I couldn't get to work today because we had seven inches of snow during the night and a couple more today, so I had an extra day of RepRapping.
So my extruder is back working after re-fixing the thermistor with some RTV silicone. I get a degree or two more temperature swing with silicone compared to Cerastil, so not ideal, but it is workable. I think the plastic has such a high specific heat capacity and thermal resistance that it probably averages out the temperature swings anyway.
I switched to ABS to make a change from PLA as I am now able to use my 5kg spool of oval ABS that has always been two wide for my previous extruders. The bore of this one is 3.6mm, which is actually a bit on the big side for 3mm filament. I think about 3.3mm would be the best compromise.
My first experiment was to see if I could extrude directly onto my heated aluminium bed. My initial attempts failed to stick, even at 110°C, but I found that I could lay down a raft. I always cool the raft before applying the first layer of the object (I also drop the temperature of the first layer to 190°C), otherwise it welds too strongly to remove. When I cooled the raft it detached from the bed, presumably because it shrinks.
I reasoned if I could get the raft to stick then I should be able to get the object to stick. The difference is I do the first layer of the raft at 4mm/s and have the head lower than I would normally, so that the filament is squashed more. I tried making the first layer of the object at 4mm/s and a little lower than it should be. It almost worked so I upped the temperature to 120°C and tried again. This time I was able to make one of Zaggo's whistles.
When it came to making the pea it got too hot and started moving around.
Normally I would use a fan on ABS to get small items to hold their shape, but obviously blowing cold air onto a hot base is going to waste a lot of power. The fix I have in mind is to blow a very small jet of air at the same temperature as the base and aim it just below nozzle. Hopefully by keeping the jet small I can avoid the sort of power that hair dryers use. Adding the heated bed has increased the power consumption of my machine by about 50W, which has more than doubled it.
When I cooled the finished object and the bed to 40°C, by running the fan, the object simply lifted off. At 120°C the ABS is like a soft rubber or gel. It clings to the aluminium, but will peel off with very little force. When it cools it becomes completely detached.
The bottom of the object is smooth and shiny and perfectly flat. I can actually see part of one of the swirls that are on my bed if I catch it right in the light. That means the plastic takes the texture of the base, so you could pattern and texture it in the same way as injection moulds.
The next thing I tried was a Mendel vertex bracket as these are big enough to warp. It managed the outline, but when it started doing the outlines of the holes the filament failed to stick so I aborted that build.
The obvious way to get more grip is to use a sheet of acrylic as many people report that works well. I have a couple of problem with that though. Acrylic is a good insulator so the temperature control becomes more difficult. It tends to warp unless it is held down at the edges. I don't have any bolts long enough to mount it on my bed with the frame on top. I ordered some 2BA studding last year, but all the post from just before Christmas has gone missing.
I looked around for a piece of metal with some texture and found some aluminium with a satin finish painted with metal primer, from a very old experiment. It looked promising to start with: -
But it soon snagged and started ripping it up again: -
However, as you can see, I held the plate down with Kapton tape and by accident part of the object was extruded onto the tape. It stuck well to the Kapton but was peel-able. This looked extremely promising. Kapton on top of aluminium could be the perfect bed material for ABS. It looks like it will be reusable many times, as masking tape is for PLA.
The bracket stayed perfectly flat during the build. I cooled it with the fan to 40°C. It was quite difficult to remove. In the end I put a penknife under one edge and tapped it with a hammer. It came off cleanly and with a perfectly flat base with a glassy appearance.
The only blemishes are the gaps in the tape, what looks like an air bubble in the tape, and the dent from my penknife.
The base is a slightly golden colour and that extends up for the first few layers so I think the bed was a bit too hot. I had it at 120°C and the first layer at 4mm/s, so I will have to back track a bit and see if I can get away with a lower temperature and faster first layer, but this is looking very good. No warping, no raft, a cheap reusable bed material and a mirror finish.