The Good, the Bad the 3D Printer
One of the things I love to do when I have the time is to create. It could be anything my artistic spirit desires, from writing a story to building a robot. Yes, it is that diverse, and it covers a lot of ground in between as well.
Yesterday a part I ordered a couple of weeks ago for my 3D printer finally arrived. I was printing on my Da Vinci 1.0 AIO a while back, and I heard a loud noise from the other room. When I returned to my home office thinking I would find something the cats had knocked to the floor, nothing was out of place. I immediately feared the printer was jammed and looked inside to see it was printing just fine. Unable to find the cause of the noise, I returned to whatever I was doing and allowed the printer to do its job.
When the print finished, and I returned to remove it from the glass bed, I realized what the loud noise I heard was. The glass bed had cracked from one side to the other. The printer was now useless.
When I first purchased this printer from a young college student who had assured me the only reason he was selling it was, he no longer needed it, upon arrival and my examination, I could see there was far more to the story.
It was apparent that the previous owner had jammed up the printing head, never cleaned it, and jammed the mechanism so bad that the drive belts for both the X and Y axis were stretched loose. When I turned the so-called excellent working printer on, error messages flashed on the LCD screen.
When I took the printer apart to fix the mechanics, I realized the glass bed also has a chip missing. Someone had improperly prepared the bed for a print and forced the "stuck" print from the bed, causing it to chip.
On a high note, I got this printer with all the accessories and approximately $700 worth of printing material (both ABS and PLA in various colors) with shipping for $200. Now I understand why he sold it so cheap. But that's OK. I can fix it; this is the kind of stuff I went to college for, no problem.
Now for the fun part, leveling the glass bed. Doing this was far more complicated than I imagined. The glass bed needs to be level for the printer to lay each layer of material correctly. If your bed is not level, it can cause problems from a wonky print to a "bird's nest," which is nothing more than yards of material strewn about inside the printer, forming a giant cluster of material, which looks just like a birds nest.
There are two major views on the proper way to do this on an XYZ Printing Da Vinci 1.0 AIO. The first is to turn the adjustment screws on the bed alternating between them and re-testing to see if you are close or need to re-adjust, over and over. This process is slow, by the fact that the adjustment screws have no markings on them. Movement is a guess. The other problem is, you have to test the level with every adjustment, which takes a couple of minutes for the printer to perform.
The second view on leveling the glass bed is taking a paper piece, lowering the print head to it, then removing the paper. Do this on three of the corners, and magically, your bed is level.
I wish it were that easy.
After leveling the bed using the manufacturer's procedure, the long, drawn-out process of guessing with each turn of an adjustment screw and re-testing for level took approximately 45 minutes to level the printer bed.
Everything was working and no errors. Now I can print.
I loaded the material, heated the bed and extruder, and printed a lighthouse test print built into the printer.
I figured if they built it into the printer, it must be a perfectly decent print. It came out beautifully detailed. I was pleased.
Out of curiosity, I re-tested bed level, and of course, it was off. Thinking I should re-level it before printing again, I spent the next 45 minutes doing so.
I thought to myself; there has to be a better way to do this? It's the 21st century; I am designing things on a computer and telling a machine to make a 3D representation of my design from wheels of plastic; this 45-minute leveling is insane!
Then I had a great Idea. Solve the problem with math because, you know, math can fix anything!
So I ran a few tests, determined the scale of rotation of the adjustment screws through movement and re-testing over and over, and, knowing where the measurements had to be to make the bed level, wrote a few formulas.
goal - test result / 25 = turns of the adjustment screw
+ numbers turn clockwise, - numbers turn counter-clockwise
After much testing to get this formula, I made an app for my phone. Now I can level the bed in about 5 minutes.
Some still argue the paper method; however, depending on the thickness of the paper and its density, it may still take a good 15-20 minutes to level.
I stand by my app.
I offered it free for a while online, while protecting the actual code and formulas, but got tired of people complaining they couldn't see the code and wanted to.
Come on. The APP works. Why do you need to know how?
Why don't I give them the code? Well, because the APP already works, there's no reason for someone else to take what I am offering for FREE and make something they want to sell to people.
My APP is still out there for free, but I don't advertise it anymore. I have been thinking lately about updating the APP, though, and adding a material calculator for figuring the cost of a print and if you have enough on-reel to complete your print.
Maybe I'll make a "pro" version that lets them see my code for $99, which will have no other benefit from the free version?
So, why did my bed glass bed break? Because it's not useful to fix something if you don't know why it broke.
After some examination and thinking on the matter, I have concluded that it was the thermistor. The little $14 guy tells the printer how hot the bed is and when to stop heating it. At least, that's what I've been told. I have never really worked on 3D printers before and this, being my first, I am guessing my way through this.
When the bed overheats, your prints are "cooked" on the bottom. Literally brown and crispy, and if the bed continues to heat up, it reaches a point where it fails, and you get a devastating crack.
The crack prevents you from ever being able to level the glass bed, even if it's just a thin fracture. So I ordered my bed, this is the second one I have installed. The first was to replace the original with the chip.
The first time I ordered a replacement bed, I did not replace the thermistor, and the bed cost me approximately $90. This time it was $14 for the thermistor and $60 for the bed. The prices have dropped. Probably because of all the new 3D printers on the market?
The next time I have a day off, I will be repairing my 3D printer again.
I will take a lot of pictures and explain the process if anyone else has an XYZ Da Vinci.
If you don't have a 3D printer, there are many very reasonable ones out there, and they are a lot of fun! Join a group on Facebook, and you can usually get used ones cheap. Just be sure to get all the info before buying, that is, unless you can work on these things and fix them yourself. That would make the printer even cheaper!