I recently acquired a 3D printer. This was a day I had been looking forward to for quite a while. In a way I guess I kinda needed one. It simply seems to fit too well 🙂
Initially I tried justifying the investment by the fact that we can benefit a lot from faster turnaround on prototyping for our exoskeleton project, but I guess it only had very little to do with it. Eventually I would have to get one and it was only a matter of time. Now it happened and I’m super happy!
The printer is of the type Wanhao Duplicator 4x and is an extension upon the MakerBot Replicator 1. I did my share of research, asked around at DTU, different online communities. At a point I found a danish reseller that could show it in action and that convinced me. I can’t really say if it’s THE BEST out there at the moment, but for what I’ve found so far, it seems like a super machine compared to the price.
It has been sitting at DTU for a while as I had it shipped there for an immediate helping hand while we were pushing towards the finishline of the eFactor competition. Now it’s done and I’m off on easter break so I brought it home to play around.
After bringing it back I’ve had 3 super nerdy nights alone with a box of red, Tom Waits on the stereo and a 3D-printer to befriend. I love this… but I know it’s nerdy… but I LOVE this!
With all fine mechanics, such a printer needs calibration. The manufacturer can only go so far in making it work out of the box and the rest is a matter of compensating for all the ever so small differences from production tollerances.
The out-of-the-box experience was fair. I started it using ReplicatorG and the default firmware. First print we needed for the project was a box for the electronics. It made a great print but I guess the geometry was quite forgiving as well. It turned out though, that the scale was slightly off and it seemed it extruded a little too much material so it had room for improvement.
I’ve now updated the firmware for Sailfish 7.6 and spent the first 2 nights tryning to figure out how to correct the small issues. ReplicatorG – based on Skeinforge – allows for an amazing range of tweaks, really. Way too much to take it all in at once. Changing one parameter is furthermore likely to change the impact of another parameter at another place and looking at the billions’ish og numbers you can put in and change and stuff, it’s quite a mouthful. My first 2 night went ahead and I didn’t really feel I got anywhere. I was learning loads though, getting to know many new terms involved with 3D-printing and how many features have been made to compensate for a lot of particular difficult situations when printing special shapes.
At a point I even thought I was going backwards on my tweaks, having made decent prints earlier but now suddenly they were coming out much worse and I couldn’t seem to find my way back.
Finally, today, I decided to look into alternative software and found Simplify3D. It seemed to have been recommended by several people online and was supposed to make your life much easier for printing. It did come with a pricetag of $140 though, so I guess it’s something to consider. Anyway, I decided to give it a go, both because I want to support the community of people development software for 3D-printing and because I wanted to get the basics right with my printer, before digging into tweaking it myself.
So, I bought Simplify3D, started a print using only the presets and out came an amazing even and smooth print.
Lets just say that the money seems well spend. With this as a basis I am definitely able to print decent objects and Simplify3D seems much easier to handle when putting in custom values anyway.
Finally, after quite a lot of browsing around for working presets for the Duplicator 4 machine, I haven’t really found much. I don’t know if the machine is simply too new just yet and havent built up momentum but I’m planning on putting up whatever I discover on that part, if there should be more people out there looking for info.
Cheers and good night