Sunday, 22 April 2012

Ooze free unattended start

Normally plastic oozes from the nozzle during warm up due to thermal expansion and gravity. It is then necessary to prime the extruder by running it for a few seconds to fill up the now empty barrel. Any oozed or extruded plastic then needs to be removed, typically with tweezers, before the build can start.

This procedure is inconvenient because it means you have to stay with the machine during the warm up sequence rather than simply starting a build and letting it get on with it. I discovered a simple solution which I now use on my Mendel and Mendel90.

I remove any filament hanging from the nozzle while it is cold and then start the machine and leave it. My software moves the nozzle to the front edge of the bed and parks it 0.05mm above the surface. It then warms up the extruder and the bed. As soon as the plastic starts to ooze from the nozzle it meets the relatively cold bed and sets. That seals the nozzle and prevents and more ooze. I leave the small gap to ensure the bed does not take heat away from the nozzle.

When the bed and extruder reach their operating temperatures the software waits for two minutes to allow the nozzle to expand to its full length, otherwise I find the first layer height is inconsistent. The extruder is then run for a couple of seconds to prime it before doing a rapid move 50mm along the edge of the bed to wipe it. It then lifts to 1mm and moves to the start of the build. I always start that with a blob and an outline.

Here is a video of the sequence on my Mendel90:

So now I can start my machines and leave them to do their own thing. I use Python scripts but it should be easy to do the same thing in G code. The technique works with PLA as well as ABS shown above.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

ABS Fudge

Many months ago I put some HIPS, ABS and PLA in a jar of limonene. The HIPS dissolved completely fairly quickly and the ABS and PLA were seeming unaffected. I then forgot about it until yesterday.

The PLA is still completely unaffected but the ABS has become soft like fudge.

I assume that given long enough the limonene removes the styrene content from the ABS.

It looks like it is feasible to use HIPS as a support material for PLA and then remove it with limonene. Limonene isn't cheap though and it remains to be seen how much HIPS it can dissolve before it becomes too dilute.

More trifurcated PLA

I repeated the PLA in acetone experiment with red PLA and pure acetone. Same result, trifurcation after a few minutes:

Here is what happens to an object:

These were identical PLA clothes-pegs, one was dipped in acetone for a few minutes.  It fell apart when I tried to pick it out with tongs.

A bit of Googling reveals acetone causes PLA (which is normally amorphous) to become crystalline. That explains why it loses its transparency I think. It also becomes rubbery and crumbly.

Not a very useful result, but it does show that acetone would not be any good for cleaning out a hot end filled with PLA. Also I think people have suggested you could use ABS as support for PLA and dissolve it out with acetone but that plainly will not work either. The opposite works, dissolving the PLA with an alkali.