How to get better results from your 3D printer – Maintenance
This is the fourth in a series of how to get better print results from your 3D printer. The first three posts focused on calibrating hardware, upgrading hardware, and calibrating software. If you are just tuning in to this series, check out the list of prior posts at the end. And if you’re only following along via an RSS feed, you’re really missing out. There have been literally dozens of amazing comments with many many more suggestions from other roboticists. Even if you think you know every trick in the book, you’re guaranteed to find something you haven’t thought of before. And if you’ve got an idea, a hint, trick, or hack – leave a comment and help out future roboticists!
- Maintenance. A well treated 3D printer should give you years of trouble-free printing. 1 Here are some suggestions on how to keep your pet 3D printer well maintained.
- Oil your X, Y, and Z rods. I do this about once a month. Since the Cupcake uses plastic bushings, I see a black plastic residue accumulate over time. I wipe this off at the same time I oil the rods.
- Periodically tighten nuts and bolts. Again, monthly.
- Periodically test and tighten belt tension. I check and adjust belt tension rarely – usually only after I see a printing problem develop.
- Periodically test your filament tension. There’s a sweet spot to filament tension that’s a lot easier to set with a MK5 style plastruder than it was with a MK4 plastruder. Too tight and you’re putting extra strain on the extruder motor. Too loose and you’re not really getting the best extrusion possible. As plastic filament actually has a slight variation in its diameter, this is something I monitor whenever I am printing. It’s partially a way for me to fuss over my robot as it is happily printing away. 2 If I notice that the extrusion is suddenly too thin, a quick adjustment to the filament tension screw will fix this. I’ve heard that adding a second nut to the filament tension screw prevents the screw from loosening slightly over time.
- Repair or replace. Having a 3D printer means that if a part breaks or wears out you can actually replace it. Just accept the fact you’re going to bend, pop, snap, crackle, or pop a part. When that happens you’ll need to rig or hack a temporary solution while you print up a replacement part. One benefit to a solid plastic replacement part to a component that’s assembled out of layered plastic and/or plywood is that there are no parts to loosen over time.
- Floss extruder gear. Use something soft-ish like a toothpick to pop the plastic bits out of the gear’s teeth.
- Clean out the plastruder. The plastruder can accumulate very small plastic chips which fall out from the extruder gear. If you leave your hot too long, you can develop a blockage that will cause plastic to ooze up into the plastruder. Disassembling the plastruder is the best way to pull the extra plastic out.
- Keep firmware updated. The firmware has come a long way and I’m pretty sure it to go even further. Don’t forget to update the extruder firmware too!
- Keep software updated. ReplicatorG is constantly under development.
- Replace warped build platforms or build surfaces. A flat even build surface will ensure nice flat builds without having to worry about the extruder head crashing into the platform.
- Keep your plastic in a cool, dry place. As mentioned above, the filament’s diameter can very slightly.
- Check wire connections on any moving axes. The cable clips attaching motors, endstops, and various other bits to the XY stages can work themselves loose after time. I check these whenever I see that a cable might be working itself loose.
- Cupcake – Clearing extruder nozzle blockage. This is really only relevant to the MK4 style plastruders. I’ve never had a bad blockage after running a MK5 plastruder for the last six months.
- Thing-O-Matic – Clear the inside of your robot of any plastic boogers that might get wiped off.
- How to get better results from your 3D printer – Calibrating Hardware
- How to get better results from your 3D printer – Upgrading Hardware
- How to get better results from your 3D printer – Calibrating Software
- How to get better results from your 3D printer – Maintenance
- How to get better results from your 3D printer – Abrasion
- How to get better results from your 3D printer – Heat
- How to get better results from your 3D printer – Coating
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