Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Prusa Build: COMPLETE!

It has been a solid six months since I first embarked on building a Prusa RepRap printer, and last week I finally printed my first print! (yes I have been printing non-stop for a week, hence the week delay for this post) The final build stages before my first print were to assemble the hot end from MakerGear, mount the PCB heated bed, and attempt to wire everything up in some sort of cohesive form. The hotend ended up being a very finicky and almost ended in complete disaster; the connection inside the cured heatcore broke, so I ended up making my own MakeDue hot end from salvaged MakerGear parts which has been working very well so far. After I got the hotend working, I mounted the PCB heated bed and went through a series of slightly dodgy upgrades which I will cover in more detail in a following post. The wiring is still a work in progress, I plan on cleaning the wiring up some time in the future.

My first print was the symbolic RepRap shot glass. The print turned out much better than I expected, I was dreading the big blob of goo that most reprap bloggers write about, but was pleasantly surprised when the print actually resembled the desired object. I used Sprinter firmware with Slic3r for gcode and controlled the printer using Pronterface.

I  put kapton tape directly on the PCB heated bed as a quick fix for a piece of glass. There were some uneven areas on the PCB surface, but overall it did not severely effect print quality.

After my surprising success with the shot glass I went about fine tuning slic3r settings. I followed an excellent blog post tutorial for slic3r calibration that can be found on RichRap's blog,
I would highly recommend reading through the post as it clearly outlines how to properly calibrate Slic3r settings. After my calibration was complete, I set about testing the capabilities of my new Prusa. I started with some gears and pulley parts, and then went on to experiment with lower layer height with a Yoda head. I also began to experiment with the effects of extruder retraction while printing a bracelet from thingiverse. I found that changing the amount of retraction even 0.5mm and adding a little bit of Z lift between moves significantly changed the amount of stringing on a print.

I'm really blown away with how straightforward printing has been and the significant leaps and bounds in quality that I have experienced over the last week. Over the next few days I am hoping to post some of the simple improvements I have made as well as a few observational posts regarding the effects of layer height and other slic3r settings on print quality.