3D Printer finally together and extruding


On August 18, 2011, I ordered a Prusa Mendel 3D printer kit from MakerGear.  I had seen a 3D printer at TX/RX Labs, the Hackerspace/Makerspace in Houston, TX.  It was an amazing machine.  I had seen videos, but there is something about seeing one in person, holding items produced by them, and talking to people that actually have used them to produce things.

The day I got the kit, I went through the physical build.  Everything except for the platform.  It was at that point the words “STRONGLY RECOMMEND: Mark & drill the Y-carriage mounting holes on the wood base BEFORE building the Y-carriage” from the Maker Gear instructions really made sense.  Then I realized I would have to take apart a good part of it to put the table on.  Also, I was having some challenges learning how to put together the extruder and hot end.  Not to mention all the wiring, power supply and electronics.  

After working on it for a few more days, I ended up letting it sit for a while.  Then every few months I would pick it back up.  December of 2012 I remember telling my family that it would be finished before Christmas, then before my birthday (just after Christmas), then by New Years (just after my birthday).  But there were some challenges that I could not work through.

This past fall I went to a Microsoft store and saw the MakeBot 3D printer.  At just over $2,000, I really thought about buying it and walking out of the store with it.  My youngest son was very excited about the prospect.  But my wife pointed out how I did have a kit at home, and about how we really didn’t have the additional money to buy one.  All good, but disappointing, points.
I worked on the 3D printer again, and in the process I believed I burned out the power supply (big bolt of lightning and then dead).  And I believed I had burned out some of the stepper motor controllers.  And I was extremely busy with work so no time really to work on it.
And then came December 2013.  My work has a 2 week shutdown at the end of the year.  And this Christmas we planned to stay at home.  So, every morning my youngest son would wake me up and say “Is the 3D printer ready yet.”
We worked on it, and got it moving and melting plastic.  We figured out how the software works, and we made some very basic and crude items.  And we are learning the importance of calibration, eliminating friction, precise alignment, importance of temperature control, and the hundreds of other things you have to do for a good print.
Here is what it looks like:






It works by melting a bit of PLA plastic and building up layer upon layer to get the shape that you want.


Here you can see some of the items that we have made.  All very crude and imprecise. 20140101_231212 20140101_231206 20140101_231203 20140101_231242 20140101_231159


As you can see these are more errors than success.  And in the process of finding answers to the problems, I ran across many other people that have found the skills needed to do the 3D printing are a lot more difficult to develop than one thinks.

“Just because you have a 3D printer doesn’t mean you’re going to make anything remarkable. It doesn’t even mean you’re going to wind up with what you set out to produce. Believe it or not, 3D printing requires some skill. And when you don’t have it, things go delightfully askew.” Leslie Horn  on Gizmodo (gizmodo.com/11-spectacular-3d-printer-failures-511092085)

Flickr group for 3d printing failures: www.flickr.com/groups/3d-print-failures/

“If you buy all the 3D printing marketing campaigns, it’s easy to start believing that 3D printing at home is not difficult at all. All you have to do is make your 3D model on your computer, dump some powder into your 3D printer, and press a button, right? Wrong. 3D printing is not easy and leaves plenty of room for mistakes and errors to be made by rookies.” –Inkpal.com www.inkpal.com/ink-news/3d-printing-at-home-not-easy-mistakes-errors-failures/

How to fix 3D printer issues: www.bilbycnc.com.au/3DPrintingProblems.asp

The good thing is that I have a very good understanding of  how the 3D printer works.  I think once I work through my issues I can print out the plastic components, but the hardware, electronics, and motors, and try making a new one from scratch.


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