3D Motorcycle Licence Surround

20160313_Licence Surround

Now that I have my Cocoon Create 3D printer I can’t help but find new things to print for my bike! Since the bike is from 2007 the licence plate is a little bit shabby, so it seemed like a good chance to print a surround to tidy the edges up and also tie in with the other 3D prints I’ve done using this green PET+ material from MadeSolid. As you can see above, I chose to split the surround into 2 halves for printing, making it both easier to print (less chance for warping) and also easier to install. If you look at the Sketchfab 3D model below, you can see I designed a few hooks and details to secure around the licence plate, so being able to install it in 2 pieces made sense. There are 2 bolts used to secure the surround in place using existing holes on the licence plate, and the bottom split area was glued after being fitted for a seamless look.

While the final design works well, this one wasn’t all smooth sailing. The first print on the left in the image below didn’t quite fit onto the licence plate, so a few details needed to be changed in the Solidworks CAD model. The second partial print I tried printing vertically, rather than lying down, with the hope that it would require less support material. Unfortunately I had to stop this print as the surface details seemed to be getting worse as it printed, probably because of the height and inherent flexibility of the thin part the higher it got (a bit like a skyscraper swaying in the wind).

20160312_Licence Details

The third part pictured is the final successful part, printed lying down and using support material automatically generated in Cura (my slicing tool to generate the G-code for the printer) for the overhangs. While the visible surfaces look great, the detail picture on the right shows the messy underside surfaces which I’m not too happy about. This must be a setting in Cura that I’m missing and haven’t noticed in my previous prints on the Cocoon Create which have rarely required much, if any, support material. I’ll have to have a close look next time I print something requiring a lot of support like this – anyone have any ideas?

– Posted by James Novak

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Add a Sense of Mystery!

20160225 3D Enclosure

Most of the time when you’re playing around with electronics, or sharing them with people, you want the circuits and parts to be as clear as possible for viewers to understand or modify. However occasionally you may have the realisation that what you’ve got is a little bit special, or at the very least you don’t want to be serving up your hard work on a silver platter for someone to copy without putting in some hard yards of their own. That’s where I’ve found 3D printing to be an excellent tool – creating a simple enclosure that neatly hides away the circuitry inside a box of mystery!

I’ve previously done this for the Wiiduino, providing a clean object suitable for exhibition at Design Philadelphia, but this time my purpose was as much about hiding away the electronics as it was about providing a neat, compact electronics module to show at the Wearable Tech in Sport Summit in Melbourne. In the above images you can see the raw electronics (I don’t mind if you see them 😉 ) and the 3D printed enclosure I quickly designed in Solidworks and 3D printed on my Cocoon Create 3D printer the evening before the conference. Ahh yes, the beauty of having a 3D printer at home to quickly create almost anything!

20160221 3D Box

If you look closely at the enclosure you will notice some imperfections – the main lower part lifted in the corners and caused some separation of layers, while the lid obviously has some shifting layers, probably because of the orientation and speed I printed them. Honestly I’m just happy they printed out and were usable with no time to muck around at the last minute! Just like the Wiiduino enclosure, a little bit of paint brought out the logo and makes the enclosure pop as something much more resolved and purposeful (as opposed to an anonymous blank box).

If you’re not as confident with CAD and accurately measuring your circuitry, there are some great free models that will fit Arduino’s and Raspberry Pi’s which you can download from Pinshape or Thingiverse. They make a great starting point, and you can always add your own logo or details following my Pinshape tutorial on using Meshmixer to modify a .stl file.

– Posted by James Novak

Cocoon Create Extruder Fix

20160218_Cocoon Create Extruder

After yesterday’s exciting successes with my new Cocoon Create 3D printer from Aldi, today there have been some hiccups – namely I tried to change filaments and could not load any new filament into the extruder. The filament would start to load, and after about 5mm there would be a “clunk, clunk, clunk” sound as the motor was grinding the filament but not pushing it any further down. Being jammed, there were 2 possibilities; either the filament was not able to find its way down towards the nozzle because something was misaligned, or there was some old filament jammed in there. So after only 24 hours of ownership, it was time to hack at it and take apart the extruder. It’s actually very easy, and I’ve used the photos above to try and illustrate how to fix a jam.

  1. Use an allen key to remove the 2 screws on the left side of the extruder – be careful as these hold the entire extruder together, so you want to catch the parts rather than let them drop. Also make sure your nozzle is nice and cool!
  2. The fan can just hang from its wires, but the heat-sink and 2 white spacers can be removed, leaving the motor and feeder as shown in the second photo. This is what feeds the filament down into the nozzle (entering from where my thumb is). Check for any loose material in here and clean (mine was fine).
  3. As circled in photo 3, this little piece of the remaining first filament is the culprit of my jamming. It wasn’t enough to grab with pliers, so I just turned on the printer, heated the nozzle, and then used a small allen key to push all the material down through the extruder, leaving a large opening for the new material to enter.
  4. Done. Just re-assemble and make sure all the little wire connections are firmly attached.

This quick process solved the problem and new material loaded without any further problems. After looking on the Cocoon Create website it seems that there is almost no support or FAQ as yet, so I hope this helps anyone stuck.

– Posted by James Novak

More Time Fixing, Less Time Printing

2015-02-21 Press ExtruderIt’s really no surprise that a new day printing with my new Solidoodle Press 3D printer has thrown up new challenges. Half way during a print I noticed that plastic had stopped coming out of the nozzle, and applying pressure to the filament from the top didn’t seem to help. Now one thing that is quite nice about the Press (as opposed to the many issues which I’ve found earlier) is that much of the nozzle can be opened with simple thumb screws. Finally, some forward thinking in terms of design! The first image above shows the cover removed, along with the front of the main body (no tools required).

I had already retracted the filament, and found that indeed my guess was correct – a blockage in the nozzle (image 2). This was a nice easy fix, removed with tweezers when the nozzle was cool. What I didn’t expect was to find the extruder gear drive completely loose (the toothed part that feeds the filament down), to the point that I could pull it off the motor with the tweezers. Obviously this is the cause of my problems. After some searching on the always useful SoliForum, I found many people experiencing the same symptoms of filament not extruding, and a nice walk-through fix from Solidoodle Support. Basically the issue (which I’m sure will be a recurring one) is that the gear is held onto the motor shaft using an extremely small screw. When this becomes loose, the motor will freely turn without engaging the gear, thus not moving the filament.

Unfortunately you need an extremely small Allen key in order to securely tighten the gear in place, threading through a 1.5mm vent on the side of the housing – which I don’t have (and doesn’t sound overly safe with all the wires there!). However by taking the gear out, I could wedge a small screw driver into the hole and pre-tighten the screw, then push it onto the D-shaped shaft of the motor in the correct orientation. It’s the best I can do for now, time will tell how long it lasts before needing to be re-tightened. Hopefully the link to the Solidoodle Support page for this fix will help anyone who comes into this issues.

– Posted by James Novak

Meow… 3D Printed Cat

2015-02-14 CatAfter the stresses of getting my new Solidoodle Press 3D printer working over the last week, it’s nice to jump back to the faithful Up! Plus 2 for a simple print. This design was downloaded from Thingiverse, you can also get one by clicking here. It’s also a bit of fun taking photos of the result!

I will admit the print didn’t come out perfectly – there was a bit of a skip about half way through, resulting in a gap just below the neck. I’m not sure what caused this error, but the small amount of support building inside the cat to support the top of the head also broke at about this time, so perhaps the nozzle collided with the print and fell out of sync? No major problem though, it’s only noticeable up close, and nothing a ribbon can’t fix. You can see what I mean in the below time-lapse photos, with the support broken and angled in the 3rd image, then removed by the 4th image. But the top of the head still printed without any problems, so the support wasn’t needed anyway.

2015-02-13 Cat TimelapseSure makes a good gift for someone, thanks Roman Hegglin for the design!

– Posted by James Novak

Solidoodle Press – Steps To Success[?]

2015-02-10 Press SuccessOK so at this stage I’m claiming this to be my first successful print, despite the nozzle colliding with the print after 25 minutes and dislodging it from the plate. But until then things were running smoothly – the issues of yesterday are gone, and I feel like I’m now getting somewhere. Now that I am printing, my biggest gripe is with the SoliPrint software. I’ve observed that the nozzle likes to dart back-and-forth during printing each layer, constantly running through areas it’s already printed and ripping them off the print plate. This is particularly evident for the first layer. Grrrr! Someone really needs to fix this in the next update and get that z-axis lifting when jumping to new areas! I’ve read many people are having success using Repetier Host instead of SoliPrint, so will try this next to compare. Fingers crossed my success continues!

In terms of print detail, well it’s not perfect, but without having had the chance to tweak anything (since I’ve never had a print work until now) I’m still happy. The print pictured above is part of the Beer Bottle Lock I designed and gave away for free last year, you can click here to compare the resolution to that of the high quality result from the Up! Plus 2 printer. Obviously not as good (the text on top says “HANDS OFF”), but I’m sure there is room to improve things. Having got to this point after much cursing and reading of the SoliForum for help, I thought it would be useful to compile a list of the main things I’ve done to get to this magical first print.

  1. Use an elastic band to secure the cord to the extruder head out of the way – read my previous post for details.
  2. When installing SoliPrint, you will need to manually install drivers if you are using Windows 8.1. Download here.
  3. Don’t bother printing onto the glass plate without some sort of adhesive – water soluble glue, hair spray, tape, acetone + ABS mixture… it’s up to you. I’m trying perforated PCB’s at the moment, but don’t want to claim them successful or not without much more printing (although so far so good).
  4. When you start a print, be at the ready to manually pop the auto-calibration tool up and down – it’s better to be safe than sorry! (Read an earlier post to see videos of what happens when it doesn’t automatically work).
  5. Don’t rely on what you see on screen in SoliPrint – while you might move your model to a certain location, it will still always print in the center of the plate unless you move it within the Slic3r Options menu. (11/02/2015 UPDATE: Thankfully this has been fixed in the latest version of the software 1.1.1) You can also only print 1 STL file at a time (seriously? Come on Solidoodle).
  6. Try the settings below – these are the settings from this first successful print. Perhaps the main one is the nozzle temperature as I feel the default 215 degrees is simply too low for ABS plastic – the Up! Plus 2 uses 260 degrees, possibly allowing the plastic to flow more smoothly. I think somewhere in between (230 degrees) is a good middle ground. Also I have slowed the printing speeds down to give the plastic a good chance to adhere – at full speed things are really moving fast and shaking around.

150210 First Success EditHopefully these steps will get you on your way to printing if you own, or are thinking of owning, the Solidoodle Press. Also the SoliForum is an excellent resource at the moment. Stay tuned for more prints and possibly a comparison to using Repetier Host to control the Press instead of SoliPrint.

– Posted by James Novak

Solidoodle… Try, Try Again.

Another day, another headache. The video above shows what happens when the auto-level feature of the Solidoodle Press 3D printer fails to pop down at the beginning of a print, causing the nozzle to collide with the print plate. It doesn’t sound good! The only way to stop that terrible noise is to cut the power. Unfortunately this isn’t the first time it’s happened either. The only way I’ve found to deal with this is to turn the printer back on and use the slider for the z-axis height in the settings to drop it down and relieve the pressure on the extruder. I feel like it’s thrown some of the calibration off though, and with the auto z-axis calibration not working in the current version of SoliPrint, I’m going to have to do some searching online for fixes. If you haven’t read my previous post, a great place to start looking for help with the Solidoodle Press is the SoliForum.

Some of you may also be asking what’s going on with my shiny print plate in the video. Well, as mentioned in yesterday’s post I’ve stuck 2 perforated PCB’s onto the glass plate to see if the prints will stick, much like the old faithful Up! Plus 2. So far it seems to only work moderately well (which is still a whole lot better than printing onto the glass), but since my collision problems it doesn’t seem like the nozzle is close enough to the plate anymore during the first layer printing. The video below actually shows the start of a successful print with the perforated PCB’s, although there are some major problems with the auto-level tool still not working!

In this video I manually dropped the auto-level tool just in time, however didn’t manage to raise it quick enough causing it to collide with the side of the printing plate. What a nasty grinding sound! Amazingly when I flicked the auto-level out of the way the printer actually went on to print something (almost) successful! The photo below shows where I had to stop the print as the small details beginning to snap as they collide with the nozzle, but the main point is that the print stuck to the perforated PCB plate. This gives me some hope! If I can only get the z-axis working properly again I might be able to get that magical first print out!

2015-02-09 11.45.20I also have hairspray at the top of my shopping list just to see if that makes much of a difference printing on the glass plate – one way or another I need to figure this all out ASAP! If you’ve experienced issues like this with Solidoodle or any other 3D printer I’d love to hear about it, please comment or subscribe to keep up to date.

– Posted by James Novak

New Year, New Print Errors

2015-01-14 Failed PrintA while ago I posted about some problems I was having with my Up! Plus 2 3D Printer slipping throughout some prints (read the post by clicking here including how I fixed the problem). Well the issue seems to be back as you can see in the first image above. The first slip was quite small, so I let the print continue, but when I checked on the print after about 4 hours I found this lovely mess with 2 more slips.

I’m going to try the same procedure as discussed previously – cleaning the debris inside the arm that may be catching in the belt (controls front-to-back movement), and applying some grease to the silver rail which the print plate slides along. Hopefully this is just a continuing maintenance issue, and not something more complicated. Time will tell…

– Posted by James Novak

UPDATE 16/01/2015: After taking a closer look at the mechanism, I noticed a small tension clip interfering with one end of the gears. It’s just an overhanging piece of the wire, but when the print plate moves to the very back position it begins to wrap around the gear and this small overhang hits an edge of the grey plastic pictured below. I have used needle-nose pliers to bend this arm down slightly so that it no longer collides. Hopefully this will help reduce any print errors as well as the clean/grease mentioned earlier.

2015-01-16 Interference

Slip ‘n’ Slide

2014-12-04 Slipping ErrorFor the past few days I’ve been battling with this error using the ‘Up! Plus 2‘ 3D printer. The first few layers seem to be slipping or shifting, sometimes only a couple of millimeters (which doesn’t normally warrant stopping the print), but sometimes can be about 10mm which makes a real mess. What’s even more puzzling is that sometimes it happens, and sometimes not.

After reading this thread on the pp3dp forum, I’m thinking it’s time to open it up and check the moving parts. I’ve sat and watched as this error happens and there is no noticeable skip or any sound to indicate something is wrong, but hopefully I can get to the bottom of it because I hate wasting material and time. Actually, thinking as I type, the slip is ALWAYS in the front-to-back direction, so maybe this is a good place to start… I’ll share anything I discover in case you also come across this problem. If you’ve got any solutions, please leave a comment 🙂

UPDATE 08/12/2014: I opened up the arm controlling the front-to-back movement of the print plate – there was a bit of debris in there from the belt, so I’ve cleaned this out and also greased the silver rail that the plate moves along. So far 4 prints and absolutely no slipping! If you notice this slipping problem I recommend a clean and some grease, only takes a few minutes and seems to make a big difference! Check out a future post for photos of these internal details.

– Posted by James Novak