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/)