Sunday, 12 August 2007

Sore thumbs

Well thumbs and fingers actually through stripping down and rebuilding my extruder a few times to solve teething problems. It has actually taken me a couple of days to get it working reliably. There were only two problems really :-

The first was that I was not tightening the springs enough. My springs are bigger diameter than the recommended ones and are too stiff to compress with ones fingers but even so I need to have them fully compressed for the extruder not to jam. What happens when they are not tight enough is that the screw thread slips against the filament and starts grinding it away instead of moving it.

The biggest problem was that my soldered joint between the steel cable and the drive screw kept breaking. The reason being that the drive screw is stainless steel which can not be soldered with normal flux. I tried cutting a cross in the end of the screw to give the solder something to hold onto. That did not work because the solder just forms a bead that does not penetrate the slots.

In the end I stuck it with JB Weld. For some reason it does not cure properly in the recommended 15 hours so I transfered it to the oven and baked it for 2 hours at gas mark 6. That seems to have done the trick.

I have found that running the extruder at different speeds gives different sized filaments.

The one on the left was extruded with the motor running from 4V and is about 0.8mm and the one on the right was extruded with the motor running from 10V and is 1.2mm. They are both extruded from a 0.5mm hole. I think what happens is that the plastic is compressed as it enters the hole and expands as it leaves it. The faster the motor runs the higher the pressure so the more it contracts and expands. The strange thing is that other people have not seen this effect. Possibly the hole in my nozzle is too deep or too shallow, I am not sure which.

I was surprised when I saw this piece emerge :-

But not when I examined the thermocouple I had used to measure the temperature of the molten plastic :-

It is supposed to work up to 250°C but it looks like the heatshrink sleeving they used is not up to the job.

My extruder occasionally produces swarf from the gap between the pump and the clamp. I am not sure of the exact mechanism for this is but it does not seem to affect its operation.

Here is a video of the extruder in operation and the filament produced showing self organising behaviour.

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