Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cartridges and Filament flow errors

Since there have been several users including myself with filament cartridge issues, and several posts about it in the CubeX user group, I thought I should post about it here with some possible temporary help to keep printing.
This might help you to get by and use a problem cartridge.
(Attempt at own risk).
Each cartridge has a little chip at the bottom where the filament exits, that makes contact with the CubeX when the cartridge is installed. The chip contains information about what type of cartridge it is and possibly records the amount left in the cartridge.
If you have a cartridge read error,  you should check that the contacts in the CubeX and on the cartridge are clean and try to re-insert it. If that does not help try the cartridge in a different cartridge slot if you have a duo or trio. I have had only one cartridge read error and it went away when I re-inserted it a few times.      Otherwise I don't have more help on that one, except power cycling the CubeX and trying again.
If your cartridge is binding (filament won't pull out easily) and or you are getting a filament flow error you can carefully open the cartridge and run the spool externally.
(Note:   A filament flow error might not always be due to a binding cartridge.)

In some cases the filament is wound up crossed onto the spool and hanging the spool externally won't help either because it keeps tangling on the spool. (At least you can see what is going on with the spool hanging externally). In that case unwinding and rewinding up the filament on the spool is the only fix.
(Note: Be careful to not damage the chip at the bottom of the cartridge, and careful with the inner cardboard spool since it is only lightly glued together.)
Here is what I did:
This has worked great for me with the 3 cartridges I had binding issues with. One I had to glue the spool back together, but got it useable off the external hanger.

Take the cartridge out of the CubeX.
Use a exactor knife to cut the label at the cartridge seam.

To open the cartridge, start at bottom of the cartridge next to the chip. Insert a small flat screwdriver to release the clip next to the chip. Try to keep the chip in its place.
Then do the same on the clip next to it and move all the way around to open the cartridge case.

Carefully take the cardboard spool out. Handle the spool with care so it does not fall apart, since it is only lightly glued together.
Once the spool is taken out of the cartridge, make sure the chip is in its place (if the chip fell out, make sure to position and orient it correctly, otherwise it won't make contact with the CubeX) and then close up the empty cartridge (with chip in place).
Also, when removing the spool from a cartridge, make sure to write onto the spool, which cartridge it belongs to, so you don't get them mixed up if you have multiple cartridges of same color etc..
The empty cartridge can now be inserted back into the CubeX.
Inspect the spool and how the filament is wound up on it. You might have to unwind some filament, where it is bound or tangled up, and then loosely wind the filament back up on the spool.
For the cardboard spool, you need a holder with a smooth rod so the spool can rotate on it.
Here is a hanger you can print yourself (in PLA), but you also need a smooth 1/2" rod (should be very smooth / polished) with 8-32 threaded holes on each end and two 8-32 x 1/2" SHC screws and washers  and one large fender washer.

STL file for spool hanger:   Spool holder .stl file
SolidWorks file for spool hanger:  Spool holder SolidWorks file
 Or you can rig up anything similar as long as the spool has a very smooth rod to hang off and rotate on.
Take the filament end, and make sure to get a clean cut of the filament so it will feed in properly. The filament should be still round at the end after clipping it. If not, you can use a exactor knife to slightly taper the end of the filament which might help feeding it back into the guide and filament feed motor.

After prepping the filament end, you can then just feed the filament directly from the hanging spool into the filament guide in front of where you inserted the empty cartridge.

Use the cartridge replace menu. (You can leave the empty cartridge in place during the process).
Once the filament is feed thru and extruding , you are ready to go.
If you have problems feeding the filament and the motor won't pull the filament in, go into the menu with the 240C icon. There you can heat up the jet by double clicking on the TGT temperature, it will toggle between 0 C, 195C and 230C. Use 230C.  Then you can double click on the feed speed to get the motor feeding at different speeds, 8 or 12 should work.
Keep pushing the filament in, pull in and out, eventually it should go.
I had a difficulties last time at a filament change, but eventually after I re-cut the end of the filament again, it feed in ok.
After using the cartridge, I stick it in a plastic bag with the desiccant from the cartridge, till I use it again.


  1. Great blog Rick, congratulations.

    "If you have a cartridge read error.... Otherwise I don't have more help on that one, except power cycling the CubeX and trying again."

    Sometimes the two contacts on the cartridge bay keeps down, loose flexibility, and don´t make contact with the chip.

    Unmount the cover (take care with the display cable), base and cartridge bay.

    At the cartridge bay, unmount the electronic circuit.

    Restore the curve of the contacts, inserting a paperclip between the contacts and the plastic piece that support them and with your finger nail press the contacts.

    Mount all parts in reverse order and try.

  2. I had to wiggle and tilt my cartridges until they finally showed up on the INFO screen. Then I was able to print. Making contact on those 2 little points at the end of the cartridge is not very good.

  3. Did the same thing with my printer with the external spool. But the printer stopped printing because the cartridge chip thought it was out of filament, but I just kept replacing the external spool. So in order to keep printing I had to buy a new cartridge with a new chip to make the printer think that it had more filament loaded. Is there any way to bypass this auto stop that the cartridge causes when it thinks that it is out of filament?


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