Friday, January 11, 2013

Tips for Successful Prints with the Makerbot Replicator 2

Bucket of Failed Prints or Makerbot Spagetti!
I've spent a number of hours working with my Replicator 2 and have logged the better part of a thousand hours printing in the past couple years since assembling my first printer a Makergear Mosaic. After finding a lot of people having the same issues with their Rep2's that I have been wrestling with such as curling, the extruder stopping extruding, and funky starts to prints I figured I would share a few tips that I have found help lead to successful prints. 

Tips for Better Prints:

1. Purchase some Thermal Paste and apply it between where the heater block and the heat sink meet.

A significant portion of the extrusion issues people are having are related to excess heat seeping up the PLA during retraction of the filament as part of ooze prevention. Ooze causes the little pimple looking dots of plastic between layers, so the software very gently will pull the filament back up to prevent that if the filament is too soft then it will warp and the extruder gear wont be able to grab on to it and continue to extrude. The thermal paste helps the heat sink absorb and dispers a much larger amount of heat helping the extruder to it's job.

Here is the paste I ordered, it also comes with cleaner which is super helpful as well: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001FVI91U/ref=oh_details_o07_s00_i00

2. To help with leveling I would recommend buying a feeler gauge. These are staples in any Machinists toolbox, use the 1.00mm feeler gauge instead of a business card or sheet of paper while running the leveling sequence. You want it to just have an ever so slight bit of friction at each of the leveling points. Here's the one I ordered from Amazon, it's been doing a great job: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005689P7A/ref=oh_details_o06_s00_i00

For further accuracy when leveling, I also recommend using this interactive leveling object from whpthomas on Thingiverse to help with leveling: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:39430

3. To help prevent curling, some operators will recommend using rubbing alcohol on the build platform. I do not recommend this as it will be a serious challenge to remove any of your objects from the build platform once they are finished. The rubbing alcohol certainly helps with adhesion so much so that it makes it near impossible to remove the object after it has finished printing.

Replicator 2 purring away
Instead I recommend a light coating of Vegetable Oil applied with a paper towel. It helps significantly with adhesion therefore helps prevent curling while still allowing you to remove your print when it's finished.

4. Before starting a print, I always run the 'Load Filament' script from the 'Change Filament' menu under Utilities on your bot. This helps get the old and saturated filament in the nozzle out and get fresh stuff in there which helps with both adhesion and the quality of the first couple layers resulting in a nicer print.

Although, it's easy to get frustrated when the printer acts up, ultimately, the work that early 3d Printer operators are doing and sharing day-in and day-out is equally as important, if not more so, to pioneering and exploring this young field as the companies producing them!

I'll continue posting my findings, tips, tricks and musings here. Namaste.