The main issue that I have had with the pump part of the original extruder is that the bearings wear out fairly quickly. Both the half bearings themselves and the lands on the shaft. One problem is that being only half bearings, any lubrication soon gets carried away by the plastic.
The best lifetime I have had is with stainless steel bearings and a stainless steel shaft. The downside of a stainless steel shaft is that you cannot solder a nut on to provide the drive. I have found two ways round this:-
- Use a hex head bolt. For some reason stainless steel bolts never seem to have thread all the way to the top. Since the thread needs to be sharpened with a die anyway, it can be extended at the same time. It is hard work tapping stainless steel though. You need a split die, set to its biggest diameter to start with, and you need cutting compound. The hex head allows you to get a good grip to stop it turning and the original thread makes it easy to start off square.
- Drill through the nut and shaft and insert a pin. If, like me, you break lots of drills then broken drill shafts make perfect pins. I now buy drill bits in packs of five or ten!
The downside of this arrangement is that you still need to turn a land on the bottom of the shaft. It could probably be done with a file and drill though. It actually works without removing the thread, but I expect it might wear away the rollers.
This design works but there are a few things I would change if I built another: -
I made it compatible with the existing filament guide to avoid having to reconfigure my machine for HDPE. Ideally the screw holes at the bottom end need to move out to allow longer bolts to hold the rollers and the size needs increasing from M3 as the threads strip eventually.All easy things to put right with a design iteration.
I left clearance to allow the top bearing to be inserted from below, but left no access to the nuts. Consequently it was very difficult to assemble and I had to make undersized nuts.
I used the smallest outside diameter bearings I could find for the given inside diameter. That was a mistake because it is hard not to foul the outer part of the bearing with a washer as the moving part is so small. Star washers seem to just grip the inner and provide enough standoff to clear the outer. I used counter sunk heads to clear the outer face of the rollers. I expect larger diameter bearings use bigger balls, so perhaps have higher ratings.
Another thing I have been meaning to try is the GM17 gearmotor. I have had some for a long time, but without a second shaft, adding a shaft encoder is not trivial, as it is with the GM3. Solarbotics now sell a cheap magnetic encoder that fits inside the casing, making it a more attractive proposition.
To fit the motor in place of the GM3 a new mounting bracket and a shorter version of the shaft coupler is needed.
Here is the completed pump: -
And here it is built up into an extruder: -
I am waiting for the magnetic encoder to come from Canada so I tested it open loop with a couple of bench power supplies.
The GM17 is a bit quieter than the GM3, but not that much when heavily loaded. It extrudes at a similar rate, but the speed seems to vary a lot with load, so it would be useless without closed loop control. It seems to labour and get quite hot at 12V, so I don't imagine its life would be a lot better than GM3. It overruns a lot when the power is disconnected, so it would need a full H-bridge and reverse thrust to get decent stopping.
I still have lots of things to try: stepper drive, a roller instead of the filament guide, an offset screw drive to avoid the rollers.