About 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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Sometimes working with 3D printing is like discovering a new continent. You never know what goldmine you’re going to discover – or sinkhole you just stepped into.
Fortunately, most of the time I unearth goldmines. This time, I found yet another. What I didn’t expect was that I’d be using apparently timeless 100-year-old technology to solve a 21st century problem.
For a long time, I’ve been a bit frustrated because my 3D printer host software tells me how many millimeters of filament a print will take.
That is only of limited help, though, because filament manufacturers sell their product based on weight (kilograms or pounds) ….
So knowing how much filament you need for a job has been a real conundrum. Armed with the magic of the Internet, though, I was determined to find some way to know how much filament I have and how much I need for a 3D printing job …..
I began searching for measuring tools, thinking I’d find something digital. I did, but I also found the perfect tool that just happens to be really, really old.
Enjoy this video, which explains what I found and shows how it works perfectly ….
Because of the size of its prints, running Cerberus 3D’s Gigante 3D printer makes filament handling a real challenge. I’m using 5 pound spools of 3 millimeter filament right now, but if I could find 10, 15 or even 20 pound spools I’d definitely use them.
Why? Well, when you’re running a multiday print, you go through a lot of filament. I’ve spent many a night waiting to change filament spools – well, that was until I figured out I could just switch a nearly finished spool for a fresh one before I went to bed.
I would never have done that, though, if I hadn’t already ordered the handy, dandy filament welder I got recently (yeah, I think it’s funny, too, that it’s called a filament “welder” – just one more welder in my toolshed!) ….
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Sometimes change is imposed upon us (make that “Often change is …”). Anyway, sometimes (often?) that change is good, and that’s the case with how I now am changing my filament on my Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer.
Last month, the teeth on the Gigante’s extruder motor got stripped, which required me to order a new extruder. That actually worked out well – I was between one of my own prints, Redhead, and beginning a 3D printed commissioned sculpture.
When I got the new extruder, I discovered I could just pause the print to change the filament instead of having to do it on the fly, the way I had been doing it:
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As we narrow down where our challenges are with the Cerberus 3D Gigante printer – we’ve wrestled with software, hardware and filament issues – we’ve at least found one way to deal with the dreaded filament bulge.
How filament can be anything but a consistent size from beginning to end eludes me, but as we covered in a previous post, we’ve had a couple of bulges that stopped the extruder cold. But then, what could you expect when 3 millimeter filament is more than 3.47 millimeters wide? In fact, the filament is supposed to be under 3 millimeter – about 2.95 mm – but in places this filament wasn’t even close and the extruder couldn’t handle it.
While Ultimachine figures out what went wrong, I had to come up with some sort of solution on this end to finish printing this 30″ tall pedestal. So I came up with what I call an FCD, a Fiendishly Clever Device, so I could keep printing ….
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It is possible to create art with a 3D printer without having a 3D printer. I’ve seen many beautiful sculptures created by service bureaus such as Shapeways.
Because machines interest me, though, printing my 3D designs myself seemed natural. Understanding how something comes to be is important to me. Creating it myself is part of the point.
(At some moment, so it might as well be now, I must make clear I do use outside 3D printers, or service bureaus, for certain projects, just as I sometimes send my sculptures out to be sandblasted or painted. All of these are situations in which my equipment or capabilities are not equal to my own imagination.)
That being said, I’ve had some interesting surprises along the plastic brick road ….
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When I printed my first large-scale sculpture on my Cereberus 3D Gigante printer, I only had 1 kilogram spools of the 3 millimeter filament it uses. We didn’t know how many spools it would take, but we knew that the fact that the sculpture was hollow would help.
I’ve ordered some 5 kilogram spools now, but last week we didn’t have time for that if I was going to make my submission deadline for the Shemer Art Center‘s “Materialize” 3D art show.
Amazingly enough, that 1 kilogram spool gave me enough PLA plastic to create the sculpture Simple Planes With Aquamarine Stripe and start another sculpture – but just barely.
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