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This is my 3D printer. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
I built this unit from a kit. You can buy kits like this online pretty cheaply now, but I think you should know what you are in for here. If you buy one of these units, the first thing you will have to do is assemble it. It’s not very difficult to do, but the instructions aren’t great and it can get a bit fiddly in spots. Still with me? I can imagine not wanting to build a 3D printer, but getting one running well is way more involved. In that respect, building from a kit or buying a machine that is pre-built would be no different. Figuring out how it works best and accounting for all the machines unique quirks and variables takes time, patience, and a certain amount of scientific rigor. Diagnosing problems and then finding solutions for them just so happens to make my particular brain very happy. I can understand that this might not be the case for everyone.
Here is a quick example of what I have been dealing with.
My 3D printer has an issue with usb communication. I can see everything that the machine is doing echoed back on my computer, but I can’t send any commands to the board. Running programs off of the sd card still works properly, so if I want to send one small Gcode command or do something simple, like find out what the steps per millimeter is on the Y axis, I have to write a program, unmount the sd card from the machine, remove the sd card, put the sd card in a full size adapter, stick the adapter into my computer, copy the program over, remove the card, put it back into the printer, mount the card so that the printer can see it, and then run the program. The printer will echo back any info to the pc so I can read it. If I want to change the setting, I need to write a program to do that and repeat the whole process. It’s tedious, but it works.
After trying just about everything, I think that this droid has a bad motivator. The mainboard is a little bit broken. Or a little bit bad. Maybe it was always bad. I’ve tested it on a windows and a linux computer with similar results. It’s pretty safe to say that the problem is with the hardware.
A more general problem that would be encountered in any 3D printer, even the several thousand dollar “user friendly” versions, is adjusting the optimal print settings. I spent several years operating CNC router machines. Giant, heavy, room filling jobbers that run tolerances of a few thousandths of an inch over 8 feet. By comparison, this 3D printer is spongy. If you are within half a millimeter that’s about the best you can hope for. To a machinist this would be considered sloppy. Like pushing around a pool of molten mush, not manufacturing. I may have a slightly different mindset to some of the people that write about precision tuning these printers. Getting the machine to run ‘good enough’ is actually fairly easy.
That said, there are a lot of tests you need to do to get the temperature, movement speed, and build strategy zeroed in. If you want the machine to print consistently you need to control the entire operation. This is something I’m still working on, but the prints are getting better.
So there you go. If you don’t like troubleshooting, don’t buy a 3D printer, even one of the very expensive ones.

This is the bin of failed prints and support plastic. I expect to fill this thing before I get a perfect print.
This post is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 by the author.
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