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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Printing out 3D models of 6th grade Sketchup designs


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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