Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My first slicer

Robert came over and we printed one of his X3G files. An X3G file is a list of commands for the printer. Normally projects start as a 3D model which is stored as a STL file. This is a model file that describes the shape. Then a slicer is used to convert the model (STL) to commands (X3G). Robert helped me skip this step and print one of his X3Gs. Here is what we got:

Notice that the detail is very good and there aren't any regularities in the robot.

My next step was to try to start with a model and produce my own X3G file. This is done using software called a 'slicer'. This is because it takes the model and slices it into layers, then produces tool paths for the printer. Some slicers to a bunch of other stuff like adding supports to allow for overhang.

I looked into Cura 2.3.1 but it doesn't seem to support the X3G output format. So I'm going to try Slic3r which can apparently work. I made a config following those rules and downloaded a gcode to X3G converter. The first thing I noticed is that Slic3r doesn't have pre-set configuration for my printer. This made my first print start off the print plate. I tweaked the settings and got a better result, but it was meant to be a gear which could move, but it wouldn't move.
Bad print (upside down image too)
I'm certain I could tune it to make it work. But time is short, so I bought Simplify3D which Robert recommended. It made a great print first try:

Good Print (rotates like a bearing)
My next project is to get the machine calibrated so it can achieve the more delicate parts with better surface quality and tolerances.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Change Of Tack - 3D Printing


It's been a few years. I moved, had more kids (3 now) and now I'm not working on OSE. Mostly due to lack of time and access to tools.

My family got a 3d printer for Christmas this year and I want a place to document my learnings and experiments. So I'm back here trying to build a little independence. I got a PowerSpec 3D Pro Printer with about 13 hours of use. It has an updated power supply, firmware and extruder fan addition. With the firmware update, this functions exactly as a FlashForge Creator Pro-- apparently the PowerSpec is a rebranding of FlashForge done by MicroCenter.

Introducing Robert

Robert is a friend of my who has a lot of experience on this setup and says the following. Here are some notes he gave me.

On: SD card usage for 3D printing

The preferred way to use the printer is to copy the .x3g files onto an SD card for use in the printer.  That file has all the toolpaths, temperature, etc for the part you want to print.  The people that write the firmware recommend that as the most reliable method where the printer can run completely stand alone.

Just make sure to use quality SD cards and when you write files to them that they are unmounted before removing.  That will ensure any writes that may be caches get properly written out to the SD card.  I've heard of people just popping them out and possibly ending up with a corrupt file on the SD card.

Since there isn't a way to tell what temp and extruders are used by just looking at the filenames I just started a convention that I add the extruder and material type at the beginning of my filename.  Something like RA_ for Right Extruder using ABS or RP_ for Right using PLA.  The printer doesn't card but if you are scrolling through files at least you'll know what to expect.  I would use DP_ for dual extrusion PLA.  You can tweak the extruder temp on the fly if you need to but the heated bed temp comes from that .x3g file and since I use around 40 for PLA or 100 for ABS it is good to note what material is expected in the filename.  Files names should be around 30 or less characters.

On: Tools

This is a really handy tool to help remove prints off the bed.

On: 3D printing groups and software

This is an excellent group on the FlashForge printers:!forum/flashforge

The FlashForge FlashPrint can be found here:

With a thread discussing it here:!topic/flashforge/eCWwWSLbRqY

One of the free programs that shipped with these printers is ReplicatorG.  The latest version is available from:

The sailfish manual also has some great tips on 3D printing.

I only use it now for Firmware updates but it does work once you know how to work around it's quirks.  One of those it manually editing the Gcode to set the bed temp for PLA, saving it, and then writing out the maching (.x3g) code.  If you don't save the gcode after making an edit then it doesn't make a difference since the portion generating the .x3g uses the file from disk.  If you forget to save then it ignores your changes...  It is also a slow compared to the other tools.

The tool I use now to prepare the models to print is Simplify 3D.  It runs $150 but has been worth every penny.  It can be installed on up to two systems concurrently.

They have a troubleshooting guide that is excellent:

Some other 3D printing groups:

On: Creating 3D models

Here are a few sites where you can create 3D models.  All free: - apparently closing down early 2017

On: Sample 3D parts

I can bring over some .x3g parts that i've already printed.  We can start first just printing existing parts to ensure the bed is leveled and adjusted.  Once that is done next step is to pull down some existing models from:
(my account)


so you can get familiar with the prepping of the parts and printing them.  After that the sky is the limit and you should be able to model up and print anything you want.