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3D printer

Posted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 8:22 am
by Dayrth
I've been wanting to get myself a 3D printer for a while now. No particular reason, just thought it would be fun. Recently I got the chance to buy one for a very good price, so I did. It arrived a few days ago and I have been having fun building it. The down side of course is that it has taken time away from playing Elite. I was chatting to Frank in game yesterday and he asked if I could upload some pics, so (using any feeble excuse to bore people with my latest project), here is a brief history of my printer building efforts to date.

Re: 3D printer

Posted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 8:25 am
by Dayrth
Day 1:

Big heavy box arrives in the post:

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When I get home I eagerly open the box to find...

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A whole load of other boxes.

I spent that evening going through the boxes seeing what I had and making sure all was OK. I was going to take some pics of all the parts spread out, but it soon became clear just how many parts there were (349 not including tools. Yes I was sad enough to count them), and I just couldn't be bothered.

Re: 3D printer

Posted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 8:28 am
by Dayrth
Day 2 Top frame assembly:

This first part was quite straight forward which was handy as I had limited time that evening.

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This basically consists of the top part of the frame and the drive belt guides.

Re: 3D printer

Posted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 8:33 am
by Dayrth
Day 3 Motor frame:

This was a bit more fiddly. Very important to do this in strict order or some parts would be impossible to fit.

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This consists of the bottom part of the frame and the mounts for the stepper motors that will control the print head.

Uprights and limit switches:

This next stage was quite small so did it on the same day.

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Fitting the uprights of the frame and installing the motors and limit switches. The switches are to tell the print head when it has reached the top of its travel.

Re: 3D printer

Posted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 8:42 am
by Dayrth
Day 4 Effector assembly:

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This is the print head, fans guide rods carriages belt tensioners and all associated wiring. Quite a big job, but I decided to keep going and do the next stage as well.


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This was putting all the bits together and fitting the drive belts and filament feed motor.

That's as far as I have got to date. Tonight I start on the electronics.

Re: 3D printer

Posted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 6:55 pm
by Frank
Bore? This is stunning!

I think I said that the printer uses PLA. Does it get smelly when you're printing something?

Re: 3D printer

Posted: Fri Nov 04, 2016 7:08 am
by Dayrth
Frank wrote:I think I said that the printer uses PLA. Does it get smelly when you're printing something?

No idea. I've never actually seen a 3d printer in action. I would imagine so though.

Re: 3D printer

Posted: Fri Nov 04, 2016 7:29 am
by Dayrth
Day 5 Electronics and wiring:

The electronics consisted of setting up and interfacing two main boards, three little stepper motor driver boards and the UI panel. Sounded complicated, but I was pleasantly surprised. I have not worked with an Arduino before (got one in my Ed Tracker, but that came already set up). Setting it up turned out to be quite straight forward. Most of the fiddly construction had been done for me and the instructions (despite clearly being a translation from Chinese), were easy enough to follow. The wiring turned out to be more of a problem, simply because there was so much of it and so little space to fit it in.

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At this stage the UI panel was not fitted but I wanted a pic of the wire spaghetti before I tidied it all away.

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This is the final result. Everything assembled, fitted and tidied up. I even put tape on the glass print bed. I haven't yet powered it on so it might still all end in a big bang. I am, as usual away for the weekend so that will have to wait until Sunday. Assuming there is no big bang, next week I will start the software installation, firmware setup and upload, printer calibration and eventually the first print.

Re: 3D printer

Posted: Tue Nov 08, 2016 7:10 am
by Dayrth
No pics today, because it looks exactly the same as it did in the last one and at the moment still doesn't do anything :(

For the last two evenings I have been struggling with the software. None supplied with the printer, but the helpful advice that if you just plug it in then the drivers will load automatically. They didn't of course, so a few hours were spent finding the right drivers for the Arduino. That completed it was time to set up the firmware. The manual told me to open this file in this application neither of which were supplied. Grrr. The application was easy enough to find but the Marlin firmware for my particular printer was nowhere to be found. I have managed to find a generic version and now am trying to learn enough about it to re write it to work with the printer. I am making slow progress and now have a sketch that doesn't error and will upload to the printer. It still wont execute the commands properly though and the lcd display driver doesn't work at all. I think I may be at this for some time.

Re: 3D printer

Posted: Fri Nov 11, 2016 7:35 am
by Dayrth
I was late home on Wednesday so decided to give the printer a rest and goto fighter club instead (when I was eventually able to log in. Severs have been playing up lately for me). Yesterday though I decided to put in some effort and make some progress. I very nearly succeeded.

I sat down with all the reference material I could get my hands on and started working on the firmware. A few hours later I had at least managed to get the lcd display working and the setup software connected to the printer. I couldn't actually get the printer to do anything though, because it was constantly giving me a min temp error. I scoured the firmware for errors in the temperature settings, made sure I was connecting to the correct pins on the motherboard and even started reassigning pins and reconnecting the sensor to try and get it working. After a lot of wasted time it struck me that the problem might be the sensor itself and there was a very quick and easy way to test it. Being a fully qualified electronics engineer I am kicking myself that I didn't think of this first.

Shorting out the input pins changed the min temp error to a max temp error, so the input was working fine. Of course the thermistor is buried deep in the print head and that was the one part that came pre assembled, so out with the scalpel, tweezers and soldering iron. Having dismantled it I found this:
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Two seconds to reattach it and all was working. I put the print head back together and went back to the setup software. I could send the print head home, move it up, down, forwards, backwards, left right and heat and cool the extruder to my hearts content. I could even feed the filament.... BACKWARDS! Back to the firmware. A quick change to reverse the feed motor, upload the firmware again and that was it. All working flawlessly. I started thinking this may be the day. I may be about to try my first print :D So, back to the manual. Downloaded the print software they recommended. Followed the setup procedure in the manual and.... It immediately overwrote the firmware I had spend days getting right with something that didn't work at all >:(

I gave up at this point and went off to do some bounty hunting. I'm away until Monday now, but will start the search for some decent printing software then.