Monday 3 October 2011

Yearly review of my Rep-Rapping adventures Sep2010 -> Sep2011

Wow! that went quickly. Review Sep 2010 - > Sep2011

I have some really interesting things planned for the next 12 months rep-rapping, but here is a round-up of my adventures in the last 12 months -

Starting out -
When I first started I made a few incorrect assumptions about the available DIY 3D printers out there, this initially led me to design and build my Screwball-Bot, very strong, highly accurate, but quite slow and VERY heavy.

My advice to anyone thinking about making 'the ultimate', 'strong' 3D printer out of T-slot and ballscrews, don't do it. It's just way overkill, I really enjoyed making Screwball-Bot and I have a really cool plan for it's ongoing use but a Prusa Mendel is almost as accurate, much faster and much easier to build.

If you want a 3D printer make a Prusa Mendel. but if you really want (and need) to be able to Mill/CNC then maybe T-slot and ballscrews are still a good option for you, but think if you will ever really do that when you have a 3D printer? I have never bothered with Subtractive / CNC machining even though I have a machine that could do it really well.
And if you don't fancy sourcing all the parts for making a Prusa, check out the eMaker Huxley, it's a lovely machine (I have one) and is a great way to start on your journey into DIY 3D printing.

Screwball-Bot Links - Concept, Design, Build-up, Wiring, Bowden_Extruder, Test, Printed Results with Reprap Host,  printed results with Skeinforge, Multicolour Printing

Most popular Blog posts -
According to the stats my most popular Blog post is on Skeinforge V41, it now needs an update and maybe a few more details about how to refine settings and what some of the other functions do so maybe I should do an updated one, and as many people now use SFACT maybe that's also worth a write-up.
* We have Skeinforge V42 just landed officially, that's going to be fun - check out the SKIN function* -

Polycarbonate Printing has rocketed up to the number 2 spot.

The other most popular posts are my DIY hot-end and the high-power hot-end
The Filament joiner
Colour 3D printing
Pimp my Mendel - Mendel *Bling*
Masterclass event Organised by eMaker
Bowden Extruder and 1.75mm Push-fit Hot-end

Not many people showed much interest in the Microscopy I did on extruded filament, which is a shame as I thought that was quite neat and I need to do some more to help with understanding the Polycarbonate printing process.

Multicolour printing (Layer selective colour printing) -
One of my most interesting adventure was into colour printing, this was always planned from the very start and now we are seeing all sorts of new ways to do this, so it's going to be really fun watching future progress in this area.

My particular way was to join sections of coloured filament together (with my filament joiner)
And as far as I know at least one other person has managed to do the same, with cool results.

Printed by Lenbok

And as Rep-G now has a Dual extruder option, things like these below are starting to pop-up.

Prusa Mendel's -
Building them is addictive, they are just so neat, and it's great helping people build them up.
My collection is growing.
My original Bath Mendel that's currently being upgraded.
And the pimped-up Mendel *BLING* is working well.
My eMaker Huxley Machine (Number 8) - Blog post on this planned.
Shortly the British Mendel will be posted, I'm planning on that machine to accommodate a dual extruder
And then after that who knows, but I'm really enjoying watching progress with the Vertical X carriage challenge by bryanandaimee and I have some other ideas for a 'Hybrid Prusa'
All of my machines have built-in Filament holders, it's quickly the first problem anyone faces after getting the printer working.

Firmware -
I'm only really using Sprinter because of the SDCARD support and the fact it works really, really well and is very easy to understand.
Many others are worth watching, but for me until they have SDCARD support I don't have time to test them.

Electronics -
This would have been an obvious area for me to develop, but so many people are working on hardware enhancements at the moment I'm more than happy to use what's already available.

I have not tried Gen 6 or Gen 7 and don't really see a personal need to use them, the SDCARD support of RAMPS and Sanguinololu electronics are really important to me, so I'm looking forward to any new hardware with local memory or SD support the connection to the PC is becoming much less important.
LCD displays and menu / navigation keys are also increasing in use.

Extruder's -
Again, at the start I believed that I could make the 'ultimate' Extruder, and I believe 'this design' is good and works extremely well as a Bowden set-up. But for Prusa Mendel I would recommend you start with Greg's excellent accessable WADE style and as I have done, then refine aspects for what you need.

Hot-Ends (and cool/cold zones) -
It sometimes looks like Everyone tries to make their own Hot-ends when starting out, (It's the most searched term on my blog stats) it is a critical area of the machine and can have such a massive effect on reliability and quality.
I have made quite a few now and I'm still not completely happy with all aspects but for what it's worth my current angle on this is to use 2 x 10Ohm 3W resistor's in parallel for heating element, a triangle shaped heating block and a PTFE liner (tube) for filament transport that goes right from the hot-end to just short of the Hobbed bolt inside the extruder body.
I Still use PEEK (and PTFE) as the cool transition zone but any new investigations will start to use Stainless steel (and other materials) as the 'cool' zone.
And use these Thermistors, they are so much easier than the tiny ones normally used.

I also have a little fan duct for assisting the cool-end that's designed to fit onto Greg's X-Carriage, this really helps quality and is essential for extreme long-running print runs or build-plates.

Plastic (Filament) -
I have found out a lot about plastic and still have so many more things to learn and experiment with in this area, but for a status so-far I can say the following -

PLA - (Start with PLA), it's easy to extrude and gives good results. My favourite PLA supply is from Faberdashery, it's simply the best filament I have used to date, dimensionally excellent between different colours and batches, colour intensity and choice is amazing and it extrudes so smoothly, no blobs, less ooze and no bubbles and best of all it's not brittle - (I have now used and tested many colours from 8 different PLA suppliers all over the world - a future Blog post planned on this).

ABS - I use it for Extruder's, X-carriages and Y bearing holders and I don't like using it. yes you can get some funky colours but it's annoyingly softer than PLA so I personally tend to get more filament drive issues (clogged hobbed bolts usually) I need to find a nicer way to use it more, but it's not my preferable material.
Again tried 5 different suppliers so far and usable quality seems more of an issue with ABS than with PLA.

Polycarbonate - I'm still testing and not very many (any?) people seem to have used it in DIY 3D printing, but WOW! it's strong and could be the very best material to use for machine-part Rep-rapping, very interesting. - And thanks to everyone that has contacted me about the Blog post and testing, I have had a tremendous response and it's great to see so many enthusiastic and supportive people involved in this wonderful project. Thank you.

PC-ABS - Still to test this mix, the intention is to lower the required extruding temperature.

Other materials - stay tuned, some more are planned (I'm also open to ideas?)

Meeting people (other rep-rappers) 'in real life' -
It was a good year for sharing, we had a really great Masterclass weekend organised by Jean-Marc of eMaker and for me the West of England RepRap user group is starting to get organised and planning to meet regularly.

I can't wait to see what we all do in the next year, it's going to be great!

Resources and contact-
My Youtube channel is here, all HI-Def video content.
Thingiverse Here
You can find me on the Reprap Forum (PM me if you want to make contact)
eMaker forum
Reprap Wiki
And at some point soon I'll find time to try IRC
Should I bother with twitter?

I love reading other people's Blogs, far too many to list, but thanks to all the re-rappers that have helped, problem-solved, discussed or generally inspired me to be part of this great project.

So if you have managed to read this far down I would really like to hear from you on what you would like me to investigate, design, experiment with over the next year? I don't have infinite time or resources, but I'm interested and up for any challenge connected to 3D printing.

Also this would be a great time to tell me what you like and dislike about my Blog posts or content?

Any feedback greatly appreciated.

I wonder what 2012 will bring to our industry? Predictions anyone?



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  2. Great post! Ive got to know: Prusa vs eMaker Huxley? The Huxley seems like such a great little machine with some very nicely designed components vs the Prusa which seems less stable or durable. Thoughts? Future blog post?


  3. Hi Brian,

    I only used the 'official' Prusa configuration for 3 weeks with PLA bushings, but they worked fine, I changed over to Linear bearings on all axis and have never looked back.

    On the eMaker Huxley it's already got Linear bearings and Igus bushings on the Z axis, so I don't think either machine can be considered less durable or stable than the other.
    The Prusa can be a little easier to build and set-up but that's only really due to the extra size of everything, once you know how both machines go together they are both as easy to assemble.
    And things that Jean-Marc did on the eHuxley are already making their way back into the Prusa design.

    I think both machines work really well together, and I would say buy an eHuxley kit and print a Prusa with it! Then you have a machine for 'production' things and one to experiment with.

    I hope to get the eMaker Huxley blog done by next month, I'll try to compare them.

    Good luck with the choice (build both).



  4. Rich... I thought it was December 31st there for a second, with all this reviewing going on! :) You've packed so much into the past 12 months you're a one-man R&D Dept!

    And there you go putting out an open invitation for new things to investigate and work on! I won't add to your 'to-do' list. Just want to say well done and keep the posts coming when ever you can! They're a great read and very informative.

  5. Rich-

    What's with the multiple machine love? This is just not a cheap hobby, profession, practice, etc. I've bought two makerbots for the college and we are going to build a reprap in class next semester and Im trying to get one done in the next few months myself. There are some things I absolutely love about JM's design (vertical x axis, the way the belts run, and the y axis motor and idler mounts) but then some things that seem rather silly (like the igus z bushings). After 2 cupcakes I can't imagine needing the build volume of the prusa although maker gear's linear bearing prusa looks swell.

    With so much out there its hard to even make a decision so maybe thats why we build so many of the darn things. It is pretty cool watching how these machines have become more and more refined as development progresses. Which reminds me, what have you had the best luck with between Sanguinololololu or RAMPS?


  6. Thanks Ivor, My list is quite long, If I had more time...

  7. Hi Brian,

    Yes, when you realise you have enough ‘spare’ parts to make another machine, it’s more than a hobby :) Good luck with the Prusa builds, it's a great machine and constantly evolving.
    I have never used a Makerbot but I'm really starting to like the MK7 Extruder design, that could print with some very interesting materials...

    I’m leaning towards RAMPS at the moment, as I’m looking at Dual extruder setups and ‘future expansion’
    The Sanguinololu electronic are very neat and compact, It’s easy to build and keep running, I think anyone building their first machine should start with Sanguinololu.
    Also take a look at the Stepstick’s, they run cooler and have given me less issues than the Pololu drivers, I’m only using Stepstick’s from now on.


  8. I wish I lived in the south west - no user group to speak of in kent/SE :(

    Great post and congratulations on such an innovative year!

  9. Why not start one up! we didn't have one a few month ago - ask one of the Admins on the forum to give you a group and see who is in your area. I was amazed to see how many people responded when we actually booked a date, but it takes a little time to get going -


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