Tuesday 24 August 2010

Freezing your bits off

Since I started cleaning my PET tape with acetone it can be hard to remove the parts from it sometimes. Somebody suggested trying freezer spray a while back, so I gave it a go.

I got this Arctic Spray, which is intended for freezing water pipes so that you can work on them without draining the water. I must admit I wouldn't fancy having a strict time limit if I was plumbing, you would have to be sure you had all the right tools and materials to start with. My occasional forays into plumbing rarely go to plan and usually involve a trip to B & Q in the middle.

I tried it first on an ABS part before the bed had cooled for any length of time, so it would be at about 100°C and the parts still soft. The part curled up at the edges and so came off easily. I thought I had ruined it by making it warp, but to my surprise it became flat again when it cooled. Still that seems a bit risky, and the spray isn't cheap, so now I cool the bed to 50°C with a fan and then spray any stubborn parts that I can't pull off. It works a treat but I don't know how long a can will last. It would have to be a lot of uses to make it worth the cost: £4.49 plus £2.20 on eBay. Hitting them with a block of wood and a hammer is a lot cheaper!

Monday 23 August 2010

Friday the 13th

When I got up last Friday morning my PC had this on the screen: -

This is despite the fact that I had automatic updates set to ask me before installing. This was the result :-

The PC had stopped talking to my Mendel about half way through a seven hour build, so the axes had stopped moving but the extruder was left running for a few hours. The result was that the extruder was encased in a solid ball of ABS about the size of a tangerine. Thanks Microsoft! What I actually said at the time was less polite!

Of course I was planning to put some safeguards in the firmware and also run the machine from an SD card, but have never quite got round to it as I have been printing virtually non-stop for months.

I couldn't remove the extruder from the carriage because the blob was too big to go through the gap, so I had to dismantle the x-axis to release the carriage.

I have seen this happen to other people and it wrote off the extruder, but I thought this one should survive because it is mostly metal underneath the blob.

I tried using a loop of hot nichrome to slice bits of it off. The nichrome cut through OK, but the ABS closed up behind it, so it achieved nothing.

Next I tried a small circular saw attached to a Dremel. That worked OK, but threw off sawdust and bits of ABS hot enough to burn, even through light clothing. I got the bulk of it off that way but when I nicked one of the heater wires I decided to stop.

I got some more off by heating it with a hot air gun and pulling lumps off with a pair of pliers. That was OK but the whole extruder got too hot to hold and it was starting to soften the carriage.

I got the remainder off by running the heater up to 200°C and using a knife, wire cutters and pliers. It took me about 3 evenings in total to remove the blob and the machine was out of action for a week while I reassembled it and calibrated it again.

It now takes a bit longer to warm up, and extrudes more filament during the warm up process than it used to. I suspect therefore that the thermistor is reading low and so it is running hotter. It doesn't seem to cause a problem with the ABS that I am using. I had to increase the time I run the extruder to prime it after warm up though.

I also seem to have managed to bend one of my z lead-screws while sliding the x-axis bars in and out. It doesn't matter as the axis is constrained by the z-bars, but annoying as it rattles a bit.

All in all a bit of a disaster. It's running again now though, but I still haven't put a safeguard in my firmware. I will have to develop it on HydraRaptor and load it into Mendel between builds. I have disabled automatic updates!

Monday 9 August 2010

Rejuvenated Bed

I put new PET tape on my heated bed at the beginning of July. Since then I have printed 15 Mendels on it, but on the last few I was getting problems with the parts not sticking. That is after about 700 hours of printing and ~15kg of plastic. I occasionally swab it down with Isopropanol to remove grease from finger prints, but Isopropanol is not a solvent for ABS. This evening I tried cleaning it with acetone instead. It dramatically increased the grip level, restoring it to new and making the parts hard to remove again! ABS must leave some traces behind on the surface of the bed and the acetone removes it.

So it looks like PET tape is almost fully reusable. It tends to get the odd blister where the corners of big objects overcome its adhesive and picks up a few scars from the odd accident with a knife. Apart from that it just needs cleaning with acetone about once a month.