3D Printer

I picked up a 3D printer at the start of the new year. I had a chance to see all the cool new printers at CES, and after reading good things about the printrbot metal, and realizing they provide a nice upgrade path from the $350 printrbot, I couldn't resist.

The initial experience was in-line with my expectations. Although there's been a lot of great activity that's advanced 3D printing an incredible amount, printing is still pretty fiddly.

The printer, unassembled. 

Assembly took two of us most of a Friday night, but it was fun, and one of the reasons why I wanted to build from kit was so that I'd have a much better understanding of how everything worked.

The printer, assembled. 

I spent the first few weeks intensely banging my head against the wall trying to figure things out. I ran through most of the typical problems people have when they first get a printer, such as struggling to get the material to stick to the printer bed (the first few layers are tricky) and getting the right rate of filament extrusion. Finding good advice can be challenging but the forums are often helpful. Josh Marinacci also wrote this guide that I found useful.

The printrbots, at least in their current version, often have their extruder gear motor heat up, which softens the filament, which causes it to jam instead of flow through the hot end, which causes a big mess. I modified the exruder by adding a fan and that seemed to address the issue.

Most of my intitial focus was getting this design to print: an incredibly cool articulated robot with working joints that prints as one piece. I eventually got it working.


After that, I did more puttering around. I set up octoprint with a raspberry pi, printed some more stuff to improve my printer, and messed around with CAD software.

My child's classroom has a 'reading tent', a structure made of tubes and spokes. One of the support pieces broke and they couldn't find a replacement.

I made some measurements, and in less than 30 minutes had a replacement part running in the printer.

The original part and its evil twin. 

I made some small errors with the design that would have been easy to fix, but the part is functional, and the tent was restored. Cool. It was fun to have an opportunity to do the kind of stuff I imagined doing when I first ordered the thing.