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Mr.RC-Cam

DaVinci 3D Printer Blog

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I'm new to the 3D printer scene. I thought it might be useful to share my introductory experience with others that have a R/C hobby background and enjoy using technology based tools. This might help other DiY hobbyists like me that are on the fence about getting one and give them the push to join in on the fun.

My story begins with the 2010 CES show in Las Vegas. An enthusiastic guy named Bre Pettis was showing off a crude plywood constructed 3D printer kit he and two buddies designed. Their new company was called Makerbot and the primitive DiY kit was about $1K USD. I stood in line to talk to him about ordering it, but eventually gave up because the line wasn't moving and I had to move on.

Things have dramatically changed since then. Nowadays there's several sub-$1K USD 3D printers to chose from. A few weeks ago I ordered the da Vinci 1.0 made by XYXprinting. It was only $400 USD shipped from Amazon. It safely arrived in a huge carton and within minutes of the unboxing I printed my first ABS plastic part. Nothing to assemble; just unpack, plug into AC, load the filament, and print. My first project was a sample chosen from the printer's front panel menu.

Overall, I have to say daVinci's printer looks/works impressively and the price is a bargain. There's simply no comparison to the plywood constructed machine I saw at CES 5 years ago.

First, here's what my new 3D printer looks like:

 

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Here's a shot of the heated bed and printhead.

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I was originally put off by da Vinci's proprietary software and "chipped" filament spools. For sure, many online posts have negative things to say about their PC software (often described as rubbish). Plus you have to buy their filament in a proprietary cartridge that has a chip in it to keep track of usage (and prevent re-use). That means when the spool is empty you have to buy a new da Vinci branded cartridge rather than lower cost commodity filament from the 3D market.

Hackers changed all that. Now you can re-spool the cartridge and reset the filament counting E2PROM chip with a DiY tool. Furthermore, users are no longer stuck with the hated da Vinci printing software; Using alternate slicer programs to tweak your prints is a simple task. There are plenty of online tutorials and videos that show you how. Of course none of this is acceptable to the consumer users the printer is marketed to. But to hackers like me it's like winning the lottery.

Regarding the cartridge filament counter resetter, it requires an Arduino Pro mini board. I paid $3 for one on eBay. The required Arduino sketch file (firmware) is a free download and so is the 3D file for an enclosure. Here's the plastic case I printed for my resetter using the published file:

post-2-0-49421600-1420070783_thumb.jpg

Full details are published here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Da-Vinci-XYZ-3D-Printer-Filament-Resetter/

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Of course there's been some minor hangups along the way. For example, I planned to operate the printer in a storage room so that I did not have to smell ABS plastic during builds. But after plugging in the USB cable and installing the provided PC app on a retired WinXP system, the software reported that the graphics card was incompatible (OpenGL version issue). I ignored the warning and tried anyway. When I opened print files the worksheet remained blank. Unfortunately my graphics card did not support newer versions of OpenGL.

It was not worth the effort to upgrade the old PC so I came up with a temporary fix. Fortunately there is a microSD card on the printer's motherboard. It's hidden under some Kapton tape. I found online instructions on how to manually save a print file to the card and print from the LCD menu. It is a clumsy workaround, but functional.

After lifting the Kapton tape the hidden microSD card can be exposed:

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I soon installed an external SD card socket extension cable so I didn't have to remove the printer's back cover to access the internal SD card. This hack uses a $5 cable found on ebay that has a microSD shaped plug on one end and a SD card reader slot on the other. It's a 24-inch flex cable so plenty of length to get the SD card up front. Here's what it looks like after the installation:

post-2-0-59472200-1420071572_thumb.jpg

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But running back and forth to put files on the SD card quickly got old. My final solution was to purchase a wireless USB print hub. It works fantastic and I can print from my desk using the Win7 engineering PC. So I no longer use the SD card method.

 

Here's the wireless USB printer hub:

 

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It takes a few minutes to prepare a 3D file for printing. I post process the 3D .stl files in a program named slic3r, export as a g-code file, use a text editor to add some required header text, encrypt it, then load it into the da Vinci app and click the print button. First couple times were clumsy, now it's no big deal to prep the files.

 

The da Vinci PC application allows monitoring the print status so its possible to check on the progress from my desk. But I ordered a USB web cam so I can remotely watch the objects in realtime during the build. The camera is on its way (another Amazon purchase).

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Ok, so what can you do with a 3D printer? I think there is something for everyone. Consumers will probably just download the free designs from sources like thingiverse.com. That's right, you don't need to know how to use a CAD program. Instead, browse an online site, see something you like, download it, scale it to the size you need, and print it.

It's not all cell phone cases and flower vases either. There's even some free FPV stuff out there, plus multicopter parts. Here's two early examples of some things I downloaded and printed:

5.8GHz vTx case:

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FPV Goggles:

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Want to see a few more FPV projects you can build with the help of a 3D printer? Click Me!

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But I'm not satisfied with using other people's designs since I like to roll my own stuff. That means I have to learn how to use a 3D CAD program such as the Autodesk 123D suite. I suppose the real adventure has just begun!

By the way, I added a string of white LED's to the print bed. So that's why it looks so bright in there!

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Interesting!

Im not a big fan of plastic for anything preferring to CNC cut carbon or fibreglass board to make most things as for the weight they are stronger. However I do think complex shapes can look more apathetically pleasing when printed in plastic. I will be watching to see what you come up with ;)

Terry

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Indeed the strength is a lot less than sheets of FR4. But as you noted, 3D printers allow us to rethink how to design our DiY projects since complex shapes are possible.

My first design attempt is going to be a pair of FPV goggles. I don't want it to look like the usual DiY "cardboard box" shape. So I am slowly experimenting with Autodesk 123D and learning how to use it. Although it was just an early experiment, here is a goggle center section that I created to help get the feel of Autodesk. It's hard to say what the final shape will be; There is much to learn!

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Webcam Hack Update: I mentioned earlier that I wanted to put a webcam inside the printer to remotely monitor the builds. But the webcam I bought online had disappointing video quality. So I decided to roll my own.

I had a old pan/tilt webcam in storage that was too big for mounting inside the printer. But after a bit of hacking it was outfitted with a small FPV type camera. As luck would have it, there is a remotely activated relay in the webcam that I rewired to switch between the printer's camera and the stock pan/tilt camera. So now I can watch the 3D prints and/or check for intruders. My extra spools of plastic filament are now safe. :)

I mounted the FPV camera up in the front corner of the davinci printer. The wiring goes to a stereo type phone jack that was installed on the printer's real panel. It connects to the webcam using a shielded 12' long 3-conductor cable.

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Below is a sample screen-shot from the webcam's browser based viewer:

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I have no idea when my goggle design will be completed. But maybe one day I'll have something to show and tell. :)

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It's been five months since my DaVinci 1.0 printer arrived and it now has over 425 hours of print time on it. It's been working fantastic and I'm very satisfied with it. But this week the printer developed a couple problems.

On Monday the glass bed had a little bit of pitting. As the week went on the pitting got worse. I've learned that it is a common complaint. The pits create cosmetic blemishes on the surface of the printed parts. I ordered new glass (with heated bed), a $65 USD expense.

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But the pitted glass bed was the least of my problems. For the last couple days my larger prints have randomly failed. The prints always started off great, but after 2 to 3 hours into the print the X-axis direction would get out of sync and the print would become a big mess with hideous deformities. This problem was random and a real hair-puller to solve.

The culprit was a partially broken X-Axis motor wire hidden beneath spiral cable wrap and a wire-tie. The copper conductors had apparently fatigued from all the movement but were still able to carry current 99.9% of the time. Under some mysterious condition the wire would go open circuit for a moment (but never while I was watching). Long story short, the wire was repaired and the printer is working again.

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I have no idea when my goggle design will be completed. But maybe one day I'll have something to show and tell.

My FPV goggle project is ongoing and details are found here:

http://www.rc-cam.com/forum/index.php?/topic/4026-mrrc-cams-diy-3d-printed-fpv-goggles/

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It is much easier to remove printed parts after the bed has cooled down. Cool parts will effortlessly come off; If the parts are hot they stick like glue. So I usually wait 15 minutes or more before removing them.

To speed up the cooling time I decided to add a fan. Because I only wanted it to come on at the end of a print, and only run for a few minutes, I figured I would need some smart circuitry. Perhaps an Arduino or PIC chip. But it turned out to be much easier than that.

I purchased a $4 USD Chinese made timer module from eBay. It has adjustable delay times and a SPDT relay to switch the load (fan). It looks like this:

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Here is the eBay search link for the timer module:

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_sacat=0&_nkw=LED%20Home%20Automation%20Delay%20Timer%20Control%2012V%20Switch%20Relay%20Module%20Digital%20display&rt=nc&_mPrRngCbx=1&_udlo=2&_udhi=4

The right side panel handle insert was replaced with a new printed part that had a 12V 80mm PC cooling fan added to it. It looks like this:

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Note: The "400" in the Timer's LED display means it has been configured for 400 seconds of cooling time.

A cover was also 3D printed to hide the fan.

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The Wiring Magic:

A magnetic alarm contact switch was installed at the top right rear corner of the printer. A magnet mounted on the extrusion head triggers the switch when the head is parked at the end of the print. The trick to keeping the fan from turning on at unwanted times, such as the start of a print, only required some creative wire connections.

The magnetic switch is like one of these:

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_odkw=alarm+magnetic+switch&_udlo=1&_udhi=3&_mPrRngCbx=1&_osacat=0&_from=R40&_trksid=p2045573.m570.l1313.TR0.TRC0.H0.Xalarm+magnetic+switch+recessed.TRS1&_nkw=alarm+magnetic+switch+recessed&_sacat=0

There's three wires to connect to the printer's main control board. The timer module is setup to use its P1-2 operating mode (trigger starts digital countdown).

The bed heater has two wires. If you follow them to the printer's main control board your will find that one wire goes to +12V (a good place for getting 12V power for the timer module). The other wire goes to the printer's low-side transistor switch that turns on the heater; This is the perfect arrangement for the timer control logic that is needed. When the heater is off the "low-side" wire becomes a pull up resistor and provides logic high. When the heater is on it becomes logic low.

The heater's low-side wire is connected to one of the wires on the magnetic switch. The switch's other wire goes to the timer module's trigger input. The timer module's ground wire is connected to the printer's chassis ground (I used a nearby PCB mounting screw). Three wires total, easy as pie.

I was blown away by how simple it was to add a end-of-print cooling fan. ;)

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Today the pitted bed glass (with heater) was replaced. After the part exchange I had to perform a bed calibration. But on the third calibration run the printer reported ISSUE 0030, beeped, and stopped. Resetting power did not help.

After some troubleshooting I found a bad wire on the X-Axis Zero optical switch. It was an simple solder repair, but this is not the first time a X-Axis related wire has failed. It appears that 400+ hours of runtime is the witching hour for daVinci printer wire problems. I've ordered some flexible silicone wire that will be used to replace stressed out harnesses. I suspect the Y-Axis will be needing it soon.

The new glass is in, bed is calibrated, and the latest broken wire is repaired. I guess it's time to 3D print something!

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Because of wire fatigue the X-Axis cable breakage problem bit me several times. So this week some changes were made to my daVinci printer that should improve cable reliability.

Although the Y-axis hot end cable has not failed yet, it was beefed-up with some 6mm split braided hose. This takes some of the stress off the wires at their flex areas; Hopefully this reduces copper fatigue:

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The X-Axis motor and optical sensor wires were replaced with flexible silicone wire that can handle more flexing abuse. They now run inside plastic Cable Drag Chain that I purchased from eBay ($7 USD).

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The cable drag chain links are 23mm wide x 15mm high. There is plenty of room inside it for the seven X-Axis wires.

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To attach the ends of the drag chain to the printer some 3D printed parts were created (designed in Autodesk 123D):

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