And for a random yet practical use of 3D printing: S-hooks for hanging tools up. I needed to get my saws out of the way, and I realized I had a place to hang them up… as long as I had something to hang them up with. S-hooks seemed like what I needed, so I did a quick search and printed a couple out. Now the saws are (reasonably) safely stored out of the way.
I realized that between the various expansions of my hobbies, I’ve been spending more time hunched over my workbench, which is a nongood. I decided to get a rolling stool so I could be comfortable working for longer periods of time. Height is adjustable for comfort. I may have to mod it a bit, as there is a piece that rattles.
There were a lot of maintenance items that I ended up trying/doing, and I don’t feel like dragging this out any further, so I’m trying to condense the rest of what I did here.
Smooth Motion Maintenance:
This is a combination of some general maintenance items. I replaced all the bearings I was able to. This included the ones on the hot end carriage and on the vertical axis, but I had no way to easily swap out the ones on the print bed carriage.
While I’m thinking about it, remember that if you have to swap out bearings, put the thicker white lithium grease on the inside of the new bearing before putting it on the rod, to make sure the bearing gets fully lubricated. When you’ve finished assembling, make sure to move the bearings back and forth several times to make sure the lubrication spreads within the bearing evenly.
While doing that, I cleaned and lubricated all the linear rods and z-axis screws. I also replaced all the timing belts. I think this has reduced the friction greatly, and improved the smoothness/ease of motion.
Here’s one of the bearings I replaced on the extruder carriage.
Stepped Spool Holder:
As I discovered in the previous post in this series, the smooth spool holder allowed the spools to slide off, and I remembered that there was a stepped variant. I printed off one of those, assembled it… and it works much better! The steps keep the spools on top of the printer, despite the vibrations from the printer’s motion in certain circumstances.
This spool holder allows for quicker filament changes, without having to fiddle with an exterior spool holder. This is especially helpful as the original spool holder had required disassembling the holder each time I wanted to change filaments, and clamping to keep it from moving in the way of the print bed.
Hot End Replacement:
I was having some temperature fluctuations on the hot end, at least in what temperatures were registering. I’m so glad I started using Octoprint and could monitor temperature telemetry!
Based on talking with other people about it, and looking at the symptoms, it appeared to be something wrong with the thermistor and/or the wire connecting it to the control board. I was considering replacing the thermistor, but I was having difficulty finding a compatible one. I was, however, able to find a replacement hot end from the manufacturer, which would give me the added benefit of replacing the nozzle and lining tube at the same time, so I swapped out the whole assembly.
It was a straight up swap for identical parts, though it was tedious because of the cable wrapping that had to be removed in order to remove the old wires and include the new ones.
This stuff is necessary to reduce wear on the wires, but annoying to implement.
Cooling Fan Addition:
The major issue I was seeing with overhangs and general print quality was an overheating issue. There are a couple ways to address aspects of this: adding a silicone sock to reduce reheating issues, and/or adding a cooling fan to make the top surfaces cool more quickly. For now I’ve only implemented the latter option. I’ve been unable to find a compatible silicone sock so far.
The trickiest bit was figuring out how I was supposed to connect the power. There’s an open connection on the board that provides sufficient power continuously. You can’t control it through the software, but I don’t see the harm in letting that small blower run continuously.
By the way, the connector on the board is NOT the standard connector it looks like, and I’m not sure what it is, so I made do with a dupont connector.
Gear Grinding/Nozzle Turnoff/Layer Shift
There was an intermittent issue that I’ve had with the stepper motors (particularly on the y axis, but occasionally on the x axis) moving unexpectedly, often running into the end stop and grinding the belt. When that happened, the hot end would turn off (causing the filament to stop flowing and just grind), and the printer would lose track of the hot end’s location (causing massive layer shifts), both of which ruined the print. I attacked this from a few different angles. Replacing the belts earlier in the process was part of one of the attempts, as I’ve had issues with slippage before, as well as just part of replacing older parts.
Stepper Motor Driver Tweaking:
Based on a recommendation I’ve gotten from some other people, I got a multimeter to check the stepper motor drivers, and a ceramic screwdriver to adjust the voltage. I’ve tried tweaking it a few times, but I didn’t really see any improvement.
Power Supply Replacement:
Upon other recommendations, I decided to try getting a replacement power supply. I’ve been told that the one that came with the printer is considered a really reliable brand, but since I’ve swapped out the power supply the printer seems to have stopped having that intermittent failure.
With all that finished… WOW. This older printer can now print better than my newer one! I now do all my more precise prints on this printer.
For a point of comparison, here’s the before photo of the temperature towers printed on this printer.
And here’s the miniatures that I’m able to print now! I’ve been running it a lot lately building up my miniatures collection.
Thoughts/notes for the future:
If I run into issues on the hotend again, I think I may do what I’ve seen others do and switch to a more industry standard hotend, though that’d be an… interesting conversion process. It would make finding replacement parts a lot easier, though!
I think there is a little bit of a bed level issue, still, and I’m not sure how much is in the tramming and how much is in the metal bed I placed on it. It may be related to how I mounted the bed with command strips.
For now I’m printing mostly small items. When I print larger items I get a bit of warping, so I think I need to remember to implement brims on the larger ones. I’m not sure how much is due to the unheated bed, and how much from variations in leveling. And no, I’m not considering adding a heated bed anytime soon. From what I’ve read, trying to do a DIY heated bed increases the fire risk more than I am comfortable with.
At one point I was considering replacing the z-axis screws with thicker ones, but the manufacturer used a nonstandard interface piece (it had 3 holes instead of the standard 4), so I couldn’t easily swap them out without also having to print and install completely new blocks at the ends. This is the kind of nonsense that makes me want to scratch build a printer on my own down the line, with an eye for maintenance and using industry standard parts.
Anyway, I guess I’ve got to start working on the other printer soon to bring up the quality level on it! It feels kinda weird that my older and larger printer is currently better at producing the smaller miniatures. I need to address this imbalance, so I can print smaller things on the smaller printer and larger things on the larger printer.
My recent work on projects has required me to expand my options as a maker, adding new setups to my arsenal. Instead of letting these get lost in the flow of posts, I’ve added them as pages.
The main page is here, and also on the left side of every page:
I’ve added two new setups, for spraypainting and electronics work, and I’ve also crosslinked my existing page for 3D printing equipment.
After finishing the keytar’s primer/color coat, I started prepping to do the details. As mentioned in a previous post, I was using Rub’n’Buff to give a bit of a metallic finish to the details.
Like with any good detail work (unless perhaps you have a LOT more skill and confidence than I do), I prepped the sections I was going to accent by taping around the parts I wanted to add color too. This helps keep the transition between colors sharper and cleaner. It used a lot of painter’s tape and prep time, but it was worth it. I also taped around the feet on the backside of the case to protect the areas around them when sanding. I… kinda forgot to tape over them before painting, and I needed to remove the paint so that the rubber feet would work properly.
It can take a while to tape around these to my satisfaction, as I’m trying to preserve a lot of detail in the process and not look sloppy. It took a lot of small bits of tape, and some work with an exacto blade. As an example of what I’m talking about, here’s how I had taped up the universal greeblie for painting. I had to be careful to tape around all those curves.
Once I finished taping the pieces up, and through a bit of trial and error, I was able to add something of a metallic finish that I had wanted. Here it is, before and after removing the tape (there may have been an extra application of Rub’N’Buff between photos). Note the amount of extra finish that was on the protective tape that didn’t end up on the surrounding black paint.
Finished with the accents, I started decorating with stickers. I had a bit of trouble with some of them, and I’m not entirely happy with the results but, eh, you live and learn. I know a bit more of what to expect the next time I do something similar. The vinyl sticker with my logo was the hardest one to put in.
The others took a bit of planning for placement, but weren’t so bad to apply, as each sticker was a single solid piece.
After applying all that, I had to apply some more paint. A few coats of glossy clear enamel to protect everything and seal it in, and a coat of matte clear paint to knock the gloss off. The results were alright, but I think if I were to redo this I would use a painted on clear lacquer, for a thicker, stronger coat. Some of the stickers don’t adhere as well as they should, and the spray painted clear coat doesn’t force it down like a lacquer might. I also noticed that with some hard objects it was easy to accidentally add marks to the surface of the paint, it’s something about the clear coats, but at this point I don’t want to worry with attempting a fix, and I’ll just call it “built-in weathering.”
Oh, before I forget, one of my lessons learned I would like to share.
DO NOT LET YOUR SPRAYPAINTED PLA PLASTIC PARTS DRY IN THE SUN. I started getting warping in one of my parts because I didn’t realize it was in direct sunlight, and I had to try an emergency repair with clamping while it was still flexible.
Here’s all the parts after stickering and painting. Oh, and I was painting a door opening tool at the same time as well.
It was around this point that I decided that I wanted to make sure I finished the USB hub add-on and a more integrated power switch before reassembling it, but that’s a topic for another post.
Let me know if you have any questions about the processes in these posts. I’m trying to write these over a month after the fact, and have been limiting some of the details in order to progress forward.
I decided that I wanted to be able to display and easily access my collection of D&D miniatures. I came across a concept for reusing empty filament spools. Their version had faceplates, but for the moment I just want to at least get this thing functional. I stacked my empty spools, and connected them with some tacky material.
It’s convenient, showing off my minis for ease of access… but the back half is hard to see and reach. This is where the turntable comes in. I had tried one version where it was a plate sitting on a single skateboard bearing, but that was too brittle and the whole thing wobbled (the spools make it top-heavy). So, I switched to this design:
You can find the original turntable design on Thingiverse here:
I didn’t need the top plate, seeing as the bottom spool provides a surface to rotate on, but the bottom plate does provide a much more stable base to rotate the entire tower on.
I may end up upgrading the tower to have the nice stonework facings here, but so far I don’t want to give up the printer runtime for it. It was the inspiration for this project, though.
At any rate, I now have a way of seeing what minis I have, instead of having to dig through plastic containers. Maybe post-quarantine I can use it for hosting some RPGs.
Every mad scientist’s lair needs an unusual light switch! I’ve had my eye on this one for years, but between printer size and reliability issues, I hadn’t had a chance to make this one until recently.
This one is actually someone’s remix of one that has been on Thingiverse for years. I think it came out really well. I had to use a bit of tack on the switch to get the “nubbin” to stay on well.
You can find the files (again, not mine) here:
Frankenstein Light Switch Redux 1.0 by Muckychris
I think there is a bit of a gap between the plate and the wall, so I’m probably going to put some weather stripping on the back for a cleaner appearance.
“IGOR! Where did we put those brains again?”
Sometimes I spend… quite a bit of money on games. Some of them I’m not sure how long they will stay in print, and in any case, they would be expensive to replace. In this case, here’s my copy of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid (and all of the existing expansions), or at least the cards for it.
In cases like this, I recommend protecting your investment. Card sleeves are your friend, as many a collectible card gamer can tell you. They protect the cards, allowing the game to last a lot longer (and protect resell value). This game has some larger cards, but I found out they were tarot size, so there are card sleeves for those, too!
Another issue for games like this is that there are hundreds of cards, belonging to many different decks. There are decks for each different ranger, each different monster, each minion, etc. If they were to get jumbled together, it would be extremely tedious and time consuming to find what I wanted. On top of that, these originally came out of about a dozen different boxes.
With the plethora of card games out there these days, it is easy to find a card sorter box, and get dividers for the cards. I sorted the cards out by type, divided the decks, and labelled the dividers. This facilitates much faster game nights, since people won’t have to sort through hundreds of cards to find the character they want to play.
With a setup like this, my game should last a long time, and be much faster and easier to set up. I highly recommend doing this with similar games to save yourself alot of headaches, and keep the momentum going at game nights.
Long setup times can kill the excitement of a game night, and I’d hate to be known for hosting a preventably bad game night experience.
I’ve continued to have major issues with the printer, so I’ve been reading even more, and stocking up on new parts and tools so I can perform more intensive maintenance and upgrades on the 3D printer.
One of the issues that I’ve had is that sometime mid-print the printer will appear to lose track of where the carriages are located, and also appear to not register the end-stops.
I finally branched out into soldering, and got a soldering setup and heat gun.
I’ve used this to replace all the end stops. I cut the wires, and spliced new ones on, albeit clumsily. There is an extra layer of heat shrink that I apparently thought was a good idea at the time, but I chose the wrong size.
Build Plate Upgrade:
I decided to attach a metal build plate onto the printer, so that it would be smoother and more resilient than the standard plastic build plate. I’m tired of having a plastic build plate that gets deeply scratched and deformed by a hot nozzle. I think that having a metal bed will eliminate some of those issues, though it might cause more gear grinding issues if the printer loses it’s z-axis calibration again.
I had planned to do this by either 1) using binder clips to attach the plate or 2) use 3D printed mounts (along with some purchased screws, springs, and nuts). I found that the binder clips that I bought were far too big for the printer, and also realized that I would need to make some gcode changes to account for their presence so that the nozzle wouldn’t run into them. Even going with smaller clips would have had this issue.
Photo of clips for illustrative purposes only
I also realized that the springs I had ordered were entirely too long (and possibly too stiff) to be used to mount the metal bed. Maybe I’ll find a way to re-purpose these parts for another project later.
So, I went with my default solution to problems.
Command strips. I taped the plate to the plastic bed, and seems like it might work out alright. I used the tape because with command strips, if it doesn’t work out you can easily remove them. Down the line I’m wondering if I might need to replace them and add some sort of supports underneath the plate so it is even less likely to flex (it’s only supported in those 4 corners).
Filament Spool Issues:
A separate issue I have is that loading and unloading filaments of different types was a pain. The original spool holder that came with the printer requires disassembling and reassembling the holder around the spool every time I want to change filament.
Also, from the angle the filament travels there is clearly a lot of friction over time. The feed hole was originally round.
I’m not sure whether this filament drag was contributing to some of the issues with the print head moving in unexpected ways, so I tried out adding an easier-to-use spool mount on top of the printer.
The large parts are 3D printed, but it also uses 2 skateboard bearings. I didn’t design this one, I found it on Thingiverse here:
I figured that it would make loading and unloading filament much easier, and the different position plus the bearings would reduce any drag caused by the angles the filament had been travelling through.
Sadly, I’ve found that the spool will occasionally fall off the top of the printer when I try to use the new holder, and with a heavy spool that is too much of a risk of damage to the rest of the printer, so I’ve had to stop using it. I may end up trying the version with the steps on it, in the hopes that the steps will keep the spools from falling.
I also designed and test printed a spool holder design of my own, but that ended up being it’s own separate set of issues.
Note: This post is a case in point of why logging/blogging can be good for your hobbies. You look at what you’ve done, what your problems were/are, and re-evaluate while you write. I’m catching up on this a few weeks later, and I had forgotten that there was a stepped version of the spool holder that I can try.
To be continued…
This is actually two items, but they are similar enough I felt I should lump them together. I got tired of finding writing utensils everywhere in my living room (I’ve been working out of there a lot while my desktop computer was down). I also got tired of having to dig around in the top of my toolbox for my 3D printing spatulas.
As a 3D printing guy… when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Or in this case, I’m not gonna buy a pencil cup when I have a 3d printer, time, and excess material lying around anyway.
I printed a pencil cup for the pencils and pens, and modified a dice tower model into a tool holder/pencil cup for the spatulas. I figured I wanted something thematically appropriate for such items in my sanctum.
If you want to make your own, you can find the models here:
Dodecahedron Cup (by Jayrobox)
Cyberpunk Tool/Pen/Pencil Cup (a remix by me)
In case you are wondering how that obviously top-heavy tool holder is staying up, I used a bit of tacky to secure it to the work bench. This stuff:
It’s some stuff I originally bought to hold items in place for painting, but it is useful for securing things in general. As a kid I remember using a blue version of this for posters and craft projects.