What you've learned about your Makerbot Replicator2

One of the benefits of being a coach is that while I attempt to keep my hands clean of the actual building, every now and then I can take some privilege in playing with new toys. This year, I have been fairly infatuated wih our 3d printer, the Replicator 2, that we received through DonorsChoose.

I am looking to see what you all have learned about your 3d printer in general, but also more specific to the Makerbot. For us, we have learned that 3d printers for home, even marketed ones, are still largely Beta machines and need some lovin to make work properly. So far, we have done the following:

Installed the Sailfish Firmware - this has improved the quality of our prints a good deal.

Downloaded ReplicatorG for our software package. It has a lot more flexibility than the Makerware software.

Ordered the updated print head. This is spring loaded and works better with various types of PLA.

Ran a number of calibration prints on our bed. We’ve finally gotten the level where we want it and are getting relatively smooth prints.

What are your experiences?

I have recently been running a lot of prints on a Replicator 2x and have had to play quit a bit with the settings to get good quality parts.
I use ReplicatorG for all our prints because of the increased flexibility.

We are mainly running parts that will be no bigger than 15mmX15mm and have had huge difficulty in controlling the part temperature. Layers will melt together too much and mushroom out of the print area.
One of the more interesting ways that we have countered this is by removing the sides of the printer.

I would like to know what anyone else has done when printing extremely small parts.

Whoah boy, 3D printing!

My team/school purchased two Replicator 2 printers last fall. We’ve been playing around with them since that time and have logged around 200 hours of print time between the two of them.

We’ve actually had a really solid out of the box experience-- ours came with the new extruder and for the most part produced decent quality prints, until the thermocouple on the second one (affectionately nicknamed “Liquid Snake”) became problematic. Printer one (“Solid Snake”) has printing for well over 100 hours though amd hasn’t encountered many problems at all.

We’ve exclusively used the default firmware and the MakerWare software package for printing, and our experience has only improved. Our workflow is typically Creo -> Export to .stl -> Makerware -> Printer.

The main things we’ve found to improve quality are painters tape (buy a 3" roll, we’re working with 3M to hopefully get some 6" rolls for FRC teams that would prefer them), leveling the build plate after any failed print, and exporting to .stl at the max resolution possible. The nice thing about how the resolution settings in makerware work is that they’re only thickness-- the XY resolution isn’t affected. I’ve gotten nicer parts out of low resolution than high depending on the file I give Makerware.

The other thing is regarding shell and fill settings-- we’ve found that part strength is significantly more about how many shells than what fill you print at-- we almost never go above 30% fill because returns on print time and strength diminish quickly after that point.

Our next improvement is getting a superflat aluminum build plate, as both of our acrylic plates started warping significantly after about 80 hours of printing. I’ll update with that when we get it.

Most of our prints have been parts for our FTC program-- a hanging hook, mount for the Samantha module, a license plate with team numbers, etc, so I can’t comment too much on small prunts, other than that the smallest we’ve gone is 1/2" on a latch and we were very happy with how that part turned out.

The most drastic improvement in build quality for us came from enclosing the sides and top to prevent airflow from cooling the bed and parts being printed.

See here.

We’ve had some prints with an extremely difficult to remove raft, where others come off without much issue. Not sure what the difference is. We’ve also had some larger prints pull up off the blue tape, or the bare build plate, even with raft.

Looks very nice. We’re looking at doing something similar with our Replicator 2, except maybe just flat out replacing the side panels with plastic sheets. Might also look into adding a heating element inside, but these are both summer projects at earliest.

Overall, being the main “Printmaster” on our team, it’s been a very cool process learning about and optimizing our printer. There’s nothing quite like getting that perfect print.

No need for a heating element. If you block off the airflow, it gets toasty warm inside the chamber. I encourage you to try it, even if you just use poster board or foamcore taped over the sides, and a tub set on top. It made an instant difference on our machine.

I found Henry Thomas’ videos on the Replicator 2 to be quite helpful. The videos at the end of the series are more informative.

We came right out of the gate printing a series of rather large parts, on the order of 11x6x4" and ran into some real headaches with parts being very difficult to remove from the build platform, as well as rafts/supports being nearly impossible to remove from the part, and areas of the build platform being prone to warped prints (when printing with stock firmware in makerware using “standard” setting with blue tape on the build platform).

For the past week we’ve been printing with no blue tape, right on the frosty side of the build platform. No rafts. Parts are flat and can be removed from the platform easily by hand. There’s also been no problems with adherence to the build platform (eg the first layer sticks). The key is to prep the build platform with olive oil prior to starting a print, as described in the videos linked above. A small dab spread across the build platform until it is translucent. Then wipe it off with a clean cloth. There seems to be enough residual olive oil on the platform to allow part removal, but not too much to prevent adherence.

We are still using makerware for the time being, tests with replicator G showed that the rafts were much easier to separate from the printed part(prior to us implementing the olive oil method).

We likely still have a problem with parts warping in areas of the build platform. It seems that the build platform may not be level across its length. The distance from the extruder nozzle at the far left and right of the build platform is invariable further away from the platform surface during calibration. I’m in the process of mounting a dial indicator to the extruder to take more accurate measurements and determine what the source of the problem is.

Those who are using rep. G, did you find slicing times to be significantly longer than makerware? I was printing a very large part at the time I used it, but it took over 5x longer to slice in rep. g than makerware. I’ve read that installing pypy can help. What’s been your experience?

Todd could you show some before and after pics of of quality with and without the covers?

Also the mos effective thing that i have found for removing parts from the build platform is a cheap tape measure just unroll it and the metal is thin enough that it’ll separate the part from the platform quite easily raft or no raft.

We use a little paint scraper type tool to remove ours. Not even sure exactly what to call it, but it’s a miracle worker.

I definitely agree with the no rafts philosophy. We haven’t printed a single part yet that required a raft. For most things they’re just a waste of material and time (that is assuming you’ve nailed removing parts from the build platform).

Pypy definitely made a difference in.slicing speed with rep.g.

I’ve had a makerbot cupcake for a little over 3 years now, and have printed quite a few parts for home and FRC use.

As stated above, closing the chamber helps significantly, especially as seasons change. If your printer is near a window or in a small office, the thermal gradients are pretty bad. I have a single sheet of paper taped over openings to keep the platform and extruder heat in. Especially in ABS, this reduces warping

I haven’t used rafts in a long time, but support material is still useful on particularly hard prints. The type of support material and ease of removal depends highly on your model slicer.

For slicers, I ran Skeinforge in RepG for a long time, but now I use slic3r. I’ve been meaning to try Cura. Both are capable of replicator and sailfish compatible gcode. The main things I like about slic3r are:

  • Place and arrange multiple parts on the print bed
  • way faster slicing than Skeinforge, even on my laptop from 2006
  • separate profiles for slicing, filament, and printers

I have a profile for “Strong” which is 4 perimeters, and 40% infill (agree that going above 40% is rarely useful), “Normal” (3 perimeters, 20% infill) and “Fast” (2 perimeters, 10% infill).

Inputting your filament diameter is critical, and also your extruder steps per mm. without these you will get too much or too little plastic, which can be fatal on the field. You should be able to print a 100% solid cube and have it come out full and flat.

My latest upgrade has been a Raspberry Pi to run my printer - see my blog post on this topic. I have since gotten the wifi configured and have a wireless printer. When I bring it to the school, I switch back to a wired connection.

For print setup, I use:
ABS: 220C extruder, 120C bed, lightly snaded Kapton tape (I have a 4" wide roll) with a layer of Aqua Net (hair spray) for difficult parts.
PLA: 180C extruder, 60C bed, Blue painters tape (3" roll, as above) again with Aqua Net for smaller parts.

If a part is being hard to remove, especially ABS, I just let the bed cool to room temperature, and it pops right off.

ABS parts that need more strength can be put in a warm acetone vapor bath for between 1-60 minutes depending on how much smoothing you want. This glues all the layers together. Let me know if you want to try this, and need more info.

has anyone have had any expirence in using non-Makerbot filament?

It looks like any of the bad parts that came from before the shielding have long since been thrown away. Our problem was having parts cool and pull away from the bed in one corner.

there are many good vendors out there, just don’t get the cheapest and you’ll be fine.

I got a spool of filament from Inventables using the $25.00 PDV and it works just like the Makerbot stuff. Our team’s color is bright pink and Makerbot doesn’t have it in PLA.

Will definitely buy more filament from Inventables…it’s a few dollars cheaper and they have tons of colors.

enguneers could you post some links to them ?

This is off topic, but not worth making a new thread about.
Has any team tried 3D printing a 3D printer? :D. That’d be cool :smiley:
I think the replicator has the precision required for such a complex print!

330 has, with some success. Go take a look at the RepRap project–the basic premise there is that if you have one, you can build one more with that one, some items from the local hardware store, and a few electronics items.

At last count, 330 had printed something like 3-4 printers worth of parts. I would know: I spent part of a summer keeping an eye on the first two we had while they printed the rest.

I’ve had nothing but trouble with ABS adhering to the Kapton tape. Maybe the key is to sand it but I ended up using painters tape, as with PLA, and it has worked so far. I did notice that the older style painters tape seems to work better. The new improved version seems to have a coating or texture that doesn’t provide as much grip and my parts pick up.

Also, I would be interested in exploring what you say about acetone vapor bath. That’s an interesting way to uniformly bond layers.