I am a man of impulse.
That has been proven time and time again.
Collectors edition board games.
Early quad copters.
FPV goggles before it became the rage.
Heavily modified foam airplanes flying over farmland while we sat in lawn chairs kilometers away.
These impulses are usually created from some need. Made up or real, all of a sudden “I need that” is all I hear.
I justify it as well. On sale. In this case it was the fact I had free shipping on my Amazon Prime account.
A conversation with my friend Rob in Calgary, knowing he had a 3D printer, led to me asking “which one?”
As he coached me a bit in Tinkercad, I searched the printer and saw the Geeetech Prusa i3 X, black acrylic version.
Sexy in that technical way. Something new that not a lot of people know how to use, let alone build.
“Rob, it is only 500 dollars!” I exclaimed.
“I know! Cheap eh?” he replied.
What a great friend. Helping me justify what I had already decided on.
Took no time for me to pull the pin.
“Free 1 KG of PLA filament too. This thing is almost free Rob”
Well it was really about 500 dollars that arrived about three weeks later. Surprisingly fast considering that it came from overseas.
Think of a cardboard box wrapped in packing tape. Felt like twenty pounds, and once I cut it open I could see why.
Plates of 8mm acrylic that would form the frame. Easily 50 bags of screws, nuts, washers, springs, and wire.
Five heavy motors, along with long steel rods and threaded rods in the same lengths.
A power supply, control board, fans, and switches.
There was also a twelve year old boy looking at all the stuff in front of him with a dazed look in his eyes. Well I felt twelve years old with my Lego/Mecanno sets.
There was a list of parts printed out in a small booklet. No instructions.
No worry, with the internet, I am sure I can find all the instructions I need.
Well there were a lot of instructions. Each of them slightly different. The same with the videos. Voiceless videos that had hands and screwdrivers and horrible repetitive music.
This was going to be more work than I thought.
You see the problem with adopting cutting edge products is the scars you get from the cutting edges.
Over a few days, I had something resembling what the pictures displayed.
Surprisingly, there were only a few things that threw me off. Slide bearings that should have been included had been replaced with
some that didn’t have the same bolt pattern. This required me to carefully drill out new mounting holes that would allow these linear bearings to fit and hold snug to the steel rods.
One direction was reversed, X axis, which had to be set in firmware.
The printer is controlled by an Arduino board and it takes care of all the movements, as well as temperatures to the extruder (nozzle that the filament feeds, also called the hot end). In my case, my printer came with a heated bed, which made it easier for the filament to stick to the glass on the most important layer, the bottom layer.
The area of this bed was 200 mm x 200 mm and I could print up to 180 mm high.
This design is one of the original ones, and you will find this cloned many times over as it offers great success and simplicity. In many cases the structure will be built of wood. Sometimes aluminum forms the base and frame. Whatever the construction, the most important thing is that everything is square.
Right angles need to be 90 degrees. The bed needs to be level and stay the same distance away from the extruder nozzle at each corner, ensuring an even distance at the center.
I can’t emphasize enough how important this process is. Like any foundation, you need to make sure that things are straight and level. If this is off, it will be reflected in your prints, sometimes causing problems with that first layers adhesion to the bed.
I have to say that once I had some help getting the Marlin software setup to fix the X axis reversal, my problems were few.
Using the included bright orange PLA (Polylactic Acid) which can be made from corn, I setup a spool beside the printer, and using Repetier Host software, with the included Slic3r software (responsible for “slicing” your model into layers and creating G Code which is fed to the printer to tell it what to do), I was able to print out a few models I had downloaded from thingverse. Seeing the nozzle moving in tandem with the Y axis motion of the bed was hypnotizing and layer by layer I watched things being printed.
Having an accuracy of .1 of a millimeter really gives you a perspective of the power you have to create. Anything you can think up, measure, and model, you can print.
As long as it is smaller than 200 mm x 200 mm x 180 mm.
Those were my limits.
Before long I was building an enclosure around the printer, to control the temperature better and prevent drafts that can affect your
models. Certain tricks helped secure the first layer to the glass, and understanding all the settings made most of the difference to my prints.
Now before you think that this is easy, I need to ensure you that it isn’t.
I don’t think I have had anything hurt my head so much as you touch on all areas of science.
A good understanding of geometry is a must.
Patience is even more important.
It will take a while to get your head wrapped around all the concepts needed to maximize your enjoyment of this new emerging tech.
In conclusion, I am very impressed with this printer. As a first printer, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t comfortable with tools, and lots of little pieces.
There are plenty of models available that are pre-built, though at a much higher price.
Recently I found out that the “X” in my model actually stood for something.
My model was twice the speed of the previous model, the “non X”.
Now where were those .stl files for that chess set…..