Author Archives: Orville Chomer

Crazy Ways of Designing 3D Printed Parts

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So I got my female connection test piece working perfectly. My thought was Yes! I now have the measurements I need  to implement connections on the actual model!

Not so fast. I guess I just do not have the hang of this.  It seems to involve a lot of trial and error. Like I’ve said before, I am using Sketchup to design my parts.  This part of the project is driving me nuts. Its just the first part… getting the four base pieces to snap together.

I did not work on it last night because I was just too frustrated with it.

Working on Test Connector

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Yesterday evening I started working again on the design of a female connection piece. The model I am working on (which I want to make copies of and give as gifts to family members) will use these connectors on the base. Instead of just trying to add them to the main model right away, I am creating a small connector which I can adjust the measurements of and print in a relatively short period of time and test to see if it fits the male part of the connector.

If it does not, I can make adjustments to the measurements and repeat the process. Printing this test piece takes much less time than printing the whole actual part of the model! Once I get it just right I will write down the final “correct” measurements and use them for all the base pieces of the model.

A couple months back I was working on this test connector. I was printing test prints in ABS plastic. I am putting ABS aside and printing my tests in PLA plastic. It takes about 24 minutes to print my female connector test print on my Makerbot Replicator 2 3D Printer.

3D Printing Journal Continued

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I have started printing again after I got back from vacation. A lot of warping on a modest sized print in ABS plastic. It may be my imagination, but Makerbot’s Brown ABS filament seems to shrink and warp more than a color say like Red.

Oh, and I started getting temperature errors again 🙁 . I have not investigated this yet. It is just too depressing to look at right now.

PLA is still a non-starter on my Makerbot Replicator 2X printer.

There is a gift I want to  give to some of my relatives this Christmas. I am designing it and I want to print copies out and give as gifts. At the rate I am going, I am spending more time fixing the printer, having failed prints, etc. than I am designing this gift and printing its parts.

I decided rather impulsively to go to the nearby Microsoft Store and buy a Makerbot Replicator 2 printer (not 2x). It prints only in PLA. So far, I have found it to be much more reliable than the 2X. If I level the build plate properly it has a very high rate of successful prints. I am getting back to designing this gift in Sketchup again. Yay!

Note: The Makerbot Replicator 2 looks a lot like the 2X but… it cost less, does not print in ABS, has only one extruder not two, does not have an aluminum build plate, its build plate does not heat up (no need to for PLA), the extruder itself is different, there is no plexiglass on the sides and front, there is no plastic lid. So far… so good.

They have a demo printer at the Microsoft Store, it seems to be printing merrily away without filament cruft laying about. They sell a handful of PLA filament colors too. I will need to order some other colors from Makerbot that I need to print my gift out properly.

Getting the PLA prints to get unstuck from the build platform of my new 3D printer is harder than for ABS prints on my 2X. But I will trade successful prints for this problem any day!

I have notice that PLA can shrink… but a whole LOT less than ABS. I have a hunch that the really neat photos of say the green tractor on Makerbot’s site where printed on the Replicator 2 in PLA. I don’t know for sure, but I think I am right. I printed some tractor parts in ABS on my 2X (… there was a lot of warping. I printed the body of a UPS Truck in Brown ABS, there was a lot of warping and splitting (

Other Stuff
I got a new desk for my workshop at Office Depot to put my MacBook Pro on and hopefully it will be a future soldering station as well. My workshop is looking more and more “workshoppy” all the time! 🙂

Do I have too many proverbial balls in the air at one time? Probably!

I Began working on new Blogging Software

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For all the benefits of using WordPress for my blog, there are many more draw-backs. Sometimes I wonder if I would have been better hand-coding my blog! Writing a post like this that only contains your basic text, its fine. You start wanting to embed pictures or perhaps videos and it behaves very badly. I lost a whole long post recently 🙁 .

So, over vacation I started filling out a notebook with designs for my own blogging software. I’ve been doing a lot of content management software at work so doing content management type stuff is fresh in my mind. My goal is to get off of WordPress and get off soon. I want to be able to put together posts efficiently. I want to spend my time writing and refining my posts, not struggling with the technical problems of the platform I am using.

The database I am using is mySQL. I was going to write the blog software in Coldfusion (since that is what I am most comfortable with). But I have decided to use PHP. All nice and open source! 🙂 I’m developing it in a web instance running on my iMac using MAMP.

Goal: That I have a local instance working with basic functionality by this Saturday.

Printing in PLA is Frustrating So Far

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PLA Filament
I have a Makerbot Replicator 2X 3D Printer. It can print in both ABS and PLA plastic filaments.  So far, the only plastic I can get prints out of  fairly reliably is ABS.

I found some interesting info on the subject in Google Groups:!topic/makerbot/s1wZ6KoiIQY

I tried some things I saw here with some slight improvements. But it is still not worth my trouble.

I am giving up printing in PLA for now, I will probably try different things every now and then when my patience is running higher.

We will see.

3D Printing Update – Some of what’s Happened and What I’ve Learned

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Oh heck! I have been neglecting my blog for long enough!

Due to the dearth of posts on 3D Printing you might suspect that I haven’t done any at all! Maybe I gave up? Not on your life! A Makerbot Replicator 2X is just too dang expensive to give up on!

When it came to the thermocouple, for a while my printer was in a bunch of pieces strewn all over my workbench. But, finally I got my printer back together and working.

I have gotten somewhat better and having successful prints… somewhat… I am better at leveling the build plate (very important leveling the build plate)! Kapton tape is very important for printing in ABS. But Kapton tape is a pain in the butt to apply nicely to the build plate (I should devote a whole post to this subject)!

I have designed a few things using Sketchup and you can download them to print on My user name there is getOrvillized:

The things I have designed so far:

  • Garden Hose Spigot Handle
  • Makerbot 2X GoPro Camera Mount
  • GoPro Mounting Bracket
  • Furnace Pipe Connector
  • Hanging Basket

I am getting better at using Sketchup but I am by no means an expert… yet… 🙂

I’ve been working mostly with spools of ABS plastic. Mostly Makerbot brand. Some Octave brand as well (Octave seems to be a runnier plastic).

ABS printing… breathing the fumes makes me wheeze. Don’t breath the fumes.

PLA printing… smells like popcorn (since it is corn based that makes sense)… I still wouldn’t breath the fumes!

ABS loves to shrink and on taller prints the layers like to separate on the corners.

ABS (what legos are made of) is stronger and more flexible than PLA.

You could leave an ABS print in your back car window no problem, one in PLA plastic might get a little gooey sitting back there.

Basically, PLA melts at a lower temperature than ABS.

When printing in ABS you have to spend a large amount of time waiting for the build platform to heat up. When printing in PLA you do not have to heat the build plate so it starts to print much quicker.

To make your prints stick to the build platform during the printing, you use Kapton tape for ABS and Blue Painter’s Tape for PLA.

When printing in PLA, put the Blue Painter’s Tape over the Kapton tape. The Kapton tape is too expensive and too hard to work with to remove and install anew when switching back and forth between ABS and PLA. I found out this is what they do at the Bot Cave at Makerbot.

You should only change the Kapton tape when it gets too messed up (gouges and scratches) for prints to stick properly.

There was a 3D Printing Expo in Chicago. I took the day off and went to it. It was a big disappointment. Makerbot was not even represented there. The size of the whole exhibit floor was about the size of my back yard! I saw everything there was to see in about 20 minutes (that’s about a dollar a minute based on the ticket price).

Above is a sample brace for a child to wear to help them function.
This was at the Expo, and it is definitely a cool use of the
technology to provide custom solutions at a smaller cost.

I have recorded some of the prints I have recently done on YouTube.

Makerbot Replicator 2x Journal Entry 2

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Well, yesterday was a busy day for me just immersing myself in the world of 3D printing. I want to keep this post short so I have more time to actually do more 3D printer stuff and maybe kick back on my remaining day off from work!

Let’s see:

  • I called Makerbot about my heater error.
  • They emailed me instructions for checking the thermocouple connections to the circuit board inside the printer.
  • I followed the instructions (I want to do a detailed post on this later).
  • It seemed to work… for a while…
  • I printed a 2nd Mr. Jaws for my nephews in Red ABS plastic. It printed nicely.
  • A little later the error message popped up again. Grrrrr!
  • I called Makerbot Support again and told them my woe.
  • They are sending me a new thermocouple cable free of charge. It will take a few days to get here (for fast shipping I would have to had to pay).
  • The thermocouple that is acting bad is for the right extruder.
  • In the mean time, I have not actually used the left extruder yet so I decided to start messing around with that!
  • While I had tech support on the phone I had a mess of questions I wanted answered in my notebook. I asked those questions (and two or three more) and built up my knowledge base quite a bit! There is still so much to learn! BTW, I did not feel rushed by the support person (I felt more rushed by myself)!
  • I hope to write other posts regarding the information I found out about on that call.
  • I picked another object out on Thingiverse to print in Natural ABS plastic (white). Its called Melting Ball in a Cage (thing:62856).
  • If you look at a picture of this thing it probably should have been called Ball in a Melting Cage!
  • It was printed in white PLA. I have white ABS. How hard could this be?
  • Even after leveling the build platform carefully I am having a hard time:
    • Even printing the raft.
    • Getting the plastic to consistently come out of the extruder!
  • The white ABS seems a bit runny.
  • The first thing I want to do today is try the print again with a lower temp on the extruder and see if that helps.

Wish me luck!

Makerbot Replicator 2x Journal Entry 1

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First off, I decided to keep a paper journal just for my printer. Working with this 3D printer is more than a notion! I’ve run into various problems, learned various things, there’s a lot to keep track of! I want to put in this electronic version of a “journal” on my blog here to share what I have learned. This is the first entry. I plan on recording stuff based on reviewing my paper journal as well as trying to recall other things that I did not write down. Hopefully in the process, I will build up my body of knowledge and help others who read my blog posts on this subject. some things in this post may be slightly out of order.

I did not have a paper journal at first. So some of the details may be missing. I am going to get better at this! I don’t want my 3D printer to just end up being a very expensive paper-weight!

I mentioned in a previous post that I printed a comb from the SD card that came with the printer. I printed the comb in a translucent (Icicle Blue) PLA plastic filament. What next?

iPhone Case
I downloaded an iPhone case of the Thingiverse site. I was not keeping track of “thing” ids at this point. This print was like day 2 of me having the printer. I started printing it in Icicle Blue PLA plastic. After doing a good deal of the case back, the extruder started clicking and the plastic was not coming out of it. I paused the printer and swapped in red ABS filament!  So I was impatient! The print finished but was a bit de-laminated. Not to mention it was a bit too small to fit on my iPhone 4.

Switching from PLA to ABS… Why?
I did this because I read on some sites that PLA has more of a tendency to not feed into the extruder properly after the extruder has been running hot for awhile… so I switched to ABS.  Maybe not the best idea, but I think its a learning experience.

HeartSpring (thing:51979)
I decided to attempt to print this because my wife liked it. I probably was picking something too complex for me at this point. I will comment more about using the Makerware software later in another post. I was having a bear of a time getting the print to stick (even just printing a raft let alone printing the actual heart)! I learned about Kapton tape and installed a piece that came with the printer. I finally got somewhere here, but the print started really messing up about 21mm  high… it was so bad I canceled the print. I was using supports (which actually may have been a mistake in this case).

On my half-way decent start I had added blue painter’s tape to the build plate (I made it 2 sided). I found out later that the painter’s tape is more to be used printing in PLA. I was printing in Red ABS. I probably would have had better luck if  I had leveled the build platform better.

Tech Support
I called tech support in the afternoon… I had to leave a voice message. My message was basically about my problems getting even my raft to stick to the build platform. About 3 days later I got a call. It seemed my problem most likely had more to do with more precisely leveling the build platform. I would have liked to have talked with them longer but I had a call for my job I needed to get on. I gotta call back!

Printer Cover
At this point I did not have the cover for my printer… so I made one from a inexpensive plastic storage container that I bought at Target. I bought other plastic storage containers to store all my 3D printing stuff too! I used my improvised printer cover during my last attempt at the heartspring object.

I called Makerbot about my printer cover because it was listed on the packing slip but was not included in any box that I received. The web site seemed to indicate everything had shipped. Anyway, I found out from the folks at Makerbot that it had not shipped. A couple days later I received my new cover along with an extra spool of filament. Thanks for the spool Makerbot!

My wife saw a bracelet  on Thingiverse that she liked (sadly I do not know the thing id), I downloaded the file and tried to print. The render took forever and I saw some things about the model that made me worry so I cancelled the print. I downloaded another bracelet model (again, I did not record the thing id). I spent some extra time leveling the build platform and the print (in red ABS) started really well! This is the first time in ABS that my raft stuck to the build plate without any problems. And the printing of the bracelet itself started very well. Alas, when the bracelet was about 5mm high it started to”come off the rails.” At the suggestion of my wife I let the print finish just to see what we would get. As you can see in the photo, its not something wearable!

E-Gads! Heater Error!
Whilst I was looking over my scruffy bracelet print my printer got an error: Heater Error! My temperature reads are failing! Please Chek my connections. Yikes. I found somewhere info about making sure the wires into the extruder were pushed in properly, they seemed to be. 🙁

I turned the printer off and waited awhile… then turned it back on. The error went away… for awhile.

Mr. Jaws
My two nephews dropped by and I printed a Mr. Jaws from the SD card. I printed it in red ABS. After an initial problem, this printed perfectly. My nephews were fighting over Mr. Jaws! I need to print another one so they each have one.  My wife and I went to dinner and I left the printer on to cool down. When we got back the heater error was back. 🙁

Now, even when I turn the printer off for a long period of time, and then turn the printer back on I get the error right away. It is happening for the right extruder. Grrrrrr!

The 3D printer saga continues…

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