NOTE There are updates at the end of this post.
After a long wait my 3D printer (it's a
Solidoodle 2) has finally arrived! Unpacking and setting up was relatively easy, the software worked well on my Mac and everything seemed to be just hunky dory.
Unfortunately, halfway through my first print (which was
this object from Thingiverse - a case for the Raspberry Pi I keep on my workbench) it developed a clogged extruder. Because it had been printing fine for about 30 minutes I wasn't paying close attention and it kept trying to print even without plastic going through and I may have damaged the gears driving the filament feeder.
So now it looks like I'm going to have to dismantle the print head (as well as clearing the blockage of burnt plastic in the extruder before I can print anything else). I'm waiting to hear back from Solidoodle support on the best way to proceed. The bits it did manage to print looked good and fairly robust though.
Even with this setback I have no complaints about the printer so far (it was shipped from New York to Australia via standard post so some misalignment due to movement during shipping is not entirely unexpected). We'll see how well (and how quickly, it has been over 24 hours with no response so far) tech support respond though - there are some horror stories on the net about this, I'm hoping they are edge conditions and not normal operating procedure (there are a lot of good reports about this printer as well).
The full text of the support request email I sent is as follows:
Hi Guys, Hope you and all staff are recovering well from Sandy and didn't suffer too much during the storm. My printer arrived today (yay! Thanks for the quick shipping - I was expecting to have to wait a few more weeks for it - I'm in Australia) and the unpacking and software installation went smoothly. For my first print I tried the top half of this object from Thingiverse -
http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:30572 Unfortunately I'm now in a situation where the extruder stepper motor is not working - with the 'swing arm' removed and no filament in the mechanism it makes a horrible clunking sound and the gear wiggles back and forth a little. I am a novice when it comes to 3D printing so I'm hoping to get some advice on what steps to take from here. Here are the steps that lead up to my situation: 1. Once software and FTDI drivers were installed on my system (OS/X 10.7.5 on a Macbook) I successfully connected to the printer and exercised the motors on all 3 axis. 2. I set the hot end temperature to 200C and allowed it to heat up to that temperature. 3. I removed the filament left over from your testing and inserted new filament as per the instructions at http://www.solidoodle.com/how-to-2/how-to-install-filament/ 4. I set the print bed temperature to 85C and allowed it to heat up. 5. I had a gcode file generated by Skeinforge (the version provided in your software package + the updated start.gcode file) and set it to print. 6. The first 30 minutes of the print went smoothly so I turned to another task, I could hear the printer buzzing away in the background. 7. About 10 minutes later I checked on it again and the print head was a few mm above the last layer and was zipping around as if it was trying to print and there were globs of plastic stuck to the nozzle. 8. I stopped the print at this point, powered down the printer and referred to your troubleshooting guide. The most likely problem seemed to be a blockage in the nozzle so I powered up the printer, let the hot end heat up to 200C and tried to manually 'extrude' while lightly pushing down on the filament. At this point I found that the gears feeding the filament where simply making a 'clunking' sound and the filament was jerking up and down (less than a mm of travel) in my hand. The same thing happened when I tried manual 'reverse' on the filament. I released the 'swing arm' and used a toothbrush to try and clean the gears (as mentioned on the 'troubleshooting' page of your site). I'm getting the same problem - the stepper motor seems to be trying to move but simply 'jiggles' and makes a very unhealthy sounding 'clunking' noise. This is where I stopped - I've simply powered down the printer and have been searching the web to try and find someone who has had a similar issue. I've found plenty of references to blockages and 'stripping' of the filament resulting in dust in the gears but nothing exactly the same as I'm experiencing with the motor not turning even without load. How should I proceed? Some of the things that come to mind are: 1. Dismantle the filament feeder and make sure the gears are actually synchronised (it's possible they have gotten out of alignment in the long journey from your factory to my house). 2. Check the voltage levels for the extruder motor (this is mentioned on your troubleshooting page) and adjust as required. 3. Attempt the blockage clearing methods you outline on your trouble shooting page. I would expect the feeding gears to spin once load has been removed regardless of any blockage though. Guidance would be appreciated :) Thanks, Shane
If anyone has any suggestions about how I should go about resolving this please email me or leave them in the comments. I would be eternally grateful.
One thing I really should do, once the printer is working again, is to go through a full calibration and tuning process for the printer before I start trying to print objects that I actually want to use. I will put up a post that details this process once I'm done.
One of my friends has this printer model on order as well - it should be delivered within the next 6 weeks so hopefully my experience can help him have a smoother startup process.
It seems I'm going to have to learn a lot more about the internal operation of the printer than I wanted to (one of the main reasons I went for a prebuilt printer rather than a kit). Oh well, perhaps affordable 3D printing is not quite ready for the home user just yet - that milestone is not far away though.
Update: 25th November 2012
The support guys at Solidoodle have been very helpful (I had forgotten it was Thanksgiving weekend in the US so the response is even more gratifying). I've enlisted the help of a friend who happens to be an electrical engineer (giving me access to professional level knowledge to augment my hobbyist level) so things are progressing at a better rate than just me doing it by myself. At the moment we are at the stage of testing the output from the controller board which seems to be a more likely culprit than the motor itself apparently.