Hey, look at this, I’m doing a post. It’s been a while and the world keeps getting crazier. Through it all we have to do what we can to remain sane. Or maybe we finally wake Cthulhu and let the world burn. Most days, it’s a coin toss.
Anyway, over the past week I have been slightly busy. And I don’t mean playing video games (I have almost gotten every achievement possible for diablo 3, but I digress). Through unknown forces of fait, a 3D printer has come into my possession. Imagine the power of making all manner of thing from plastic filament. It’s almost like magic. Magic that takes hours and hours of letting a machine go to work. Yeah, it’s a bit of hurry up and wait.
I’m going to go a bit through the experience so far with it.
The printer I have is an Anet A8. This is a budget printer that you have to put together. And directions do not really come in the box you get it in. Sorta. Yeah, when I opened the box and saw all the parts scattered in three different layers of packing foam, I didn’t know where to begin.
I honestly couldn’t even find a marker to tell me what brand the printer was (someone else had bought it. It came into my possession because I have the space to run it and the horror show that is putting the thing together). It’s really a bit like putting together a computer from sourced components. But at least with one of those I have an idea of what all the parts are and where they should go on the motherboard and such. This thing I didn’t even have a vague idea of what I needed to do for it.
Turned out it came with a thumb drive that had documentation on it. I had to dig out my laptop (which I haven’t used in a long time). From there I found the brand name and had the bright idea of going to YouTube to watch an assembly video. The video I found came from the manufacturer, had no spoken words, and a vague connection to the parts as they were being assembled. It was 36 minutes long and I could at least follow it along as the guy put his together. It was a long night of stopping and rewinding the video over 6 hours.
That initial night was only the first half of building the thing. I spent the next day with my youngest daughter’s boyfriend as we watched the second assembly video (this one only 18 minutes) to find where all the wires would go to connect to the motherboard.
So I have about 10 hours or more invested in just getting this thing together and we are pretty sure everything is in the right place because the wires are marked with where they go and the motherboard has corresponding markings for each wire. I plugged it in and noticed a puff of smoke on the motherboard. Yeah, my heart stopped.
The first reaction was it burned out because something wasn’t in the right place. But we couldn’t see any damage. So we do some more searching to figure it out. Turns out we had a couple hot wires in the wrong spots. So we got those switched around. This time everything clicks on and we have power.
It was a bit of a victory and meant we needed to search YouTube again for a video to show us how to get it ready for printing. And as we are following along with the video, it comes time to send all moving parts to their home locations. I know what you’re thinking, and I want to say you would be right. Everything went crazy again. It was working but not how it should have been.
And yeah, it was another wiring issue. So yeah, all the wires are marked to where they go on the motherboard. But if you remember I was putting this thing together watching a video without any words. As it turned out the motors I was plugging wires into without looking at where they would eventually go, were working as they should. But not in the order they should have. I had to do some quick switching to get the motors on the correct circuit.
And things went crazy again. See, part of the set up are some limit switches that tell each moving part where to stop travel when they reach their home locations. Pretty simple thing and they were all working. There control unit has a debugging section where you can check operations of the switches and such. Through that I knew they were working. But as it turned out, much like the motors needed to be in the proper spot, each of these limit switches were tied to the circuit of the operation they were supposed to control. So when you have the switch on the wrong circuit the moving piece doesn’t stop because it doesn’t hit the switch it is supposed to hit.
I’m learning all manner of new things right now.
Once I had that part figured out you would think I could be up and making new and weird things. But it is never that easy. I followed some instructions for leveling the print bed. Seemed easy enough. But as it turned out, the method allowed me to put the extrusion nozzle too close to the bed. It would drag across the surface and mess up where it would print. Even with all that I managed to print out my first thing, and the little cube looked good. But I knew there were some problems but I still wasn’t sure what I was doing wrong. This is a problem when the part takes over an hour and a half to print. You want to see what is happening as things are going crazy but that is way too long to get to a point where you can make corrections.
I had to do some searching. I found a different test cube on thingiverse.com that would only take me about a half hour to print. That was doable and would give me quicker access to the information to make changes.
And of course, I run into problems again. But I learned some stuff. Before it was too horrible I stopped the print and examined what I was doing wrong. Ended up asking about the issue on a 3D printer facebook group. The help of the community did get me to a point where I figured out what was going on.
Long story short, yeah, we’re past that aren’t we. It turns out that leveling the print bed is a bit tricky when you are trying to figure that stuff out. I was too close to the bed and ended up ripping the tape that was put on the bed at the factory. I had thought ahead and picked up some painters tape to redo the bed when it would be necessary. I was able to get back into testing the system so much faster than it could have been.
Anyway, within all of that, I finally got to a point where I have a better handle on getting the bed level to the print nozzle. I’ve done a couple tester blocks that have come out fairly well and think I might be getting closer to doing some larger prints. Mind you, much like a regular printer, they don’t give you very much printer material to get too far into printing. I have used almost a full 10 meters of filament over the past couple days of figuring this thing out. I’m going to need more to print out the various things I have in mind.
So yeah, this is where we are now. I’m playing with new toys and figuring all new ways of building all manner of oddity. We are approaching a whole new world of scientific exploration. So much fun stuff to learn about. Speaking of which, I caught the Space X launch. That stuff is amazing and gives us hope during all this other crazy going on in our world.