3D Printed Flippy FrogsLast week I made a temporary broom handle Overhead Spool Holder for my Replicator 2, which like most ‘temporary’ things is now looking pretty permanent.

I also ordered a new glass build plate from Performance 3-D, which has since arrived and has been fitted and tested. More on this later.

With the spool holder and the build plate that’s two design flaws of the Replicator 2 and similar printers taken care of, but there is another weakness of these printers which everyone needs to address.

It’s this weakness which I resolved this week and I’m going to tell you exactly what it is and how to fix it easily. Firstly though, let me tell you what I think of the new glass build plate upgrade.

Performance 3-D Glass Build Plate

There’s no doubt that 3D printers are expensive and as competition for home 3D printers increases, most manufacturers are competing on price and are trying to cut costs.

One area where many manufacturers cut their costs is in the build plate. Ideally a build plate needs to be very very flat and inflexible. Unfortunately this means that a good build plate can be expensive and most 3D printers ship with a sub standard build plate as a result.

Performance 3D Glass Build PlateTake the Replicator 2 for example, which out of the box has an acrylic build plate. This is quite often not flat from the beginning, but if you’re lucky and yours is flat, it will probably still warp after a while.

A build plate that’s not both level and flat means a 3D print which is not as good as it could be, or worse, a complete failure. Naturally, a new build plate should be one of the first upgrades you make to your 3D printer.

Well I decided to upgrade mine and my new glass build plate from Performance 3D arrived a few days ago. As you can see from the picture this plate is in two parts. Rather than one thick sheet of glass, there’s a thin sheet of glass (saves on weight, manufacturing cost and shipping costs).

There’s also a bracket which fits onto the glass plate to make up the extra thickness where it fits onto the Replicator 2 build platform. This part itself is 3D printed, with some rubber pads between it and the glass plate.

It’s all looking good so far and the plate even comes with blue painter tape pre-installed, but I do have one issue which I think Performance 3-D need to address. A build plate needs to be removed after most prints so that the print can be removed from the plate and the blue painter tape can be replaced.

I appreciate that the plate needs to clip snuggly onto the build platform and we really don’t want any slack or movement. However, the plate fits very tightly and I’d have to say far too tightly. It’s difficult to clip into place and just as difficult to remove.

It’s so tight I was convinced I was going to break one of the clips whilst installing or removing it. I was even ready to send it back to the manufacturer but when I considered the cost and time involved in sending it back to the USA (I’m in the UK) I decided to stick with it.

To be fair, the more I use it the easier it gets to remove and replace it and it is extremely flat and works really well. I just wish the 3D printed bracket was a tiny bit smaller so it fitted better.

My conclusion: as much as I’d love to recommend you buy one of these I really can’t. I’d definitely buy a glass build plate but I’d look elsewhere for one which fits better.

Velociraptor Business Card

3D Printed RaptorWith my new build plate installed it was time to download and print something new.

As well as the three Flippy Frogs I printed (see the main image at the top of this post) I decided to try something even more different.

Whilst browsing Thingiverse as I often do I spotted the Velociraptor Business Card.

It’s a quick print and consists of twenty little parts that break off and build into a small dinosaur. Pretty pointless I thought, but different and fun to do. There’s a lot of intricate printing required to make this and I really thought my MakerBot wouldn’t manage it as it often fails on intricate parts, but it worked first time.

3D Raptor Business CardIt was difficult to remove from the build plate in one piece, hence taking the picture before I removed it.

It was also quite tricky to build but with a little perseverance and a few trims with a modelling knife I completed it.

When you download the file from Thingiverse there’s also an STL file of the fully constructed model, which you can use as a guide when building it.

If you want to print something quick, different and fun then I’d give this one a go, it won’t use up much plastic either.

X-Axis Stepper Cables Design Flaw

As I mentioned earlier there is a well known weakness of the Replicator 2 style printers. It applies to other printers of a similar design, such as the FlashForge and PrintrBot Metal Simple.

X-Axis Cables FixThis flaw is related to the routing of the X-axis cables which attach to the X-axis stepper motor, on the right hand side of the Replicator 2.

As the extruder moves along the Y-axis (front to back) while printing the X-axis stepper motor and stop switch cables bend repeatedly, but they bend in the same small area. As time passes this causes metal fatigue and eventually causes the cables to break.

This can cause a whole host of symptoms, depending on exactly which part breaks and whether it breaks completely or just creates a bad connection. This is a big issue because it will happen to all printers of this type, it’s just a matter of when.

It’s usually the first thing to break on these printers (although for me it was the Thermocoupler Cable) but it’s very easy to avoid or fix. I did a temporary fix this week. There’s that word ‘temporary’ again. This fix should help a lot for now but I intend to improve it a little soon. Let me explain what I mean.

Firstly I removed the right hand side panel of the printer by unscrewing the four allen bolts. That gave me easier access to the cables. Then I simply unclipped them all the way from where they enter the build area at the bottom, up to the X-axis stepper motor.

The plastic clips just rotate to release the two cables, but at the top of the Replicator 2 there’s also a zip tie which needs removing. Be very careful when removing this so you don’t damage the cable, else that would defeat the whole object of this exercise.

Simply letting the cable dangle freely as in the picture (see the green arrows) will ensure that it bends more evenly throughout it’s length and should prevent the otherwise inevitable metal fatigue. I added a little black insulation tape to the cables to keep them together too.

X-Axis Cables Cool FixThe freely dangling cable doesn’t look so aesthetically pleasing, which I guess is why they decided to route it up the side of the printer in the first place, but it shouldn’t be in the way of any moving parts and will definately improve your printers reliability.

This modification can easily be undone if you change your mind. Just re-clip the cable back into place and add a new zip tie at the top.

A slightly better method which I heard about on the 3D Printing Today Podcast is to add some split loom wrapping to the cable. This looks better, keeps the cable protected and also ensures it really does flex very evenly along it’s length.

I have included a picture of their modification too and when I get my hands on some of this split loom wrapping I’ll complete the modification and report back. For now though I can sleep at night knowing that I should no longer be a victim of the infamous X-axis cable failure. If you have this type of printer you should make this modification too, before it’s too late and you have to replace the cable after a failure.

That’s all for this week. Please Like, Share and Comment on this article if you found it useful. I’m always happy to answer any questions regarding stuff I talk about here, or anything else 3D printing related. You can easily Contact Me any time.

Thanks for reading and happy 3D printing.

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Electric Bubblegum 3D Printed ScateboardThe Electric Bubblegum is quite an awe-inspiring Kickstarter campaign. It features a 3D printed electric skateboard that bears features and electrical functionalities above the ordinary.

Andrew James, a former professional skater; is the inventor of this awesome skateboard. Living in Atlanta, James says in his Bio that he has a habit of going to all sorts of places while riding on his skateboard. Over time, he got to notice that people are often carried away with the unique designs of his homemade electric skateboards and are often curious to know how they work.

James says, after a while, he figured out that he could start a business of his own if only he had enough funding to set it off. And that is how he thought of starting the Electric Bubblegum campaign on Kickstarter.

This electric skateboards comprise of a combination of 3D printable parts, an extremely lighweight engine and a Wireless Wiimote Nunchuck controller. James reveals that in the beginning he had envisioned a lightweight electric skateboard weighing under 15 Ibs, capable of rolling for about 10 miles on a single charge, somewhat low cost and designed with 3D printed parts.

Months later, the Electric Bubblegum has met all the goals he had in mind and in some aspects surpassed his initial aspirations. For instance, the board weighs just 12.1 Ibs and can go up to 21 mph. The skateboard can cover a range of 10 miles and can be acquired at a cost of $550 (£340).

The skateboard has a 27 inch board and comes in many different designs with a total of 6 combos that one can choose from. James and his team have built 3 prototypes for the project. The prototypes have been helpful in enabling the team to assess the speed, battery life and torque of the Electric Bubblegum. These prototypes were also being used to test the electronic functionality and overall safety that can be guaranteed by the skateboard.

Unique Facts about the Electric Bubblegum

The major benefit that consumers get when using the Electric Bubblegum can be linked to its relatively low maintenance costs. Skateboards often have many of their parts wear out after a while due to the nature of the tracks they are mostly rode on. With many conventional types, the user is forced to buy new parts or a whole new skateboard.

The Electric Bubblegum will however, come with a whole new experience to users because they will be able to 3D print broken parts whenever necessary. The board for example is made of ABS plastic that can be easily printed. Other parts that the user can print using a 3D printer include the pulleys and covers.

Backers who pledge on this project are going to be provided with a USB stick that contains all the STL files one requires to print new parts. This will simplify the repair process in addition to providing users with customization options such as changing colors to give their electric skateboards a whole new design. The team quickly adds that for their customers who may not necessarily have 3D printers, they can print whatever parts a user requires for repair at a reasonable and budget friendly cost.

Electric Bubblegum has a firm casing that keeps all the Electrical Components inside cool and dry. Also, the board is fully water resistant to keep the skateboard intact and functioning well even after passing through water splashes.

This amazing 3D printed skateboard is powered by a Lifep04 battery pack. The pack comes along with a battery management system to allow for easy and completely safe charging. A 9v charger will be provided along the order for this skateboard that can make a full recharge in approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes. After recharging, it can go for a maximum range of 10 miles before the next recharge may be required.

The battery pack of the Electric Bubblegum has proved to be of super-great quality with an incredible 2000 charge lifecycle. This skateboard furthermore has an LED Voltage Meter, which makes it possible for the user to know exactly how much time they have left before they may need to recharge.

Controlling throttle, sensitivity, braking and general speed will be easy with this skateboard thanks to the use of the Wireless Wiimote Nunchuck controller. The skateboard features an Arduino board that can be easily and remotely controlled from the Wii Nunchuck part of its controller.

Not to mention, James and his team seem to have done a pretty good job to ensure the designs of the Electric Bubblegum are presentable and have admirable aesthetics.

Fully Customized Option

James is in addition offering fully customized electric boards on a limited time-scale. Backers who would like to go for this recourse will enjoy the opportunity to customize just about everything pertaining their Electric Bubblegum.

This option will allow backers to tailor the skateboard motor layout, shape of the board and color(s) to meet their exact preferences. These customized boards will also have higher top speeds thus could go for 15 miles before the next recharge.

These extra perks will nevertheless come at an extra cost raising the acquisition price to $1,300.

What Next After Kickstarter Project?

Well, the first phase of the Electric Bubblegum innovation according to James is to raise their target funding of $55,000 by 25th October, 2014. Only when this amount is raised will the project get in motion.

This money will be mainly used in buying essential parts of the skateboard in bulk to make the production costs even lower; plus a significant amount of the money will be put into buying the required 3D printers for printing the boards.

The team has also voiced their plans to improve the efficiency of the assembly process in order to reduce the time and overall cost of producing the boards. This will enable them respond to orders more quickly and generally provide exceptional quality and value to their customers.

So far a total of $24,392 has been raised. With only a week remaining to their closing date, it is the hope of this creative team that their Kickstarter funding goal will have been met so they can kickstart operations.

If you’re interested in other 3D printing related Kickstarter projects, check out this article we wrote about CT Scanned and 3D Printed Animal Skulls.

Thanks for reading and feel free to Like, Share and Comment.

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MakerBot Upgrades, Dry Brushing and Print the Legend

October 9, 2014

A few times now I’ve mentioned upgrades for my Replicator 2. My plan was always to upgrade from the standard acrylic build plate (which is often not flat even from new) to a glass one. Another slight design flaw of the Replicator 2 and many other similar printers is that the filament spool sits at [...]

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Octopus iPad Stand, 123D Design and Orange Screamers

October 1, 2014

Although my last blog post in this series was packed with useful info, I was a little conscious that it was lacking in good photos. The simple reason was that by the nature of the post there weren’t many good, relevant photos I could take. Well, the situation is much different now, partly due to [...]

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Robird: The 3D Printed Eagle Guarding Airports and Farms

September 24, 2014

For the majority of us, birds comprise a beautiful part of nature. However for people who work in farms and airports or deal with waste disposal; birds often turn out to be a huge pain in the neck. Many techniques have been used to try to scare away birds in the past, for example the [...]

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Multi Color Prints, Fine Tuning, colorFabb and FreeCAD

September 16, 2014

Welcome to the latest instalment in my new 3D Printing Beginner Series. I did so much 3D printing last week that I couldn’t cover it all in one reasonably sized blog post, so this is kind of part two. There’s lot of good stuff to cover in this post so lets continue right away, starting [...]

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