Tag Archives: Bits From Bytes

Zen and the art of 3D printer maintenance redux. @BrearleyNYC #MakerEd #STEAM

Over the years, I’ve learned a fair amount about maintaining (or coddling) a few different models of 3D printers: Makerbot (Cupcake, 2, 2x, 5th Gen), Printrbot (Simple Metal), Bits from Bytes (3D Touch and Cube), and Ultimaker (2+, Go, and Original+). Like the book about maintaining motorcycles, you can either buy a top of the line printer with awesome customer support and expect it to work amazingly, or you can get to know one intimately because you built it from a kit or from scratch and/or you found yourself elbow deep in a machine trying to troubleshoot with the help of Google, user forums, willpower, and luck. Desktop 3D printers are not “plug and play” — I have almost never been able to simply turn on and use a 3D printer without any frustrations.

I’ve spent the past two weeks in close proximity with two Ultimaker Original+ kit printers (built by Brearley students a few years ago). For better or worse, I removed and rebuilt the feeder assembly on both printers, and I’m still not satisfied with the feeder on the one sitting on my desk right now. I feel like I need to either remodel the students’ designs, change the Ultimaker’s settings, buy newer filament, and/or only print one thing at a time, as having the extruder “retract” during the print is causing problems with an already problematic feeder. I think I’ve narrowed it down to possibly needing a new ball bearing on the feeder clamp. When I notice filament isn’t advancing properly, I manually apply force to guide it from the spool to the opening of the feeder. It’s beyond tedious, and I’m sure the fumes (even from PLA) are making me stoopider.

I’ve taken to making tick marks on the filament with a permanent marker and anxiously staring to see if the filament advances properly. Essentially, I’ve learnt that the trick is to continually glare at it. As soon as I convince myself it’s working and walk away to attend to something else (or gloat), it fails. Every. Single. Time. I’m officially naming this one Christine.

But, oh, the satisfaction when it works…

(​I wrote a similarly titled post about 3D printer nerd-ery in 2013 here: https://karenblumberg.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/zen3dtouch/)

 

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Zen and the Art of 3D Printer Maintenance with @dorakio @kinderbanks. #edchat #edtech

7A81DC8B-111B-4B92-8995-605A2C26549AI just experienced one of the nerdiest weeks of my career. Our Bits From Bytes 3DTouch (@BitsFromBytes) wasn’t working well. It’s more gratifying to work with teachers and students on a design project when they know that the 3D structures and prototypes they create in Sketchup and Tinkercad will be printed in plastic. (Last year, Cristina Martinez and I supported a pretty awesome Greek Temple project that culminated in 5th graders literally outsourcing their designs to the East – in our case across the park to Jaymes Dec‘s 5th graders at the Marymount School on the Upper East Side!)

Since then, I tried to support some 3D printing projects, yet the 3D Touch was often frustratingly unable to print my designs fully. Right before we departed for winter break in December 2012, Don Buckley told me to learn out how to maintain the printer. While I consider myself handy, I would never fool myself into describing myself as an engineer, and I really didn’t need to be weighed down with the possibility of breaking a $4000 machine. However, I do what Don tells me, so I went forth unafraid. It took many hours over many days, but I think I know what I’m doing now.

I looked at pages and pages of information and FAQ from the BitsFromBytes resources link. First I learned how replace a delivery tube and load new filament. Then I experimented with raising/lowering the extruder nozzles and level the printer tray in order to print a successful raft. Once I had items printing regularly, I saw that we were running out of ABS filament and only had PLA left in our stash of replacement spools. So, I learned about the difference between ABS and PLA (ABS is more robust, PLA is cheaper), and learned how to change the target print temperature and RPM for each nozzle.

As it turned out, sometime in the 6th hour on the first day of my ministrations,  Akio Iida and Harry Banks noticed my omnipresence at the printer. They told me they had just finished a design project with their 3rd graders where students were tasked with redesigning a commonly used product (tissue box, pencil cup, x-box console, etc.) Watching me at the 3DTouch prompted Akio and Harry to come over and learn what I learned so that we could successfully start printing the children’s designs. The three of us spent much time together last week tweaking the machine, watching it work, and breathing in pastic-y fumes. The cow0rkers that breathe possibly cancerous toxins together, stay together. (Actually, the PLA material is plant-based and environmentally-friendly.)

Don Buckley has already placed the order for a Replicator 2X. Guess I better start reading the manual…
Image the tail end of our red ABS

Image  replacing the delivery tube

Image  inserting a new spool

Image  switching from red ABS to yellow PLA
Image  figuring out how to adjust the target temperature and rpm

Image curious kids watching the printer working

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Printing out 3D models of 6th grade Sketchup designs

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One of the last projects of my year entailed printing out some 3D creations from the 6th grade. Catherine Hildebrandt, 6th grade math teacher, had her students build 3D shapes in Sketchpad and then measure the surface area and the volume. I wrote about her lesson in an earlier post. Next year, we may try to use Tinkercad for this project; They’ve updated their online software to include more robust measuring tools.

Each of Catherine’s three classes chose one design, and I set out to print these using our Makerbot and Bits from Bytes printers. It was a way more arduous and complicated process than I’d expected. Each Sketchpad rendering needed to be exported as an STL file. The first challenge was locating a Sketchpad STL plugin. Once I had an STL file of each shape, I used a different compiler to ultimately send printable code to each printer — ReplicatorG for the Makerbot and Axon for the the Bits From Bytes printer. To speed up the printing time, I lowered the density of each model to like 15% and scaled them down a maximum length/width/height of about 12cm.

STL (STereoLithography) is a file format native to the stereolithography CAD software created by 3D Systems. STL is also known as Standard Tessellation Language. This file format is supported by many other software packages; it is widely used for rapid prototyping and computer-aided manufacturing. STL files describe only the surface geometry of a three dimensional object without any representation of color, texture or other common CAD model attributes. (from the STL Wikipedia entry)

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