Archive for Software

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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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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‘You have to do what?!’ – Barriers to 3D printing

Using CAD to design - Kevin CaronAlthough the buzz about 3D printing isn’t as red hot as it was, people are understandably still jazzed about this transformational process.

I see the reactions all the time, whether it’s at a gathering focused on how the process works, how I use it in my practice as a sculptor, or just a bunch of people who are fascinated by 3D printing. What I almost also invariably see is disappointment.

The dirty little secret about 3D printing is that you must have a file that you can print.

That’s easy enough if you are satisfied printing other people’s files, such as ones downloaded from Thingiverse. But what if you want to create something yourself?

Well, at this point in the evolution of 3D printing, you’d better know CAD (Computer Aided Design) software, or know someone who does. That’s what most people don’t realize: 3D printing itself is the culmination of a longer process ….

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Using a 3D printer to refine a design

Creating isn’t always a one-shot process.

When I first conceived my 3D filament sizing set up, the bent piece of metal through which the filament ran to ensure there were no lumps that could jam the 3D printer seemed a simple yet elegant solution.

After using it for a while – and catching my coat on it, as you’ll hear about in the video – I realized there was a better way ….

This video explains what I came up with and how I used my 3D printer to create, then refine the design:

Aesthetic tweaking with 3D-printed designs

Daisy Mae, a 3D printed fine art sculpture by Kevin CaronWorking with my 3D-printed sculptures requires a balance of aesthetic and technical considerations. In the big picture, that’s not all that unlike working with metal, but the way I do it is definitely different in each medium.

Take my latest 3D-printed sculpture, Daisy Mae (right).

As usual, I began playing with forms in CAD, this time in Rhino. It took a couple of tries to get it to print properly – there were some hiccups with adherence to the print tray (I really need to clean it better before trying to print!) – but it was a pretty painless 3D print, and boy, do I love this yellow translucent filament!

With the print came a couple of surprises, as is so often true. One surprise was great, one less than great – more on both of these in a moment.

So clearly, I need to make some tweaks to the design…

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Test driving a new – old – host program on a big 3D print

Pronterface screen, 3D printing - Kevin Caron's 3D printing blogDealing with sudden, inexplicable fails got me to try some new things. I don’t know which, if any, are related to why my Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer just stopped cold without apparent reason, but it sent me back to play with a host program I’d only used once or twice before.

In fact, when my 3D printing guru suggested I use Pronterface instead of Repetier, which we thought might be the problem, I remembered I had a version of it. It was old, so the first thing I did was download the latest version of this venerable – well, for 3D printing! – host program.

Pronterface is apparently one of the most common interfaces used by 3D printer software. It can move and home all 3 axes independently, as well as offering a temperature graph, extrude and retract buttons, a window showing the current layer’s tool path, and a window to enter G-code. Some users complain that it’s too basic or don’t like the program’s look and feel, but it seems very clean and easy to use to me.

The big question is whether and how it works ….

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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.


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!


Getting to Solid

Opioid, a 3D printed fine art sculpture - Kevin CaronLike most things, when you start looking below the surface, you find all sorts of nuances that make you realize that there is more than you realized to whatever you are doing. Well, at least to do it right!

For instance, I’d never thought about how to make a flat surface using 3D printing. After all, I do it all the time with metal – I make a very similar form to what you’ll see below to use as the strikers in most of my sound sculptures.

Besides, when I 3D print sculptures (or anything else), I have large expanses of filament. As you can see at right in my latest 3D print, Opioid, I have large expanses of solid filament “fabric,” but they aren’t horizontal. The printer does a fine job of creating these 3D printed “skins,” even in large sections.

But what if you want to create a flat surface? How does the 3D printer go from, say, printing the edges of something to filling in the area between the edges, especially if it is a pretty large expanse?

Well, that is a different story altogether …. Read More →

Chaos reality: 3D printer has a mind of its own

Cuddle - a 3D printed sculpture by Kevin CaronWorking with 3D printing in this “Model T” period means dealing with all sorts of surprises. All of them are probably maddeningly logical – these printers are run by computers, after all – but sometimes it’s hard to figure out why.

That was the case with a recent 3D printed sculpture I’m calling Cuddle (my wife keeps calling it Huddle – go figure).

Although the final print came out beautifully (except for the color, but that’s another story!), my Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer decided to get there in a mighty odd way ….

Admittedly, these prints are big. This particular one, although it’s far from as large as several I’ve done, is also complex. I had tried to print it three times before I reduced it in size and resliced it again. This time the sculpture finished printing, not even threatening to lift off the print tray, a problem I have with these large prints.

But as it printed, I noticed that the printhead was tracking really bizarrely. The head wouldn’t go around each “tower.” It didn’t go around the exterior of the entire sculpture and work its way in, either. It just seemed to hop from one area to another what appeared to be randomly.

Cuddle - void detail - in a 3D printed sculpture by Kevin CaronOf course, it wasn’t random – it’s a computer! – but it sure looked that way. Steve Graber, my 3D printing guru and the genius who built the Gigante and its little cousin the Cerberus 3D 250, even commented on the printhead’s chaotic path. Most of what it created, however, looked fine.

What was particularly strange, though, was the voids it created both in the bottom of the piece (below, right) and – thank goodness – on certain interior walls (left).

I’d learned from my experience with Sunscraper, the big yellow sculpture that I talked about in my last post, that I wanted to be very careful with interior walls after Kisslicer, the slicing program I use, decided to just eliminate them where they overlapped in the design. So this time I made sure that the walls didn’t touch but only butted up to each other.

Still, the program decided to leave really odd openings on either side of the walls on the bottom of the sculpture for no apparent reason. Fortunately, it has not seemed to jeopardize the sculpture’s structural integrity.

Cuddle - detail of voids in bottom of the 3D printed sculpture by Kevin CaronThe “windows” it made in the interior walls were a little more concerning, but ended up not making a difference in the print structurally or aesthetically because no one can see them.

Interestingly enough, the printhead would come up one side of the window, turn around and go back, then come up the other side and turn around. So it wasn’t jumping the space, although it did eventually “heal” the wall over them.

Again, the good news is that it didn’t seem to affect the sculpture in any meaningful way. You can’t even see the interior voids now that the sculpture is done.

What caused these aberrations? I don’t know if I’ll ever know, but I’ll continue to try to find ways around them.