Saturday 12 June 2010

Wooden overcoat

I can make raft-less ABS objects on a heated bed pretty reliably, but when I try to do a whole bed full I get corners lifting on the objects near the edge of the bed. I think the reason is that the air around them is not as hot. If you think about it, with a moving bed machine like HydraRaptor, if you have a single object in the centre of the bed then you have a buffer of hot air around it. The bed only has to move by the dimensions of the object, so if the object is less than half the size of the bed then it remains inside that buffer. When you make objects near the edge of the bed the buffer is smaller and the bed moves further, so you get a double effect. To mitigate this effect I have halved the size of my biggest build trays. This is less convenient as a full bed is about 8 hours giving three shifts a day.

For example, with natural ABS on Kapton I was able to get away with a full bed like this: -

... but with white ABS on PET tape I would always get the odd part around the edge lifting, so I have to do it as two builds now. I bought a new reel of natural ABS from MakerBot but I can't make it work with HydraRaptor. I made a couple of objects but then it started to always jam after a few layers. The reason seams to be that because it is undersized at about 2.8mm, and my barrel has an internal diameter of 3.6mm, molten plastic back-flows up the barrel as far as the cold zone, where it freezes and makes the filament hard to push. This causes the filament to buckle and jam. I don't understand what has changed. The last reel I got from MakerBot a long time ago was the same diameter and I only finished using it recently and had no problems in the same extruder with the same settings. I switched back to white ABS and it works reliably again, so it must be something to do with the plastic.

Another problem with ABS is the fumes. My Mendel extruder seems to give off more fumes than HydraRaptor's does, perhaps because the melt zone is much bigger, and the white ABS seems to smell more acrid than natural ABS. I did a build with a window open to get rid of the fumes but most of the parts then warped, presumably because there was no longer a buffer of warm air around them, but a cool breeze.

In an attempt to tackle both of these problems I built an MDF box around my Mendel.

The front of the box is held on by magnetic door catches. It is sealed by door draft extruder strips and has a window made from plastic from a picture frame. This is glued on with silicone sealant.

The box is tall enough to allow the filament to enter through a single hole in the middle of the roof with a felt gasket that catches the dust.

The fumes are extracted by a tiny fan mounted in a chimney in the roof and piped out through a window vent.

I made a little pipe with a flange that fits into a slot in the vent and taped up the other slots with PET tape. I have another vent in the other window for fresh air in.

This fan is controlled by a spare output on my extruder controller and I have a thermistor to sense the air temperature in the middle of the chamber at the height of the top of the Mendel frame. Together with a small fan to cool the extruder heatsink and a large fan to cool the bed that uses up all the free outputs of my extruder controller, but not for the uses I originally envisaged.

I set the target chamber temperature to 40°C because that is as high as I dare to run the electronics and power supply. With the front closed the small fan cannot hold the temperature down and I have seen it go as high as 50°C without any ill effects. The extruder stepper was then too hot to touch though. Note there is no chamber heater. All the heat comes from the uninsulated bed, extruder and the motors and electronics, so I have actually reduced the total power consumption slightly and gained a heated chamber. To maintain 40°C I have to leave the front open at the bottom. I will add some vents at the bottom of the sides to allow cool air in and perhaps use a bigger fan.

Even with a gap at the bottom of the door I cannot smell any fumes. Since using the chamber nothing has warped provided the first layer outline went down properly as discussed in my last post. It also makes the machine very quiet although it was already much quieter than HydraRaptor.