3D Printing

I’m just setting off on my adventure in 3D printing.

I’m clumsy, don’t know electronics, don’t know hardware. But, there’s plenty of information out there. The entries below chronicle what I’ve learned as I’m learning about the 3D printer world.

Feel free to post a comment.

If you have questions, I’ll try to help. But please be able to intelligently articulate your problem in technical terms. List what you’ve tried to solve your problem. List what documentation you read to gain understanding of your problem. Include what the manufacturer suggests you do to resolve your problem.

If you’ve done all that, be forewarned, you already know more about your problem than I.

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Something different

Hey folks,

I have something to offer that’s a bit different.

I’m putting together a tutorial about Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and how to get started.


True, this has nothing to do with 3D printing, but I would think sharp, smart techie guys and gals who can do magic around 3D printers may also be interested in this topic.


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It’s been a long while

I didn’t completely disappear.
It only looks that way.
I lost my basement work room, hence my 3D printer, my Raspberry Pi’s, my Arduino robot projects, and all my other fun things which make me who I am, got boxed up.

Then I got sick, very sick. Struggled with kidney disease for over two years. Got progressively worse. By now, I think I’ve bottomed out and starting to climb back up to “normal”. Also, I’m close to the top on the transplant list — send your thoughts my way.

There was a move from one house to another. This happened between four emergency room visits, three of which ended with hospitalizations. Kudos to my family for bearing the brunt of the move.

Everything is still in boxes. Well mostly everything. Three months after the move and only now am I starting to unbox and sort out the electronics and robotics.

Just before my 3D printer got boxed, a heated bed arrived. Now, I think I see a few hours here and there, between everything else in life, to configure the heated bed with my printer. Also, in the works is a Raspberry Pi interface with Octoprint + a pi-cam, to observe the print in progress.

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When your printer stops working

Yes, my printer stopped working from one day to the next.

Being a real noob in electronics, I was at a loss as to where to start. I had a few email conversations with Type A Machines tech support, they were as helpful as they could be not having the machine with them to analyze.

The suggestion was the power supply. It did seem dead when I put a meter across it, so I ordered a new one of the same make/model. When that arrived, that also had no power on it.

Time passes.

A buddy helped me trace the problem down to the switch/socket.

I ordered a new one. Time passes.

A thought occurred to me and I put the bad switch across my multi-meter for a continuity test. The switch worked. It was the “hot” a/c wire that died.

I replaced the 2″ piece of wire. Re-assembled the switch. The printer now works again.

Re-assembled the back panel. I now have a dozen screws left over. Reminds me of my first sports car.

Story over… I don’t know if I’ve learned any lessons from this.

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Glue! Glue! Glorious White Glue!

PLA users, are you having trouble getting your work to stick? Do corners come lose and curl up even before ten layers are lain? Ready to chuck it all!

I have found an ingenuous solution. Just like ABS slurry for ABS builds, add white glue on your build platform seconds before your print starts.

Yes, white glue. Sold under the name Elmer’s Glue All Multipurpose Glue, and also under various generic names. I’ve only used Elmer’s so can only attest to that.

My heated print bed, being home made, never hit temperatures greater than 50 celcius (more like 45 max most of the time). It never heated to the prescribed 60 c.

But that’s is enough if I add white glue to the process.

Get your bed freshly leveled and calibrated. Have a layer of blue painter’s tape – doesn’t even have to be fresh with each and every build. Heat your be up and send your job to the printer. As the PLA is priming (about 20 seconds before the build starts), cover your approximate build area with a generous layer of goopy, gooey white glue. Rub it even with your finger. Don’t worry about the bed being too hot, you can take it for a few moments.

Don’t do it too soon because the glue will dry to a hard, crisp surface. That will be counter-productive to your efforts. Don’t use too much or too little. Feel out how much is right.

Thus far, I had no problems removing, projects from the bed when finished. The latest one I printed, did require a bit of an effort, prying the work off with a razor blade. But that piece was somewhat larger than others that came before.

Good luck. I want to know from those out there if you’ve tried my white glue method and if it works for you.

Right now everything is on hold. My printer died the other day and I am in the process of troubleshooting what’s wrong. So, no prints in the near future for me.


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Kisslicer v. Slic3r

In the 3D tool chain there is a step which turns your design into the code that controls the printer. Code which tells the printer how far to move in the x or y directions, when to extrude filament, when to move the tray down in the z direction. This is G-code.

Two popular programs are Kisslicer and Slic3r. Slic3r and the hobbyist version of Kisslicer are free to download. The pro version of Kisslicer is $42.00. I’ve been using the free version of Kisslicer and so far have not found it lacking in any way. Not to say I won’t upgrade if the need arises.

For the Type A Series 1, downloads are available of Kisslicer which is reconfigured for the Series 1 at http://www.typeamachines.com/pages/downloads. The download comes with Mac Pronterface, Kisslicer, and some test models to print. More on Pronterface in a later post.

Earlier on the folks at Type A offered a preconfigured version of Slic3r also. I used that exclusively in the beginning. Now, my personal preference is Kisslicer. There are several reviews out there that tend to agree with me.

One thing the free version does not allow is for multiple models to be added to your print run. But, I found a way around that.

TIP: Load all your components into Slic3r. Don’t export G-Code. Rather, export STL into an all-encompassing file. Open that up in Kisslicer, set your settings as you prefer and save that as G-Code.Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 3.59.35 PMHere’s a screenshot of Slic3r with 5 separate components of a Dalek added.

Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 4.04.54 PM

And here is a screenshot of Kisslicer with the same 5 Dalek components loaded. If I’d have tried to load more than one component into Kisslicer it would have told me that feature is only available in the Pro version.


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Heated printer bed

I finally completed the heater bed for my Series 1.

  • A piece of 1/4″ cut aluminum.
  • 36 X .22 ohm resistors in series.
  • An ATX power supply with 20 watts on the 12 volt rail.
  • Benchtop Power Board from Sparkfun. https://www.sparkfun.com/products/9774
  • An Ohm meter that reads temperature.

From this, I got a working heated print bed.

However, the bed strained to reach 30° C. For the golden grail of ABS plastic I’d need 80° C. So, I got an additional ATX power supply, this one with 17 watts on 12 volts, I split up the series of resistors to 1 group of 20 for the 20 watt psu, and a group of 16 for the 17 watt psu. That’s as close to evenly distributed as I can get. About 1 watt per resistor.

Now it strains to reach 50° C. Progress, but not quite there. I do have a third power supply. My next step it to bring that into the mix. Right now I’ll have to be satisfied with what I have because I only have 2 Benchtop Power Boards. (One borrowed from a friend.)

To compensate, I’ve covered the board with klapton tape and a slurry of waste ABS material dissolved in acetone.

Here’s a print of a rhino vase, I downloaded from thingiverse:

Hippo Vase from thingiverse

Hippo Vase from thingiverse

It printed remarkably well. Gcode by Kisslicer. Only problem I had was that the infill was too sparse and the skin thickness was too thin. You can’t see it, I’m now showing it to you in the picture, but on the other side there’s a crack where the layer’s came apart.

Still, for a first try, I’m satisfied. Then to get it right, I went back into Kisslicer and thickened up the inner supports. I changed the skin thickness from 1mm to 2.5mm, and changed the infill to 12.5%. This is what I got on the 2nd run:

2nd shot at Hippo Vase

2nd shot at Hippo Vase

The supports were too flimsy from the start. This is something I hadn’t changed from the first to second runs. The ABS started warping with an hour. I thought I could still salvage the job and let it continue. This is after about 10 hours of printing.

That’s all for now. Heed the lessons learned.


Oh, btw this is where I got the inspiration for the resistor-driven heated bed:


This man built his 3d printer from scratch. Everything!

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then something happened

I’m sure it happened to everyone, and it happened to me for the first time. I was just too depressed to blog about it until now.

The print job froze at about 15 hours into the print.IMAG0119

I’m not sure what happened. There’s a probability it could have been my computer, not the printer. A few minutes before the printer froze, I had an unusual problem with the USB keyboard and mouse failing. I unplugged them and plugged them back and the problem went away. The printer was plugged into the next USB port. Could it have been my iMac overheated after 16 hours of processing? I will have to keep an eye on it and report any further developments. Perhaps a stand-alone fan might help(?)

Oh, also notice the print bed in the above image. It’s my new aluminum bed. I swapped out the Plexi bed. Next step is to wire up a power supply and wire up the heating elements. Should be golden after that.powersupplyOpen

Here’s an old computer power supply I’m messing with . There are the instructions for turning it into a lab power supply:


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12 hours into a print job …

… and I see that the PLA is curling.


This is one fault with the Type A Series 1, there’s no heated print bed. Yes, I now have everything I need to build my own, but still, on a machine of such high caliber to not have a heated print bed … I wonder.

I got tired of the filament coming off the spool in loops, so I put together a makeshift spool holder at about 2 hours into the print.



I hear that the newer version of the Series 1 has a re-designed spool holder So if you are just now considering a Series 1, this won’t be a problem for you.

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A quick post about Sketchup vs. Blender.

I’ve been duteously studying Blender from an on-line course mentioned in a previous post. The huge learning curve  makes it daunting to go from concept to a 3D model quickly.

I don’t know about you, but I got my 3D printer to print stuff I need. Understood, that there is a learning curve. Understood that I need to pick up multiple disciplines rapidly to make my efforts worthwhile.  With the aforementioned in mind, I decided to give Google Sketchup another try.

I watched 4 tutorial videos that are linked to from the Sketchup splash screen, then I started making my model. This is the “hole” which needs to be filled in on my aluminum print bed which was cut in the wrong location.


One issue, Sketchup doesn’t export to the .stl format — a must for the 3D tool chain. (More on the tool chain on a later post.)

Fortunately there is a plugin for that.  Go to:


Instead of me repeating the instructions here, just go to the page and follow the instructions presented there. If you have the latest version of Sketchup, you’ll follow the “Sketchup 8 maintenance release 2″ path.


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The only thing between me and printing is a 25 X 33 cm piece of plastic

That would be my print bed.

I sent it to a shop to have duplicated in aluminum. They finished the job in a week, but when I went to pick it up, I found that I gave them the wrong position for two holes. I was off by 1 cm on each.

My fault.

I asked them to drill the holes in the right place, but that’ll leave two unwanted holes in my new pristine print bed. I’m so angry at myself.

It should be ready by now.  I’ll have to lean on them if those 2 holes are not drilled by tomorrow.

Other news:

3D meetup in Cambridge in 2 weeks at Microsoft’s research lab. Topic to be Kinect and scanning. Can hardly wait.

I’ve spent the last weekend taking an on-line Blender course. I’ve gone through the Youtube tutorials offered by blender.org but they haven’t sunk in to wooden head somehow. This course offered though iTunesU. Go to iTunes. Find iTunes U / Search Colleges and Universities – Tufts University / Subscribe to “3D Design – Blender. You can also find the material at http://gryllus.net/Blender/3D.html.

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