So my second play with the new Solidoodle Press has been challenging, and still no prints to show for it. While yesterday’s post of my first impressions was quite positive, now as I’m trying to calibrate and print there are plenty of questions being raised (which it seems like most owners are having as I’m searching online for fixes/answers). A great place to find out about all the bugs and issues people are experiencing is the SoliForum – especially if you’re searching for fixes, or considering buying a Press.
The first thing I’ve come across is that the automatic z-axis calibration doesn’t work at all. No major problem, since the printer automatically levels each time you go to print anyway (as in the video above). But definitely wasted some time trying, switching everything off, disconnecting plugs, re-trying, waiting… you get the gist! Hopefully the next SoliPrint update will fix this, from the SoliForum it looks like the previous version of the software worked fine.
Now actually running a print has been the ultimate challenge, and one I’m yet to conquer. The above video shows what happens when you go to print after following the instructions from Solidoodle (Getting Started Guide), with the filament not sticking to the glass plate. Having looked around online, most people have very quickly gone to hairspray, water-soluble glues, tape, mixtures of acetone and ABS… the list goes on and sounds like the sort of random advice a witch doctor would give. However if a secondary product was required in order to print, don’t you think Solidoodle would supply this in the box? This is the very reason I’ve avoided the original Cube printers we have at my university, and relied instead on the Up! Plus 2 which uses a perforated PCB board as the printing plate and therefore requires no gluing. With all this technology, surely we can do a bit better than having to make a mess and spray glue everywhere? I’ve bought some perforated PCB’s from Jaycar (pictured below) so will see if I can use these as a plate before getting my hands dirty with glue. I couldn’t find a single one large enough, so these 2 might be OK.
The scariest problem I came across was during the second attempt at printing, when there was a loud grinding/buzzing sound from within the machine! I couldn’t get my hands to the power fast enough to shut it down! The second image above shows what caused the problem, with the black cable cover getting wedged behind the arm of the extruder, stopping it from going to it’s starting position. I have since seen a post from Solidoodle acknowledging this problem, and have found that by twisting the cable cover around I can prop it out of the way. But I will definitely be looking at a more secure solution to this problem; seems like if so many people are experiencing the same thing there just wasn’t enough testing by Solidoodle prior to shipping. Hopefully no real damage has been done to the machine. Again check out the SoliForum for a range of fixes, including a 3D printable clip on Thingiverse (although if you’re having problems printing in the first place, this might not be for you!).
Another concern I had yesterday (read the post by clicking here) was that the very nice, professional housing for spools of filament wouldn’t fit third-party spools. And I was right (third picture above). I’m sure by keeping the upper lid open there will be no affect on the printer, it just looks a bit less ‘contained’ and thought through as a product. Surely with the variety of options available worldwide 3D printer manufacturers need to just accept that we all want to experiment with materials and may not want to wait weeks and weeks for their ‘propriety’ filament to ship when a local supplier can provide it in days (without the high shipping costs as well).
Finally the SoliPrint software of course has a few noticeable bugs besides not calibrating the z-axis. The main one I’ve come across already is that while you can move your imported model anywhere within the print volume, the printer will still print in the center of the plate. By a bit of experimentation I found that in the menu Options>Slic3r Options, there is a ‘Print Center’ setting which by default is 100,100. By changing these values, you can determine where on the plate is considered the center of your model (providing you know which X and Y coordinates are which). Hopefully this is also rectified soon, the print should just match the on-screen preview.
Well that’s day 2 of my experimentation, really hope that next time I will have some success actually completing a 3D print. I think it’s clear that the Press is far from a consumer-friendly, plug-and-play machine at this stage. I’m sure with time it could be, but not yet. A non-3D print nerd would already be demanding their money back and wondering what all the fuss about 3D printing is. Stay tuned and please comment and share if you’ve gone through a similar process 🙂
– Posted by James Novak