I Hate Winter

I know I’m not alone. It’s not winter so much as what winter brings with it. Like a cold. I was sitting in my recliner this morning and decided I wouldn’t go out today. I then proceed to take an unplanned nap for about an hour. That settled it – I decided that I wouldn’t budge from the house today and try to suffer out this one day with a cold as comfortably as possible.

I’ve been watching YouTube videos, editing web pages, writing blogs, and just plain vegitating. I need to rest up for the Mansfield Hamfest tomorrow for which I need to get up at 3:30 AM. I’m definitely crawling in bed early tonight.

Along with the cold weather there’s the gas bill – $200+ last month. Not really unexpected considering our sub zero (or sub -20C) temperatures we had in January.

I’m trying to become completely metric in my everyday life. I realized some years ago that when I encountered a metric length measurement I just naturally thought in metric. Why convert? Temperature is another matter but I think I’m getting the hang of it now – 20C is almost warm, 25C is comfortable, 30C and above is hot. 15C is cool (flannel shirt), 10C is light jacket, 5C is medium jacket, and anything below 0C is heavy winter coat. Speed is another place where I still have to convert a bit. I don’t really have that down yet but there is no real need to either since everything I encounter is in MPH.

The most problems I have are with conversions. If I’m talking to someone else they always want to use SAE measurements and I have to think what that’s equivalent to. Some day we will all be there – the rest of the world has been for a long time now.

Enough rambling for now.

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3D Printing -Another Printer

I knew that if I liked 3D printing that I’d have to get something better than the Monoprice Mini Delta. It was only a matter of time. Not that the Mini Delta is a bad printer. It just has some limitations that I now feel the need to go beyond.

It’s only been a month and a half since I started on 3D printing but I know that this is something I want to pursue more so I started looking at what was available. I’ve been searching and planning for about 2 weeks now and the opportunity to buy came up – so I ordered it. It’s a Creality Ender 3. I don’t yet have a ship date so I don’t know when it will get here.

I decided that my 3D printing efforts needed their own web page so I’ve spent some time building that. You can find it at: http://www.ak8b.us/3d

This doesn’t mean I won’t still talk about 3D printing here. Quite the contrary. News about what I’m doing will continue to appear here. Things that change less and go into more detail will appear on the web page. There will probably be less here about 3D printing though.

Until next time …

 

What’s Been Happening

With the 3D printer cured of it’s ills I’ve been doing a few other things. Nothing spectacular but stuff to pass the time until spring arrives.

Of course I’m thinking about enhancements for the printer. The one biggie is some better lighting. I’ve figured out that I could mount some LEDs right on the end effector (the end where the plastic gets squirted out of). This would shine the light right down on the center of action and should light things up nicely. I’ve got the LEDs (1 watt) and I’ll be using three of them – probably at about half power. I can crank up the power if I need to but based on some experimentation I think this will be enough.

I’m working on some projects at the train club and I’m hoping we can start opening up the layout sometime this spring on a once a month basis. I think it will happen but there are some important things to get squared away before then.

I spent yesterday recovering from some malaise that had me feeling cold and generally run down. I did NOT have a fever so I’m not sure what was going on. It seemed to be a 24 hour type of thing so it’s all over now.

I’m also investigating which better 3D printer to buy next. I’m pretty sure it will be a Creality Ender 3 and the initial cost is about the same as for the Monoprice Mini Delta. The Ender 3 was on my short list when I was originally looking at printers but it lost out mostly because there was a significant amount of tweaking and fiddling to get things right. The Monoprice was simply a take it out of the box and plug it in situation. At the time I didn’t know how involved I might get with 3D printing so I opted for something low cost and easy to get going with. The Monoprice is also very portable.

None of the tweaking for the Ender 3 is individually complicated or expensive but there are quite a number of them. It’s mostly silly things like a shroud for the electronics fan (lest stuff fall inside) or a guide to reroute the path of the filament. Most are things that can be printed (some on the Monoprice) and cost only what the filament I already have costs. Some don’t need to be done right away.

The big advantage of the Ender 3 is it’s build volume – 220 x 220 x 250 (12,100 cc). Compared to the Monoprice’s 110 diameter by 120 height (1,140 cc) the Ender 3 is HUGE. Of course bigger things take more time to print. The Ender 3 is also much more upgradable with options for using flexible filaments and higher temperature filaments. It’s a matter of possibilities. I’m in no hurry. I’ll wait at least until the next burst of special deals comes along for the printer.

That’s it for now. Stay warm and think SPRING!

A Sick 3D Printer

Yes, the printer was sick. But it was my fault.

When I was done with PETG testing I pulled the filament and pushed through some PLA to clear it out – only I couldn’t push the PLA through. The PETG had broken off and there was now a clog in the hot end (the nozzle, heater, and the other associated stuff). No problem – I’ve seen the video on how to disassemble it and put it back together. I did that, got rid of the clog, and put it back together.

I should have watched the video again – I reassembled it incorrectly and didn’t get things properly seated together. As a result I had plastic oozing out all over the hot end making a mess and dripping plastic chunks on my prints during the printing process. It took me a couple of days to realize what the problem was and since I discovered it late in the day I put off fixing it until the following day.

I started tearing it down again and found that I was going to have to order a part. There is an insulation wrap that goes around the hot end block (a chunk of aluminum with the heater in it) and it was gunked up with plastic. It would be hard when cool and then a dripping mess when things got hot. I know where to order it so I place my order (minimum order is 2 of course) and wait about a week to get the part. In the meantime I start cleaning up the rest of the mess.

The nozzle threads were gunked up with plastic. The heat brake threads (screws into the other side of the heater block) are gunked up. These cleaned up pretty easily with my Dremel with a wire brush.

The threads inside the heater block are gunked up. The obvious way to clean this out is to run a tap down it. Do I have one? Of course not – it’s metric M6-1.0. I start hunting for one locally and find several possibilities. Menard’s listed one (and only one) in the store so I went there. Nope. It’s slot is empty. I knew I could go to Lowes but I thought that Oriley’s across the street just might have one. They did but it came with a drill bit (just like Lowes) – and a higher cost. Oh well, gotta have it so I bought it. The threads inside cleaned up nicely.

I had to remove the thermocouple temporarily so I could get the insulation wrap off. It’s held in by a silicone sealer. Not your normal silicone of course – high temperature stuff. Some research found the right stuff – the kind used to make gaskets on auto exhaust pipes. Of course it’s an auto parts store item and the tube would be able to do about a thousand of these things. I only need one drop. Probably one more tube of stuff that will be hard as a rock the next time I want to use it for something. Of course I have to wait 24 hours (maybe a little less) for it to set up properly before I can move on to the next step.

Now to clean off the block itself. Heat it up to 100C (that’s 212 Fahrenheit) so the plastic would get soft. Of course it’s now HOT and I have to hold the block with pliers and scrape off the gunk.

Time to rewrap the new insulation around the block and start putting this thing back together. The PROPER way to put the nozzle and heat brake together is to heat things up to 240C (464F) and screw in the nozzle, with my trusty 7 mm nut driver, snug and then back it out about 1/4 turn. Then you screw in the heat brake snugly (quickly before it gets too hot). Then TIGHTEN the nozzle firmly up against the heat brake. Then it’s time to let it all cool down so I can put everything back together.

Want to see what I’m talking about? Click on this YouTube video link for an explanation. It’s actually a different printer than mine but the hot end is identical to what I have.

I printed a test cube and it came out fine. I’m printing a stamp dispenser as I type this and when I left it about an hour ago it was doing fine. It’s a 2-1/2 hour print so it’s about time to check it again.

That’s all for now.

So Where Have I Been?

I know, I’ve been lax on posting updates. This will be a long post.

3D Printing

I’ve done a lot with the printer. I have some pretty good settings that make printing pretty reliable. I’ve printed a bunch of stuff, some useful, some just fun. I’ve bought more filament including one spool of PETG (everything else has been PLA). I now have Silver, Red, Blue, White, and Black (PETG). I know I need a few more for variety but I think I need to wait a bit before ordering..

My success with PETG has been variable but I think I have it zeroed in now. More heat (required) but none on the build surface. Cover the build surface with 3M GREEN painter’s tape (used to stick on concrete and such) and all goes well. I wasn’t able to use the blue tape because it would curl up and unstick itself from the build surface. The green stuff sticks well but has an odd smell. The PETG itself seems to be odorless which makes it an easy choice over ABS. They both have similar characteristics. I’ll be using the PETG for special things only.

I’ve been ordering filament from MatterHackers and have been pleased with the results.

I’m going to get some photos of what I’ve been doing in the next post.

Cuyahoga Falls Amateur Radio Club (CFARC)

About 3 years ago I parted from the club. I was a member since early 1998 and had been heavily involved with various activities including handling of the web page.

I got a desperate call from one of the members who had been working on a new web page for the club. He tried something and then thought he put it back but something went awry. It took me a while but I finally had one of those ‘A-HA!’ moments and fixed the immediate problem.

There were other issues and I decided that I could help out a lot with some of the areas where things seemed to be falling apart. So, I’m back with the club now working on the Hamfest and web pages. I’ll no doubt get involved with other things but I’m going to try to keep it down a bit from what I was doing. Although I love Field Day my participation is not going to be at the level I had done in years past. I have to draw the line somewhere.

Promises …

I have been pretty busy lately but that’s no excuse for not putting more in here. I’m going to try to set up something on a more regular basis. I’m going to try for twice a week on as yet to be determined days.

3D Printing – 5 days later …

I’m having a blast with this thing. It’s not always gone well. There have been problems. Solving problems is what I love to do so I’m having a great time.

Several prints later I’m still liking this printer. I wish it had a bigger build volume but I knew that would be an issue at some point. I figure that if I really need something bigger that can be covered in the next printer. No time soon for that though.

I now have 3 different filaments, all PLA and in 1 kilogram spools:

  1. HatchBox PLA in silver. This is working well and gives off hardly any odor (all PLA filament has some odor – not objectionable or really toxic). The color is great as it gives off a bit of a sheen. I like it and would buy more without hesitation.
  2. PolyMaker PolyLite PLA in red. This also works well and gives off a bit more of an odor. Red is of course an important color and I’m glad I have it. I did have a couple of broken filament problems. The first one broke off right at the extruder and I had to pull the Bowden tube from the extruder to get enough filament to grab hold of to pull it back. The other break left a big enough piece to actually print something with so not too much wastage. I probably wouldn’t buy this again as it’s a bit more expensive ($25) .
  3. MatterHackers Build PLA in blue. I just got this one so I don’t have as much experience with it. It gives off the least odor of the three. It looks though that this may be my go-to filament. Unless something really turns up against it this will be it. The price is $19.99 like the HatchBox but I can order directly from MatterHackers instead of through Amazon.

I’m printing a ‘3DBenchy’ as I write this in the MatterHackers blue and I like the color. It’s about half way though right now and is looking good. I’ll add a paragraph at the end when it’s finished.

This is the first print using a new version of the slicer Cura 3.6. I was using 3.2.1 and it was working OK and I had most of the settings tweaked pretty well.

What’s a slicer you say? It’s the software that converts the 3D drawings into the command code (gcode) for the printer. If you look at the gcode you can see EVERY little step the printer has to do to print the drawing. For example, 3DBenchy has over 212,000 lines of gcode.

The 3DBenchy finished. It looks really good – very little stringing and few other flaws. The new one is on the left and the first one I did (my second print) on the right.

img_4663

The notepad these are sitting on are my semi-detailed notes for printing. I’ve been documenting everything I’ve been doing so I don’t repeat something stupid I’ve done before.

The stringing test I just ran came out CLEAN! I think the Cura upgrade did some tweaking as well as some of my own. Anyway the string problem is solved at last.

I’m printing a Gearicon (7 tooth) in the MatterHacker blue to go with the one I printed yesterday in red.

I think that’s enough for today. I should post more often so it doesn’t end up so long.

3D Printer – First Prints

My first shipment of filament arrived today via Amazon (on SUNDAY which will not happen again). It’s Hatchbox PLA in silver. Quite nice looking as it has a bit of sheen to it’s grey overall color. No issues using it. My only problem is bagging it back up because it won’t fit in a normal 1 gallon zipper bag. A temporary trash bag will have to do.

I printed off the “cat” that came on the original SD card and it worked just great. Being paranoid on the first print I was checking it every 15 minutes to see how it was doing. Just a bit of stringing which is easy to resolve with a quick once over of the heat gun. I’ll look at ways to solve that later. It took about an hour and a quarter.

The next print was the 3DBenchy – the standard benchmark print. This was the first print that I had to ‘slice’ myself from a 3D drawing file. The ‘cat’ came pre-sliced so it was ready to go directly from the supplied SD card. I had some difficulty and it’s not right yet but there is hope. The standard settings don’t seem to be quite right to set up the starting elevation and it appears that the printer is trying to print below the surface of the bed. When this happens filament can’t extrude properly and things just kind of oozes out the sides and all over. The third try I got it much closer and it looked like it was going to print OK so I let it go. Print time was 1 hour 50 minutes.

I was taking photos and short videos while doing this and I’ll post some of them up on my next entry.

My next box of filament should arrive tomorrow. I’ll use it to print my first modification to the printer – a filament guide so that the filament doesn’t rub on the side of the printer. I have a couple of other things to try out too.