Archive for Hardware

Back to the future: up and running

Amethyst City, a large format 3D printed sculpture - Kevin CaronThe last six weeks have been a whirlwind. That’s part of my life as a sculptor, especially at this time of year.

I attended the Codasummit in El Paso, Texas, in early October, sharing more information about my work with large-scale 3D printing, then geared up for the 2019 Camelback Studio Tour, for which I really needed to have my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante running.

The 6 weeks the Gigante was down just prior to that was a bit heart-stopping.

My backup plan was to bring out my Cerberus 3D 400 and have it running during the 3 days of the show, but it wouldn’t have been the optimum. I was on TV a lot (Channels 3, 5, 7 and 10 here in metro Phoenix) to promote the show, and the 400 just doesn’t have the visual impact of the Gigante! That proved true as a number of visitors came just to see it running.

I printed 3 sculptures during the show, one each day. Two made the cut, while one had a weak start – the filament drooped unattractively – so it didn’t survive, but the other 2, Solar Conundrum, a translucent yellow of my solid style, and Amethyst City (right, in a temporary photo), a spectacular new piece in my new “cubist” style, came out beautifully.

But that’s not all! … Read More →

My 3D printer heads to the hospital

I STILL haven’t been able to enjoy my upgrades because one of the motors decided to not count all the steps. It counts them one way, but not the other.

Three hundred bucks later, the new motor doesn’t want to work. It could be firmware, or … who knows!

Accordingly, mad scientist Steve Graber took my Cerberus 3D Gigante, which he built, to his own shop where he has all the right tools and the number for tech support.

While this mystery still doesn’t have a conclusion, I hope you enjoy watching them carry this huge printer out the door ….

‘This has never happened before’ yet again ….

Since my last post I’ve gotten this much printed:

Yes, nothing. Nothing except frustration and fails.

3D print fail - Kevin CaronAfter many days and hours of troubleshooting – Steve Graber was here so many hours (15? 20?) over 5 days that I offered him our spare bedroom – he and I narrowed down the problem to a bad motor.

Yes, of the 3 motors that run the Cerberus 3D Gigante, one had decided to no longer count steps, one way only, though.

Our first, oh, dozen or so hours of troubleshooting didn’t even touch the problem, which was causing every print to thin out one one side. At first we thought the bed wasn’t level, but after several attempts at leveling it using 2 different probes, it became clear that wasn’t the problem.

Finally we heard a slight variation in the motor sound when it neared one particular side. We also remembered that the last print I’d done, the large version of my 3D printed sculpture Ruby, had printed oddly at the bottom. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t use the print, but I knew I’d have to account for the lopsided bottom when I printed its base. I just couldn’t get that base to print, though.

So the problem had preceded all the work and improvements I’d just spent a lot of money on.

Steve rewired the motors to see if it could be the wiring, proving that it was indeed the motor.

Well, it better be: a new one just cost $300. Steve notified the motor manufacturer, who said, “We’ve never heard of this.” (They have now.)

It’s now been a month since I’ve been able to print, but I think we’ve got it.

Nonetheless, pray for me, and the printer! And stay tuned ….

Mad scientist performs 3D printer brain transplant

mad scientist!Wouldn’t you like to see that headline in your newspaper or favorite news Website? It’d be at the top of mine, because that’s just what happened recently with my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer.

The Gigante is 5 years old now, which is like 50 in 3D printing years, especially with the rapid changes in the field. I’ve been suffering through a lot of 3D print fails, and the last large-format 3D print I completed somehow printed at an angle.

Even Cerberus 3D’s Steve Graber, the mad scientist who built the printer, couldn’t figure out how that happened.

Multiple problems with chattering and fails led Steve to recommend replacing the Gigante’s brain.

We last did this 2 years ago, updating to a new Smoothie controller board, which is, in essence, the 3D printer’s brain. This time, though, he prescribed a totally new type of controller board …. Read More →

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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