Picked up a 3D Printer!

So I recently ordered a chinese 3D Printer.

Basically, it's a Reprap Prusa i3 clone.

It came with a really bad hotend, that just plain didn't work. So, I also picked up an E3D V6 hotend from Spool3d here in Calgary.

I will be using it to rapidly prototype various designs for my Arctic Greenhouse Initiative window-based growing system and for various home automation applications I will be developing with my room mate Chris.

Here's a bunch of build photo's. Sorry for some of the photo's being blurry, these were just quick snapshots from my phone.

Package

So, everything came in bags. PSU, PCB, LCD display, aluminum parts, bolts, nuts, etc.

Starting the build

I had to assemble a bunch of rails and bolt them together using angle brackets. This forms the base for the 3d printer unit itself.

Metal bracket

Here's a shot of the metal brackets used to bolt the 2020 aluminum extrusions together.

Y-Axis for heater bed

Most of the parts are a mix of acrylic for the structure and metal rods for attaching 3D printed or injection molded components. They're also all bolted together using small M3/M4 machine bolts/nuts.

Stock hot end

This is the part that didn't work very well. It never got up to temperature, and I made the mistake of removing the fan and attaching it to the fan port on the supplied RAMPS circuit board.

This part gets really hot, melts the filament and turns it into molten plastic which can then be printed. It actually needs a fan to cool the part with the portruding fins to act as a heatsink.

The idea is the the very bottom at the nozzle gets hot, but the top portion stays cool to prevent the filament from melting before it hits the hot end. So a fan is very necessary.

Bowden extruder

Here's a shot of the extruder, the idea behind this is the the stepper motor drives a bit of filament into a tube which then feeds into the cool part of the hot end.

Assembling the Z axis

Here's a shot of assembly of the Z-axis. There are two acrylic plates which the two stepper motors attach to then those are attached to the two threaded rods to drive the middle armature up and down. I intially had a bit of issues with this as I hadn't leveled everything properly and it wasn't printing and raising the arm to match the print. I've since fixed that by re-leveling everything and adjusting the Z-axis current with a tiny current adjustment potentiometer/screw on the individual motor drives.

Stepper motors installed

Here's a shot of all the stepper motors installed. I haven't wrapped the wires together to keep them out ofthe way yet.

Assembled unit

Here's a shot of the finally assembled unit.

First test print

This was the first attempt at printing. I didn't fix the Z-axis so this basically only printed a single layer of junk.

As indicated early, I had issues with the E3D V5 Long Distance hot end that came with the unit. It was not great. Essentially, it kept backing up and caused all sorts of jamming issues with the coolend. So I chucked it.

New hotend installed

Here's the new hotend, it's all metal and has a better design. No feeding issues.

However, a new problem emerged. The hotend got up to temperature for the first little bit then repeatedly kept failing.

Finally, we found a solution. We added an aluminum foil duct around the fan to concentrate cooling on the cool part of the hotend.

Failed Raspberry Pi B+ case

Here's a failed print of a Raspberry Pi B+ case.

Printing 2020 extrusion endcaps

One annoying thing is that the 3D Printer has the sharp edges of the 2020 extrusion frames exposed. So I decided to print some end caps. I'm using these to dial in the highest quality setting for 3D Printers.

You can see the temporary aluminum foil shroud we added, which has significantly improved the 3D Printer getting the hotend up to temperature.

Finally, here's a comparions between setting the print quality to average (0.2mm layers) versus high quality (0.1mm layers) and rough quality (0.4mm layers).

Essentially, the layer height determines how dense the filament is melted and filled into the printed object. The failed RPI case was printed at 0.4mm, so all the stringy bits you see is caused by printing an object a lower "resolution" object.

Print quality comparision