1st Time User Quick Start Guide Preparing Software and Connecting for the First Time


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Thing-o-Matic 3D Printer Manual


Authors: Mark Gaffney, Marco Belcastro Version: 1.3A Date: 2011-10-11

Note: This manual is a work in progress and is likely to change as software features are added and hardware is upgraded, modified and replaced. Before consulting this users should check that the copy they have is the most up-to-date and that it is relevant to/suitable for their own particular setup. All the required software is open source, multi platform and free to use for personal, research & commercial purposes AFAIK. Instructions below are for Windows but the Mac and Linux versions of the software available are similar in operation.

Windows 7 security settings may give issues with installation compared to XP, this means that you may need to run as an administrator, unzip/install ReplicatorG to a directory other than “Program Files” e.g. “C:/ReplicatorG” and change permissions or re-enable editing on Skeinforge profile files

If your printer Motherboard and Extrusion Controller Board have been updated to Firmware version 3.0 or higher they will no longer work with ReplicatorG version 0025 or less. Please update your software accordingly.

More information can be found using the following resources:

Before using this equipment please contact the person responsible, _________ on extension _______ for an introductory demonstration, safety briefing and to ensure that you are added to the approved users list for the equipment in question and the location it is based.

1st Time User Quick Start Guide

Preparing Software and Connecting for the First Time


  1. Ensure the printer is fully physically disconnected (USB unplugged) from the PC/Laptop

  2. Download & install the latest versions of the required software, drivers & profiles for your computer platform

    1. ReplicatorG, version 0026 http://replicat.org/download

    2. FTDI Virtual Com Port (VCP) Drivers http://www.ftdichip.com/Drivers/VCP.htm

    3. Python (2.6 or greater but NOT version 3) http://www.python.org/download/

    4. Premade Skeinforge profiles are available online and should be unzipped to “\skein_engines\skeinforge-\skeinforge_application\prefs”

Tip! Make a shortcut for your desktop, start menu etc. to ReplicatorG.exe with the version number

Note: You may need to be logged in as administrator &/OR restart during the above steps

  1. Set machine driver in ReplicatorG

    1. Launch ReplicatorG using Shortcut


    2. Figure 1: Launching ReplicatorG and Selecting the correct driver before connecting printer for first time
      Machine” -> “Driver” -> “” in the diagram this is “Thingomatic w/ ABP and Stepstruder MK6”





  1. Connect 3D printer to Power & PC/Laptop

    1. Plug power cable into wall socket and power supply socket on bottom left side of 3D printer

    2. Ensure switch beside power supply socket is switched “ON” (you should hear a fan & see LEDS light up)

    3. C
      Figure 2: Connecting power & USB cables
      onnect USB cable from machine motherboard to PC/Laptop

  2. Associate 3D printer serial port to ReplicatorG

    1. In ReplicatorG, select the correct COM port using the menu option “Machine” -> “Serial Port” ->

    2. Click the “Connect” icon, the connection status bar should say “Connecting to on ” then after a few seconds, “Machine ready” before changing colour from red to bright green.

Tip! If the correct port is not there you can refresh the list by selecting “Rescan Serial Port” and try again, help on identifying the serial port is provided at the end of this document

The settings you have chosen will be remembered by ReplicatorG and it should use them the next time you open the program. If the printer is connected before you launch ReplicatorG then it should automatically connect to the printer, if you connect the printer after launching you can use the dark green connect icon.

Continue to the next section…

Preparing your Printer & 3D Model


  1. Open Control Panel to perform pre-heat

    1. Use the menu option “Machine” -> “Control Panel” (or Ctrl-J) to open Control Panel

    2. Set Extruder Temp to 225°C (It should take about 5 minutes to heat up)

    3. S
      Figure 3: Pre-heating Printer
      et Build Platform Temp to 120°C (It should take about 7 minutes to heat up)

Tip! The heaters on the printer will take several minutes to heat up so it is good practice to heat these up a few minutes before you need them. You can use the time between heat up and printing to prepare the 3D model for printing.

  1. Open STL file, scale, rotate and place on Virtual Build Platform

    1. “File” -> “Open” -> browse to your 3D Model’s .STL file. The 3d object should appear in the main window of ReplicatorG

    2. I
      Figure 4: Object Control Buttons
      f the object is oriented incorrectly, mirrored or scaled poorly use the Rotate, Mirror & Scale options to adjust it.

    3. Even if your model looks like it is on the build platform and centred ALWAYS select “Move” -> “Center” & “Put on platform”

    4. S
      Figure 5: Move Object Buttons
      ave your model using “File” -> “Save” OR Ctrl+S

Tip! If you do not have any .STL files there are samples in ReplicatorG under “File” -> “Examples”

Note: More information on using these tools is available at the end of this document

  1. C
    Figure 6: Generate Gcode Button
    onvert .STL to Gcode with Print-o-Matic

    1. Click “Generate Gcode” Button in ReplicatorG main window

    2. Gcode Generator Window will appear, make sure “Use Print-O-Matic” box is checked

    3. Select the Skeinforge profile to use as a base for Print-O-Matic from the list, if you do not know which one to select you can use the generic “SF35-Thingomatic-ABP-Stepstruder” Profile

    4. C
      Figure 7: Gcode Generator Window
      onfigure Print-O-Matic using the values in the default column of table 1. This will give a reasonably quick to print, medium strength part with good detail and tolerance for filament diameter mis-measurement.




Unit

Default

Full Range

Object infill

%age

35

0-100

Layer height

mm

0.35

0.3-0.4

Number of shells

#

1

0-4

Feedrate

mm/s

35

20-50

Material Type




ABS

ABS/PLA

Filament Diameter

mm

2.86

1.7-3.2

Nozzle Diameter

mm

0.4

0.2-1.0

Drive Gear Diameter

mm

10.58

10.58


Table 1: Print-o-Matic Settings


    1. Click the “Generate Gcode” button at the bottom of the “Gcode Generator” window and wait for the Gcode file to be created

Tip! Check the “Use Raft” if you are printing a part with a delicate or complicated base or if you are having trouble with the first layers not sticking or curling up. This will take a lot longer and waste a lot of plastic but has a better chance of printing successfully

Note: For a very high quality, very strong or very detailed part the values will have to be tuned from the default ones above. Specifically filament diameter is a critical parameter. See the section at the end of this document for instructions on understanding print settings, tuning profiles and measuring filament diameter.

  1. Check Z Axis Maximum and Z Platform Thumbscrews

    1. Open the Motherboard on-board preferences window “Machine” -> “Motherboard Onboard Preferences...” and check “Z Home Offset” matches that on the sticker. If not or a previous print indicates these values are incorrect please see the section on measuring the Z Axis Maximum at the end of this document.

    2. Tighten the thumbscrews on the underneath of the Z platform, being careful not to over-tighten them as this will damage the acrylic parts

N
Figure 9: Underside of Z Platform Showing Thumbscrews

Figure 8: Motherboard Onboard Preferences Window
ote: The Z Axis Maximum determines how far from the Z Endstop the printer starts to print. If the value is too big the nozzle will impact the build platform causing damage, if too small the object will begin to be printed in mid-air. This value needs to be accurate to within about 0.1-0.2mm. It can be affected by many factors and will be written on a sticker on the front of the machine and stored on the motherboard. It is worth checking that these values are correct and match before large or important prints!

  1. Check Build Platform

    1. Make sure there is nothing on the build platform, if there is, remove it according to the information at the end of this document.

    2. Check that the surface appears clean, smooth and is completely covered in a layer of gold Kapton tape. If this is not the case it may need to be cleaned, repaired or levelled, information on how to do this is at the end of this document.

N
Figure 10: A slightly dirty build platform with a previously built object attached
ote: The Build Platform may be very hot already, if you need to work on it before continuing you should turn off the heaters and wait for it and the extruder hot end to cool.

  1. Check Filament Thumbscrew and Test Extrusion

Note: If there is no filament/the wrong filament installed please see the section on changing/inserting filament at the end of the document

    1. E
      Figure 11: Filament Thumbscrew
      nsure thumbscrew on right-hand side of Filament Drive Block grips the filament, it should be finger tight, too tight and it will damage the filament, extruder block & stress the extruder motor

    2. Open Control Panel (“Machine” -> “Control Panel” OR Ctrl-J)

    3. R
      Figure 12: Extrude Test Settings
      aise the extruder about 30-50mm above the build platform using the Jog Controls

    4. Set “Speed (RPM)” = 2.0 & “Extrude duration” = few seconds

    5. Wait for extruder “Current Temperature” to warm up enough to make the filament soft enough to be extruded safely (about 220°C for ABS plastic, 170°C for PLA)

    6. C
      Figure 13: Extruder Motor Buttons
      lick “Forward”, you should see the motor shaft rotating slowly clockwise and the filament being drawn into the extruder, if the filament is not being drawn into the extruder you may need to adjust the thumbscrew, again being careful not to over-tighten it!

    7. After a few seconds plastic should begin to be extruded from the nozzle at the bottom, depending on how far down the extruder barrel the filament is you may need to press the button a few times before this happens

    8. Using a tweezers, carefully remove this narrow extruded plastic filament

    9. I
      Figure 14: Extruded Plastic
      f there is a cover/draught excluder for your printer you should close/replace it before continuing.

Tip! If you are having difficulty seeing if the filament is being moved or not by the extruder motor, drawing some horizontal lines on the filament near the top of the Filament Drive Block with a marker will help

N
Figure 15: Lines drawn on plastic filament to help with extrude test
ote: If you are printing with PLA it is advisable to wait until JUST before you are ready to start printing and the extruder has reached its max temperature of 170-180°C before inserting the filament. This is to prevent the heat from travelling up the metal barrel of the extruder and causing the stiffness of the filament to drop too much for the extruder to successfully push it through the nozzle at the bottom. Once the print is finished it is a good idea to slowly reverse the PLA filament until it has JUST exited the metal barrel of the extruder so that it is kept away from the hot end during the next heating cycle.

Continue to the next section…

Printing, Removing & Finishing your 3D Model


  1. Print your model from ReplicatorG

    1. Click the Print icon near the left of the dark green strip of icons

    2. Do not unplug the printer, disconnect the USB cable from your laptop/PC or close ReplicatorG software until a dialogue box appears telling you the print is complete.

    3. It is now safe to disconnect and power down the printer and close ReplicatorG if the user wishes

  2. Remove & Post-Process Your Printed Model

    1. If a conveyor belt is installed, the part will have been removed automatically. If you do not have a conveyor belt installed you will need to reach into the machine to remove it.

    2. Tools such as drills, dremels, files, sandpaper, acetone, ABS filler and glue can be used if any post processing is needed and are available in the labs. More details on this are contained at the end of the document.

    3. Any waste plastic (strings, rafts, bad prints) should be placed in the provided receptacles for recycling or responsible disposal

    4. The printer and surrounding area should be left in a state which allows the next person to use it with a minimum of hassle.

Tip! If the machine is allowed to cool down to room temperature before the part is removed, the change in thermal expansion of the printed object and Build Platform make the part very easy to remove. Waiting for the printer to cool down also reduces the risk of a user injuring themselves on hot surfaces.

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