Sunday, June 24, 2012

Printrbot - Build and use.

It took longer than expected but the fine folks at Printrbot.com shipped my Kickstarter Printrbot LC a few weeks ago.

It took me 2-3 days to finish building my printer. Including a quik trip to Home Depot for some extra screws and nuts I was missing.  I followed the construction videos that were posted on Youtube, and the guides available at Printrbottalk.com.

Without the Printrbot talk forum I would never have completed the construction.  Towards the end of the build I ran into a couple of major problems.  

First, the cable for the extruder stepper motor was too short to reach the controller board.  I had to solder in 4 extension wires to make the connection.

Second, the main extruder gear was very wobbly and kept getting stuck at the same point.  I emailed the Printrbot folks and they sent me both extruder gears, and replacement pulley gears. Great tech support.  Looking back I think I could have gotten the original extruder gear working with a little careful grinding with my Dremel.  I will still be printing another set of gears as backup. It seems these pieces are the most likely to fail over time.

After fighting the software used to communicate with the printer, I finally was able to make the bot move. Several days of tweaking later, and I'm starting to be able to print half way decent items.  You can find an amazing assortment of things to print at Thingiverse.com.

I still have one major problem I have not been able to figure out. Occasionally, my bot locks up. It can happen when simply moving an axis or when I'm in the middle of a print. Thats a scrapped print.  I'm still trying to figure the problem out. I may have to send another email to Printrbot for suggestions.

Things I've learned.  This kit is very much a hobby kit, with all the little gotchas that you might not expect till you start using it. 
  • I really need to flat the shafts on the X,Y, and the Extruder steppers.  I've already had problems with the Extruder loosening, and ruining a print.
  • I need to add a fan to cool the plastic quicker, and make the prints more precise. Ordered from amazon, and printed a fan mount.
  • I need lubricant for the threader rods.  Ordered from Amazon.
  • Every few times I print I need to check the various belts and pulleys to make sure they are tight and in the correct positions.
  • I really need a spool for the plastic, and a way to mount it.  My plastic filament is very tangled at the moment. Printrbot has a solution for this that I may get.

Things I think Printrbot could do better:
  • Better instructions, more detailed if possible. Include getting through the first print.  I was able to find the info I needed, but not everyone will. I would hate to see people give up in frustration.
  • Include glass for the print bed.  It shouldn't be that hard to buy and ship glass with the packaged.
  • Include a mechanism for mounting glass on the print bed.

Conclusion:
  • So far I have had a blast getting my printer running, and there are bunch of things I still need to learn and do to take advantage of this awesome tech.
  • Using the bot is way more complicated than I realized it would be.
  • If you have the money I might suggest getting the Replicator from Makerbot instead.  However, it is 4 times the price.