other than the working bits, it’s already just made out of plywood anyway.) the only difference between this and a vintage MakerBot machine would seem to be the lack of a MakerBot ‘M’ button as the interface’s enter key. Only time will tell how durable it is.

Any problems so far?

Mostly just me trying to climb the learning curve, and tumbling back down.  Though the bed is slightly uneven– it dips in the center –but that’s a very common problem regardless of the printer.  And hopefully that’s been resolved, as I’ve got a 0.25″ borosilicate glass plate to put on there that’s flatter than anything.  Haven’t installed it yet though.  It’s also a wee bit rattletrap; when it arrived, it’d already lost a bolt from the housing (I eventually found the nut in the box, and reinstalled it.) and one of the bolts at the back of the print bed, that hold in the upright section behind it, came undone and fell out… That was a bastard to put back in.  Basically, I’ve just gotta make sure to snug everything up, and get some loctite the next chance I get.  Luckily it does come with a bag full of extra hardware.

What are you using for filament?

I bought a little over $200 worth of HATCHBOX brand filament from Amazon, via Fire Sale Merchant. (Fulfilled by Amazon, though often it will default to getting it direct from Fire Sale Merchant without the benefit of Prime and you have to choose the ‘Fulfilled by Amazon’ one under other sellers.)  They seem to be the only source for this brand of filament.  Both their PLA and ABS are very nice, though their ‘transparent’ ABS is a bit of a misnomer… It’s more of a ‘translucent’, at least, without post-processing to reduce the diffusion properties of the surface. (Haven’t tried that yet.) Sadly the prices for the 1KG spools have gone up $6 to ~$30 since I bought mine.

Anything else?

Well, I’ve been keeping some notes on print quality– such as the fact that the transparent white ABS extrudes better at 245°C but I need to do some proper test parts. (Like extrusion temperature/speed tests) I’ll tell you this though; Elmer’s purple glue sticks do wonders for making prints stick to the bed regardless of filament/substrate…even combinations like PLA directly on a Kapton-covered printbed.

What’s next?

I want to get some HIPS and a gallon of Limonene, some PVA, some NinjaFlex, some carbon fiber filament, some T-Glase, some Taulman 618, some Taulman Bridge, and a copy of Simplify3D.  Once I get experience with dissolvable support materials, flexible materials, high-strength nylon and reinforced ABS, and other exotic materials, I should have a pretty good handle on the current 3D printing landscape… Plus I’ll have that much more to offer on 3D Hubs.

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