MakerBot | Tips for the MakerBot Replicator Z18

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The Making Curve
Desktop 3D printing is evolving swiftly and MakerBot is working continually and iteratively to improve both hardware and software. This process involves experimentation and adjustments as the printers, and the software that drives them, are repeatedly fine-tuned. MakerBot employees from all over the company get involved and are constantly providing input as they work with the printers at or near their desks.

With that in mind, we asked Joey Neal, MakerBot’s VP of Digital Products, to share some tips about what he’s testing and tweaking as he works to continually improve print quality on his MakerBot Replicator Z18, a printer that resembles MakerBot’s other 3D printers but is perhaps best appreciated by people comfortable with tweaking and refining.

Back in 2011, Joey built a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic over the course of a couple of weekends and he and his son quickly became addicted to Thingiverse. One printer led to another and in 2013 (after spending many happy hours with his Thing-O-Matic, Replicator, MakerBot Replicator 2, and MakerBot Replicator 2X), Joey officially joined the MakerBot team, where he enjoys creating with a MakerBot Replicator, a MakerBot Replicator Mini, and a MakerBot Replicator Z18.

Massive Means Different
From his office stocked with large 3D prints, Joey had a few things to note right off the bat.

“First off, the Z18 is massive compared to the printers we had at our disposal just last year at MakerBot. It can print for hours and hours, and even days, depending on the model you are printing and settings that you have selected.

“The software team has been working hand in hand with our test engineering team to print, test and learn from results over hours and hours of testing. Print quality at larger volumes is a main focus and here are a few things I have been testing and have seen some quality results.

“Caveat: Your mileage may vary and these are not official MakerBot recommendations but, as a MakerBot operator, it’s always great to get under the hood a little bit and see the results.”

Try Tinkering With the Temperature (and Shells)

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“For solid models that do not have a lot of intricate details (that is, gaps where the extruder needs to jump between printings), I have been playing around with raising the temperature a little bit to see how it prints. Some folks have seen some under-extrusion from time to time and temperature plays a big role in laying down each layer.”

“I have created a custom profile in MakerBot Desktop that raises the temperature from 215°C to 218°C. If the model does have a lot of jumps, you may see a bit more stringiness between gaps — so your mileage may vary.”

To try out this idea, create a custom profile of your own. Follow the steps located here in the MakerBot Replicator Z18 knowledge base.

Be careful, though. There are always tradeoffs with raising or lowering the temperature. We’ve found 215°C works well for the majority of models. A higher temperature can work better for others (like a vase), but if yours has lots of “jumps”, as Joey calls them, you may experience an increase in stringiness.

For now, you’ll still need to edit custom profiles with your text editor. But Joey notes the ability to edit a custom profile directly in MakerBot Desktop will be available later this year.

For under-extrusion, you could also try increasing the number of shells (the perimeters printed on each layer of your object). Additional shells make the outside of your print thicker and stronger, and can make up for weakness caused by under-extrusion.

See What the Community is Doing

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The Thingiverse community is a great place to share the tips you’ve discovered with fellow MakerBot operators, and to pick up a few yourself. Joey is trying out this clip, shown here, created by community member, Wheeler (Thingiverse 419367).

“It’s a clip you can print and then put on the Z18 housing as an additional safeguard for the Smart Extruder. We have seen some folks have a connectivity issue from time to time and I wanted to see if having the clip on had any effect. So far I have not seen any pauses due to connectivity issues.”