Sunday, May 15, 2011

3D Printing Software Is Currently A Mess

So, I had a few setbacks. Two MOSFETs burned up, and somewhat damaged the PCB board. A black gooey substance leaked out... not a good sign. I'm still not sure what is the cause of this as this is something that shouldn't happen. Actually, the PCB board have three places you can hook up to 12V. I currently only need 2. So, I basically switched from "D8" to "D10", and the MOSFET there didn't burn up. It's hot, but still seems to manage it. D8, D9 and D10 on the PCB board are used for getting 12V to something. Obviously, the extruder needs power, and then the heatbed. Then you can add a fan or something if you want to. So, not sure what happened at "D8", as it obviously works at "D10" which I currently use for the heatbed.

I also had some odd issue where the platform wasn't moving in X when printing... It moved in Z and Y, and I could move the platform quite easily both by hand and using the "Interactive" tab in repsnapper.. but after heating up extruder and the bed, and pressing "Print", it got stuck and wouldn't move in X, even though it seemed the motor tried to move the platform. Maybe it had too little power (amps) when everything was on.. could be wrong firmware, or the generated gcode was bad... not sure. Since I did it all in repsnapper (even generating the gcode), I'm quite sure the main problem was that this version of repsnapper couldn't print!

There were a lot of filament waste too, as I really though it was a problem when the filament curled up and got stuck on the side of the nozzle. I though it was supposed to come straight down. Particularly ABS plastic. But, apparently this is rather normal, and really, the distance to the surface will be so short, that it won't be able to curl up like it did. So, time wasted unmounting the extruder a few times, and seeing that it looked fine. No leakage in the heated barrel either. Also, you need to tweak the spring mechanism that holds the filament in the extruder. Too loose, and there isn't enough force to hold it. Too tight, and the filament will slip... or, well this is more a problem if the extruder moves too fast...

There are many different firmwares and different versions of the software used to print and slice (break down an object into layers). I liked "repsnapper" as it was more intuitive, but.. well, if you go to: and use which is supposed to be the one you should use (as it's the one currently being updated), you are surprised by print not working. Even when trying to build the other (, you get a message to use the one). I checked out the "master" and then went back a few months (git hash: 83d3017625f5e65116da80f8fcc7df7f36737b3f), to get a working version. However, I noticed that that version isn't totally correct either as under the "Print" tab there was supposed to be a slider for changing the speed of the extruder. And, in that version I had checked out, no slider can be found. Confusing. Especially for me as a Linux (Ubuntu) user. Windows users have a prebuild one already...

So, for repsnapper, I now use, ignoring the message of it being deprecated. And, voilĂ ! Now I seem to use what everybody else are assuming you are using... If you use the Windows version, you are using this version too. So, to sum that up:

USE: until is better!

And then we have skeinforge... The UI isn't particularly beautiful, and it's rather confusing and not as intuitive as repsnapper. However, one can see it being useful, as there are many more options there, so you really have control over many things. Besides, it's supposedly generates better gcode than repsnapper as well. And, skeinforge is only for generating gcode, and nothing else, which is good, as it concentrates on being good at that.

I was using version 039, and apparently that doesn't generate "E" for extrusion per default (for the G1 command). So, it would basically just move the extruder around, not really extrude anything. Now, I've updated to 040 (or 041, not sure which one to use as with 041 the pane was empty under the "Profile" tab...).

Thankfully, the community is really helpful, and everybody agrees all this being bad and I'm guessing all this will be better over time. But as for now, one have to see the software being in alpha stage, although skeinforge feels quite matured (once you get used to it).

Anyway, I'm currently using this to testprint with:

I use skeinforge to generate the gcode. Then I use to print with by just loading the generated gcode in there. I can also see what's going in real-time with the temperature, and, there is a handy log and "Interactive" buttons. Funny enough, it's not showing the bed's temperature, only the extruder's. The other repsnapper I used (the one with hash mentioned) had both extruder and bed temperature showing). It's really starting to take shape now though. Motors seem to behave as they should.

So, currently, I'm tweaking settings in skeinforge, trying to end up having a nice print following this handy guide:

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate all the work people have put into repsnapper and skeinforge! I just wished it was easier to get started. I will probably do a post later with everything summed up nicely so newcomers to the 3D printing community have an easier start.

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