Saving a Printer #nerdproblems

Saving a Printer

So in the quest to figure out how to print out war game models (referenced as minis as opposed to terrain pieces). I had developed some heater issues on the printer. Essentially, it came down to heat creep. The heater block was spreading heat up the feed tube and causing jams when unmelted filament became too big to fit down the tube properly.

This wasn’t a huge issue during the prints (mind you I have been fighting it for close to a month now. It was the root cause of all the issues I have been having since trying to do minis). I had been working through various fixes to try and diagnose the issues. But nothing I did was fully fixing the problem.

At one point I had even upgraded to the latest version of MacOS which killed off the version of Ultimaker Cura I had been using. This in turn forced me to pick up the latest version of Cura and start everything over again. The nice thing was, that helped me pin point the main issue.

Well, after nearly being so frustrated that I would need to completely start over with a whole new printer (yeah, drastic measures for an easily fixed problem), I went to the internet. As it turned out, this isn’t a new problem (who knew?). It meant yet another trip to the stores though. I picked up a syringe tube of something called thermal paste. This stuff is commonly used in CPUs to help with overheating issues. The properties of the goop help disperse the heat where just trying to do an air cool with a heat sink isn’t enough.

Saving a Printer

What I ended up doing was to smear the stuff on the exposed part of the throat that isn’t being hit by the cooling fan. This is the part closest to the heat break. And surprise surprise, this was the one thing I apparently needed. The printer is holding heats correctly and I am able to move from one print to the next without having to rip the feed block apart and push the clog through. It’s actually working like it is supposed to.

The past couple prints I have done, I did have some separation between them. This was time where the prints were given a chance to cool down on the build plate and the machine was able to go back to a cooled state. I’m talking at least a couple hours between the end of one and the start of the next. Before the fix, this would have still resulted in a clogged nozzle.

Saving a Printer 2

Showing the scale between minis

But now, I do my normal preheat for abs and then start the next print and have no issues (knock on wood). That’s pretty amazing considering the tube cost less than 10 bucks. Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention, one of the other issues I had to fix was replacing the cooling chamber fan. See, in all the fights with the clogged nozzle, I ended up breaking one of the wires to the original fan. Yeah, that was another bit of the figuring things out.

Surprisingly, when you assemble the entire machine yourself, it can be easy to figure out how to replace broken parts when you need to. You just hope that the reason they are broken is not because of something you did.

Anyway, the war bike was the last thing I printed. It came out a little bigger than it probably should have. I had changed the size before slicing because the original settings seemed a bit off to me at the time. Yeah, you go through a 12 hour print to find out you did it wrong. I do want another one, so I am considering reslicing the file at the original settings. Gotta see how different I made the thing.

Saving a Printer

Pile of support material. This can be a pita to remove. But it helps to make stuff pretty.

Another note in this, it is important when you are cleaning up a print to keep track of your excess material. Some of these models have delicate parts that can be mistakenly removed. If you save the detritus, you might be able to find the stuff and reattach it later. The bike had a couple brake lines that were super thin. In the process of removing supports they kept getting in the way. It was just easier to remove them and come back with glue later to set it up better again.

Yeah, I love this bike. It may become something that I end up just painting and putting on a shelf. It’s that cool.


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