Welcome

This page is about my interests, projects, and profession (technical artist in the video games industry).  Most of my hardware\software projects are coded in PythonProcessing, & Arduino.  I also enjoy 3d printing, you can find my designs for download over on Thingiverse.  I’d be happy to print for you via the link on the right –>

Find Processing\Android\Python programs\apps I’ve developed via the above title bar.

I also maintain several wikis on Maya\Python\Pygame\Processing that I update far more often than this blog.  See them on their page.

All information on this site is copyright under the Apache Licence v2.0, unless otherwise noted.  Which means you can pretty much use the information here for whatever you like, but I always appreciate credit where applicable.

Have a look around.  Thanks for stopping by.

– Eric Pavey

3D Printer Surgery: Replacing my Makerbot Replicator 1’s Voltage Regulator

I purchased my Makerbot Replicator (1) when they were first released, nearly 3 years ago now.  Other than a few hiccups (HBP cable failing repeatedly, and a dead botstep needing replaced) it’s ran like a champ.  Reading the forums like I do, I’ve seen a number of people talk about their voltage regulators dying (the LM1084), and killing the whole board in the process.  I don’t know when I’m going to upgrade, and I’d like to keep this machine running as long as possible, so an update was in order.

Makerbot users are always a super-helpful bunch, and the folks over at the Makerbot Users Google Group are no exception.  I’d seen a lot of posts on the subject, but none that really broke down specifically what needed to be done, and what parts needed to be sourced.  So I asked, and they answered.  Armed with that knowledge (and this great photoset by JetGuy) I ordered from Digikey a “Recom Power R-78E5.0-0.5” voltage regulator (the 5v version, not 3.3v) based on user tramalot’s recommendation.  Below are the overall steps I took to install it.  It’s not hard once you grasp what needs done, and my hope is this breakdown can help others in the same situation.


First I sketched out the old and new wiring on paper:  The new regulator has a different pinout:  Everything has been shifted one pin left.

Next I snapped a pic of the Mightyboard pre-removal as a sanity check:

board_before

I made sure to ground myself with a wrist-strap just to be safe.

I then labeled all the wires with little stickies, unhooked everything…

spaghetti(note, this is actually the board on reinstall, but it’s all the same)

…and removed the board.  Here’s a shot of the bare board, and the new voltage regulator:

board_and_reg

Like discussed in the forums, I used snips to cut the leads from the old voltage regulator.  I then took my soldering iron (the big, red, hand-held kind), and pressing it against the back of the reg, waited for it to desolder from the Mightyboard.  I lightly twisted the reg back and forth with a pair of pliers at the same time since I had no idea if just the pressure from the iron would move it.  It took a lot longer than I expected, and at one point I thought it wouldn’t work at all.  I’m guessing I had to hold it from 5+ minutes.

desolder

From there I desoldered the old remaining leads, and soldered in the new voltage regulator using wires to aid in the pintout offset.    I liked what JetGuy had done in his Flickr post, so I hot-glued it to the power receptacle for extra stability:

newInstall(Note the brown/orange cruft is just left-over flux)

Put it all back together, and I was relieved when it turned on, and printed successfully.

I figured while I had it apart I should provide for some extra cooling, so I drilled out a 1.5″ hole right by the Mightyboard fan.  However, after I did this I had more conversation on the above forum linked above, and learned that the Mightyboard really needs no fan cooling at all.  But… having it there should’t hurt.

newVent

Hope this gives my rep1 many more years of good printing :)

My thanks again goes out to the Makerbot Users Google Group users JetGuy, tramalot, and Joseph Chiu for their helpful advice!

New 3D Print: Squishball

Since I recently got Ninjaflex printing successfully, I wanted to come up with a print to test its physical/print properties.  “Squishball” was the result.  Get more info and download the file over on Thingiverse.

NinjaFlex!

A number of months ago I picked up some Fenner Drives NinjaFlex (via ToyBuilder Labs):  I was really excited to give it a shot, but was unable to get it to load into my Makerbot Replicator (1) :  I’d done the drive-block upgrade long time back that should enable me to successfully extrude it.  After disassembling the extruder I’d watch as the filament would enter the thermal tube, then after some time bulge out the (really, really small) gap between the thermal tube and drive block.  I figured the extruder wasn’t getting hot enough, but the onboard firmware didn’t let me adjust the filament load temp, only the pre-heat temp:  I could pre-heat plenty hot, but it would cool back down (to an unknown temp) before doing the filament load.  Frustrating, and I had to abandon it.

Back in December I upgraded my firmware to Sailfish.  And today it dawned on me that Sailfish lets you adjust the pre-heat temperature.  Armed with this knowledge, I cranked it up to 240c, and it loaded without a hitch.  The resultant is this magnificently squishy 2x2x1 cm half-cube:

ninjaFlex

It was sliced in Simplify3D and printed with these settings:

  • Extruded at 240 deg onto an unheated build platform covered in blue painters tape.
  • 2 shells, 4 floor, 4 roof, 20% infill, 200 micron layer height.
  • 30mm/sec extrusion (per all the online specs I’ve read), 120mm/sec travel.

New 3D Print : HexVase 04

This vase was created entirely to test Simplify3D‘s “vase mode” feature: It prints the walls as one contiguous corkscrew spiral. Turned out great.
Modeled in Maya.  Printed on my Makerbot Replicator (1).

Download the files for print and get more info over on Thingiverse.

Simplify3D

I started 3d printing in March of  2012 on my Makerbot Replicator (1).  I used ReplicatorG as my slicer, since that was the primary option at the time.  When Makerware (now Makerbot Desktop) was released I switched to it, and never looked back.  I’ve found success with it, and really only have a few complaints.  Namely that it slices very slowly (can take hours in some cases), and while you can make custom profiles (which I use), it’s clunky editing a text file (I shouldn’t really complain about that, considering how much programming work I do).

Christmas 2014 I decided to gift myself with Simplify3D (S3D below): I’d read a lot of good about it online, and decided to give it a shot.  $140 isn’t cheap for a dedicated slicer with no trial version, but bit the bullet anyway (well, after testing it for a few weeks at work first).

This blog post will be a continuing repository of my thoughts as I continue to learn and work with it:  S3D does a lot of good, but there are some areas that rub me the wrong way, so hopefully either I’m doing it wrong, or my suggestions can help make it better in the future.  If you have any thoughts please comment!  Note I started working with version 2.2.0, which sounded like a pretty major update.  Also know that the bulk of the “Cons” discussed below have already presented directly to the S3D developers.

This will be organized into three main sections:

  • Pros : Things I really like about it.
  • Cons/Bugs : Things that could be done better.
  • Workarounds : Cons that I’ve found solutions for.
  • Conclusions : Overall thoughts

My setup: Makerbot Replicator 1 with Sailfish Firmware, Simplify3D 2.2.0 on OS X 10.8.5

Pros

There are more things than this I consider “pros”, these are just some of the stand out ones I’ve encountered.

  • Really Fast Slicer : I’ve played with Cura and I’ know how fast it is.  And I’ve not compared S3D’s speeds to it.  But compared to Makerware, it’s exponentially faster.  Minutes in Makerware are seconds in S3D.
  • Great GCode Previewer : Being able to preview every layer of the slice, and to visualize the speed in which it will be printed is invaluable.  That coupled with the slicing speed turns this into an actual iterative process:  Change a few settings, preview.  Change a few settings, preview. Etc.
  • Cross Section View : Allows you to visualize any cross section of your model, or GCode.  So handy!
  • Many Knobs To Twist :  Each “Process” is organized into multiple tabs giving you complete control over just about every setting imaginable.
  • Tooltips : A little thing, but every setting in a Process has a tool tip telling you about it.  Which is really important, considering there’s no official documentation.
  • Adjust Settings Per Layer : Great option:  You can set each “Process” to a layer range, completely adjusting all the settings as needed.
  • Different Settings Per Model : Not only can you split settings based on layer, each individual model can get its own Process with individual settings.
  • User Support : Getting feedback/support/help from the developers seems prompt.
  • Forums : Active forums.
  • Supports many printers:  You can take your knowledge with you as you change hardware.
  • Tethered Printing : If printing tethered, can adjusting settings (speed, extrusion, temp) on the fly while printing, + get a live play-by-play in the GCode previewer.
  • Great Support Material Creation : Create it automatically or by hand, either way it prints well and removes easily.
  • Successfully prints intersecting models : This is a big one:  I’ve had issue in the past (Makerware) where two models were brought into the build platform and made to intersect (on purpose) : Makerware didn’t always like this. As a test I brought in 1500 separate obj files, all intersection in different ways, and it sliced perfectly, combining mesh were appropriate so there was no intersecting extrusions.
  • Fantastic Support Generation:  Not only does it create create great auto-generated support, it allows you to place your own.  In addition, it allows the support to become more complex as it approaches the surface, to speed support printing and provided better support overall.  Plus, it tears free amazingly well:  In the below pic, S3d is on the left, Makerware is on the right (painted white), they both took around 25 hours to print (they’re the size of big grapefruits):  The makerware supports required pliers to remove, and there is still much cleanup needed.  The sS3d support easily removed just using my fingers, and left minimal scarring on the print.
    • support_compare(click to zoom)

 

Cons/Bugs

  • No Online Documentation : While there are tooltips for all the settings, there should be a more detailed overview of all the setting online.
  • Not Ready For Dual Extrusion Yet : We use S3D at work on our Replicator 2X.  Here it falls down compared to Makerware’s dual-strusion support (via Makerware’s “purge walls”):  While you can hack a skirt to draw every layer to act like a wipe-wall, it’s only supported by your main extruder.  But you need each extruder to run each layer to keep the filament fresh.  There are other hacks and workaround (bringing in a wipe tower to print with the other extruder), it should really just be supported out of the box.
  • Seems to need to print slower than Makerware :  Again, I need to do more testing, but currently it seems like I need to run the printer slower (60mm/sec->90mm/sec) in S3d to get similar results in Makerware (90mm/sec->120mm/sec).
  • Only One Type Of Infill : By default it’s a square pattern, though the angles can be adjusted.  But it really needs hexagon infill like other slicers.  Not to mention I feel the infill is weak compared to what I’ve used in the past.  Have a “Workaround” for this below.
  • No Undo : Seriously, any modern 3d software needs undo when transforming mesh.
  • No Orthographic Cameras : It’s 3d software, with default camera views for top\left\front\etc, but it’s always a perspective camera.  Hard to position stuff by hand without an ortho cam.
  • When translating mesh, it always snaps to a top view : Why do this?  I wish it could be disabled, I can position my camera just fine by myself.
  • Unable to fully translate\rotate\scale on all axes interactively with the mouse : Translate is only on the X/Y (ground) plane, scale is uniform on all three axes, and rotate is only on Z : Would be nice to have on-screen manips (like other 3d software) allowing for custom transformations on each axes.  Yes, there is the “Model Settings” window that allows for this, but I’d prefer doing it with the mouse.
  • No Option to “Scale to Max Print Size” : Something Handy Makerware has I didn’t realize I missed until it was gone.
  • The “Center And Arrange” option only moves things, won’t rotate them : The tool could use a better packing algorithm that not only moves stuff around, but can intelligently rotate them as well.
  • When in GCode preview mode, you can still accidentally move mesh : The mesh translation hotkeys should be disabled when previewing GCode.  And since there is no undo, trying to get mesh back to the previous spot can be fustrating.
  • Model Settings Window” related:
    • When changing values via the spinners, it’s a fixed (large) step amount.  These should be user configurable.
    • Can’t change “Object Size Dimensions” : You can change the scale of an object, but you can’t set it’s absolute size.  C’mon, Makerware does it…
    • Changing the Trans\Rot\Scale values don’t effect anything in the “Calculated Properties” section until you reopen the window: It should be a bi-directional connection allowing either to be edited.
  • Strange behavior when changing the default hotkeys : On the Mac at least, even though I change the hotkeys, some of the defaults are still active.
  • The Estimated Print Time can be wildly off :  Makerware is pretty consistent when estimating time:  It always over-estimates by about 20% in my experience.  S3D however is all over the place:  I’ve had a print estimated at 3.5 hours take close to 7.  Most of the time though, it appears to underestimate the print times, but it can vary from 50%-10%.  Can’t make much rhyme or reason out of it, other than it’s a pretty useless number :(
  • No Trial Version : Since this is paid software, make a trial version so more people can try before they buy.  Maybe it disables save, but even giving access to the GCode previewer & process settings could sway more people its direction.

 Workarounds

  • Weak Infill :
    • One of the weakest areas I’ve found is the infill:  I’m used to ReplicatorG & Makerware’s hexagonal infill:  It is very strong when applying pressure from all angles.  I never much thought about it really.  But out of the box S3D’s support have several problems:
      • It’s a square pattern (admittedly the angles are adjustable, and more can be added, but I’m not sure it’s going to help out), but it creates this by laying down the horizontal and vertical edges in alternating layers. Meaning, each layer only really gets half the infill.
      • The side effect I’ve experienced is that when you squeeze a print, you can actually hear “crunching” sounds inside it.  I’ve never experienced this on a print from Makerware.  These just feel weak, and I’ve actually split prints in half by shoving my thumbnails into the walls and pulling (with 2 shells).  Again, I’d be hard pressed to do this on a Makerware print.
    • The Workaround I found is by setting the “Infill Extrusion Width” from it’s 100% default to 200%.  This has the side-effect of ‘scaling up’ the infill overall (including its width), so you need to similarly increase the infill % itself to match.  For example, if you had 10% infill before, you’d need to set it to 20%.  But by doing this, the overlapping infill is now much beefier, and there’s now way I can crush it:
    • betterInfill  As you can see from the default extrusion on the right (click to zoom in), you can make out the separation in each layer of the infill.  but on the left, it’s strong and solid.  I squeeze the left and it’s rock solid, I’m pretty sure I could crush the right if I tried.
    • Holes In The Roof :
      • I had a continual problem when printing at 100 micron where there would be holes towards the top of the roofs in my prints.  Driving me crazy.
      • I finally tracked down the problem: I would create my 100 micron profile by duplicating a 200 micron profile.  In the 200 micron file, I’d have 3 roof layers set:  That’s a roof .6mm thick.  But I wouldn’t adjust it in the new profile (since I’m used Makerware, which allows you to define a fixed roof thickness, rather than number of roof layers).  So when it would print its roof, it would print 3 layers at .1mm:  A total of .3mm thick.  The equivalent of one and a half .2mm layers.  Not nearly enough for coverage.
      • The lesson learned is, when you change your layer height, you also need to change your roof layers (and floor) to match.  I’d print 6-8 roof layers at 100 micron to get adequate coverage.

 

Conclusions

  • Is S3D worth the money?
    • This is really a personal questions, based on your needs.  For myself, I’d say yes:  I feel like I still have lot more to learn about the software, so the quality of my items will continue to improve as I get my machine “dialed in”.
    • If you were going to make a business out of 3d printing, I’d give it a resounding yes:  While I’m no expert, I’m not aware of any other slicer that provides you with the features S3D has.
  • It feels like it’s so close to greatness, but just falls a bit short.  Things like having no transformation undo, poor infill out of the box, and lacking needed support for dual-strusion hurt it.  However the developers seem active, and hopefully will continue to improve.  And I will eagerly look forward to the updates :)