Saturday, June 29, 2013

New CubeX Software Version 1.04 and Firmware Version 1.06 available

What's new?

  • I noticed there is now a "Fit to window" button.
  • The "Support" feature got improved and it seems to do somewhat better with the support structure.(If you are using the "Support" feature, it's always good to check the build file and see where the support structure is added. In some cases, you might still rather design your own support structure in the model).
  • I am getting now better result with the 0.10 resolution setting than before.

Not sure what else was changed and improved with this update.

Here is the link for the software download.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Heated Printbed for the CubeX

If you have printed with ABS, you know that part adhesion to the print platform and part warping are quite a challenge and issue. The much higher shrinkage rate of the ABS material compared to PLA, make the part want to curl up at the edges.

I have printed some ABS parts with success, but most parts with a larger base, warp too much. The CubeX can print nice in ABS, if you can get the part to stick well to the print platform.
In this case (Yoda model) the ABS print came out good with the standard setup, and the warped bottom does not really matter much.

But often ABS parts look like this (above).

After trying blue tape, different glues, enclosing the whole printer, etc.. etc.. nothing seem to help enough against the part lifting and warping on many parts, when printing with ABS.

I finally acknowledged and what many suggest, that a heated printbed is most helpful for most ABS printing to get flat or straight parts.

So I searched and found a company (GRM Products)
that designed a heated printbed kit for the CubeX. They have been selling heated printbed kits for the 3D touch printers (similar to CubeX) and gotten very good reviews.

In my ABS part warping frustration, I did not hesitate to order the heated printbed kit and install it in my CubeX.


The installation is pretty straight forward. You remove the standard print platform base (3 screws) and then install the heated print bed re-using the same hardware. The controller box attaches with high strength double stick tape onto the side of the CubeX, and the self adhesive cable tie holders keep the cables in place. There is a cut off switch which turns the heater automatically off when the print is done. - very nice. The switch needs to be positioned and the switch lever needs to be adjusted to trigger properly. You have to do a little test print and mark the position on the side how far the print bed moves down after a print so you know at what height to position the heater cut off switch. Then you can use the "Move" command to move the printbed up and down at the mark and check if the switch triggers. Once the switch is in place it's good.
A new z-gap sensor was also installed in a different location, so the temperature changes would not affect the z-gap.


The design and finish of the heated printbed kit is solid and very clean. The print bed top surface is a high temp glass. The controller keeps the printbed temperature at the adjustable set temperature and is very easy to use. The print bed heats up very quick (2min for PLA (70deg C) and 5 min for ABS (110deg C).  The max adjustable setting is 135deg C.

The controller has also a 110V socket in the back, which can be turned on or off with a switch at the front of the controller.

The heated print bed platform is nice and flat. After the installation, you have to of course level the printbed and adjust the z-gap.

All three print platform leveling screws are accessible.

I check the z-gap after the printbed heated up, right before starting the print.

It was recommended to use blue painters tape or Kapton tape. So I started with blue painters tape first.

The first print was a 2"x1" small part that I could not print on the standard printbed without the part warping,  but with the heated printbed the part printed without warping.
I used blue painters tape on top of the glass platform to print onto. Print bed temperature at 110C.

Now printing a larger part:
The second print was a 6" x 2" square. During the print I saw that the blue painters tape lifted a little at the end of the part at the tape seam. So I aborted the print.
I only had 2" wide blue painters tape, so on larger parts, there is always somewhere a tape seam underneath the part. So it is best to use a wider tape or position the part that the tape seam is more in the middle of the part vs close to part edges where you have the most part shrinkage (pulling on the tape)
Next I put a 6" wide Kapton tape onto the printbed and printed the same 6" x 2" square part again.

The Kapton tape works great. The part stayed flat to the platform without warping. It showed already how well it printed without the part lifting and curling up at the edges. - awesome.

Next was a 9"L  x 2"W  x 2"H mount. I increased the printbed temperature to 120deg C.

Since this part is so long and the best possible adhesion might be needed, put a coat of Acetone/ABS slurry onto the Kapton tape. (other 3D printer users with heated printbed and Kapton tape swear by it) It is Acetone with pieces of ABS dissolved into it. I keep it in an acetone proof container and wipe a coat of it onto the print bed with a rag.

The print came out very nice. Very flat, no warping.  - this is great!

Using the slurry, the parts can be hard to remove from the platform after the print because the part binds so well to the Kapton tape with the slurry applied. The "helper pads" make it easier to remove the part without marring the part.  Helper disks download: Helper disks zip file

So on a smaller part I just print directly onto the Kapton tape. Sometimes the Kapton tape can get damaged when pulling the part off, but if it is not in an area where the next print is, I leave it. The Kapton tape usually lasts for a couple prints. Otherwise just put a new Kapton film on. I got a 5" and 6" roll of Kapton tape on Amazon. It's fairly cheap and there is a lot on a roll. It comes also in narrower or wider rolls.

After the print, it is recommended to let the heated printbed and the part cool before removing it, so this takes a little longer than without a heated printbed.

So far I only printed three smaller PLA parts on the heated printbed (at 50 - 70deg C). No glue, directly onto the Kapton tape. - No problem.

I will print larger parts soon and see how it would print directly onto the glass.

The heated print bed is permanently installed, no need to remove after a print since there is no glue to wash off. To replace the Kapton tape I just lower the printbed and thanks to the remove able top and access to the side and front, there is enough room to apply the tape onto the platform. First I thought oh - no, the heated printbed is not removable, but using it now, I find it is not necessary to remove it at all anyway.

The heated printbed definitely makes the difference for ABS printing.

The price for the CubeX Heated Printbed kit is not cheap, but I am very happy with the product, quality and ABS print results.

It is nice now to be able to get besides great PLA prints, also more successful ABS prints.

To see the 9" long part print perfectly flat on the heated printbed was quite amazing.

I will post some more ABS print results as they come along, besides the PLA printing.
(Note: I am not affiliated with GRM products and have to buy my stuff like everybody else, but I gladly promote companies with great products and services).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Example - Making a challenging model printable.

This is just an example how a challenging model for 3D printing was modified to make it printable. It might spark some ideas next time you run into a challenging model to print.

First off, thank you to Landru who modified this model to make it easily printable and to post it on Thingiverse for everybody:   -  Nice.

As you can see, this model as it is would not be printable without a lot of support structure, and even then, would most likely not come out very clean.

To solve this the model was modified and split into two pieces.
Chamfers were added to many features to minimize overhangs.

Part 1:

Part 2:
Holes for alignment pins were also designed into each half of the model.
Just in case, I added little "helper disks" under the thin ends of the wings for more print bed adhesion surface to prevent any part pull up and warping. I usually don't design the helper pads into the model, instead add them when setting up the model in the CubeX software for creating the build file. (see other post about "helper pads" and download. Helper disks zip file
Note: I would print one part at a time. Seem to get better results that way and minimize possible strings between parts when the print jet moves from one to the other part.

Both parts printed very nice. 0.25 Resolution, medium fill, PLA natural, no raft, no support, with added helper pads.
I just had to cut off the helper pads, insert the alignment pins and add a few drops of superglue to hold both parts together. (I used spring pins and pushed them into place with the tip of a hot soldering iron. That melted them right into place).
Printed model assembled:
Size: W: 4.2", H: 3.0", D: 5.25"


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

New CubeX User Guide available

More Part measurements, and other functional parts printed on the CubeX

Here are some more prints with the CubeX.
Note: All prints are with PLA.
I am quite impressed how accurate and consistent the parts are printing.
Hole locations were right on. I do not have the means of measuring them exactly, but the mating parts fit to the screw holes.
PLA taps and drills quite nicely (slow speed to not melt the plastic) and the threads are quite strong for plastic.
Since PLA is not as flexible as ABS, snap fits don't work as well with PLA. (I have only tried one snap fit).
In some cases you want to adjust your design to get the proper fit and not be too tight, but it is predicable.
For example the clamp around a cylinder. Knowing that the inner diameter of the clamp prints slightly smaller, I increased the diameter of 2.530" on the model by 0.01" to get the proper clearance to fit on the cylinder.
Also, some parts that are designed as machined parts, might need to be modified in some areas, due to less strength and higher flex of the plastic part.