Author Archives: Orville Chomer

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…

What You Can Do with Web Apps in HTML5: A Response

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Hello all, I felt the need to respond to a discussion that was had on Web Apps and HTML5 on the tech show “The Gillmor Gang”… the “Pinch and Spread” episode. What was said was interesting but it seemed to be that the gang was coming to conclusions based on too limited a view of what HTML  5 was capable of. The embedded video I hope explains it all more fully. Hopefully you can pardon my excessive use of vocal pauses (umm), and you will still get a good grounding of the potential that HTML 5 has and what it can to do for the mobile space.

Link to discussion on programmatically determining if the browser is running on a regular iPad or an iPad Mini:   Detecting iPad Mini in HTML5
How to Detect iPad Mini Using Javascript
Note regarding the two links above: After looking into this deeper it seems that the difference in the values for availableWidth and availableHeight are due to the different tab counts when testing this code. So this is probably not very useful after all. 🙁

Amazon link to book:   Building iPhone Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript by Jonathan Stark. Note that I bought this also as an eBook on Apple’s iBooks and some of the page formatting in the reader there is really screwed up.

Related Posts:
Programmatically Determining if in Full Screen Mode in Mobile Safari

Initial Thoughts on My Makerbot Replicator 2x

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Today I finally received my new Makerbot Replicator 2x 3D printer. I also received another box containing two spools of plastic filament (one ABS and one PLA) that I had ordered extra. I am supposed to receive another package that contains the acrylic top cover… I have not received that one yet. I carefully opened the box for the printer and setup it up. Here are a few points I want to make:

  • A sheet of paper packed at the top of the box did mention that I might get the plastic cover shipped to me at another time (depending on the shipper).
  • White plastic tie-downs where being used to hold the double extruder print head in place during shipping. What was cool was they were wrapped around red blocks of plastic that were obviously printed on a 3D printer!
  • There was supposed to be a plastic spacer between the two gantry bars to kind of hold things steady during shipping. My printer did not have this. In other words it was missing.
  • As expected, the printer came with an SD card which was already plugged into the printer’s SD card slot.
  • The printer came with 2 spools of ABS plastic filament. It was not clear when I bought the printer that it would be included (which is why I had bought 2 spools separately).
  • It took a bit of jiggering to get the print platform aligned.
  • I decided to print the comb model (one of the models that came on the SD card).
  • I had a bear of a time getting something to print… Turns out you really need to put this film on the printing platform called Kapton Tape. This stuff, at least the stuff that came with the printer looks more like overhead projector transparencies than tape! Interestingly enough the user manual mentions nothing about this in the setup section of the book. And this stuff did not come pre-installed in my printer! After I put this stuff in I started to get somewhere.
  • You want to make sure that before you print that you remove any plastic goop off of the extruders (even if it is the other extruder that you are not using)! That goop may knock over what you are printing as the print head moves around!
  • I finally was able to print a “comb.” It came out a bit warped so I don’t think it would do a good job of combing your hair! This warping problem may be due to platform not being heated warm enough. The acrylic cover has a lot to do with keeping the heat stable in the printing area so we’ll see how that helps the print quality once I get it.
  • I can adjust the temperature of the print platform (make it higher), and perhaps I should adjust the height of the platform so it is slightly closer to the print head’s extruders. We will see.
  • BTW, I printed the comb in PLA which should be less fussy. I am still working out the tweaks.

Some final notes: some parts of the user manual are very clear, some need some help (there are two sections one after the other on loading filament… it gets confusing what is happening here). This mainly is during just the printer setup section.

I am looking forward to becoming a Makerbot expert! Until later…

Programmatically Determining if in Full Screen Mode in Mobile Safari

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Building a site that you want to be a web app on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch?

Full Screen Detection:

Consider this meta tag:

<meta name="apple-mobile-web-app-capable" content="yes" />

If you add this to your Mobile Safari web page your page will open in full screen mode…  IF you added your page as a shortcut to your Home screen and IF you launched it from that shortcut! Otherwise if you open the page from the standard mobile Safari icon it will not be in full screen!

You might have seen how some sites have a popup balloon that points to the    button with a message on how to add to the Home screen. The popup only shows up when your not in full screen mode. How do they do this?

Mobile Safari has the following property:


If this property is true, we are in full screen. False, we are not in full screen!

Consider adding to your JavaScript function called by the page’s onload event something like the following:

if ("standalone" in window.navigator && !window.navigator.standalone) {   
   // code here to create a div displaying our help balloon and positioning it
   // properly on the screen.
} // end if 

Recommended Post:

Do you want to look into this subject in more detail? Ben Nadel has written an excellent post on his blog: Detecting iPhone’s App Mode (Full Screen Mode) For Web Applications.

A JavaScript Library:

Looking for  a JavaScript library that you can add to your project to do the work for you? Matteo Spinelli on his site has created one for you. Go to his Add to Home Screen page to find out all the details. He’s even got a QR barcode that you can use with your iPhone to test it out!

If you go to the test page on your iPhone in Mobile Safari it will do this little balloon animation on the screen where it slides from the top down so    that it ends up pointing at the  button (see screen shot below):

The JS Library is downloadable for free but Matteo will take donations via PayPal or Flattr.

Code. I have to say I downloaded the library and looked at the code. Matteo put a lot of effort into this thing. it supports multiple languages and does all sorts of fancy stuff! Enough said.

Is 2013 the Year of the 3D Printer?

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Replicator 2 3D printer with plastic tractor printed on it

3D printers have been around for a little while. Instead of printing ink or toner on paper found in these all-in-one printers, these devices print 3D objects by taking a computer file that describes a 3D object and print them by building them one thin layer at a time. Many printers print objects in plastic. But some even print in metals!

These printers used to be relegated to the use of R&D departments of companies who could afford $50,000 or more devices as large as a big refrigerator. Recently though, some small companies have been coming out with desktop 3D printers that are affordable to normal people. My first exposure to these kinds of printers (or any 3D printers at all) came from Make Magazine. They had an article about the Cupcake 3D printer kit from a company called MakerBot. Very cool stuff!

Me and a buddy of mine went to like the next MakerFaire in San Mateo and there were quite a few 3D printers around busily printing different objects. There were lots of people crowded around these things. I could see why! It was mesmerizing to see a device like this making an object from scratch.

Well my attention was brought back to 3D Printers with product announcements being made at CES this year. And folks, I broke down and bought a 3D printer! The Makerbot Replicator 2X! Let me say I ordered it. I do not have it yet. There is like an 8 week delay. I am looking forward to getting it though! I know, duh right? Oh, and this printer comes assembled. I don’t have to build a kit. Which for me is great! We’re planning on having a 3D printer party at my house a while after it arrives. We’ll see if that happens! 🙂

MakerBot is not the only one coming out with desktop 3D printers that people can afford. It should be very interesting what happens in this space!

And yes you can do more with this thing than just print out busts of Yoda and statues of owls! I’ve even seen such things as working shower heads! To get an idea of things one can print on a 3D printer check out Thingiverse!

Getting Back in Practice

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It has been a very long time since I have posted anything to my blog. This is due to a number of reasons:

  • Work. There have been some grueling schedules to meet. And since this work involves web development even when I do have time for my blog there is a good chance I may be really sick of sitting in front of a computer typing stuff in!
  • Just changes what I am working on… some due to discouragement. I was doing a lot of work learning how to do iOS programming and I was writing posts on the subject. You should see how many unfinished draft posts I have on iOS programming!
  • Issues I have with WordPress. As much as WordPress is a powerful way to blog. Sometimes getting anything beyond a really simple post to display like I want it to is possible but is really a pain. And, again, I just don’t want to deal!

Somehow, I am not sure how, I’ve been beginning to think about my blog again. What should I do with it? At very least I should post to it to practice and improve my writing. Writing I have found can be a great catharsis. Somehow I forget these things! Writing a how-to is a bit different than just writing as an expression. It is harder. It takes more planning. But my mind is always going. There is always something to say.

Just getting started on this post was hard. Like, what’s the point? But once I had a few words typed in everything was ok. And here we are!

I just want to wish anyone reading this a Happy New Year!

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