This wiki knows about two Makerbots at AMT: Alice and Bob. Both are equipped with Plastruder MK5 extrusion heads. They process ABS plastic filament. They live on the top shelf in the first room of the Annex. They are the personal property of Al (Alice) and Mike (Bob), and are a grandfathered exception to the current rule of no member-owned equipment to be kept at Ace.
As of 2015-09-12, it is unclear if either Alice or Bob works. If you are interested in 3d printing, Ace suggests using the Replicator 2 and the Series 1. If you are interested in Makerbots specifically, please get in touch with an owner and see if they will allow you to use/fix/disassemble it. If you are interested in clearing out space at Ace, get in touch with an owner and persuade them to take it away.
The general workflow is to generate a STL file with some sort of 3D design software. This file is then processed by ReplicatorG, which runs the program Skeinforge on it. Skeinforge converts STL into GCode. GCode consists of the raw instructions for the hardware, and is therefore device-specific. ReplicatorG saves the spool file with type "S3G". That file is stored on an SD card, the card placed in the Makerbot, and finally Replicator3G is used to instruct the Makerbot to process the S3G file. ReplicatorG can also spool directly to the Makerbot, however this causes problems with fine structures (see below).
- 1 Approved Makerbot Operators
- 2 Helpful references:
- 3 Tips on printing
- 4 Things We've Printed
- 5 Skeinforge Replacements
Approved Makerbot Operators
Since the makerbots are actually the personally owned equipment of AMT members Al (for Alice) and Mike (for Bob), there are some stipulations on usage. People wishing to use the makerbots should be approved for operation. This means that either Al or Mike has spoken to the person, shown them some of the idiosyncracies of the makerbots, and run through a supervised build with the potential operator. This allows some supervised experience in using the makerbots, which are cranky, and assures people that the makerbots will not be accidentally damaged through inexperience.
Talk to Al and Mike if you wish to be approved as a makerbot operator.
The currently approved operators are:
- Free 3D software
- ReplicatorG - This is the program you need.
- Skeinforge parameters
- Makerbot calibration guide - Somewhat vague instructions, but nevertheless something to start with. Deals mostly with calibrating the amount of material that is extruded.
- Skeinforge settings for Makerbot - This page is not up to date with the settings for Plastruder 5, but still interesting.
Skeinforge Calibration Profiles
You can download David's calibration profiles directly from this link: https://github.com/davr/makerbot-profiles/zipball/master Extract to /wherever/replicatorg-0023-mac/skein_engines/skeinforge-35/skeinforge_application/ (adjust version numbers as necessary), rename the 'prefs' directory to 'prefs.old', then rename 'davr-makerbot-profiles-xxx' to 'prefs'. Note if you do this way instead of going thru git, it's harder to collaborate with your changes. This link is provided for people who don't want to bother with git.
Tips on printing
- Make sure you're using Skeinforge 35 and not the old 0006 version
- Always keep 'Raft' enabled.
- If you want to print with a raft:
- Disable 'Outline'
- Under 'Raft', Set "Base layers" to 1, and "Interface layers" to between 0 and 3. I personally use 2. If you do 1 or 0, it saves time...but it becomes harder to remove the raft from the object.
- If you want to print without a raft (aka raftless)
- Enable 'Outline'
- Under 'Raft', Set "Base layers" and "Interface layers" to 0.
- If you want to print with a raft:
- Adjust infill density under "Fill". 0.25 is standard light objects, turn it up if you want more solid/stronger things (max 1.0). Higher = more plastic = longer to print. Also I think the "line" pattern is fine, it's faster to print than the rectangle / hexagon patterns
- After generating the gcode (running thru skeinforge), inspect the gcode to make sure nothing looks terribly wrong. You can do this inside Skeinforge, go to the Analyze -> Skeinlayer -> Skeinlayer buttons, then open the gcode file. You can step through the layers.
These let the bot automatically return to home position. No more endless manual adjustment of the build platform and z stage to line things up just right. Still need to be installed. Connectors might need to be modified to work with the cupcake (which originally had opto endstops, which had some reliability problems)
Makerbot Specific Notes
Makerbot Alice (Alice)
Contact person: Al
Adjusted PID settings in the firmware, no longer need to set higher temperature.
Makerbot B (Bob)
Contact person: Mike G
Experiences printing fine structures
A number of test printouts were made to experiment with various settings. The printouts and the reference sheet should be stored somewhere with the bot materials.
The main problem is buildup of excess extruded material on the product for various reasons. This causes the area where the Z axis transition happens to build up higher that the current layer. The extruder head will first start smearing, the pushing material to the side (causing deformation of the product). Eventually the head will prevent the XY table from moving and cause its belts to skip.
The best thing you can do to improve a small part printout is to download the GCode onto the SD card in the makerbot. This speeds up operation of the extruder head, causing it to deposit less excess material on the product.
Some other problems with the default settings
- More than one shell are generated. In smaller parts, there is no room for the extra shells. Turn them off in Fill->Extra Shells (3 different options).
- Extra material is deposited while the Makerbot adjusts the Z axis (to get to the next slice). This can be avoided by activating the "Cool" module in Skeinforge. Cool will let the extruder head circle around the perimeter of the product. Enable Cool (Cool->Activate=1) and set the minimum layer time to a time greater than is actually required for your layers (Cool->Minimum Layer Time=xx).
Some other parameters that might be relevant - these have been tried but didn't improve matters significantly enough
- Inset->Infill Perimeter Overlap. Decreasing the value should reduce the overlap between shell and fill. Might help reduce excess material, but could also weaken the contact between shell and fill.
- Clip->Clip over Extruded With. Would probably do approximately the same as Inset->Infill Perimeter Overlap.
Things We've Printed
- Z-Axis Knob
- 3D Unicorn Logo
- The little black cable holder on the right on the parallel cable
- Ace Monster Toy logos, one of which now lives on the RFID access panel
- Enclosure for a home made gadget Had a little trouble making it fit though.
Skeinforge is super slow and inefficient. It shouldn't take 10 minutes to slice a model. I'm looking for replacement software, none o these are quite ready for primetime yet, add any others you find