My final users Review of the Duplicator 4

It’s been two years since I purchased my Duplicator 4 with an Alumni grant given to me from my former university. I did a 20 mins presentation which got me the cash.  I then had major hip surgery and after the 2nd week of recovery ordered the 3D printer.  All a bit of a turning point in my life. Now it’s time to retire the Duplicator 4 and write my final review of this machine.

Being a straight out copy of Makebot’s Replicator 2, I consider this machine among the first generation of out of the box accessible desktop 3D printers.  However, it’s become clear over the last number of years why in my opinion the 3D printing revolution did not reach past the early adopter phase.  Unless you are technically minded and prepared to undergo a hard learning curve, this generation of machines are going to be trouble.

DSC_0035
My Duplicator 4. Packed away into retirement!

Going back over all my former blog posts you can see that it is possible to make this machine work well and get good prints. After tweaking, upgrading firmware and a number of little tricks you can get some great results. However, the issue has always been reliability. This is such an issue that I ended up spending more time fixing the Duplicator 4 and throwing out failed prints than I was printing. As a product designer that uses this for prototyping, this is not just as a toy for me. Yet much time and money was lost due to this constant need for repairs and adjustments, and this does not even take into consideration the further costs of ordering spare parts when things would wear out or burn up. Frankly it’s just too stressful.  So it’s time to pack it away. Maybe one day I will just replace the whole extruder block and experiment again, but for now, into storage it goes.

I will say, I learned so very much about 3D Printing using the Duplicator 4. From printing techniques, program settings, and electronic wiring. I have lost count of how many times I have disassembled and reassembled the extruder block, and how many times I have had the Duplicator 4 on it side so I can change components on the motherboard, to then celebrate when it suddenly works great again. Still then to become again frustrated a week or two, or even an hour or two later when something goes wrong yet again.  I finally hit the wall this week, when after again changing both the heater block and the thermocouple, and cleaning off 3 sets of burned carbonised ceramic wrap’s still my prints would burn and fail at the same point 2 hours in. I came to realise that I need a new machine. One that works consistently and reliably. I don’t mind an occasional failed print, and a tweak here and there, but this needs to be the exception and not the rule.  As a professional it needs to work. I have deadlines!

Now Wanhao is releasing the Duplicator 6, which seems to be a Wanhao version of a cross between the Ultimaker (a machine I’ve had my eye on for a good time) and the Zortrax M200 (which I know little about) at the lower budget you can expect from Wanhao.

Sam of Wanhao UK stated “My initial impression was good. The whole machine is well designed with lots of neat touches which make the machine look smarter than the D4. We printed 3 long prints and straight away each was nearly perfect, and that was pretty much from taking the machine out of the box. The finish on the prints was very good, very smooth and circles were perfectly circular. I am going to purchase one for myself when we can finally get hold of them.”

Wanhao 6
Let’s hope it lives up to its claims!

Their website also says “This latest Machine has been designed to provide a super quality prints along with being ultra reliable, neat, east to use and very hard working”

So basically just what I need. Okay, it’s a single extruder, but frankly I never got the Duplicator 4 working for long enough to really get experimenting with good dual extrusion anyway. The print bed is a little smaller at 200x200x200mm. However, Wanhao seem to like to release upgrade parts, so maybe we will get some extra along the way?

This blog will now be moving onto the Duplicator 6 for reviews and feedback from myself.   If it works well you will know from me.  And trust me, if it does not you really will know about it!

I shall of course, share with you all my technical findings, tip and tricks, here and on my facebook page!

I hope you can appreciate the time and effort that goes into writing this blog, and of course the cost for my hosting, the materials, and parts for these experiments. So with this in mind, I would like to do a small plug for ‘Toptal’. They are a website who can supply you with a choice of the top 3% collection of professional freelancers for any kind of Software Engineering, Design, and Development you may need, big or small. Please follow this link to see check out the site. If you then wish to hire one of their great people please follow the link or click the banner at the top of the page. Not only do you get your perfect freelancer, but I am also happy to give 50% of my own commission back to you. This may be up to $1000! Everyone wins! – https://www.toptal.com/#hire-skillful-software-developers-now

http://www.3dwanhao.com/product/wanhao-d6-3d-printer/

Thanks for joining me on this journey. I look forwards to new travels!
Check here –>  if you need money .

One big step closer to good dual extruding!

So the up’s and down’s of 3D printing roll onwards, and experiments to find a good dual extrusion set up continue to be not yet at a conclusion, but some interesting and promising happenings have occurred along this journey…

Last post I had just installed the Micro-Swiss Nozzles, but I had found that, if anything, I was getting worse prints! So I went back on the Google forums to ask the collectives opinion on this new install.  A solution that got the print quality back up to scratch came from a most helpful usefully guy by the name of Jacco (thank’s Jacco!) who had this to say –

‘The stock nozzles on Wanhao printers are 0.4mm, going to a 0.6mm will reduce the details . Further, you will need to set your slicer to the new nozzle diameter (to accurately calculate tool paths, so that the lines do not overlap).

Some guide to help with layer height: You never want to print at lower than 1/4 nozzle diameter (for 0.6 it is 0.15mm), and higher than 3/4 of the nozzle diameter (for 0.6 it is 0.45mm), with the normal at 1/2 nozzle diameter (high quality, low quality and normal quality respectively).’

So, in the MakerBot software, via selecting my printing setting profile (Edit in text editor) in Notepad++ (side note: If you don’t have Notepad++ search for it and download it! Way better than the normal notepad, and free) I scrolled down and changed the setups for both print head –  “nozzleDiameter” from 0.40 to 0.60. I found that this fixed the problem and the prints are now good. I also found that it was printing just fine straight onto the blue tape with no need for my usual double sided tape.

DSC_0016
Nice clean prints. No raft or adhesive required!

So the question is: Are the Micro-Swiss 0.6mm Nozzles an improvement from the regular nozzles? Well, it’s hard to say with certainty just yet, a least until I really get  working regularly with them, but I will say that loading and unloading filament does work better, with no jamming as before, and the prints are good quality. It is a shame that now the minimum I resolution I can print on is 0.15mm, up from 0.01mm, but to be honest I rarely print smaller than 0.2mm for my prototyping. So this may not be a big issue for me personally.  I guess you pay your money and take your choice. As my printing continues I shall let you all know my further opinion on the matter.

So back to dual extruding…

It’s been interesting. On the right print head I printed the PLA, and on the left the HIPS as support structure. I also tried adjusting the nozzle retract rate to 2mm and made sure the travel speed was set high at 150. What I found was there was no oozing at all with the HIPS, yet the PLA, although there was an improvement, was still oozing and creating the stringy mess.  Now, reading around the web I have found that the retract rate is not the be and end all of preventing oozing, as gravity will always pull the molten PLA downwards, bit it is a factor.  Keeping the travel speed up is more important.

Subsequent to this my right print head overheated due to the thermocouple being damaged (again!) so this must have affected the PLA. It is interesting that the HIPS did not ooze.  So, maybe the new nozzles and settings are good and the problems may have just been due to mechanical errors? After I fix this I shall try again. I have hopes that I may be on to something here.

On a final note, I had to change the left D4 Motor Cable – 110cm cable for the motor, as  there is some ware and tear on the wire, so creating a banging noise during prints and creating  irregular lines . This involves unclipping it from the top of the motor on the top and doing the same on the motherboard. Very simple to do –

DSC_0025
It’s easy to unplug the D4 Motor Cable from the motor.
2016-04-15 15.09.31
Motherboard location for the D4 Motor Cable (Top – B-STEPPER)

I hope you can appreciate the time and effort that goes into writing this blog, and of course the cost for my hosting, the materials, and parts for these experiments. So with this in mind, I would like to do a small plug for ‘Toptal’. They are a website who can supply you with a choice of the top 3% collection of professional freelancers for any kind of Software Engineering, Design, and Development you may need, big or small. Please follow this link to see check out the site. If you then wish to hire one of their great people please follow the link or click the banner at the top of the page. Not only do you get your perfect freelancer, but I am also happy to give 50% of my own commission back to you. This may be up to $1000! Everyone wins! – https://www.toptal.com/#hire-skillful-software-developers-now

Also, and particularly if you are reading this in the US, if you want to Wanhao 3D printer, follow this link and on your order enter the discount code “Charlie3” for $5 off any 3D Printer they sell. I also get a dizzying $5 for my efforts!  –  http://wanhaousa.com/

So watch this space as dual extruding experiments continue!

It’s been a long time. But we are back!

So it’s nearly a year since my last blog post. Where has he been you may ask? Well, after my former 3D printing experiments I felt like I had got the Wanhao Duplicator 4 working rather well. Very well in fact. There was not really much on the technical level I had to add from there. There was, of course, the matter of getting dual extrusion 3D printing working to a reliable standard. Still, with all the various other design projects I have been working on further experimentation was shelved for a long while. Until now.

I want to get dual extrusion printing working well, not so much for the ability to print two-coloured items, but instead, to print in PLA from one extruder and then use a soluble material via the second extruder as a support structure. The reasoning for this is, as you may all be well aware, printing with PLA supports is a tricky business when we get to the post-print stage. Pulling off the support structure can leave rough messy surfaces and also straight out break those more fragile and detailed 3D prints. For complex items with internal area’s that require support, you can’t even get in there to pull out the supports, but you can still see them. My thinking is if I can ‘melt away’ the supports without affecting the PLA all these issues are solved.

2016-02-24 13.48.56
Easy trick to keep the fan out of the way while fixing the hotend!

So last year I started experimenting with PVA. Great! Non-toxic. Dissolves in water. Sounds simple? I will say this. It caused chaos, mayhem. Okay I exaggerate. It worked at first, but it was messy, and as prewarned to this via the Google forums, it carbonated the hot end. You see me changing the hot end in the last post? Well, that’s why.

I was thereafter recommended by the forums to try using HIPS filament (High Impact Polystyrene.) it dissolves in Lemonene for the same effect. Works better for supports and should not damage the machine.

At the time I did not have a workshop. I did not want to start using anything too chemical/toxic in the house, so I put the idea aside for a while. Then last September I got the workshop space. The idea could be resurrected.

I purchased some HIPS from e-bay. Printing temp recommendation is 230c. I did a dual print. It kind of worked ok, but it was again a bit messy, even after using a purge wall. This was mainly due to the oozing of the currently not printing hot end.  It just was not a clean enough result.

2016-01-08 18.06.48-2
The purge wall made little difference.

 

2016-01-08 18.06.48-5
A messy attempt at dual extrusion.

So I’m back on Google forums, asking about retract settings etc. to see if I can stop the oozing. I was however recommended to make a hotend hardware upgrade to these:

“…a nickel composite coating designed to be very hard, corrosion resistant, and have good release properties against plastic. It offers one of the lowest coefficient of friction, better then nickel with PTFE codeposit so basically with no PTFE tube insert, The idea is that reducing the friction can aid in keeping oozing under control when combined with some setting changes. My 3D printer was also, being the best part of a year down the road of use since the last bunch of fixes, requiring a few new fixes.  Again a thermocouple, a fan and also for the first time, a D4 heater cartridge.

So for this blogs technical  advice, this is how upgrading the hot ends, and changing the heater cartridge is done…

You have to remove the whole hot end and then preheat the hot end. BE WARNED! Obviously, it gets very hot and you run the risk of burning yourself, keep other flammable items away and use pliers for all of this! Is has to get hot so you can add/remove said components. I found however that heating it to 120/130c is high enough for this.

2016-02-24 13.45.47
IMPORTANT – hold the block with the pliers and not the nozzle! It’s only like this in the photo because a ran out of hands!
2016-02-26 14.11.23
D4 Heater Cartridge and Ceramic Wrap.

One issue I found with the hotend upgrades is that they are just 1mm to short to easily get them to the exact height to reach the print bed, and go through the extruder metal bar mount with enough screw end to put the nut back on. You only really get a 1-2mm of thread to do this. I guess you could use a thicker piece of glass on the plate but still its kind of annoying. This meant I have to do the whole process twice!

Changing the heater cartridge involves undoing the tiniest of Allen head bolts on top of the nozzle mount block (and so you have to, in turn, remove/replace the ceramic wraps, and yes, this is what that tiny Allen key that comes with the printer is for. Bet you thought you would never use it!)

2016-02-26 14.10.11
The tiniest of Allen head bolts on top of the nozzle mount block

I, of course, lost the bloody screw! Ping! Gone! never to be seen again. And so it’s at this stage I must give a shout out the guys at WanhaoUK. They sent me a little bag of free tiny bolts after my mishap. What great guys! If you live in the UK don’t get any replacement parts from anyplace else, trust me, you may get something that does not quite fit. Stick to the originals –

http://www.wanhaouk.com/collections/duplicator-4-parts

So has all this worked out for the best?  Well, I shall let you know! Prints today are coming out well. The only adjustment I made was upping the PLA print temp from 190C up to 200C as the print quality was just a bit off. Must be to do with the new hot ends? They do say each 3D printer has its own uniquely different personality.  So note that changing these hot ends does change some on those subtle characteristics of your printer that you may be used to.

2016-02-26 14.10.47
The burned out heater cartridge!

Next blog will be about how I’ve been getting along with these upgrade and the results, and hopefully some success with dual extruding.

2016-02-24 13.05.36
Newly added ceramic wrap. Use some heat-resistant Kapton tape to secure.

If you have any tips for good dual extrusion settings I would love to know! Please like and follow 3DWanhao on Facebook and leave a post. Be great to hear from you!

I hope you can appreciate the time and effort that goes into writing this blog, and of course the cost for my hosting, the materials, and parts for these experiments. So with this in mind, I would like to do a small plug for ‘Toptal’. They are a website who can supply you with a choice of the top 3% collection of professional freelancers for any kind of Software Engineering, Design, and Development you may need, big or small. Please follow this link to see check out the site. If you then wish to hire one of their great people please follow the link or click the banner at the top of the page. Not only do you get your perfect freelancer, but I am also happy to give 50% of my own commission back to you. This may be up to $1000! Everyone wins! – https://www.toptal.com/#hire-skillful-software-developers-now

Also, and particularly if you are reading this in the US, if you want to Wanhao 3D printer, follow this link and on your order enter the discount code “Charlie3” for $5 off any 3D Printer they sell. I also get a dizzying $5 for my efforts! – http://wanhaousa.com/

See you back here soon!

The big day of fixes.

So its one year plus down the line after purchase and it was getting more and more evident that my Wanhao 3D printer was getting a little worse for wear around the edges.  The right side extruder fan was missing a blade, and the cooling fan for the mother board was also not running. And as for both the extruder heads. Well…

20150423_201932

Both the heads, due to previous ‘on the fly’ fixes had all of there insulation pulled off (effecting temperature regulation) and the inclusion of incorrectly sized nozzles, and lack of PTEF insert where leaking baldy causing messy prints (see my previous post.) On top of all this I still needed to change the right  thermocouple.  So, time for a long over due overhaul.

Here we have (from left) the new thermocouple, some Kapton heat resistant tape, two new hot ends plus PTEF inserts, and the insulation strips for the hot end blocks.  All available from the Wanhao UK site (note you may have to ask them for the insulation strips via e-mail as they are not listed)

20150423_202132

To start with I dissembled the left hand extruder assembly. From there removing the nozzle was difficult due to melted and reset PLA. This was solved by preheating the end and using two big pairs of pliers to undo it (WANING! be careful not to burn yourself. The moment the nozzle comes loose turn the machine off!) then I cleaned all the leaked plastic off the block, inserted the PTEF’s into the nozzles and attached the new nozzles into the block. Next i added the insulation strips and secured them with Kapton tape.

20150424_131451

I reattached the hot end and reassembled the extruder assembly. before repeating the same with right extruder assembly (I recommend taking care of each extruder assembly one at a time so not to get all the bits muddled up, as it gets very fiddly with all the small bits) however on the right hand side I changed the thermocouple also while the extruder block was apart.

Changing the thermocouple requires taking the black spiral cover of the bunch of  wired leading from the duel extruder assembly to the underside of the machine and carefully snipping the cable ties. From there you can locate the thermocouple and easily swap it out. This requires nothing more than a small 0.4mm flat head screwdriver (take a mental note of the colours on the wires of the old thermocouple before  swapping it out to make sure you are reconnecting them the correct way round) and the supplied Alan key to change the thermocouple on the extruder block. Afterwards use some new cable ties to bunch all the wires together again. Personally I did not re-attach the black spiral cover as it seems unhelpful and only there for the look of the thing. But its up to you.

When reconnecting the second hot end to the hot end mount block you are confronted with the issue of getting the print heads level. Please go and see my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/3dwanhao) for a link to a useful 3D printable level free from Thingiverse to help with this.

After changing the right hand fan (very easy) now its all back together and looking good!

20150424_165102

Finally i changed the motherboard cooling fan. Its the same gig as changing the thermocouple. Just make note of those wires to keep them the right way round!

20150424_165259

20150424_171325

And upon firing my Wanhao up and doing a test print. Lovely! The quality is back! But do note, this quality was only achievable after a bunch of other upgrades. Please see these older blog links:

It’s here! The tried and tested simple guide to reliable PLA prints on the Wanhao Duplicator 4. Part 1
The tried and tested simple guide to reliable PLA prints on the Wanhao Duplicator 4. Part 2
The tried and tested simple guide to reliable PLA prints on the Wanhao Duplicator 4. Part 3

I hope you can appreciate the time and effort that goes into writing this blog, and of course the cost for my hosting, the materials, and parts for these experiments. So with this in mind, I would like to do a small plug for ‘Toptal’. They are a website who can supply you with a choice of the top 3% collection of professional freelancers for any kind of Software Engineering, Design, and Development you may need, big or small. Please follow this link to see check out the site. If you then wish to hire one of their great people please follow the link or click the banner at the top of the page. Not only do you get your perfect freelancer, but I am also happy to give 50% of my own commission back to you. This may be up to $1000! Everyone wins! – https://www.toptal.com/#hire-skillful-software-developers-now

Thanks for reading this rather long post! I shall being providing some next and interesting topics for you very soon. Watch this blog!