About 9 months ago we got our first 3D printer in the lab, the MakerBot Replicator Dual. We would describe our relationship with the printer as complicated. Some days it’s working perfectly and printing non-stop, other days, it just sits there and stubbornly doesn’t work. We’ve had amazing experiences with the customer support at MakerBot, but somethings just require learning by doing.
So that’s why we’re writing this article. Here’s some of the things that we wish we would’ve known before owning a 3D printer.
Note: This maintenance instructions/photos/etc. speak specifically to the MakerBot Replicator Dual, but we believe the teachings are applicable to most 3D printer trouble shooting.
10. ABS Means You Need A Thermal Shelter
This is the printer with the plastic hood and door system that we purchased. The acrylic case creates an even temperature inside the printer and helps you have better printing results. We loved it because, for the most part, it kept our prints from lifting off the build platform.
9. This Is The Correct Way to Put On Kaptone Tape
Not the official way prescribed by MakerBot, but it’s perfect for when you are doing it by yourself. Don’t worry about the bubbles underneath too much. They’ll come out when the build platform heats up.
8. Tighten All Your Screws & Often
Especially the one I’ve pointed out in the photo with the red arrow. This little guy is what keeps the gear moving with the motor, it will loosen and it will cause you lots of headaches because it’s the last thing you’ll think of checking. If your filament isn’t moving, check this plus…
7. Check Your Filament Guide & Washers
This photograph demonstrates what is the leading cause of headaches with our 3D printer. When our printer doesn’t print it’s normally because the filament isn’t being pulled by the motor. We’ll disassemble the extruder and see that we either need to subtract or add a washer to the plastic pin that pushes the filament into the teeth of the motor.
6. Check The Belts, Sometimes They Need TLC
Go ahead and check these weekly and push them back into place when they become loose. If they snap out, it’s not that difficult to put them back in. Just make sure that you keep the tension in there, these little belts are what make your extruders move around the build platforms so they’re kind of important in the whole process.
5. Speaking Of Belts, Check Your Tension Rods
The screws that tighten the belts to the tension rods for our printer seemed to have worked themselves loose over time on our model. Not sure if this is a product wide issue, but just like Ikea furniture, tighten often. Also MakerBot recommends that you re-lube the tension rods as part of your normal maintenance, so do that too.
4. Mark Your Motor With A Sharpie
Make a small line on the back of your motor with a Sharpie so that you can check to see if the motor is moving when you are changing the filament out. This really helps in troubleshooting and checking to see if your motor is jamming while extruding filament on a print.
3. Always Level Your Build Platform After Any Maintenance
This one’s a no-brainer, just do it. It’s not fun but it only takes about 10 minutes max and will eliminate a lot of stupid errors when you’re troubleshooting. Run the level script twice when you do it too. Normally, the first leveling will screw up one of the corners, the second go around fixes everything.
2. Get Used To Printing Lots Of These
This is a 20mm calibration cube and we’ve probably printed 50+ of them. Every time we do any kind of maintenance we normally print one of these out to see if what we did fixed anything. They normally take 9 minutes to print and can be printed with almost nothing for an infill; Very handy.
1. Have A Sense of Adventure
You’re a pioneer and none of this is perfected yet. Anytime you’re on the cutting edge of technology things are going to be frustrating. Here at the lab, we break things all the time. It’s just part of the process. So when you get upset, go outside and walk around, or complete a simple task to get some encouragement.
Remember, MakerBot Support is your friend. Call them and talk to them. There’s not much they haven’t seen before. Do the maintenance and keep printing awesome stuff.