Archive for Hardware

Let there be light: adding lights to my 3D printers

Cerberus 3D 400 3D printer - Kevin CaronNow that I have my 3D printers pretty well stable – well, for now – I’m having fun refining the machines.

With motorcycles, it’s called farkle, or any modification of your bike. In this case, the changes I made were a little more practical, but yeah, they look pretty cool, too ….

More often than I wish I’m up in the middle of the night, checking on a print. I’m not sure why it works out that way, but I’ll be low on filament or maybe just wake up and figure I’d better take a look.

(If I’m low on filament, I’m not sleeping well anyway – it’s sad to lose a print just because you didn’t plan well.)

I stumble out to the dining room, where my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer is is, or the office where the Cerberus 3D 400 3D printer (right) is, and turn on the lights, squinting to focus.

Now, with my latest addition, I have a little help ….

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All that is old is new again: Updating 3D printers

Makerbot 3D printerIf you buy a 3D printer “off the shelf,” say a MakerBot or Lulzbot, you get what you got.

Of course, based on the number of units sold of these machines, you can assume they are of some quality. You also know the capabilities of the printer, the kind of filament it can handle, its footprint, and, well, pretty much everything about it.

And you also have, in most cases, an established company you can go back to when things get squirrelly.

But the way 3D printing is evolving, just like computers, the minute you buy it, it’s obsolete. The newer printers can handle more exotic filaments, create larger and better prints. But you have the same 3D printer.

That’s one of the advantages of having a printer that’s built by a small company or even open source ….

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Cerberus 3D 400 3D printer opens a world of filament

When my first 3D printer, a 3D Systems CubeX, apparently died (more on that in a moment), I lost the ability to work in anything but PLA filament.

3D Systems CubeX 3D printer - Kevin Caron

That mattered to me, because I have one design in particular that seems to prefer ABS.

I had tried repeatedly to fix the CubeX, ordering and installing boards, but it became clear that I needed to consider another direction ….

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Switch cuts out 3D printing problem

3D printed table base - Kevin CaronAbout a week ago I decided to tackle a project I’ve been thinking about for a while. I have a beautiful glass tabletop and thought it would be fun to 3D print a base for it.

Fun?! I like to go into a project thinking positively, but maybe that just set me up ….

Anyway, the first day of what would be a 5-day print went fine. It was when I had to change out the 5-pound spool of PLA filament on my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer that things went terribly wrong.

The print paused normally, then I switched out the spool of natural filament and loaded up the new spool. When I tried to resume the print, though, everything went haywire. The printhead swung wildly out of position, and the print was lost.

I was ready to pull my hair out! A whole $100 spool of filament and a day of 3D printing had been lost. Not to mention the frayed nerves.

Then Steve Graber, the man who built the Gigante, told me about the switch ….

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The mystery of the 3D print fail

Overheat screen for 3D printer - Kevin CaronIt starts out so innocently …. Doesn’t it always, especially with 3D printing!

I wanted to print something using NGen_FLEX (usually called “Ninjaflex”) rubber filament on my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante printer when I got a “Runaway temperature warning” (right), and the printer shut down.

I checked the graph in Simplify 3D, the combination host and slicer program I was using, and saw the temperature spiking instead of its usual gradual climb.

I shut off the 3D printer, let it cool, and tried it again. Same problem.

I printed the same file with regular PLA and had no problem.

There was only one thing to do …

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3D Frankenstein: Gigante 3D printer gets a new brain

When I commissioned the creation of my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer 3 years ago, I knew that the technology would change.

Of course, technology changes all the time, but in the fast-moving field of 3D printing, it changes as fast as you can type.

As chronicled in this blog, Cerberus 3D “mad scientist” and all-around cool guy Steve Graber and I made a lot of changes in the Gigante as we worked through the issues that arose when using the printer. Software, hardware and filament all demanded tweaking, and finally we got the Gigante running well.

There were still issues, though. The biggest was a tendency for the print to just … stop. The printer would freeze, and the computer would join it, stuck in some sort of limbo while I pulled my hair out trying to figure out why I’d just lost yet another print.

Sometimes it was simply that the computer, which is dedicated to running the Gigante, decided to update. I dealt with that by always firing up the computer well before I started printing. OK, that worked most of the time.

Finally, though, it became clear that the processor just wasn’t handling the information fast enough ….

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Tripping Across 3D Printing in Australia

Artist Kevin Caron at Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne, AustraliaSometimes you just have to get away. (Well, I do.) When I’m at home, I tend to work a lot, and that can lead to burn out. Getting away helps me clear my head, and often brings me new, fresh ideas I would never have had otherwise.

That’s one reason my lovely assistant (AKA The Voice, to those of you who watch my videos on YouTube, and wife of 25 years) headed to Australia recently.

We started out in Sydney, then drove the Princes Highway, which runs along the southern coast of Australia, to Melbourne.

We saw a lot of interesting things, including wild kangaroos and termite “castles,” as well as lots of beautiful seascapes and rolling fields of canola. We also enjoyed visiting the amazing Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne (photo at right).

The last thing I was looking for was 3D printing ….

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Worlds Collide: 3D Printing Experience Informs Metal Sculpting

Dynatorch Super B 4x4 CNC Plasma TableSince I became a full-time artist in 2006, I’ve purchased and used a lot of tools. A lot of tools. If you took the recent video tour of my studio, you see many of them, and yes, I use them all. Using the right tool for the job can mean the difference between a job well done and one that turns out just OK, and the difference between spending hours and committing days to a single task.

Recently, I “moved up” in the world of metal working with a purchase of a Dynatorch Super B 4×4 Plasma CNC table (right). This tool allows me do jobs in an hour that would have taken me days, and does them better. It cuts out the metal accurately and cleanly – no more cutting close, then trimming or grinding to size!

The CNC table is a game changer for me, much like my 3D printers have been.

Interestingly enough, my experience with 3D printing helped me get up to speed on the Super B a lot faster than I would have otherwise ….

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Art takes 3D printing seriously at ASU

3D Systems ProJet 660 3D printerOne of the strongest intersections of art and 3D printing is taking place right here in Phoenix at Arizona State University.

I first encountered Dan Collins, who is a professor of Intermedia in the School of Art as ASU and a co-director of the PRISM lab, an interdisciplinary 3D modeling and rapid prototyping facility.

Dan has been involved in 3D printing for a long time. He was involved with TeleSculpture, which was held in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007, in which artists would simply send in their designs, which would be printed remotely for the show, an incredibly innovative idea, one certainly ahead of its time.

(You can read more about Dan’s activities and involvement by clicking on his name above.)

What Dan and his team have done is amazing ….
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3D Printing Mystery Continues…

Troubleshooting - Kevin CaronWouldn’t it be awesome if things just worked?

Yeah, they do sometimes, but especially in these early days of 3D printing, there are so many variables and things change so quickly that it seems there are myriad things that can and do go wrong.

Lately I’ve been battling a problem with both of my deltabot 3D printers, and I still haven’t figured out what is causing it.

The result is ugly: they just stop printing. For no apparent reason. Everything is going well, and then the hotend just stops moving.

Aaaargh!

I can’t just give up – it isn’t in my nature.

So I’ve been doing what I always do when troubleshooting any problem ….

I work through a process of elimination, testing and ruling out various possibilities.

Here’s what I’ve done thus far:

  1. Confirmed that it isn’t on just one 3D printer. It seems that I’m having the same problem with both deltabots.
  2. Confirmed that it isn’t Windows 10. That’s because it’s also happening on a computer that is running Windows 7. If it were just Windows 10, that’d be one thing, but the other computer hasn’t had an update in years and ran just fine.
  3. Confirmed that it isn’t the host program. I’m having the problem with both Repetier – two different versions of it – and Simplify. I’ve checked Simplify’s log and see it says the firmware is unresponsive, which brought me to my latest hunch (below).
  4. Removed the host program from the equation altogether. I put the file directly into the Gigante (yes, I used a ladder to do it). Same problem.
  5. Confirmed that it isn’t a power problem. One of the computers is plugged directly into the wall, while the other runs through an uninterrupted power supply.
  6. Ruled out the file itself. This has happened with several files, so it isn’t the design.
  7. Made sure it isn’t a filament bulge problem. It’s happened with various filaments, including two different diameters (3 millimeter and 1.75).
  8. Noted that it has happened shortly after the print started and just before it finished. If it were related to the file length, you’d think that would be more consistent.

At this point, I’m thinking it might be the controller board. I believe both 3D printers have Smoothie boards, so that might be it.

So I’ll just keep poking around on forums, talking to people, consulting my expert, and eliminating problems, hoping that one of them is the solution that gets me back up and 3D printing again.

And if this is just a test of my patience, I hope I have already passed!