Tag Archives: Makerbot Industries

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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Working with Annie Cheung-Livhits to plan a #FidgetSpinner unit for #MakerCamp. @BrearleyNYC @Tinkercad #MakerEd

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 3.45.51 PM

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Got our @MakerBot #Replicator2 working again – yay! My fingers are sore – nay. #edtech

Zen and the Art of Makerbot Maintenance…

I’ve just spent multiple hours over multiple days troubleshooting why our Makerbot Replicator 2 has been printing out curly plastic cotton candy instead of a continuous stream of melted filament. I searched Makerbot’s documents, support forums, Instructables, YouTube, and other sources. In the end, here how I (at least temporarily) solved the problem:

1. Sean Justice is an amazing resource and told me to invest in some vegetable oil. I am taking his 3D fabrication course at Teachers College this semester. I’ve previously taken a photography course with him, and I’d like to take every course he offers. He shared what others have shared with him: The Replicator2 works best with PLA (plant-based) rather than ABS (petroleum-based) filament. PLA doesn’t have any natural lubricants in it, so you should dip the 3-inch end of the filament in oil and load it into the printer frequently and maybe even before each built. This worked amazingly for exactly one build.

2. After much searching, I learned that Makerbot is offering an upgraded drive block for free (!), and you just have to pay for shipping.
Request the parts here: http://store.makerbot.com/extruder-upgrade
Follow the installation instructions here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/downloads.makerbot.com/support/extruder-upgrade/MB1476_Extruder_upgrade_Support.pdf

3. In the meantime, I spent a few hours repetitively playing the unscrew – disassemble – examine – reassemble – tighten game and making sure everything was free of filament shards and well-greased. Finally, I adjusted the plunger inside the original drive block and it’s printing really well again. Yay!

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