Where I’ve Been, Simplify3D, PLA on the DaVinci 1.0

I haven’t posted for a while because my wife and I welcomed our second child to the world almost 2 months ago. The amount of time two kids take up seems exponential compared to one kid, so I haven’t had much time. 

Just before her birth, I splurged and bought Simplify3D. I’d heard a lot of great things about it and found that it works with the DaVinci 1.0. It allows control over temperatures, supports, and tons of other settings. In my case, XYZware kept running the “upgrade tool” every time I tried to use PLA, which became very annoying. Simplify3D is not cheap and there’s no trial period, but I’m very happy with the purchase so far. The ability to modify supports easily is great, it has a ton of useful tools for messing with models, and the preview of the printing process is also really nice. 

As I mentioned in my last post, I put the PLA-capable nozzle on my DaVinci. I’ve been able to print both PLA and ABS successfully on it with Simplify3D (and without switching the nozzle). I had some adhesion problems with ABS initially, but think I got my settings dialed in now. I’ve printed quite a few things with both filaments successfully. The smell of PLA is much nicer and the finish on it is generally more pleasing for what I’ve printed, but it’s much more brittle than ABS. I’ve had a few items break pretty easily with PLA. 

I’ll post photos/time-lapse of a few recent prints in an upcoming post. 


Third-party filament, PLA extruder, recent prints

I got another new filament cartridge (green) on 5/15 and swapped it in to try out. When the first print started with this new cartridge, I got a 010 error on the printer. According to the XYZ error list from the user manual, that means “Extruder temperature too high or too low”, which is a little scary. Hopefully the temperature is too low and not too high. I restarted the printer, tried the print again, and it worked fine. This is a little disconcerting to me, since it’s the second recent error that was fixed by basically restarting. I got this same error again on 5/29 and restarting fixed it again. I’m not sure what was going on, but hopefully it won’t be an issue anymore due to the other things I’ve done to the printer since then (more below).

I also decided to try some third-party ABS filament with the printer. A coworker recommended Hatchbox (though, he’s been using PLA, so wasn’t certain of the ABS quality), so I bought a spool of silver Hatchbox ABS from Amazon (http://smile.amazon.com/HATCHBOX-1-75mm-3D-Printer-Filament/dp/B00M0CS1BQ/ref=sr_1_20?s=industrial&ie=UTF8&qid=1435772080&sr=1-20). Third party filament is cheaper than the printer company’s, but that was not my primary concern. My main driver is that the printer company’s color options are EXTREMELY limited. The printer company does not make this easy, since the printer reads from a chip on their filament cartridges and will not print if their cartridge is not present (or doesn’t have some filament remaining on their counter). There are ways to work around this. The basic idea is that you leave one of their cartridges in, but feed the third-party filament into the extruder instead of the filament from the cartridge. Since the filament remaining counter will be decrementing on the cartridge, it’s also necessary to reset that counter periodically. That is pretty easy to do using an Arduino using the sketch from here (https://github.com/voltivo/davinci_filament_reset_arduino/blob/master/xyz_dv_eprom.ino). I printed the chip holder from Thingiverse to help with this (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:502510). I am also working on a more robust sketch that will allow entering the values when running it (versus their being hard-coded), but it’s not quite ready yet.

Using  filament (XYZ green), I printed a spool holder for the back of the printer (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:660949) and loaded up the silver filament.

My confidence in the third-party filament waned pretty quickly. This filament is very brittle and repeatedly broke while I was trying to get it setup on a spool holder and feed it into the printer. I did a test print and ran into major issues – the extruder clicked constantly and the print was extremely poor quality. My suspicion was that the extruder was having issues pulling the filament in from the spool holder on the back, so I found a spool holder that I could put on top of the printer (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:438174) and printed it with my green filament. My thought here was that gravity could help with the feeding of the filament and it did seem to help when I tested again. The clicking was gone!  However, there was still an issue during the print. I wasn’t watching it, so I’m not sure what went wrong. I know… shame on me.

Time for a new theory: My A/C vent is above the printer, so maybe it’s cooling the filament (which, for third-party filament, is outside the printer) so much that it doesn’t melt properly in the extruder. I had also been using a floor fan to blow the ABS fumes out a window and that has probably been compounding the cooling of the external filament. So, I repointed the ceiling vent and moved the fan. The next print turned out acceptably, but still not as good as the first-party filament. I’ll do more experimentation later.

I also finished the design for the final piece of my ventilation/exhaust system. I’ve put the model up on Thingiverse (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:875264).  I printed it, hooked it all up, and it works great. There is no ABS fume smell at all anymore while I’m printing.   


Timelapse of printing the ventilation piece: 

About two weeks ago, I decided to go ahead and buy the extruder from XYZ that can print using PLA as well. It arrived last week and I went through the steps to swap out the extruder on 6/24. I initially had some issues with ABS no longer sticking to the build plate and the extruder not cooling down when it wasn’t printing. The tool to update XYZware (so it could print PLA) repeatedly failed to work, so I decided to go ahead and update my XYZware and printer firmware. I hope this won’t break my use of third-party filament, but I haven’t checked yet. After that, the extruder upgrade tool worked, XYZware is okay with printing PLA, and the extruder is cooling down properly. ABS still seems to be having some sticking issues, but I’m sure I’ll get that worked out.

As far as PLA prints, I’ve done a couple test prints successfully so far. I printed a hollow test box and a star vase, both of which turned out well.   

Part of swapping out the extruder was calibrating the printer bed, which I had not gone through before. It’s a pretty painful process, but there’s a website tool that helped me a bit: http://ddd.stefanomenci.com. Basically, you choose to calibrate on the printer, it measures three points on the print bed, and shows you the three measurement numbers. You then try to figure out what adjustments need to be made to three screws beneath the bed in order to get the three measurements as close to one another as possible. Once you make some adjustments, you run calibrate again, it measures, and shows the three measurement numbers again. Rinse and repeat until the numbers are close enough for the calibration to report success. This is a bit of guesswork and it’s pretty frustrating.  But I did it!

I took some photos of the extruder module and the filament feeder while I had the module disconnected. You can see the feeding wheels and how the filament feeds into the hot end. One of the feeding wheels has black stripes on it that seem like they could be used to identify filament jams, but I don’t believe the printer actually does that (it hasn’t informed me when I’ve had filament stop flowing during prints, anyway).


One more comment about the extruder swap: XYZ’s site says to use a different extruder for each type of material. This does not seem right to me and I certainly hope it’s not a necessity. Swapping the extruder and calibrating every time I switch filament type is just not practical.

Recent prints not related to above (before extruder swap):

I printed a sign to go on the dishwasher that indicates whether the dishes inside are clean or dirty.


I designed a little bit that can allow using an electric screwdriver or drill with my manual burr coffee grinder.


My son wanted a small toy alien, so I printed a Marvin keychain for him. To get decent quality, I had to print 2 of them at the same time along with a hollow box to slow down the printing. That allows the smaller pieces to cool a bit before the hot end runs over them again for the next layers.

This Week’s 3D Prints

Printing other people’s designs from Thingiverse is great, but my creative side is not satisfied with that. So, I’ve started trying to learn to do some 3D design myself. I started with Sketchup (http://www.sketchup.com) based on a friend’s recommendation. I was able to get the basics, but the behavior did not seem consistent to me and I found myself getting frustrated. I discovered TinkerCAD (https://www.tinkercad.com) a few nights ago and have found it much easier to grasp. It’s letting me get going while I work to learn other, more robust, systems. I plan to do a post some other time with some tips for Sketchup and TinkerCAD.

My first custom design was a modification of a Duplo-compatible block design from Thingiverse. I added my son’s name to the side and it turned out well. He absolutely loved it.

I mentioned to my dad that I’d bought a 3D printer and he had a request. Someone had hit his mailbox recently and broken the handle. He found that the cost of a new handle was the same as the cost of a whole new mailbox, so he asked if I could print one for him. I found a good model on Thingiverse (http://www.thingiverse.com/make:136405), printed it, and it worked perfectly for him. This thing can be really useful!
With Mother’s Day coming, I saw this nice design featured on Thingiverse (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:818336) and just had to print one for my mom and my wife. It’s really amazing how this thing printed in place, yet allows the center pieces to spin.

These also led to my changing out filament for the first time. This printer makes it really easy if you use their cartridges.

Speaking of their cartridges, my black cartridge got to the point where the printer said it had very little filament left. I opened it up and it actually still had enough for a few more prints. I had seen some articles about resetting the chip so you can use third-party filament and decided to give it a try. I wired up a resetter using some wire and an Arduino Mini Pro, loaded the Arduino sketch code (https://github.com/voltivo/davinci_filament_reset_arduino/blob/master/xyz_dv_eprom.ino), and it worked. I was able to use the rest of the filament on the cartridge. I haven’t decided yet whether I’m going to use third-party filament or not. I’ll probably make a separate post about the resetting process too.
I have an Ethernet switch in one of our closets that provides fast, wired Internet to a few places in our house. It was a hack-job when I wired the house and put it in. Ever since then (around 7 years ago), I’ve wanted a nice recessed wall box to house it in. I’ve never been able to find what I wanted. Guess what? Now I can just make it myself! I designed the whole thing in TinkerCAD and exported it to STL. STL is the standard format used by 3D printer slicing software, which takes the 3D design and figures out what the printer needs to do, starting at the bottom and printing slices of the object to build it up. I loaded the STL into XYZware, let it slice, sent it to the printer, and it worked relatively well. I did print it in 2 pieces to prevent needing a bunch of supports while printing it. This is the first time I’ve really thought “you know, I can think up pretty much anything and make it a real object.”  It’s a very empowering feeling.  I’ll post pictures of it in place later.

Time-lapse of the wall box printing: 

One more thing… I’m working on a ventilation system for the printer. I printed this cool fan mount that slides right into the side of the printer and wired up 2 80mm computer fans with a switch and a power supply. I’m working on a 3D model that will go on the fans and convert it down to a 4″ dryer duct. That duct will then feed outside.