Assembling and Getting Started with our 3D Printer
Anyone that knows me knows that I’ve been campaigning for a 3D printer since they first came on my radar in 2009 (I know they were there before but I had other crazy inventions taking up my time). When the opportunity came that I could justify one in the office here after we started working with IOT and Robotics connected games I was straight onto Amazon and ordered our first 3D printer (yes I did say first….watch this space). We went with a self assembly one as I’m all for understanding the tech by building it first and the GEEETech i3 jumped out as a suitable starter device. This coupled with it’s very cheap price (€200) meant it was unlikely that I would regret the choice one way or another.
When it arrived we set about the build. We’ve a time-lapse and blog video on the topic below, but for those who prefer the written form, here are a few hints from the construction phase:
- Have your own (Good) Hex key set
- Have a decent set of spanners for tightening the bed rails
- A mallet or similar for tapping friction bars into place
- Decent sized laptop / monitor screen as all instructions are in the form of video
- Be prepared to run a multi-meter over connections if it doesn’t work first time
As for running the device, as mentioned in the video, the first power supply we got was faulty. This meant that we had to get a replacement sent out, the process was very easy though so we’re happy enough with the outcome even if it did mean not being able to use it for the better part of a month! Once it did power up however the connection and getting everything working was not without it’s obstacles. Again I’ll break them down into a nice easy list:
- Don’t use a Mac….just don’t! Stick with a PC, in the end we dedicated an old laptop to be the 3D printer laptop. Now that Macs only come with usb-c connections etc it’s just easier and there’s better documentation for connection on PC.
- Get the right software, it’s buried in a few different links in the support documentation. And we had to amend firmware to fix an axis issue which it turns out can be done via the latest version of Repetier so make sure you download that!
- Bed Levelling and z-axis calibration are very important, we used the tin can method for the z-axis (place a can under one of the z-axis braces and then adjust the other one to be the same height by moving the can to the other side and manually twisting the bar to sit the brace at the same height. Bed levelling was done with a sheet of paper and adjusting the bed until all 4 sides and the centre were just on the paper without causing it to crease/ tear.
Once done we printed our benchy using standard settings and then set about refining to find the ideal mix. There are many videos on YouTube detailing this process and we watched so many I can’t think of a definitive one to link to.
So now that our printer is operational, we’re already integrating it into our product innovation process and have rapidly prototyped hinges and lock mechanisms for a point-of-sale device we’re creating and also to make a couple of attachments for the printer itself.