Thursday 11 June 2009

BitsFromBytes extruder

Reading a comment on the RepRap forums I *finally* realised that BitsFromBytes had a Forum and a separate Blog. Since I've got an older v2 kit, I hadn't checked back there for a while.

While catching up on the blog, I found a really useful post by Tony (copied below):
MK2 extruder
I was able to get some very nice results from the original GM3 powered BFB extruder, all the same principles apply, keep the melt zone short and support the PTFE close to the heater. Stability of the motor speed and the quality of the motors were the only slight issues. I ran both single and twin motor versions for many months without a problem. I still believe this original extruder design is very good and it certainly proved itself reliable over that time.
For those who had problems getting them to work I strongly suggest you blueprint the design exactly as it should be, by all means sharpen the thread and undercut it with a hack saw if you must but this should be the limit of the mods. The most common error I have heard about is the omission of the small reaction washer behind the main feed screw. Miss this out and you will never grip the filament tight enough. Build the extruder exactly as the instructions and it works, mess with the PTFE add custom heaters and coach bolts for the drive screw(what!), and you are in unknown territory. Run it how it should be first, get some experience in printing, you will then start to see where modifications would pay dividends, the original one works very well and starts reliably from cold.

Coach bolts? Who would do such a thing! :-)

Time to re-check. If it's only me and one or two others having problems with the BfB drive, then it's probably either my setup or incorrect assembly.

Re-state the problem.
Initial problem: heater/motor control worked fine, but extruding at 250C and any speed only resulted in 2-3mm/minute, almost too slow to see. Tried various temps and speeds, same result.
Removing heater, I was able to manually pull the filament through (screw thread not biting).

Tightened all the bolts - still no change to extrusion. Tightened to the point the acrylic started to crack (on the 2mm plate holding the bolt/filament roller). No change. Springs fully compressed. (reaction washer in place)
Disassembled, sharpened bolt thread with die. Better grip, but no better extrusion.

Examining the heater and drive separately, found that the heater required a reasonable force, but extruded OK, but the drive system still wasn't strong enough - although it seemed more than strong enough during testing, it still wouldn't extrude.

I then experimented with some different nozzles and drive systems. I found some nozzle designs needed less force, but needed careful machining to be reliable.
Replacing the m8 thread with a coach bolt , which had a much larger, sharper thread really gripped the filament very well - but still didn't extrude. WTF?

I think the problem is the thread is very grippy - but the pitch is about 4 times larger than the m8 thread. The coach bolt drive is very strong, but drives faster than the m8 thread - a few mm per revolution. I think pushing too fast chokes the extruder, stalling the filament, and stripping the filament (confirmed by examination). It might work very well, but needs to be geared slower (or driven by a stepper).

OK, so after reading the BfB forum and posts, I stripped down my extruder to have a closer look.
A careful inspection of the extruder parts revealed this:
From BfBExtruder
The heater bolts are *slightly* too large for the channels in the extruder drive, causing a gap between the plates. This meant when I removed the heater to check the drive system, it closes up - and the drive works properly. When I screwed in the heater to check the extrusion and bolt to the reprap, the bolts screw in - the gap opens - and the pressure is taken off the screw thread. The screw doesn't bite the filament, and doesn't pull it through.

I'll file the channels out, reassemble to the original BfB extruder, and try again. I think it *might* just work this time (famous last words...)

As we say in computing, PICNIC (Problem in chair, not in computer)....or should that be PIANID (Problem in Assembler, Not In Design)...

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Presentation over!

Today I managed to show my RepRap to 50+ colleagues at work (IPL).

We have a lunchtime talk every few weeks, on technical and non-technical subjects, given by staff and invited contributors. I foolishly volunteered to give a presentation on my RepRap.

I put together a little presentation, some notes and delivered it today!

It went really well. Everyone was attentive and I got some sensible questions, so some of them were listening! After the talk, I started up my RepRap and it ran through a dummy print, since my extruder isn't quite working at the moment.
Lots of people stayed to watch, and there was some lively discussion over what could be printed, and everyone seemed interested.

As usual with presentations, you get really nervous before, but after a couple of minutes that goes and I really enjoyed showing off my RepRap.

To IPL'ers, thanks for listening and showing so much interest!

Top Tips for improving my presentation:
Lots of questions on possible materials and what could be printed (i.e. overhangs, support material, etc).
Concentrate on the 3d-printing of other objects and introduce the self-replication as a side-effect: Also need to mention upgrading itself using printed parts