Friday, August 24, 2012

SUMPOD Heated Build Platform Part 2

I've been using the last week to put together "Heated Build Platform Mark II" consisting of aluminum sheet instead of glass. As I mentioned in my previous post I had an old Apple Pro cabinet where the side cover can be taken off easily. Being 3mm thick makes it perfect for this project.

Only negative thing was no access to a workshop or proper power tools...

I ended up using the non-metal wood hand saw.
Having read somewhere that it is possible to cut aluminum with blades meant for wood I though why not give it a try with my existing equipment.

Marked, taped and ready...
The saw was a cheapo so no big loss if it didn't work out - which it did :) I can't see any damage on the blade afterwards at least. Sawing aluminum this way is hard work so I won't recommend it if you have an alternative though.

New vs. old print bed.
Using the old platform as a template made it easier to drill holes in the right places etc. I made sure to tape the surface with masking tape first and to clamp the aluminum between two pieces of wood to avoid splinters. Sanded over all the edges with fine grit sanding paper afterwards.

Test fit.
Not shown here I made sure to test the heating functionality thoroughly before threading the wires and installing the platform.

Aluminum is a great heat-spreader, insuring pretty even temperature over the whole surface so that's great! Using a metal platform is not without it's drawbacks though. There's ample opportunity to electrocute yourself if you're not careful. Therefore I added two layers of Kapton to the underside before laying down the heat-wire. I might ground the plate at some point, but I'm not too worried since the platform will be warm when the power is on so I really don't want to touch it when it's active anyway.

The shielding on the wires I used are good up to 90C, which is more than enough for PLA, but If at some point I'm going to print ABS I probably have to rework that part.

Wired, levelled and ready for first print.
My second thermistor (RH16-4A104GB from MMC) worked out much better as well, being off by only one degree C. More than good enough for my purposes. I installed it roughly in the middle of the underside of the platform directly in contact with the aluminum and sealing the whole thing with Kapton.

Made sure there was enough wire to avoid it getting stuck or ripping anything loose.
Having made a few test prints there's no doubt the heated surface makes a huge difference in making the PLA stick to the surface. I haven't had one false start. That is, the plastic sticks on first try every time. I've had a couple of prints where very thin details becoming unstuck during the print, but for the most part it's been extremely good.

This time around I've been testing Slic3r which I like a lot for it's simplicity compared to Skeinforge - it's a lot faster as well being coded in C++. It seem to be a bit courser though. When it comes to fine detail and thin walls it sometimes leaves gaps, even when I have selected solid fill. That's something that I have to figure out.

The next issue to solve now is the feeder/printhead mechanism. I had the print head clog up three times the last couple of days and I'm still trying to figure out why. It seems to only happen on longer printruns and my initial guess is that there's a combination of several parts getting too hot. I've been playing around with increasing the filament extrusion-multiplier as well so there's a chance that's the reason. More testing needed :)

Just in case I ordered a new, and more compact, print head last night from QU-BD. Hopefully I will be able to use my existing Nema 17 stepper on this one. The bonus is that I eliminate the bowden tube and any slack in that type of setup. There is a disadvantage in moving more weight onto the y-axis so I'll have to test before saying anything for sure, but I might have to move the y-axis motor to the back of the printer frame and re-rig the belt.

So far I've been using the Sprinter firmware, but I think my next project will be to upgrade to Marlin since I've heard it's a bit better quality wise.

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