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Print Spares!

Posted by Dennis

Fairly imporant, in my opinion, tip.  If you have a printer that has printed parts.  Print spares.  Of everything.

Of course breaking a part may lead you to make something better if you have the stuff to do it but still have spares.

Case in point, my Z axis end stop broke.  It's hard to zero a printer when the thing that tells it when to stop is broken.   I tried gluing back it together, no go.  I tried heating and smushing backing together.  No go.

Well crap.

But I had some 1/8" by 1/2" bar stock so bent one end at 90 degree angle of about the right length.  I then cut it off at the right overall length.

I drilled and tapped a m5x8 hole in the short section and two 1/4" holes in the long section that matched up with the pieces of the printed part.

A little grinding on a bench grinder to put the necessary screw relief in place and I'm back in business.

I'm printing a couple of spares now but I don't know yet if I'll leave the steel one in place or swap it out with a printed one.

I'm also printing them with 3 shells, layers and 50% infill in PETG.  The original seems to have been 2 and 10% and in ABS.   Not the strongest print in the world.

Anyway, if there are breakable parts on your printer then have spares.  It'll save you some grief.


Printer Update

Posted by Dennis

So my MendelMax 3 took a nose dive on me about a month ago.   I had purchased and added the Auto Bed Leveling kit to the system.   The steel plate that's used for the sensor that replaces the aluminum plate had a bit of a bend in it by the time it was said and done and as a result I ended up with a head crash on the plate as it was reading too far down.

Pretty much my fault for not noticing and thinking it through.  Anyway I couldn't get the plate as flat against the glass as I wanted so I flashed the firmware back to the original so I could print something for a friend.

And that's where things went south.  Every print was ending up like corrugated piping on the outside kind of like ^^^^^^.    The layers repeated on all four sides so it wasn't bed slippage.  Every 5 or 6 layers there would be a 'fat' layer protruding out making a ridge.

Long story short nothing we tried, I engaged the MTW folks on several occasions and in the end we were all stumped.   Since I travel through the town they're in about once a month they were kind enough to accept my ask of could I bring the printer with me next time I passed through.

But then work took a nose dive and things got hectic and I just didn't have free time or in truth the enthusiasm to look at the printer for awhile.

Then this last weekend I needed to escape the world so I cleared some space and took the printer apart down to its component parts.  The only thing I left intact was the wiring on the Rambo.   IT takes less time to strip a MM3 than it does to build it but not a lot less since you have to take care to keep everything grouped etc.

I looked for any irregularities during the deconstruct, loose screws, things not butted against each other, shifting, out of alignment blah blah blah.  Nothing.

Okay well I can't take a pile of parts to MTW so I build my printer for the second time from piles of parts.

I run a calibration cube and WTF, literally I said WTF, as it printed mostly good.  As part of my troubleshooting I'd re-installed MC and S3D on different PC and thus didn't have anything but the default settings, none of my tweaks were there.  So there was some zits on the sides here and there.   This is also a third (fourth) brand of filament that I was trying, again as part of the troubleshooting just to rule out the ridiculous thought that maybe the three other brands of filament I had that had printed great before had all 'gone bad' at the same time.

But... WTF...

So I tweak some settings from memory such as retraction, coasting, heating, cooling and print it again.  And this one was as good as my first print.

Again I go WTF...

So I print an Elder Wand (bad design by the way, it's printed laying down so it requires supports and the shallow curves at the top and bottom result in layer artifacting.  But asided from that it printed perfectly.

So yay, I have a great printer again.   Why it messed up, I have no idea.  How it got fixed I have no concrete idea.  I mean obviously tearing it down and back up again fixed 'something' but what that was may remain a mystery.


Alchement TPU Filament

Posted by Dennis

20160221_184343I delved into my first TPU filament.  There weren't a lot of options on Amazon, indeed there was a dearth of filament choices as all were unavailable.   But I found a vendor that had some in stock through Amazon and the handful of reviews were good. The only moderate review was from someone trying to feed it through a bowden tube and honestly why would you downrate a product for that?   It's like giving a gasoline car a bad rating because you tried to run diesel through it.

Anyway I got my filament, a nice red although the reds always seem to be slightly orange hued to me and this was no different.  It was packaged in a plain box, no fancy (i.e. costly) color printed box or labels.   It was well sealed in plastic with a silica gel packaged inside.20160222_100256

I was a little apprehensive about trying it since I'd read bad things about flexible filaments, they drip, they ooze, don't retract, retract more, and the postings had people printing this particular brand all over the place from 200 to 240C.

But I created a new profile for TPU based on my PLA profile. I increased my extruder to 225C as that seemed to be right in the middle of the manufacturer's recommendation.   I left my bed at 60C.  I turned the print speed down to 25mm/s.  Retraction I left alone at 1.35mm which has worked for me in both PLA and PETG.20160221_184321

I printed a calibration cube first just to see what would happen.   it came out great although a little undersized.  19.57mm x 19.78 mm.   With PLA my MendleMax 3 will print somewhere between .05 and .1 mm off 20mm.20160222_093223

It worked so well I then looked to see how it would do on overhangs and with oozing between pin towers.   It worked extremely well as you can see.  Interestingly the most whiskering I got was after it was done with the overhang piece and still printing the pins.   Up to that point the pins were very good and then immediately after the overhang piece was finished they started to get a little blobby and with whiskers.

20160222_093105It might be worth having a sacrifice piece if you're going to be printing some thin verticals to help wipe off the excess.

Still I was so happy with the quality of the print that I did a 3DBenchy test.  These images are it next to my first 3DBenchy in PLA which I believe I printed the same day I tightened the last bolt on the printer.

As you can see it's very good quality.  Note that both were printed at a .25 layer height.    In the pictures that show both boats the one on the left is the TPU one.

I'm going to print myself a watchband next.  I also have a kilo of Hatchbox TPU coming in that will be able to do a direct comparison between the two.






Posted by Dennis

So I just started my first roll of eSun's PETG and I must say I like it.  The only change in my settings that work great for PLA was to increase the temperature to 245C.    There may be other temps that work that was just the first one I tried and it worked fine.

My first 20mm calibration cube printed at 19.95mm x 20.75mm.   I could adjust it a little more by changing belt tightness but honestly my OCD isn't 'that' bad.   I really really like my MendelMax 3.   The output quality has been great out of the gate and I've had no issues with it whatsoever. I've gone through 4 and a half or so rolls of PLA and now working on the PETG.

Stanford-Easter-Bunny-Voronoi2_preview_featuredI then printed some overhang tests and those printed perfectly as well up to 60 degrees.  I haven't tried a bridge per se but I did print this bunny by Virtox and it printed great without any stringing between the openings.

In the interests of 'science' I crushed the little bunny and it took a surprising amount of force to crush such a flimsy looking print.  I didn't take a picture before I crushed it so I'm using an image from the thingiverse post.

The diameter of my spool of filament was right at 1.74mm with minimal change over a couple of meters.

I did have a minor clog in the extruder nozzle from switching over from PLA, probably a tiny whisker of PLA left and when I heated it up to 245 it turned into glass.  It wasn't a full clog, just enough to cause filament skipping on fast runs.  I pulled the PETG out and then used a trick I've come up with using a single thread from a piece of steel cable.   I don't have a drill that small obviously but that tiny thread of steel cable fits with only minimal space to spare and it worked pretty well to clean up the nozzle.

One thing I've noticed with PETG is that when doing an unclog procedure there's no stretch like you get with PLA and I'm sure it's leaving PETG in the nozzle.  It doesn't look at all like the end of a PLA unclog pull.   I was using 160C to do the unclog as a rough guess and there's almost no information online so I guess I guessed wrong.

But I got it cleaned up without have to disassemble my E3V6 head, which while it's an easy head to clean up, is still a bit of pain.

I've printed a couple of flashlight mounts, a skull to compare against the same skull I printed in PLA and it's all good.

I like it enough that I've ordered another couple of rolls in other colors from eSun and unless those just end up bad, I don't think I'll be going back to PLA any time soon.  Maybe for a super detailed print since PLA supposedly prints finer than PETG but I haven't tested that directly.

And in theory if you get the clear/natural 'color' you can print food grade (again in theory) objects.  I have no need to print something to eat or drink off/out of but there you go, it's possible if you need it.

One thing to note is that PETG prints fairly shiny and this exaggerates the layers of the print.  It's no different than painting any material with a glossy material. Not sure there's a 'fix' for that other than possibly spray painting it with a flat color.


3D Eez

Posted by Dennis

As a recent member of the 3D Printer owner's club I was having inconsistencies with first layer adhesion.   My very first print, a calibration box, printed okay on plain glass but I then looked at other options for PLA printing.

My first try was the basic purple glue stick from Elmer's.  I had inconsistent results.  Sometimes a print would be okay, sometimes not so much.

So I tried a mix of white glue and water.  But apparently the 'washable edible' version of Elmer's glue is not the right kind.  I had zero luck with that mix.   So I found the old school Elmer's and had better luck with that but printing things like Darth Vader with Cape even with some brims had issues.

So I jumped on the IRC forums that the guys from MakersToolWorks pretty much live on and we got to talking and they recommended 3D Eez.  It's on the pricey side but some other internet research, not a lot of sources though, indicated it was good so I ordered some.

It's supposed to be good for non-heated beds but personally I think it would work better for heated beds just based on the difference in holding power between a hot and cool bed that I've seen first hand.

I followed the directions and applied three thin coats letting each one dry, go transparent, before applying the next one and alternating the direction of the coats.

And the results were pretty amazing.  At heated bed temps the smallest objects stuck so hard it is pretty much impossible to remove them from the bed.  Even small surface area pieces act like they've been epoxied to the bed.

Then when the bed cools down, drops below 28C (ish) degrees the pieces pop off with just a light tap or pry from a spatula.

The material does 'wear' out over time but it does not appear to have anything to do with the number of prints but the amount of time it is heated.   I say this because the entire surface faded out on me after about 3/4 of a roll of filament's worth of printing.   Whether it was in the center of the bed where most of the prints were or out on the edges, it didn't seem to matter, it went from great adhesion to really bad adhesion and my skirt was just getting dragged around by the nozzle and not sticking at all.

You can run a damp cloth over the surface and get it back to sticking again but from personal experience it didn't get it back to the 'day one' ability to stick.

The material comes off pretty easily under running water water with a paint scraper so clean up isn't a big deal.

Applying it again and everything is back great for first layer adhesion.



MendleMax 3 after a couple of weeks…

Posted by Dennis

20160115_150448I've now had my MendleMax 3 from MakersToolWorks for about 3 weeks now.  By 3 weeks I mean from my first print till now after going through the build process.     I've gone through roughly 2 rolls of PLA filament, also from MakersToolWorks.

During this time I've run into more than a few issues but they've all been the result of my not knowing what I'm doing.   The printer itself has been rock solid the entire time.

Note several of the objects on this page were printed while I had a partial clog of my extruder nozzle without realizing it and was fighting with under extrusion of material.   Also if you can't see any images in this article then check AdblockPlus.  It's blocking them for me for some reason in Firefox.   I assume because my image location matches some filter.

So let me run through the issues and maybe they might help you avoid similar problems.20160115_150244

  1.  Don't pull on the filament while the extruder is at temperature.  It seems obvious right?  In hindsight yeah, as soon as I did it I just closed my eyes knowing what I'd just done.  I'd just pulled molten plastic up out of the nozzle and into the rest of the extruder where it's not supposed to be because hey that part stays cool.  And as you might have guessed the plastic solidified and I had a big jam.  And not the good kind made out of strawberries.  But since I, and you if you buy one, put that extruder together I knew how to take it apart.   It was fairly easy to clean up, the E3Dv6 that is in the MendelMax 3 is from what I hear a very nice design and one that helps stupid users get unstupid.
  2. Print out a filament guide sooner rather than later.  Indeed you may want to do that as your first print.   Without a guide it's possible for the filament to unspool and then get kinda tangled up and then things go downhill after that.
  3. When you put the extruder together, while you should take some care tightening the nozzle down against the heat break, don't be afraid of it.  If you are then you won't tighten it enough and it may (read did) ooze plastic out the joint several prints later.   Liquids, even viscous liquids like molten plastic, under pressure will find any opening.    So extruder taken apart a second time.20160115_150049
  4. When you take the nozzle apart, make sure you get it cleaned, especially if you used heat to get the plastic out because you might just carbonize part of the plastic and leave a partial clog in the nozzle.  It 'seems' to be printing okay but now you're under extruding.  And if you try to increase the steps in the firmware you run into back pressure issues that will cause your extruder to skip.
  5. If you try to use a pick to clean a nozzle, then make sure you've already bought your replacements because friends unless you have a pick that's exactly the size of that nozzle hole, if you've heated the nozzle up then you've softened that brass and voila now you have a .6 or even bigger nozzle when you started with a .4.
  6. Make sure you put a filament cleaner on your filament.  This could be something cool you printed from Thingiverse or just a piece of foam with a slit in it you stick on the filament.  Especially if you're unfortunate enough to own a cat.  Cat hair taking a ride on your filament into your hot end may be a bad thing.
  7. 20160115_150202Skip the PVA (white Elmer's glue but NOT the washable kind, the old school kind) and water mixture,  skip the purple glue stick, skip the big ass roll of blue tape.  Go straight to 3DEez as your bed wash.  PLA at least sticks like a frickin' magnet to this stuff while it's hot, I mean jerk the printer around as you try to yank them off kind of strong, but as soon as the temp's drop to 28C or less they pop off with just a light tap.   I've done probably 15+ prints with my first coating (3 coats per the instructions) and it shows no signs of wearing out.
  8. Rafts suck for leaving the bottom of your prints texturally sucktastic.   But if you follow #7 you won't need rafts.  You may need brims for very tiny parts but you shouldn't ever need to do a raft again in my admittedly limited experience.20160115_150049
  9. If you run into any issues go to the IRC channel.   Let me repeat that, if you have any questions or issues, go to the IRC channel.  The MTW guys in my experience are super knowledgeable about their products, they all use their products and they've 'been there done that' when it comes to settings, tweaks and issues.   And they seem to be pretty nice folks.  And I'm not saying that just because they're in the same state I'm in because one of them is Canadian and well.... yeah... 🙂
  10. Be VERY careful if you start screwing around with sending GCode to the printer.  If you don't for example change from relative to absolute movement you can send things way off of where they're supposed to be.   In my case I wanted at the end of the print for the Z axis to raise up 2mm, the X to move to the left and the Y, aka the plate, to come all the way forward.   I figured out my error as the plate just didn't want to stop and yet another mad slam on the emergency stop button I'd wired up on the power strip I was using for the printer.
  11. Make damn sure your slicer software is reading your thermistors before you send a heat command.  I managed to not do that once, it only happened the once so it was some kind of fluke but it was reading room temps on the thermistors and I noticed when I started smelling plastic that was at way too high temperature and smoke was starting to come from my extruder head.  I don't know how hot it got cause I hit my emergency power off switch but I'm sure it was well above where it should have been given the smoke.
  12. Many, maybe a lot of, printable models posted on the various sites are not in great shape to be printed.  Many have have been ripped from some software (i.e. a game) or something similar.  They suffer from non-manifold surfaces i.e. they have holes in them or just very hard to impossible to print shapes without a ton of support structures and the like.   Or their default orientation may be bad for printing.  So don't expect every print to work and it might have nothing to do with your printer but rather the object you're trying to print.
  13. Be careful with your heat spreader if you're screwing around with your printer.  I managed to yank one of the leads off my heating pad and was wondering why my bed wasn't heating anymore.   A little solder and it was good as new.
  14. Buy some basic spare parts.  A spare nozzle, a thermistor, extruder head heating element, these seem like a very good thing to have around since if you screw them up you're down until you get replacements and they all seem kind of consumable and are stupidly cheap to buy now.
  15. An enclosure of some kind can make being int he same room a little better if it's a room you watch TV in or something like that.  The printer is not noisy per se but having it 5 feet from your head it will compete a little with the sound of a show or music etc.

20160115_150516Final thoughts -

In my last few weeks with the printer, I've only printed PLA and honestly my first results using the default settings were good but over the last few weeks I've learned to dial things in.   Increase retraction a tiny smidge, play with speeds and cooling and everything.

After my first spool using MatterControl, the software offered for free and with custom profiles specifically for the MM3 by MTW, I didn't like some of the tool paths, they seemed less than optimal.  I would catch myself watching the prints and going "What?  Why are you going way over there?  You should go to that one it's closer and on the way!"

I do have some experience with CNC machining although in metal and paths and such.    Additionally I found myself wishing I could manually put some supports in just a couple of places given the ability of the printer to print overhangs and inclines so well.   So I bit the fiscal bullet and picked up a copy of Simplify3D.  This is not a cheap purchase and honestly for most people MatterControl is more than sufficient.

But with Simplify3D you can have easy per slice control of heat, cooling etc, you can manually place just the minimum support structures you need and in the end I decided it was worth it.  I honestly think if the makers of S3D would drop the price to say $49.95 they'd sell far more than 3 times the number and end up with a more significant profit margin.  Valve has proven that beyond my satisfaction that selling games at the 25-33% cost they sell FAR more volume than they need to make up the difference in per unit pricing.  But anyway, the tool paths that S3D uses are indeed more optimal than MC's with less total traversal and can reduce your time to print by some small percentage.  At some point I may test that claim by printing a semi-complex print that takes long enough to give useful data.   In the end it's up to you and your wallet to determine if it's really worth it and for most people it very well may not be given the high quality of the software that MTW is providing for free.

20160115_150359Since I printed my first calibration cube I've printed a butt ton of things, most of them of no real use except as gifts.   Some sets of figures for a game called Pocket Tactics and again the quality of the printer is great.

<- This for instance is a little feature test I created in Max for the fun of it.  There are some other parts to it that are missing, you can see where they were broken off but it was a series of thin verticals about 15mm high that went from 90 to a 30 degree slope.  But the way I joined them to the plate in the 3d application left them weak and when subjected to a kids curious fingers they ended up broken off.  Watching it create something in mid air for those long bridges is pretty cool.

I did have an interesting screw up, I set my speed to 80mm/s to test print a whistle at high speeds.  But I forgot that I'd set the override control in S3D to 130% movement rate which if my calcs are right puts me at 103mm/s print rate.   And other than a few clumps on the outside it actually printed.   Sadly the whistle doesn't work that well.  It's certainly not the 118db that is posted by the designer but I did print it at mach 5 so to be fair I should try printing it at a more realistic speed.

In a side tangent, if I had a miniatures based company then 3D printers would be a concern of mine.  Granted you need someone with enough skills to create 3D figures but there are plenty of skilled folks on the internet doing that kind of thing for free.

Right now I'm waiting for my replacement nozzle to come in, the one I broke,  and after so much constant "Vrrrrrrr" noises my office seems extra quiet.  But I should have it tomorrow in time for the long weekend and we'll be trying some PETG maybe.  Or at the very least finish printing out the dice tray I designed.   Once a geek always a geek.



MendelMax 3 – First 3D Printer

Posted by Dennis

Disclaimer:  I didn't grammer or proof this article.  Any typo's, bad grammer or just flat out hands aren't typing what brain is telling just enjoy the humor value in.  Unless those things bother you at which point you may wish to not read any further more.  (see what I did there?)

Note if you can't see any images in this article then try disabling AdBlock Plus.  Not sure why but on Firefox for me it's blocking my images in my articles.   Only disable it if you want to see the images and aren't, it's not critical to the content of the article.

Full disclosure:  I have nothing at all to do with the company, I don't know any of them of the personally, I don't own stock in their company, I have not been reimbursed in any way.  The only link I have with them is we both reside in the same state, but not the same town or even the same county.   This is my first 3D printer so I only have the internetz to base my comparison opinions on.

MendelMax 3This is the first installment in my experience with the MendelMax 3 3D Printer sold by MakersToolWorks which is a U.S. based company and who seem to be genuinely dedicated to their product and their customers.

What follows is my first several days with the printer which consisted of spending a hour or three each evening putting the parts together.  I tried to bring up any 'gotchas' I ran into during the build with this article.

Some background, recently my desire to try the world of 3D printing overcame my reticence to spend money and thanks to a Google alert I became apprised of a Black Friday sell on a 3D printer I’d had my eyes on.   The MendelMax 3 was the one that popped up in my feed.  It was one of the two candidates I was looking at, the other being the MakerGear M2.

But MakerGear had pulled their kit form and dropping $2K for the ability to print the world's most expensive replacement stove knob (we’ve been missing one for the last 6 years, it’s a long story), well that just wasn’t going to happen.

But then I see MakersToolWorks BF sale and I was able to get the MM3, the deluxe upgrade and 5 spools of filament for a fairly significant savings over the MakerGear M2 and so I had a decision to make.  I pondered and considered and vacillated and finally, literally, a couple of hours before the sale was going to end I dropped my order.  And here are a few small parts of the results of that order...


For the “TL;DR” crowd -

The kit I received was impressive overall.  Most of the parts were well organized and packed.   The fit and finish of the plate pieces that MWT produces directly were flawless.   Indeed I only had a small issue with threads on two pieces that they source from another vendor.

The documentation while it’s not going to win a Pulitzer or keep you entertained while you build will get you a completed printer if you take your time, read carefully and look at the pictures on screen instead of just printed out where you can zoom in on them.

The printer is massively sturdy once it’s complete with no flex or play anywhere.   It's built like a brick house, she's my tomahto she's letting it all hang.... Sorry...

The v block and wheels system gives a very smooth feel to the printer.  I had read an troll battle about them on one forum when I was doing my research but the anti-troll had convincing arguments for them and as it turns out it seems like they're were right.

The company appears to be online all the time and available for direct person to person chat and seem genuinely interested in helping people get up and running.  I.E. their ‘tech support’ isn’t farmed out to another country where the support consists of someone reading from script.

If you had any idea how many times in my IT career I’ve beaten my head against my desk while “James” or “Laura” asks me if I’ve tried reseating the power cables or memory or CPU’s when I call in with a dead server.

I can’t really speak to the ‘value’ of the printer as I'm pretty much a newb but it seems to fare very well in comparison to the MakerGear M2 and indeed the Ultimaker and whatever other top tier printers there from what I've researched and seen first hand personally show up on my build plate.   And although it’s only available in kit form you will save money as a result.  But I’m a 3D neophyte so my opinion is worth what you paid for it.   Unless of course you’re on metered bandwidth and just reading this did actually cost you something.

The output from the MM3 is easily as good as anything else I’ve seen pictures of out there and that’s ‘out of the box’ so to speak without any tweaking from me.

Bottom line, if you're in the market for a 3D Printer that’s above entry level and you’re not afraid of diving into a massive box full of parts, and kids it’s a lot of parts, let’s be honest and upfront, then I think the MM3 is certainly worth a look.

And as an added benefit they’re working on a automatic bed leveling system and will be included free at the time this review was posted.

In the gallery below note the inprocess storm trooper in the lower right being built without any supports, brims or rafts and how his arms aren't attached except at tiny little sections on the hands.   How effin' cool is that?

For the “I like words” crowd  -

About 10 days after I placed the order I come home to find FedEx tried to deliver a box.   The next day was Saturday so I decide, eh, I’ll just have them hold it at the local fedex office and pick it up since they’re open on Saturday and I didn’t know if they would actually try to deliver it to the house on a Saturday.   So I go online and change the order and tell them to hold it for me.

As I’m waiting on Saturday for the office to open so I can pick it up, the FedEx guy shows up again at my house and drops off a 40lb package for me.  I also got 4 or 5 spools of plastic since they had a bargain going on at the time.  Subtract that 10-12 lbs and the printer was more like 25 lbs I guess plus packaging.

So much for FedEx paying any attention to their customers wishes. Granted it saved me a trip I guess but it doesn’t fill me with confidence they’ll pay any attention to me for the next time.

I haul the box into my office where I have two desks cleared off, custom built and the last coat of tung oil put on it just 24 hours earlier just for this project and I proceed to lay out all the parts.

Unboxing was nothing unusual, everything had been packed into one box but most things were in sub boxes inside the main box.

Looking into each box and bag I didn’t do a parts check against a shipping manifest, primarily because I didn’t have one but in the end I had, I believe everything I was due.

One thing to note during the unboxing is the 5 stepper motors were packed in their own sub box but there was no padding in that box.  As a result the motors, there being only 5 in a box that fit 6 banged around a bit and there was some cosmetic damage on a couple of them.  Nothing worth bitching about but I note it here for your information.  Mechanically they were fine.

Most things were packed well and smartly.  All the nuts and bolts came in two divided tray organizers each with a lid insert labeling everything.  Very nice.   Much better than just bags of things.

Speaking of those nuts and bolts, I did somehow not have enough M5 nuts and M3 washers.   I’m not sure where I went wrong, used them in the wrong places or if I just didn’t get them all or what but a couple of bucks at Ace fixed that issue for me.  I can say I didn’t lose any to the floor.

My company had graciously and unknown to them printed out the entire build doc for me but I must be up front and unless you have a hella good printer, like NSA printing out spy satellite photo good, you will have to use the web pages of the docs on glass in some cases to figure out orientation or colors of wires or whatever by zooming into their higher resolution images.

The documentation is decent but...  while this is my first 3D printer build, I have 30 years of professional IT administration experience and 40 years of hobbies that include things like finding the tank models that had the most parts as a kid up to owning and using a prosumer milling machine, rebuilding a 60’s mustang, making most of our furniture.  Bottom line is I’m not totally a klutz when it comes to putting things together. And I can and do actually RTFM.  If you've never taken apart a wind up alarm clock to see how it works and got it back together again or if putting together anything from IKEA causes you issues then a kit form of a 3D Printer may not be for you.

But eventually, best guess between 20 and 25 hours of not in a hurry double check everything work and having to get a defective board replaced which they did quickly and graciously, I hit the Home button.  Oh shit!  The X axis is going the wrong way.  I dive for the power but not before it hit the end of the frame and the belt starts skipping.  No harm no foul though i get the power killed and I unplug the X stepper, rotate it 180 degrees and plug it back in.   Later on I would end up wiring in an big red slam with your fist to turn off the power on my power strip to cut power to the printer.

So back to homing.  Hey Home Z kind of worked, it's high on purpose, I didn't want it hitting the glass but it worked.   Home Y worked.   Yay!   I follow the steps to level the bed, since it's a 3 point bed it levels IMO easier than a 4 point bed would be.  I say this from decades of working with 3D apps and the difference between a 3 point face and a 4 point face.  Anyway it was fairly easy.

The free to you control software aka the 'slicer and code sender outer' they provide which is customized for their printer starts with a calibration cube by default when you add the printer to the software.  But let's make it harder on them, no funny business some kind of super optimized square shape (<- that's a joke), so I load in an STL that I created in Studio Max and exported that was 20mmx20mmx20mm.  I import and without changing any setting I hit print and see what happens.

Holy crap.   A bunch of 1's and 0's that I made by dragging a cube shape in a 3D application are getting turned into a actual object I can hold in my hands.  I honestly watched the whole 18 minutes it took to print.   I take it out and measure it, I think I mentioned I do machinist stuff as a hobby so I was very curious as to what it would print at.  And to my surprise and a little astonishment that 20mm x 20mm x 20mm cube measured 19.87mm x 19.82mm by 20.21mm  (I still have it).   So at or less than 1% error rate.   And that's without any changes, nothing, just load and hit print.

I'd already hit up Thingiverse for some stuff and within a few days, by the way 3d printing is kind of slow, I had cable chains, fan mounts, filament guides, light sabres (multiple), batmen, enterprises, phone holders, torture tests, 3d benchy the tugboat, calibration cubes scattered everywhere as I slowly learned what not to do, figuring out what bed coating worked and trying to figure out why it worked one time but not another time and failing, but the printer just kept on printing in spite of me being the occasional dumbass.

The quality of the prints continues to amaze me as well as the entire 3D printing process itself.  Reading forums about how people were constantly trying to fix 'whiskers', 'ooze', 'boogers', 'z artifacting' with their particular brand of 3d printers I just assumed it was everyone.   But 4lbs of plastic later and I've not had any of that to deal with the MendelMax 3.

That I can create objects on my work system, export them as basically a text file that depicts 3d space in a 2d way then have them slowly but surely appear as if by magic in front of my eyes.

And the giggle factor of creating a virtual army of storm troopers to stand behind a orange red low poly darth vadar  as a gift for a SW fanatic and each one costs roughly 50 cents to make and have him tell me how cool it is.  Or handing out light sabres as gifts and having people tell you how cool it is.

I'll be honest the entire printing process can be mesmerizing, watching a shape slowly appear while you watch.  And by slowly did I mention 3d printing is slow?

Is a 3D printer for everyone?  No, not right now.  It's not plug and play, not even the store bought ones.  It's getting there and it's far better than it was even 2 years ago based on prints I've seen from that time frame.

But if you are at all mechanical in nature, and not in the lovely femmebot kind of way, and you still have a bit of that inner child in you then a 3D Printer may be something that would appeal.  And you can make money from them.  You won't quit your day job but I can easily see, and actually know someone, making enough money to pay for your printer and your materials so basically the printer becomes a freebie to you.   Whether it's printing out cool things like 3d parts for board games (check the legality of that or just don't get caught doing it) or accessories for games or just an endless supply of tchotchkes there is potential for income out there.

The Build -

With that said there were a couple of places in the instructions where I had to sit back and ponder things for a bit and some things that might make it easier for you if you do venture down this path.

NOTE:  IF AT ANY STEP YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS OR JUST WANT TO HANG OUT JOIN THE IRC CHANNEL FROM THEIR WEBSITE.  Flint, Micro, Roy, Maxbots are always happy to help and I’ve rarely gone on there that there’s not at least 2 of them active.  And I’m talking like on a Sunday evening before Christmas kind of always on there.  If you ask about quality of prints, be prepared to provide pictures.  They can tell a LOT by looking at your output.

So let’s go through the docs and I can point out where I ran into problems -

Up front when you can’t find a specific part mentioned, look through ALL the boxes.  Some things you’ll find in weird places. Once I came real close to calling them after being unable to find a couple of parts but as it turns out they were in one of the electronics boxes.   So just keep looking and you’ll likely find everything.

Base Frame Assembly - Nothing to report, pretty simple build.   I will say having a set of engineers square is handy to have if you really want things square.

Y Axis Assembly - This required better reading skills than I gave it at first glance.  They say use two washers, so of course after I got it half put together that finally registered and I had to undo the screws I’d put in and put them back with 2 washers.   Tip:  The second smallest hex wrench works well as a spacer for the front stiffer bar which for some reason has to be not touching the front plate.  Well they do give a reason, to avoid rattling noises.  Which makes sense because unlike the back stiffener bar it’s not secured to the plate.   My best guess is for cosmetic reasons to avoid bolts sticking through right above the logo.   I was tempted to mill in a couple of extra holes to attach it but decided to play it straight.

They use an old picture of the stepper motor to show the completed stepper build which for me was a little misleading at first because that image shows the same bolts and stuff that you put in the extrusion, you don’t actually attach them to the stepper mounting block like shown in the image.    I can see why they put that image, so you know what the final assembly looks like without the extrusion bar in the way but still I cocked my head a bit and “What?” for a moment.

There’s also no guideline on how far down the shaft the stepper gear is supposed to be on the shaft.  You figure it out later but I don’t like guessing during a build.

Bed Assembly Plate - Nothing to report, goes together easy enough, no brain farts.  They stress not to cut the drive belt here, it would be discussed later.  Guess what?  It’s not discussed later that I found.   I trimmed them a bit, leaving about 2” of belt free just on a WTH it doesn’t hurt I guess.  Later I trimmed them a bit more.  You want enough to have something to pull them tight with as they will loosen up a smidge after several hours of printing.

X Axis Assembly - I did get the braces that required grinding down a nub on each one.   A few seconds on a bench grinder took care of that.   If you’re using a file you’ll be at it a bit longer.   This step is outlined in the build manual.

The idler bearing plate shows in one line drawing illustration being faced one way, but in the actual picture it faces another way.  I went with the picture.  This is also another place where I had to go back to the web and look at a couple of pictures zoomed in just to make sure I was understanding what they were saying.

There’s another big ol’ red DO NOT TRIM warning on the X axis belt.   But I’ll be darned if I can find out at what stage I’m officially supposed to trim them. As with the other belt after I had everything printing I went back and trimmed them leaving enough to get fingers on if you need it although the X axis is tightened by moving a pulley that’s mounted to the rail such that it can slide back and forth.

Z Axis Assembly - This is where I had my first real problem.  Up until now everything parts wise has been stellar and without flaw.   But for my kit the two Z axis uprights were not tapped deeply enough to get the screws in them far enough to secure the top plate.   No I wasn’t looking at the wrong end.  As a hobby machinist though I had the right tap, an M5 if memory serves, and was able to extend the threads to work, so this delayed my build all of about 10 minutes to get my tap set out and tap all four holes.  But someone without a m5 tap would have been stuck or worst case tried to Bubba it and force the bolts down and stripped out the threads completely.

There’s no real guidelines in the documents on getting the lead screws correctly aligned with everything so best guess is just eyeball it if you don’t have the appropriate squares or calipers to give you plumb.   It’s not super critical that they’re vertical to the 4th digit.   I did have to run my lead screws through the lead nuts several times to work them, this step is mentioned in the docs and isn’t unexpected.   I also put some lube on the threads even though delrin is technically self lubricating.

Controller Hatch Assembly - Pretty simple although I have black plastic bits not the translucent ones show in the pictures.

Electronics 1 - Pretty straight forward if you can wire a lamp the right way.   I would strongly advise wiring the power for the LEDs for the logos now while you have the PSU handy.  Way later on in the document when they get to that part they advise “you can remove the side plates and Y axis bed to make this easier” when if they told you to do it now it would have been WAY easier.   Getting that Y Axis perfectly, not just close enough, aligned is easier said than done and I was loathe to take it out and put it back.   As it turns out just remove the 4 screws from the bottom that hold the two supports that hold the PSU in place is far easier than remove the side plates and Y Axis.   But really just wire the power for the LED’s now.

Extruder Assembly - You pretty much have to watch the video linked in the manual to put this together.  You will need the parts from the Extruder Fix It pack to actually build it.   In the Fix It patch is a small tube of thermal compound, it’s not mentioned anywhere but from my years of building computers I put a dab in the hole the thermistor goes into figuring it would help transfer the heat and give better readings.  It doesn’t seem to have caused a problem although I don’t know that it was necessary.

A couple of parts of the extruder are 3D printed, on my particular sample my spring wasn’t really attached on the bottom side so I added a small bolt there to keep it from slipping out.   I think there’s supposed to be a printed nub there, on mine it was very small, looked like a printing artifact to be honest and wouldn’t keep the spring in place if that’s what it was designed to do.

Other than that it wasn’t a hard step but you do have to read carefully and watch the video once or twice.

Here’s a minor gripe of mine, they don’t include the fan mounts.  I’m sure they’re easy enough to print for the consumer and make a good first project but honestly there’s no great way to attach the fans IMO without them.  I just had them  dangling off zip ties.  It’s one area where I wish they’d of provide those so you could actually ‘finish’ your extruder/x axis assembly at this point.

End Stop installation - These were pretty easy although I ended up splicing in about 8” more wire for my X Stop so it would wire manage cleaner.   The length I received with the X axis all tx asix for teh same reasons, cleaner wire runs. he way up to the top of the Z wasn’t long enough to make it to the rambo if it was in a cable chain.  I actually extended a few of the wires for cleaner wire runs.

Bed Heater and Glass Installation - Pretty simple to do although my rear glass mount doesn’t fit quite as nice as I’d like against the curved edge of the Y Axis bed.  Minor complaint that the majority of people would never notice.

Electronics 2 -  This is where the meat and potatoes of the build start and where you can run into problems.   Almost ALL of the pictures of the rambo are upside down compared to how you will be working on them so it’s VERY critical that you pay attention to that bit.   There are also no 100% wired shots of the Rambo that I could find.

I found it useful to just turn my manual upside down during most of this part so the pictures and the board matched.

USB and Testing - And here’s where I hit a showstopper.   Let me upfront say that MTW didn’t screw around with me and got me a new Rambo out ASAP.    So with that out the way my particular Rambo wouldn’t take a program.  Everything checks out, power is there, lights are there but when I try to submit a program it just pings it 6 times then times out.   If you google the error and this particular board there are a fair number of threads on it with this issue going back to 2013 maybe 2012.

What I tested - 3 different systems, all different OS’s, 3 different USB cables, luckily the USB cables that manage my UPS’s are these old school type so I had that option.  Rambo was being recognized correctly, right driver, OS’s were seeing it.   All the right settings, processor, board type, com port were selected on each system. I checked the power and fuses with a multimeter (after spending half an hour looking for it, it was in the shed where I’d been working on a solar project a couple of months ago) and those were all good.   One of the systems I used had nothing but USB 2 ports, one had a mix and one was only USB 3.  No difference in any port.   Once I’d go over that with the guys on their IRC chat they emailed me a return label to send it back FedEx and they were going to ship me a new one as soon as they got shipping notification.  It’s hard to ask more of a company than that.

Note the board didn’t work for them either so it wasn’t me. 😛  They even pre-programmed the one they shipped just to make sure there wouldn’t be any further issue.

Deck Side Plates - These went on easy enough. If you’ve made this far in the build then screwing in another 8 bolts isn’t going to break you.

Spool Mount and Filament Guide - The Spool Mount is just a big ol’ bolt and you’ll have to wait to get printing to get the guide.  Small part and it’ll go aways to getting you dialed in I guess.   There are several spool insert options on Thingiverse and I recommend printing a couple out, not super critical though, I ran my first spool with no issues stock.

Wire Management - Even with the Deluxe kit you still have to print a few parts for the wire management if you want to use cable chain.   That had me scratching my head, I’d mistakenly gotten the impression all the cable management was included with the Deluxe in spite of it saying right there on the web page that you’d still have to print out part of it.   I spent a few moments trying to figure out how to make this 1 meter of cable chain make any sense in terms of wire management by itself.   Additionally if you get the injection molded cable chain that’s part of the deluxe kit, the actual connector to attach it is in the MiniMax downloads.  I just printed out all the chains so it would all color match.

LED Indicator Assembly - Getting the power wired after everything was put together was a bit of a pain and I strongly recommend you pull your power for the LED”s during the Electronics 1 stage but it’s not rocket science.   I mounted the diffuser and LED’s on the front lower base plate using the simple expedient of tape not wanting to epoxy them which I have plenty of.   On the upper diffuser I used bolts to mount the front diffuser and used the second diffuser included to mount the led’s a little further back to avoid hot spots.  Nice that they give you double diffusers so you can take that option if you want.

GLCD - Since I ordered the deluxe kit I got the GLCD kit so I can have print jobs without having to have a computer plugged in.  I do plan on putting OctoPrint on a pi but having controls directly on the printer is something I wanted.   My kit doesn’t quite match the docs, the way the keyed connectors are on the ribbon cable is backwards from the pictures in the docs.  But insanely enough on a Saturday morning before Christmas there were company folks active in their IRC channel and we just confirmed I’d just put mine together backwards.   With my GLCD I also got a laser cut plexi type case for the GLCD.  One of my parts wasn’t fully cut which left me with one of those head scratch moments then I realized it was just missing part of a notch and a few moments with a file fixed that.

For what it’s worth I honestly haven’t used the GLCD other than to play around with it for a few minutes.  I have an old desktop that I can dedicate to the printer and have just been using that.

I'll post my after a few weeks article in the next few days to give a longer look at the printer.  I wrote most of this after getting the printer built but unable to program the Rambo so I had time on my hands.