Monday, October 10, 2011

Quality in Clonedel Parts

I was recently talking on IRC (with Kliment) regarding the advantages/disadvantages of Clonedel parts, and it turns out that a lot of work goes into making good molds that hold up and don't come out warped.

For instance, hex shaft on the Z-axis is needed to keep things level, the Clonedel's don't have this, I initially saw this as an advantage(and still kinda do until I start printing) because there had been preliminary reports of the top hex nut getting stuck in that shaft. Once I get the printer up and running I will find out how the Clonedel parts behave and they are any good (I think they will be OK).

In the meantime here is a blog entry from a German supplier called iFeel Beta of their gen2 Clonedel parts. They apparently worked very hard to get good quality parts cast. I recommend them as a source of Clonedel parts if you'r looking around and want to get started with a RepStrap.

2printbeta casted parts

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Part 5: Assembling the Arcol v3.0.1 Hot End: Section 1 of 2

So the after a lot of looking around at hot ends I found out about the Acol hot end and its numerous advantages, the one thing that was attractive to me was the print nozzel resolution of up to 0.35mm. That pretty much sealed the deal, so after a brief correspondence with Laszlo about certain things I ordered an un-assembled hot end, a hobbed bolt and two thermistors.

As of this writing, Laszlo's site is not 100% up to date on how to assemble the 3.0.1 version of his hotend, but but the basic idea is the same. It seems he swapped out the copper cap with an aluminum heat sink that I think he made with a lathe, and this version is using different types of insulators, other than that no big changes. For more detailed pics on the new hotend check out his Flickr stream.

The pictures and steps below should help illustrate how to put the latest version of this hotend together. I couldn't have done this without the great work Laszlo has done for the reprap community, his hotend is very versatile and mounts on other printers as well. LulzBot also has a variation of his hotend that they sell which is worth checking out if you want to buy something from inside the US, both are excellent hotends.

All the materials laid out

1. First twist the wires around the thermisotr and resistor, then slide a ferrule bootlace over it and crimp it shut. then trim off any excess wire.
2. Set the thermistor in the heatblock, apply firecememnt and then insert the thermistor into the middle hole on  the heater block gently without it touching any aluminum, I smeared some firecement in the hole first to get this affect. make sure you screw in the nozzle and protect it with paper so you don't accidentally seal it with firecement.

While the firecement is drying you can assemble the rest of the hotend, here is an overall picture of how the pieces fit together in stages.

3. Here is the first part of the hotend body assembled, pretty straight forward, I just used my hands but if you have a 2.5 hex you can use that instead.

4. The next part is a bit tricky, the white PTFE tube is inserted in the brown PEEK block until the ends are flush with each other.

Then the you can slide the aluminum heatsink over it and put it into the front end of the body.

5. This is basically the last part, you're going to slide on 4 of those laser cut slices and then screw them on, two m4 screws will also go in, this is for mounting to the extruder, you will have one wood piece left over for mounting when you are done.

Take note of the alumunim ring in the bottom laser cut disc, this will be on the bottom layer and is to assist the plastic as it slides into the PTFE tube.

6. Don't forget to wrap you peek blocks thread in PTFE tape (also know as teflon tape or plumbers tape here in the US). This will help seal the 

This image is courtesy of Laszlo! :-)
7. When your fire-cement is done drying (mine takes an hour, check your bottle) you are ready to screw teh nozzle onto the PEEK tube.

It is very important to make sure you have used PTFE tape on the PEEK tube and you tighten it as hard as you can against the nozzle because we don't want it to leak molten plastic :p

 slide the wire covers over the exposed wire, use some more heatshrink wrapping if some bare wire is still exposed. I was kinda lazy and just used zip ties to secure my wires instead of all the fancy wrapping Laszlo did, I'm not as experienced as him :p

If you wrapped your nozzle in kapton tape when the cement was drying you can just leave it on

Wiring the RIGHT WAY (Laszlo): Below are pictures to walk you through the steps needed to properly wire up your hotend, provided by Laszlo on his Flickr stream. I was in a hurry and decided to use zip ties but as Laszlo pointed out to me, wiring up the arcol the right way provides 3 distinct advantages:

  1. It protects the wires
  2. It provides wire relief
  3. Some heat crawls up the brown wire and this keeps most of it down near the heatsink
So learn form my mistake and try to do it this way instead, maybe when I test the resistor and heat up the hotend ill rewire it correctly and ditch the lameass zip ties ;)

Instead of soldering on a molex connector as Laszlo does in his guide, i just extended my cables with butt-splices and added terminal ends.
The thermisotr wires are very sensitive to being stripped so i used a bootlace to extend one of them as  I didn't want to strip those wires until they became bare ends...

The butt-splices after I used the heat gun from my rework station to seal the insulation

Soon I will be testing the heatend but that's after everything else is up and ready

Update: I added more firecement on the side to my resistor is completley covered, its not shown in this last picture, but its a good idea to do.

Part 2: I will remove that kapton tape and slowly heat up the resistor to 120C for 10 minutes, then 180C for 5 minutes, then 240C for another 5 minutes, after that the hot end will be done. Maybe ill rewire my hotend the way Laszlo say I should too....:p

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Z-Coupling Upgrade

Testing the z-axis revealed that the z-couplings have a bad habit of letting the motor shaft slip from them over time resulting in the threaded rod dropping from positions.

If I had a working printer handy I would have used Prusa Z-Coupling modification by Nophead but instead opted for the low cost lead-screw variant by Keegi since the hardware store was more accessible at this point.

Vinyl tubing and a coupling nut

I used a lock washer and hex nut to keep the coupling in place so it didn't unscrew itself from the threaded rod.

The lock washer between the two nuts keeps enough tension/friction so the coupling wont unscrew itself

Part 4: Z-Axis Build out

After mounting the smooth rods and measuring their placement with a plumb line I proceeded to mount the z-axis motors. However the slits for the m3 bolts were not positioned exactly where they needed to be, so some TLC from my dremel and 15 minutes later the motors were mounted successfully.
Drilled bigger holes with my dremel
 Once I worked up the courage to mount the X-axis on the smooth bars I had to be quick the epoxy before it dried up. About 10 stressful minutes later my hands were covered in hardened epoxy film but the x-axis was mounted successfully on the smooth bars

The epoxy did a great job of holding the bushings to the x-axis

Clonedel Spring Implementation
One of the cool things about the clonedel design is that there is no weird hex shaft for the hex nut and spring assembly to get stuck in.  Also it just looks cooler because you can see the springs compress as the x-axis moves.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Part 3: X-Axis Assembly

I've been holding off on this part for some time because I was trying to order some replacement parts from Metrix Create Space regarding a piece that was poured rather thin from my eBay supplier and which I sort of repaired by using epoxy to glue it back together. The part in question is responsible for clamping down on the two X-axis smooth rods but was damaged during shipping (I think). This piece exists because with Clonedel's you cant really cast holes when you make a mold.

Regardless I pressed on and assembled the X-axis with success, well see how it holds up, a replacement will be printed post hast anyways...just in case.

x-axis assembly

The repaired piece upon closer inspection

I will say that an advantage to this Clonedel part over traditional printed parts is the absence of the shaft for the spring and hex nut thus resulting in no jamming with the spring and bolt.

Part 2: Y-Axis Build Out

After rejigging the frame, tightening everything up again after moving into my office, I was ready to actually make some real progress and install the y-axis.

After inserting an extra hex nut to accommodate for the "modified" (violently dremeled off) m3x25 bolt that was protruding too far into the pulley assembly area I was ready to get things moving.
Using aluminum pulleys which I love

With the help of my office-mate I was able to apply the epoxy and then evenly attach the bottom MDF plate to the newly modified Resin bushings with brass sleeves. Again with my colleagues help, he held down the T5 timing belt as I secured them with the m3x25 bolts securing the Y-Axis in place. 

Bottom view of Y-Axis
T5 Belts has good amount of tension on it but not too much

The Y-Axis moved evenly and without too much resistance.A gracious amout of WD-40 the results were only improved by two fold. I have heard of people using felt bearings instead and I think this might be the way to go next time.

Back on Track

Working late, drinking, girls, hurricanes, and other social challenges have kept me busy but not too preoccupied that I forgot about the printer, just enough that I haven't been updating very much.

The metal boot attached to my door when I was evicted from my apartment for Hurricane Irene. I don't have enough 4-5 letter words to describe how I feel about college management and their interpretation of  "safety"(liability)
But no more! Grad school has started again, the city (DC) and its morally tempting temptations are 3.5 hours away (via Amtrak) and now that my office/lab is setup I have been building out the printer a lot. I have ordered a hot end (more on that later) and once that gets here I'll be almost good to go.
18th St (Adams Morgan) and in full bloom on a Saturday RepRaps to be seen....

Also, like most inanimate objects I build from scratch, this one needs a name so I'm open to suggestions....

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Plastic Bushing Modificaitons

The Clonedel parts have bushings that are unlike the common PLA counterparts which snap onto rails. These are plastic squares with a giant hole drilled in them. Similar to the ABS bushings, people have been known to put brass sleeves into them for a tighter more uniform fit as there is about 2mm of lag space between the diameter of the drilled hole and the smooth rod. Possibly the only real technical advantage to this is that the bushings on the z-axis are in a more sturdy and in a secure position as they are in complete contact with the smooth support bars. I suppose you could also oil/grease the smooth bars to reduce friction and get a smoother mechanical motion but that shouldn't really be necessary.

For this modification I ordered 12 brass bushings for about $20. They were kind of a pain to find but I was tired, weak, and hungover so I settled on the catalog from SDP-SI which seemed to have brass sleeves of the measurements I wanted. All in all their prices weren't that bad and they shipped pretty quickly.

However I made a grievous mistake in specifying the measurements for the pieces, the outside diameter is the same as the hole its filling, thus the brass sleeves originally did not fit! To fix this I simply used an 8 inch rounded file and slowly went to work until the brass bushing fit snugly into all 12 pieces, then bound them together epoxy.

Left to right, original sized hole,  filed, then fully modified bushing
A comparison of how well the new piece fits on the smooth rods
 In hind sight if the brass sleeves were too small then they may not have fit as well, oh well this worked out well in the end anyways.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Part 1: The Frame

Most of the frame is constructed now, the trickier part was the defects with the clonedel parts that will be rectified shortly as previously mentioned. Also measuring and tightening the frame was somewhat of a chore but not impossible, my frame wasn't entirely level but that is a byproduct of not working on a level table or maybe a plastic leg is a bit warped. However as long as the parts are the right length this is of little concern. I highly recommend using a caliper to measure out your frame though, at first I used cardboard pieces that I cut to size to help with measurements, a rather hacked solution but worked just fine.

The frame in its current state

My temporary jigs used to measure the frame vertexes

6 inch caliper, everyone should have one

Using Clonedel Parts

Because I'm using Clonedel parts, it is technically a repstrap. However the only changes to the Clonedel is the way the parts are made because they come from a mold as opposed to being printed. So far the only major differences are that x-axis pieces (x-end-idler and x-end-motor) are actually cast into two more parts, so you have 4 pieces instead of two, this means you need to use some m3 screws to secure and tighten teh two smooth rods, no big deal really. Also the PLA bushings that snap onto the smooth rods are now just plastic squares with holes in them, again just minor differences.

The biggest challenge to Clonedel parts is making sure they are drilled properly. Already I have found two pieces that are not drilled exactly straight, one was easily rectified with a small file, the other was the pulley for my y-motor, I may need to replace this with an aluminum pulley later on....we shall see...
Crappy drilling job required me to use a metal file, not too big of a deal....

Upon further inspection as I built out the reprap i noticed the drill points for the y-motor create interference with the washer next to the bearing and has caused a problem I will need to remedy.

As you can see the pulley was drilled in an uneven manner...

The drill points for the motor were not positioned correctly...

Moving forward these are just things to consider, ultimately because of the heat generated by the motors I would like to replace the plastic parts with aluminum substitutes but for now this should work...

Update 9-12-11:
So far at this point in the build the Clonedel parts have been great.
Again the only real difference is that you have to drill the parts yourself (or pay someone else as I did), and probably use a drill press to make sure everything is nice and evenly drilled out. I have noticed that the resin parts are pretty resilient to pressure and seem less likely to snap like PLA rather than just retain the impressions or hex nuts and washers on them if you tighten them a bit too much.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Plan

The Printer: Prusa Mendel RepRap
The Prusa is the latest design iteration of the Mendel series, it has a number of improvements, but essentially its built with less metal, parts making it a more efficient model of 3D printer. The Prusa also has an extra motor for the z-axis which ends up making it cheaper instead of compensating with more timing belts.

There are a lot of components, but I have divided them into 7 primary components that need to be taken into consideration when building a printer.
  1. Plastics
  2. Metals (Vitamins)
  3. Electronics
  4. Motors
  5. Printbed
  6. Extruder
  7. Extras that are optional but you will probably end up buying anyways....
Plastics (allow me to get on my soap box for a minute here...)
The most unique and attractive feature about the reprap printer is that it's designed with the intention of being a self replicating machine. In its current form the reprap can print the plastic parts needed to build another 3D printer and some very basic electronic circuit boards.

This is a critical feature because it means that the reprap is truly an open source device. Some toolbag manufacturer could sell you the plastic parts for a ridiculous mark up of about $300 because they have the molds or machines to make the parts that nobody else does.
However because of the nature of what 3D printing is as a technology, and what the reprap represents as an open source project, nobody can ever have an exclusive monopoly as a manufacturer of "hard to get" parts, they just don't exist as part of the printer's design.
You will notice that all the parts listed are hobbyist grade components readily available at a local shop or online, the metal parts are things you can get at a hardware store, and the plastics are sold on eBay by other people who operate their own 3D printer.

Current Methods
There are currently two methods of obtaining plastic parts, either with other 3D printers, or using molds. 

The first method is the most simple and just involves another printer to create the parts, most are ready to be assembled but can take up to a day to create with a reprap. It is common for people in 3D printing community with either repraps or makerbots to print plastic components other beginners need and sell them on eBay as a way of subsidizing the cost to build their own printer. The resolution/quality of plastic parts varies depending on the resolution of the print, i.e. the size of the filament and extruder nozzle. Sometimes parts need to be sanded or filed down so the rods have a smoother fit

The second method is referred to as a clonedel, it uses molds. First a set of plastic parts are printed, sanded, and filed down to eliminate any imperfections form printing. The plastics are then used as a cast to create a mold for which future parts are made. The process makes creating plastic parts almost trivial which the exception of holes needing to be drilled for the metal rods. Using molds, a set of plastics can be created very quickly and with greater consistency through a wider range of plastic materials that can be poured and mixed instead of printed through a spool.

My Decision
I think the resin material used in the Clonedel variant of the reprap is stronger and better quality, also its cheaper than what was available through most eBay retailers. I bought a set of metric drilled Clonedel molds for $75. The molds were created with clear resin and when they arrived I found the gear for wades extruder to be very fine and overall great quality.

Clonedel Molds and Resulting Parts

Metals ( Rods, nuts, bolts, washers)
The non-plastic parts used for the frame are often referred to as vitamins, don't ask why, I think its a European/British thing. As I started off I assumed I could buy the metal parts at a hardware store, but metric parts are harder to find in America and I turned to online distributors instead. 

McMaster-Car has a great online catalog and you could probably get everything you need there however I opted for a vitamin kit from Thingfarm North America T $81. This was a really good deal as I had previously specked out the metals on Amazon, and ran up to $85 before I even added the rods to my shopping cart. I imagine McMaster could match that price or do better but as I am just starting off it is very reassuring to get an all in one kit and not have to worry too much about measurements or having the right amount of parts. Being in America I would have liked to build the SAE variant of the Prusa Mendel but kits were hard to find or just more expensive, and for now most parts/measurements are in metric.

My Decision
I bought a kit from Thingfarm North America for $81, this included all the nuts, bolts, washers, smooth rods, threaded rods, and timing belts. Compared to the list that I priced out from Amazon for just the bolts, and the lengths of rods that I would have to cut to the right length if I got them form McMaster, this kit was the best price.

A complete vitamins kit from ThingFarm North America

There are basically two choices, RAMPS or Sanguinololu. RAMPS is basically a shield that interfaces with an Arduino Mega and handles motors and other controls before passing data/commands/whatever off to the main board. I found this particularly unappealing because your are essentially paying an additional $50 for an Arduino board after the original $150 you spent on the RAMPS shield that goes on top of it.

There are also endstops which are small sensors that tell the computer when it reaches the end of its axis when moving the extruder or print bed. The two options are mechanical or optical endstops.

My Decision
I opted for a Sanguino build with Pololu stepper drivers, this combination is known as Sanguinololu. The Sanguio board was designed for the reprap in mind and consists of a Atmega 644p. It is overall cheaper to build and has a much more compact form factor.

A Sanguinololu 1.2 board

There wasn't much of a decision to look into here. Nema 17 is the standard motor form factor used, there is a list of motors that have been used and verified to work, the usual drive length is about 20mm.

The printbed is an interesting component because there are two ways to build it, either heated or not. The simplest way is to buy acrylic sheets, layered with kapton thermal tape and then just print the plastic onto it. The other way is to have a special heated acrylic sheet that keeps the printbed hot, this way the plastics wont warp when they cool off too fast, and you can print bigger parts.

My Decision
I bought some acrylic printbed sheets that I will attach to a pcb-heatbed. I think having a heated printbed is the best method for printing and the heatbed sold by Utilimachine is the best one available.

There are currently three extruders commonly used, Adrians, Wades, and Bowdens. Wades improves on Adrians extruder design and right now is the most common. Bowdens is different and offers a lot of promise, it moves the extruder motor off of the print head and attaches it to the frame, this makes the print head lighter. However there are some challenges, since the motor is what pushes the plastic filament through the hot end, there is a possibilit of jamming as the filament is now being fed through a giant plastic tube which needs to flexible so the print head can move.

Keep in mind the extruder is a lot of compnents, its composed of plastics, nuts, blots, springs, washers, copper/alluminum hot ends, and some kind of heating element such as nichrome wire with thermal tape to bind it. For the extruder it is usually best to buy a kit for its assembly.

Adrians Extruder
Bowden Extruder

My Decision
I bought a Wades extruder kit, keep in mind you need a hobbed bolt, but if you don't have the machinery available you can just buy this already done for you and not worry about it, that's what I did.

Wades Extruder

There are extra parts which you may add on or use to enhance your printer. Some people have extra acrylic boards to mount their electronics to the printer frame, people have upgraded mechanical endstops to optical, attached pc case fans to the printhead or electronics, even used thermocouples and SD card readers. These are all optional and can be added later on but have been known to enhance the operation of the printer.