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JGAURORA A5 Review – A Large Build 3D Printer That Works (Mostly) Out of the Box

February 15th, 2018 10 comments

Karl here and today we are going to look at the JGAURORA A5. I specifically asked Gearbest for this printer. Features and specs looks good. Not to mention that you can go from opening the box to printing in 20 min. Nice large build volume of 305 x 305 x 320mm. Color touch screen. Filament runout sensor. Power Fail feature. Power Fail is so nice. I have lost some long prints due to power going out. I have not lost any for filament because I have always been conscious of it but it’s nice to have peace of mind. The A5 has an assisted leveling feature that is nice. When using this feature there are 5 point that it will go to. One in each corner and one in the center and you adjust the bed. It saves a little time and I believe is standard feature in Marlin now.

This is quite a popular printer and has been reviewed a lot at this point so I will touch base on my experiences and items that may not be covered in other reviews.

Mistake 1

The first mistake I made was when I first put the upright on. I didn’t pay close enough attention and I pinched one the cables that routes underneath and after I turned it off the first time it would not turn on again. I was a little upset but after some troubleshooting I realized what happened and corrected the issue. There was just enough of a shiner that was touching the frame to cause the power supply to not come on. It took me disconnecting the wires to find the culprit.

Frame

I really like the frame. It is very well engineered design. I feel like it is the most rigid Cartesian printer that I have reviewed. The vertical part rests flat on the table top/bench and the base sits inside. I have moved the printer while printing and could not tell that I moved it. I was moving it while tipping it to feel the warmth of the y stepper. There is a small access in the bottom back that I could reach the y stepper motor with my fingers. I do have one complaint about it but it doesn’t affect my setup. If you have a deep enough table all feet don’t touch at the same time. But this doesn’t affect me. I have to let the front feet hang off my work bench. If I don’t the bed hits the wall when at 0 position. I don’t think that there are any negative side effects from this.

Complaint

The only real complaint I have is access the the leveling knobs. The rear ones are a pain in the butt to get to at the first and second point for the semi auto leveling feature. They are positioned inside the frame and I have to use both hands.

One thing I wish they would have done is put an extended stepper motor rod with a manual wheel on it for the extruder. Loading and unloading the filament is OK with the menu but when I first start a print I usually manually push some filament out to prime it when the skirt starts. It is impossible to do on the A5. Typically I put just one skirt around an object and now with smaller prints I put 2.

Wiring

Wiring From the factor – Click to Enlarge

After cleanup – Click to Enlarge

The wiring is fair inside. While installing the new stepper drivers I moved all the wiring out of the way to make way for active cooling.

Nice Power Supply

MKS Gen L mainboard. Very common board with replaceable steppers – Click to Enlarge

MKS TFT28 touch screen – Click to Enlarge

The A5 has a 24V system. The bed can get up to temperature relatively quickly.

Temp in C Time to Temp
mm:ss

60

2:55

70

4:10

80

5:40

90

7:40

100

10:30

110

15:55

Upgrade

The A5 came printing well out of the box. I posted a few pictures in the Facebook group, and got schooled with this picture.

Click to Enlarge

I always thought that the rings were a part of the model that you see in the picture above. It is not, it is salmon skin. So I did some research and one way to fix is to upgrade the stepper drivers. I just saw some TMC2100 newly listed on Gearbest, so I asked for them to send a set over. They did not have the newer TMC2130 at the time.

These steppers convert the normal 16 microsteps up to 256 steps which eliminate the salmon skin. An additional benefit is stepper noises are practically gone.

I had bad stringing on this one. Same gcode as above.

Mistake 2 & 3

Here is where I made my second and third mistake.

In order to install I needed to get inside the housing. First thing to do is raise X gantry all the way to the top, then turn off and disconnect the power cord. To get inside, the 2 feet on the front are removed and 3 small screws on the back faceplate are removed. The bed, top plate, and front slide forward. Then tipped to the left you can get inside. The first time have your cutters ready. There are a lot of zip ties that need to be cut in order to get it open this much.

Click to Enlarge

I would take the time and get the wiring out of the way. You will need to actively cool these drivers. They get hot if not. I used a 12V fan and buck converter to step down the 24V to 12V.

To install the steppers pull one of the steppers out, and notice the orientation and see where GND and VCC are labeled and install your new steppers with the pins in the same orientation. The heatsink don’t come installed and you can install at this point.

When changing from the existing drivers to these new ones it is going to change the direction of the stepper drivers. You can either flip the stepper cables physically or invert the direction in Marlin if you are running custom firmware.

The wiring on mine is odd, the Y is wired different than the rest. For example X, Z, and e0 go yellow, white, black, red. And the Y goes red, black, white, yellow.

To flip the X, Z, and e0 change from the yellow, black, white, red to red, white, black, yellow and change Y from red, black, white yellow, to yellow, white, black, red.

If you are using custom Marlin method edit the configuration.h

to

Now we need to set the Vref voltage. The safest way I found was to plug in the printer to your PC through USB. There is no need to plug in mains voltage. Then take a multimeter between the USB housing and screw that adjusts the voltage on each of the drivers.

After adjusting, I settled on 0.45 volts for X, Y, & e0, and 0.8V for Z. Clockwise increases voltage and counter-clockwise decreases it. The extruder stepper gets a little warm but I didn’t want to change skipped steps. X and Z are touching the frame acting like a heatsink. Y is above the power supply so I think the fan keeps it cool. You may want to run a little less but these worked for me.

You do not need to change all these drivers. You can replace the X and Y only and get 95% of the benefits. I was intending to do that and use the 4 stepper kit on 2 printers but couldn’t do that. Keep in mind if you only change your X and Y that you only need to flip your X and Y stepper directions

I did not complete in this order when I did this. I cleaned up my wiring first and after putting everything back together I was getting terrible jittering on my X axis so I opened it back up to see what was loose. I was dumb and left it powered on. I saw after opening that one of the pins backed out of the connector so I went to push it back in. I got a little puff of smoke out of one drivers and none worked right after that. This was second mistake and turned into my third. I was frustrated and went to put the unit back together and bam gfci blew. I arced mains with the top of the case. After this, I vowed to be more careful. I am very grateful that nothing worse happened.

As mentioned earlier active cooling is necessary with these drivers. These are not visible from outside so I just zip tied the fan in place.

Bed

I am going to point out the bed on it. I have used other surfaces but this has by far given me the best results. Typically I would install a mirror but I did not have to on this one. They call it Black Diamond. It looks the same as the Anycubic ultrabase. If I print about 60°C on the bed and 220 C on my first layer with PLA, it sticks about every time. I have been cleaning it with Windex. On some really small prints, I have used some glue. As soon as the bed cools the prints pop right off.

Final test prints

I do have to print about 10°C hotter on this one to stop stringing but that may be an out of spec thermistor. This threw me for a loop. All the printers before this I used the same temps. I do a 6.5mm retract at 150mm/s.

Click to Enlarge

I printed this model several times trying to get rid of those irregularities in the wings. This picture didn’t capture it, but they all have the same defect.

Final Words

I like this printer. I have printed over 100 hours on it. The only real upgrade I have done are these stepper drivers to fix the salmon skin. I did upgrade the fan shroud. I also printed some spring guides but didn’t notice an appreciable difference. The A5 is one of the best printers I have reviewed. Glass was flat. Heats fast. Sturdy frame. I like the way it looks. I get very good prints. Prints are dimensionally accurate. Big build volume. POWER FAIL…is so freaking awesome and just works. But I am concerned that if power goes out and not resumed immediately that the prints might not stay stuck without glue. I print fast on it with good results. I actually like it more than the original CR-10.

It is a shame…I normally do multi part reviews on printers due to needing upgrades, but I don’t see what I need to do on this one. I really think the A5 will be the benchmark now for low cost large volume printers. The next step is to get a company to integrate all the features with TMC2130 drivers like the Prusa MK3.

I would really like to thank Gearbest for sending the A5 for review, it has been a pleasure. You can pick one up for under $400 shipped on their website, and using JGAURORAA5 coupon may lower the price further.

Categories: Hardware, Testing Tags: 3d printing, jgaurora, review

HE3D K280 Delta 3D Printer Review – Part 2: Upgrades, Calibration, and More 3D Prints

February 3rd, 2018 No comments

Karl here with part 2 of my experiences with the K280. In the first part of HE3D K280 3D printer review, I spoke about some of the challenges with the K280 getting it calibrated and getting Marlin to work and the initial build. In this part, we are going to look at the new effector, cooling solution I designed, calibration, and general use. If you purchase a machine now you get an injected molded effector and 2 24v cooling fans which HE3D sent over after they saw my initial review. If you purchased a kit before they started including these parts you can pick them up here to upgrade. I would like to point out that this is my first Delta printer. I don’t want to really call this a review but a way to show my experiences.

First things first

If you purchase this kit I urge you to use a 3 prong power cord. The included one is only 2 prong and you need to have the third prong to be safe. I kept getting static shocks and the last one fried my screen. It might not have happened if a ground was in place. Not to mention if a wire came loose and made the frame live with mains voltages you could be harmed or possibly killed. I sent HE3D a note urging them to change this.

Click to Enlarge

HE3D K280 Upgrades

I installed the injected molded effector easily but the design that HE3D provide for the blowers on Thingiverse blocks you from using the entire build volume on the K280. They hit the rods toward the edges. I think they were designed for the K200. So I set out and designed some new ones in Fusion 360. I was able to design them to where the build volume is not affected. I had to abandon the binder clips as well and I used some M4 nuts and bolts and some washers. The blowers would hit the clips. I would say that this took about a week to design, prototype, and test. When designing blowers it is not only just directing air at the parts. In this case these fans are far too powerful and I only run that at 40% after the first layer and they are printing beautifully. I will go into setting more in detail later. I also had to run a pid tune. This reprap wiki page goes into detail on this subject. The new Marlin I am sharing is tuned for this design. I am new to this aspect so it oscillates a little but I believe at acceptable levels. All the mods that I made can be found here on Thingiverse. For instructions on the bed mounting system check out here.

Evolution of the blower shroud – Click to Enlarge

Final Design Front – Click to Enlarge

Rear with 3D Touch Sensor – Click to Enlarge

HE3D sent me the new effector and blowers, and I asked Gearbest for the 3D touch sensor. I spent nearly a month of evenings working on these upgrades. First I worked on a suitable cooling solution with the blowers as I mentioned above. Then I worked on upgrading the firmware to the latest Marlin which took most of the time troubleshooting a stuttering problem.

Installation of the touch sensor and runout sensor is pretty self explanatory with the wiring as an exception.

  • Z min is used for the touch sensor
  • D11 is the servo pin for the touch sensor
  • X min is used for the filament sensor.

Been working on my lighting. Need to soften my lights just a little more.

There a few caveats when using these upgrades that I designed. You must wrap the hotend in Kapton tape or some other way to insulate it. Second, the last couple of mm of the reflector needs to be cut off. They are down to the build plate to make easier to print. Third, since the reflector is so close to the hotend you need to run the blower at all times or swing out of the way on filament that doesn’t require a blower. It is not necessary but I also shortened the bowden tube as much as possible without restricting the movement/causing strain.

Marlin 1.1.8

Here is a copy of a portable Arduino IDE 1.8.5 and Marlin 1.1.8 with the dependencies. I prefer a portable version. You can move this to a new PC and not have to do anything. Upgrading is just a matter of moving the portable folder to the new Arduino. Finally if you use the windows installer you will always be fighting UAC because it is normally installed in a protected folder.

In the past, I did a pre-compiled version but with so many options I would have to compile too many. I put comments in the configuration.h file where the filament sensor is and touch sensor with instructions and outlined below.

I have included an untested K200 build based off of Terb Terbich’s config in the Facebook group as well as K200 dual extrusion.Use at your own risk. Again these are untested. If someone would test and let me know any issues I can fix and update.

Choose board and processor

Search for prahjister to find comments in Configuration.h

Change to this to use stock probe:

One obstacle that I ran into when getting this ready was that after upgrading to the latest IDE it would take forever to compile. It went from a 2 minute compile to about a 10 minute. After a little searching I found that I had to tell Windows Defender to exclude the Arduino directory.

Micro Stutters

There is an issue and workaround implemented in the above firmware. I ran into some microstutters that left little imperfections on the print surface. I compiled every version since last November with varied settings including new 2.0. After studying and using Google-fu it became apparent that the stutter was happening when the x y z were updating on the info screen. Only if I printed around 20-30mm/s did the issue go away. I was going to give up and suggest that everyone print the outer skin at 20mm/s to avoid stutters on the surface, but I started to think how else could I avoid and came up with the workaround.

It is very difficult to to capture in a picture. The little bumps on the green are the stutters. Red(pink) is with workaround. I ran out of the green while troubleshooting. As you can see the printer is laying down nice and even layers now. These boats are printed at .2 layer height using the same gcode.

Hard to see stutter artifacts unless up close – Click to Enlarge

The fix was to add defer_return_to_status = true; in ultralcd.cpp:

This stops the firmware from going to the info screen after a timeout period. If you decide to use this firmware, after you start the print, go into the menu and let the screen sit there instead of the info screen. I have an issue open on Github with Marlin so maybe they will find the source of the stutter in the near future.

Calibration with or without 3D Touch Sensor

With 3D Touch Sensor

If you are using the 3D touch sensor, you will need to use this jig for calibrating. At this time Marlin doesn’t take the offset of the probe into account during the calibration process. Print this off and put together with a nut and bolt. Fit over your cool nozzle. If it doesn’t line up with the hex head of your hotend no worries. Just press on and make sure the part triggering the sensor lines up and it wont fall off. I just pressure fit it. There is very little force exerted on it so it doesn’t take much.

Without 3D Touch Sensor

Install the sensor that is provided over the nozzle.

Instructions for Both

Once your sensor is setup run the Prepare>Delta Calibration>Auto Calibration then navigate to your info screen. (remember it will not do this automatically anymore) It will go around the bed probing up to 10 times. Once it is complete you should see a sd:0.0xx in the bottom right of your main screen. According the the author of this routine you want a standard deviation of .05 or less. If you get a higher value you can run it again until you do.

Now you need to set your height. If you are using the 3D touch sensor remove the jig. Go Prepare>Delta Calibration>Set Delta Height. The offset is set in firmware for it. If you are using the provided probe go into Control>Motion>Z offset and set your Z offset to .3 then run Prepare>Delta Calibration>Set Delta Height. On both of these after you are done, Prepare>Auto Home then Prepare>Move Axis>Move Z>Move 10mm and bring down to 0. If you need the nozzle closer or further away you can just adjust the height manually Prepare>Delta Calibration>Delta Settings>Height. If you need it close increase your height. Further away lower. My height is 599.13.

Dimensional Accuracy

At this point your Z should be spot on but you may need to adjust your X and Y. To test, print a 50mm calibration cube. To save time you do not need any top or bottom layers and just the walls. I would do 3 walls or whatever you normally do. You can adjust this in your slicer. Print the cube and once it is sufficiently off the build plate you can stop the print. Measure the cube on the X and Y and see if you are too big or too small. If your cube is too small lower your diagonal rod in the Prepare>Delta Calibration>Delta Settings>Diag Rod and conversely if it is too large increase the diagonal rod length. Then print a cube until it is calibrated. After you are done you can print an entire cube and check all your dimensions.

PID Tune

If you find the hotend oscillating up and down too much. Or not reacting fast enough. You can also run a calibration of the hotend and blower. Set your hotend a few cm away from the build plate and turn on your fans to your desired speed. Go into the menu and run Control>Temperature> PID Autotune your desired temperature. This is a little bit of a mystery to me but it stopped mine from getting a min temp errors and not reacting fast enough.

Remember to store your settings in EEPROM when you are done calibrating.

Settings that worked for me for PLA

First I would like to say that the Ultrafast and Economical stringing test is my favorite test for tuning a printer/filament. I would do temperature towers in the past and it would take more time. With the tower, we are stuck with some of these settings the entire print. With this test, I tune temperature, retraction speed, retraction distance, and fan speed. If you are hyper critical of the outcome you can fix stringing easily. Stinging is a mixture of these settings and it takes me no more than an hour to dial in a new printer and very little time between similar filaments if any. It prints very quickly and if I am making changes back to back as soon as the test stops I go into the settings and go to preheat PLA so nothing has a chance to cool down and doesn’t slow down the tuning.

I have been running the fan at 20% on the first layer and 40% on the rest with PLA. If you print with ABS you can swing the blowers out of the way. For PLA, I have been running 210°C on the first layer and around 205°C for the rest. It took a really long fast retraction of 6.5mm at 150mm/s.

Massive Print

I printed this massive model it is 550mm tall. Took about 65 hours to print and about 2lbs of PLA. This was before I even had the stutter problem and not 100% tuned. Largest print I have ever done.

One thing to note about this print. I used this opportunity to test the filament runout sensor. You can see several bad layers about mid print. The problem was that when they loaded the filament onto the spools that I have they put a kink at the very end where they start loading it. This has caught twice on me now when it ran out. Once on this model and once on another. There was no way I was starting over so I cut the kink off and let the filament sensor kickin. It does work and stops the print. Luckily it was just a few bad layers and I caught it relatively early and I will fix with some Bondo. I plan on painting this one. Overall it turned out well.

Click to Enlarge

Final Test Print

Here is the final test print. This is a fantastic model by Jukka Seppänen. I didn’t realize it until writing this, but he also did the extremely popular Moon City Which I just recently printed. I would follow the link so you can see all the pictures. Approx 180mm tall. .2 layer height, generic $10 PLA. It turned out extremely well and I plan on painting it. Picture of the painted model is from the designer and his paint job.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Final Words

What a long road but it is very satisfying. I am getting some really good prints off of it now. I wish HE3D did some more work on there end to make it easier to print on but I like giving back and filling in the gaps. I believe anyone can reproduce these results. I have seen many people in the Facebook forum say that they never could get these delta printers to calibrate and print until Marlin was available. They had it for months and were very grateful.

On another note. If you are an enthusiast think about giving back, I am doing my second presentation at our local library on 3D printing. My first session was building a printer. We built a Raiscube A8R in just a couple hours. This weekend, I am introducing the kids to Tinkercad and we will design something that they choose. I bring in few printers especially the HE3D because everyone is fascinated by its movement. Arduino projects would also be a cool idea to show kids. Whatever your passion/expertise I encourage you to get kids involved. It is extremely satisfying.

I would like to thank Gearbest for sending the K280 to work with. If you would like to purchase the 3D printer, the company currently sells it for about $430 shipped.

Categories: Hardware, Testing Tags: 3d printing, he3d, review

HE3D K280 3D Printer Review – Part 1: Build, Tweaks, and First Prints

December 6th, 2017 4 comments

Hello Karl here again with another 3D printer review. Today we are looking at an HE3D K280. I saw the brand for the first time on Gearbest a couple months ago and asked for it to review. I never heard of this brand before and have been wanting to review a delta style printer. In my case, I should have been careful what I asked for. It took me quite some time to get it to print utilizing the whole print bed. I experienced several challenges and after defeating them I enjoy this printer quite a bit. Delta style printers mesmerize me with the movements that they make and all the math that goes into moving the extruder in the X, Y and Z. Regular Cartesian printers are rather simple in this respect.

  • Build Volume – 280×600 mm
  • Heated bed
  • No Parts cooling
  • 2020 aluminum and all injected molded parts except effector
  • Bowden Style
  • 24V system

HE3D K280 Build

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Building a delta printer I found out is quite a bit easier to build than a Cartesian printer. The instructions for this kit are not the greatest. I followed the K200 Youtube videos for the majority of the build. I utilized the printed instructions that came with the printer and I also used the Facebook group. I wish instructions were all in one place but I was able to work through it. I contacted the HE3D Facebook representative and found him extremely helpful. I had about 6 hours build time.

I really liked that it came with some important spares/piece parts. Extra nozzles from .2 to .5 came with the kit. Extra heater block. Extra sensor for probing the bed.

HE3D Firmware

I hate to admit how much time I spent trying trying to calibrate this printer with the stock repetier firmware. I worked every night after the kids went to bed trying to calibrate for over a week. For giggles, I started compiling Marlin and I worked through all the configs, and if you use Marlin firmware you can go from build to printing in about 10 minutes with calibration. Here is a copy of Marlin Bugfix Config. Clone the Bugfix Branch and replace the 2 config files in the marlin directory. This branch is in active development so if an error occurs you might need to compare my configs with generic delta in the example configurations directory. I use Beyond Compare for this task.

One feature I like is the sensor that is included. It fits over the hot end and it is used for calibrating. When pressure is applied it closes a contact.

This sensor is used to calibrate the machine. While building I made sure everything was as square and as tight as possible. I pushed the endstops for the three towers against the top bracing. I also leveled the bed with a speed level.

Once the firmware is flashed, I connected the sensor from above to the pins shown in the manual and placed over the nozzle. I went to Delta Calibration under Prepare in the menu. And let it do its thing. It probes the bed and several points around the perimeter of the bed then homes then does it over and over up to 10 times. At this point all I needed to do is set the Z offset, and save the configuration to EEPROM. In the marlin firmware, I defaulted the offset to -.15 but as I ran through testing -.3 works just about every time for my sensor.

If you make a change and flash firmware again please go into the menu and have it restore failsafe. That was another pain in my side realizing some changes that I made were not taking affect.

After this, I had very successful prints and the nozzle was not digging into the bed near the perimeter.

Please note you must insulate your heat block with at least some Kapton tape or run the chance of heating error if using a parts cooler.

Bed

I did not like the bed mounting system that came with it. If you needed to get to the board it meant unmounting the bed and recalibrating the bed. So I designed some simple removable mounts. 3 are needed. They can be found here on Thingiverse. I put everything together like the picture below then place on 2020 and line everything up. Then tighten the t-nuts. After this I was able to pop the bed off with no tools and get underneath without worrying about calibration each time.

Parts Cooling

The K280 did not come with a parts cooler and it is a 24v system. A while ago purchased several 40mm fans and radial fans off of Ebay. In this case they were 12v. I didn’t want to purchase any more fans so I opted for a buck converter to step down the 24v to 12v. I connected and adjusted to voltage to about 13v. I used this parts cooler. In my second part I will print out this fan on Thingiverse provided by HE3D and try a radial fan.

First Couple Prints

Click to Enlarge

This turned out really good. I have a couple holes in the mouth but that is a slicing problem. I try to save time so I use very little infill and only 3 top layers.

Click to Enlarge

This one turned out very well as well. It took me several times to print. There was supports already in the STL that were generated by Meshmixer but were thin. After I scaled up the print it worked the first time.

First thoughts

I really wish the printers that I have been reviewing came with good build documentation with the printer and I didn’t have to search for it. This is the biggest downfall of these kit printers. Parts cooling is the next biggest item I don’t know why that is not standard. I was able to overcome the build with the help of the FB group and the HE3D rep was very helpful. One thing that I have to look into fixing is dimensional accuracy. I found parts were off more than I am accustomed to and I believe a calibration issue and will look into this in the next part. They were off over 1 mm. I will also try to find a 12” mirror to print on. I would like to thank Gearbest for sending a review unit. If you are interested in purchasing you can find a link here. [Update 13/12/2017: The following injected molded effector and fans are now included with all printers]

Categories: Hardware, Testing Tags: 3d printing, he3d, review

Tronxy X3S 3D Printer Review – Part 3: Upgrades to Fix Bed Leveling Issues (Permanently)

November 14th, 2017 4 comments

Karl here. I have had the Tronxy X3S 3D printer for a while now. It prints well but as I mentioned in previous articles I had to level for every print. Actually near the end I would just overpower the stepper motors while the skirt was printing and level. Leveling front to back was not affected. Only the z height. So this worked but it was frustrating. Before that I tried several different things to mitigate. I thought maybe the endstop for Z homing was inconsistent and replaced it. I tried heating the bed for extended period of time thinking that maybe some thermal expansion. Didn’t help. I finally did a major change to the X carriage with success. I even moved the printer to our local library and the bed stayed leveled for a demo. I call this a success, and will show how I did it. Inspiration for this modification came from the CR-10. This is the biggest mod I have done for any review so far.

3D Printed Parts for Upgrade

My objective was to reuse as much as possible of the original kit. I designed the bracket in Fusion 360 and remixed the Z motor brackets in Windows 3D Builder. To do this upgrade you will need to print 2 Z motor mounts an 1 X/extruder mount. They are published on Thingiverse.

Bed

The easiest place to begin with is the bed. This mod alters the extruder position so the Y stepper motor needs to be relocated outside the frame so no build area is lost. I had some extra belt I think came with this kit that I used. The belt lengthens from the original position.

X Carriage

First remove the Z motors and metal brackets. We will not be reusing the metal brackets. Remove the Z rods. Take off the top 2020 extruded aluminum from the top of the printer and slide the whole X carriage off, and disassemble the left and right wheels, stepper motors, belt etc. The triangle wheel assembly does not need to be broken down. Both extruder and X stepper will be located on the left now. I slid only the triangle wheel assemblies on with the new orientation. I made a little mark on the left and right acrylic wheel assembly to get my positioning right for 2020 aluminum. Center the 2020. I ended up with about 9mm on each side. You will need to drill a hole in the acrylic so a second nut can be used on both sides.

Drill hole through acrylic approx. where indicated by arrow on the bottom set of holes. Enlarge the bottom holes on the back piece so you can use a screwdriver and tighten. Take your time and drill slow. Do this on both sides.

Here is the left side. I mounted the steppers after installing.

Click to Enlarge

Mount the Z rod brackets upside down on the back in the top holes of the wheel assembly so that the Z rod lines up with the center of the 2020 below.

I tested the orientation of the Z rod nut upside down by changing one side. I really don’t think it matters.

Now mount the Z motors. I didn’t have the proper length nut so they look loose. No adverse effects. If it bothers you can install a washer or nut. The brackets are keeping it from bouncing.

Click to Enlarge

I have only done a couple test prints, but they turned out fantastic. I can’t say definitively, but I do think I see an improvement. I am running low on filament right now and will test more for final review. The goal was to fix the level issue but any improvement is good.

Click to Enlarge

Final thoughts

The leveling was driving me crazy on this printer, so I had to find a solution. I started with a goal of changing the orientation of the wheels and just started taking the printer apart. With more than one printer this makes it an easier task. By chance I was able to reuse the existing Z rod brackets and saved quite a bit of time. It did take 2 iterations of the X/extruder bracket, but ultimately didn’t take very long. I had one setback. On the first iteration I had the stepper motors touching, and the steppers got very warm so I put a 5mm gap between them and seemed to resolve the issue.

If you noticed my X axis limit switch is off set it is because I am running stock marlin, and did not build in the offsets so I just moved the limit switch to accommodate. I will follow up with a how to upgrade the firmware, and get rid of some of the annoyances with stock firmware.

After this upgrade I can say it is very much on par with the CR-10 now with some savings. After this upgrade you can get 350 x 330 x 390 mm. I didn’t realize until testing just now that 10mm is lost in the Z. You can get 400mm wide but there is a clearance issue with extruder hitting the triangle brackets. You could probably just clip on a larger mirror with no issues and stick with the existing bed and let it overhang.

I would like to thank Gearbest for sending the printer for review. They sell it for $269.99 including shipping.

Categories: Hardware, Testing Tags: 3d printing, hack, review, tronxy

Tronxy X3S 3D Printer Review – Part 2: Upgraded Heatbed and RAMPS Board

October 25th, 2017 4 comments

Karl here. So the bed I mentioned in the first part of Tronxy X3S review is not very good. It took about 10-11 minutes to heat up to 60 deg Celsius. I also mentioned I was going to upgrade the board to a RAMPS board. Today we are going to look at both these upgrades.

New Heated Bed

I can take no credit for this one but I wanted to pass this along. Folger tech sells a 12v 280w heated bed stick on pad. I picked this up for $20, but is now $22.

In order to do this upgrade you will need a MOSFET, 12V/30A power supply, and of course the pad above. Super easy installation. Remove the bed and stick on the self adhesive pad centered. Replace the power supply with new one. Should be self explanatory. In order to power this bed a MOSFET is needed. A MOSFET allows you to power a high current bed and not run all the current through the board. I won’t go into much detail about the MOSFET because it has been written about a lot.

I did try the new bed with the existing power supply and without a MOSFET. The stock power supply heated up very quickly. I don’t think it would make it through a 10mm cube before failing. I also connected the new bed directly to the board without the MOSFET and the connector started to fail almost immediately.

Bed heat up times drastically improved.

  • 60 deg Celsius in 2:15… took about 10 minutes previously
  • 100 deg celsius in about 10 minutes… I could not get it past 70°C before

You’re looking at about an extra $60 for this upgrade. Right now, a Tronxy X3S is $289 + $60 for this upgrade. Getting close to CR-10 pricing.

Here are some power measurements with a Sonoff POW.

Power usage idle and both hotend and heated bed on

RAMPS 1.4 Upgrade

I did upgrade to a ramps board. It was my first time using a RAMPs 1.4 and Arduino MEGA board. It was very easy to do. Wiring is well documented. I don’t feel I gained anything other than fixing a few annoyances with stock firmware, and a little bit of build volume on the x and y. Now if your board goes bad here is an inexpensive solution. I picked up this kit and this adapter from Zyltech.

Arduino MEGA

RAMPS 1.4 Board

RAMPS 1.4 Connection Diagram

There are few considerations:

  1. If you decide to use the stock LCD then you will not have an SD card to print from. The stock screen with the X3S does not have an SD card and octoprint is a good solution. If you need to print via SD card you can substitute this screen for the adapter.
  2. The Z motor connectors are very close. I used some male to female Dupont connectors for testing, so I could go back to the stock board easily.

Here are the changes from the stock Marlin firmware that I made.

So once I flashed the board, and made my connections I tested the directions and end stops. If a motor is moving the wrong direction you can adjust 2 ways. Flip the connector on the board or adjust in software. I chose to just flip the connector.

The only physical modification I did was move the X endstop to place the nozzle at the corner of the bed instead of using an offset.

Final Modification

This one was simple. Download and print. I printed a new shroud out of PLA. It was designed by my buddy on thingiverse.

The head design on the X3S is the same as the Tronxy X3.

Closing

I will be putting the main board back now, and printing a bunch of stuff for Halloween. I will share the final thoughts on this printer at that time. I would like to thank GearBest for sending me the Tronxy X3S for review. You can buy the 3D printer from them for $289.99 including shipping (Coupon GBX3S may shove a few dollars off the price).

Continue reading Tronxy X3S 3D Printer Review – Part 3: Upgrades to Fix Bed Leveling Issues (Permanently)

ACEPC AK1 Celeron J3455 Mini PC Review – Part 1: Unboxing, Teardown, and First Impressions

October 17th, 2017 44 comments

Karl here. Today we are going to look at the ACEPC AK1 mini PC. Here are some of the specs pulled from ACEPC’s website. The feature that is most notable to me is the included 2.5” hard drive compartment.

Hardware

CPU:Intel Celeron J3455
GPU:Intel HD Graphics 500
RAM:4GB DDR3L
ROM:32GB eMMC
WiFi:Ac3165 Dual Band2.4G/5G
LAN: Ethernet RJ45 10/100/1000M
Bluetooth: BT V4.0

Interfaces

USB port:2xUSB 3.0;2xUSB 2.0;1xType C;support USB disk and USB HDD
Card reader: TF Card (up to 128GB)
HDMI Port: HDMI 1.4
Microphone audio: 3.5mm Microphone jack x1

Unboxing & Teardown

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Looks like an mSATA connector inside but not listed on spec? – Click to Enlarge

Some close-up photos to get a better look at the chips, and overall hardware design.

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First Boot – Storage / Task Manager

Storage after first boot:

Storage after update:

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Thermal Testing with Prime 95

Cooling seems adequate. Below is a picture of Prime 95 after 5 minutes. I am glad to see it staying at about 2 GHz considering the base frequency is 1.5 GHz. After stopping, it loses 30° Celsius immediately and after 30 seconds back to around 50° Celsius.

Goal

One of my goals for the second part of this review is to use it in the living room as a silent PC and mini server. I want to stream games from my new rig via Steam in Home Streaming and/or Nvidia GameStream. I want to also test it as a Plex server. Plex is testing out some hardware encoding on its beta software and I will be installing it on this box. I used Emby for a long time, but got to a point I had to reboot daily. Home automation server and Minecraft server should be a cakewalk. I have installed Steam and Moonlight chrome plugin, and tested them for a few minutes. Both work as expected but Steam is the clear winner at 25% CPU usage. It would be really great if I could both stream a game and live encode TV from my antenna. I think it won’t be a problem but need to test. My in-laws canceled pay TV a while back and they stream live TV from our antenna through the Plex app on Mi Box. They are even more rural than we are, and get no channels unless they erect an outside antenna.

First Impressions

This is subjective but I do like the way it looks. Has enough IOs. I wrote this article on it and other than typing on Logitech K400(ugh), it was uneventful. The expansion for a 2.5” hard drive is a great feature in my opinion. I just added a hard drive taken from a laptop. I have only tested out Ethernet at this point. I am in my lab and testing WiFi here is unfair to any device. If you would like to see any specific benchmark/test please let me know in the comments below.

I would like to thank Gearbest for sending ACEPC AK1 for review. It is currently on sale for $149.99 [Update: coupon USBLOG9 drop the price further to $147]. The device is also sold on Amazon US for $199.99, and it can be found under other brands like Unistorm, WooYi, Findarling, etc.. on Aliexpress.

Tronxy X3S 3D Printer Review – Part 1: Build and First Prints

September 29th, 2017 5 comments

Karl here with part 1 of Tronxy X3S build. It is another large volume printer to fully assemble on your own. Taking between 8-10 hours to put together. I have high hopes for this printer. Key things I like: metal frame, dual X, large build volume. Just from looking at it I don’t like the fact that it has no parts cooler but is easy to remedy.

Tronxy X3S Specifications

Let’s look at some specs.

  • 300 x 300 x 400 mm hot bed (Actually get 330x330x400 build volume)
  • Hot bed temperature: 40 – 110 Deg.C
  • Nozzle temperature: 170-275 Degree
  • Marlin 1.1.5
  • Frame material: Aluminum Extrusion

I have not taken the hotend apart yet so not sure about the nozzle temperature going over 245°C. I will take it apart for the next part. If you are not familiar you don’t want to get lined nozzles above 245°C, or the lining starts to melt. An all metal hotend is required to go above 245°C.

Note: I have had this printer for a while and due to some issues and changing phones I am missing some pictures of the build.

Tronxy X3S Build

My plan on this one was to let my daughter and father build this one as an experiment. I took out the parts below fired up the laptop and inserted the SD card. I was missing instructions on the SD card. So this experiment was shot down right away. With some help from my daughter tightening things, and finding pieces we put the X3S together about 95% just looking at the pictures on GearBest. I got to X carriage arm and got stuck. I couldn’t see the details enough. I remembered that the X3 was a very similar design except larger. I went online, and found the instructions and was able to finish. We put it together over 3 sessions, and had about 8 hours total putting it together. Later on I found a fellow 3D printer enthusiast on Facebook with an X3S and he sent me over the files I was missing on the SD card.

Likes

  • The belts are steel reinforced.
  • Only 2 pieces are printed, and 4 pieces of acrylic (nor including acrylic for power supply and board)
  • Feet are included (wish they were taller to put controller case under the printer)
  • The frame feels very rigid

Dislikes

  • Bearings for belts and mounting to build plate.
  • Potentially weak power supply. Still testing
  • No parts cooler

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Heated bed

The bed on the Tronxy is not very good. It takes forever to heat up, and there is no way to make it to 100 deg Celsius. I installed a beefier power supply, and insulated the bed with cork. After this the highest, I got to was about 70°C. It’s only about 10 minutes to get to 50°C so relegated to PLA on this one unless you upgrade the heated bed. I have one on the way with a MOSFET. About a $30 upgrade. Will test with stock, and new power supply to see the difference.

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Little messy right now as I am working on it.

First Prints

So we put the printer together, and tested everything out. Checked movement in X, Y, and Z. Homed to make sure endstops worked, and all seemed good in the world. I had some binding on my right Z stepper. I bumped up the current on the potentiometer on the board. Still binding. I then took the Z stepper motor and rod for the Z, and positioned them in the coupler just enough to let the grub screws grip. Loaded the Z with lithium grease and finally loosened the Z screw brass nut just a little to let it move like an oldham coupler. This resolved the binding on the Z.

I started first print, a Benchy, and I noticed it was off center and just not looking right with over extrusion. After a while I figured out that the gears that came with the printer were 16 teeth and not 20 teeth for the X and Y axis. If this board had EEPROM enabled, it would be a matter of just modifying the steps per mm on the x and y appropriately and fix. I think I could have inserted some G-code at the beginning of each print but wanted to use with proper gears. Reducing the teeth will change the accuracy slightly. With this firmware you cannot modify the steps per mm. At this point, I was ready to start upgrading it. I connected the board to my PC and nothing. USB was bad on the board. There was a night between finding out the gears were bad, and board was bad. I had already ordered some gears, and notified GearBest of the bad board.

Fast forward a month. Gears are installed and new board installed. It was a reworked board. I can see some hand soldered spots on the board but everything is working. Finally started printing. I have not printed too much at this point but what I have printed look pretty good.

Facebook, Issues, and Reality

I have not found a good forum anywhere for 3D printing. By that I mean in a traditional forum format. Facebook is the only place that I have found that people work together and ask questions share experiences. I am a member for quite a few of them. All printers have issues that are reoccurring. CR-10 has a lot of broken couplers. Tarantula has broken acrylic (typically after installed, and not during shipping). Tronxy has all kinds of random things wrong. I have 2 outlined above.

Being that these are shipping from China directly with what looks to be slim margins there is a gamble when purchasing. If you have a missing / faulty piece that can be sourced locally just get it in my opinion. The board issue is another story in my case. I have to review with stock hardware so I waited. You can get parts replaced but you might have to wait.

In this case you are getting a 330 x 330 x 400 printer for less than $300 + potentially minor broken faulty parts. Shipping from around the world is tough. I would not even think about shipping it back.

For miscellaneous piece parts, I recommend https://www.zyltech.com/ if in the states. Really good pricing and service. For example on parts above. I ordered early on Friday and they were delivered on Monday. I have done several transactions now.

Wrap up

I did get a ramps board and adapter for the screen. I’m going to get it to work for second part with this review along with bed upgrade. I would like to thank GearBest for shipping the Tronxy X3s for reviewing. If you would like to pick one up you can get one for $289.99 including worldwide shipping, and they have a wider choice of 3D Printers on a dedicated page.

Continue reading “Tronxy X3S 3D Printer Review – Part 2: Upgraded Heatbed and RAMPS Board“.

Categories: Hardware, Testing Tags: 3d printing, review, tronxy

Designing a 3D Printed Jig to Flash Firmware to ESP8266 based Light Bulbs

September 18th, 2017 6 comments

Karl here. I have to say that my favorite part of 3D printing is designing things from scratch. Recently a reader was asking about a way to flash a lot of Ai Lights on a project he was working on. I suggested 3D printing a jig that pressure fits pins. He didn’t have a printer, and we exchanged contact information and he sent me one of the lights and some pogo pins from Amazon.

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Design in Fusion 360

I started by taking a picture of the light to get my pin placement. I set a scale by measuring a known distance then printed and tested. It took about 3 iterations to get them to line up in real life. Keep in mind camera lenses distort reality and knew It would take a couple times. I would just let a few layers print then stop and line everything up. I had a mostly working prototype in a couple hours. I did have to go back and add an additional pin after I found out that 100 needed to be grounded when powering up so took a couple more tries to line that pin up. The first couple times pressing into place it is very snug. After 3 or 4 times it becomes easier to remove.

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First Iteration

Building the Jig

I built this thing too many times, but I finally settled a reproducible method. First print at least 2 copies of the jig. Insert pins in jig then place on 2ng jig with pins up. 2nd jig is only for alignment and to keep straight. Once aligned super glue the pins to the jig and let dry. Do not get glue inside the pins or they will get stuck. When I was first putting this together I was doing it the other way, and glue kept on seeping down to the pins and making them stick. This method of gluing worked the first time.

After gluing solder on your leads, use some shrink tube, and make sure to connect pin 100 to the ground. I thought it needed to be temporary, but I forgot to disconnect one flash. I test flashed the light about a dozen time with 100% success.

The method I used to connect is with the leads connected to PC, I press the jig in place slightly offset clockwise a couple degrees. Press in, then turn counter clockwise until you hear a click. When it clicks into the pads and PC dings it is ready to flash.

This was a fun little project and if you would like to print it you can find it here.

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