Fun in the Booth at the Milwaukee Maker Faire

Last minute decisions work out once in a while.  For example, I was going to be at the Makerspace booth at the Milwaukee Maker Faire for the weekend and wanted some examples of the sorts of things you can use a 3D printer to make, so I grabbed the usual collection of sample prints, and then I thought, “sure, why not?”, and loaded the Van de Graaff generator into the car.  It sat on the floor in the booth for about 1/2 of Saturday and I was getting a little bored, so I moved it closer to the foot traffic and plugged it in.  Wow!  Kids and adults with stunted emotional development went nutz!  They were zapping themselves and each other as if it were more fun than painful.

Sparks!

Sparks!  The VDG produces about 400 kV.

Then I found a plastic bucket and the fun really started.  We had kids and many adults who were definitely much too heavy, standing on the bucket and making their hair stand up with moms, dads, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, partners all taking pictures.   I had to move one gentleman who was breathing oxygen from a tank away from the machine.  Fortunately, no one fell off the bucket or caught on fire, and next year we’ll do it right and take a block of styrofoam for people to fall off of  to stand on.

Kylee was ready to join the Makerspace just for this… and with that shirt, she’d fit right in!

 

Blondes really do have more fun!

Blondes really do have more fun!

Even Gordon couldn't resist!

Even Gordon couldn’t resist!

 

Last year Son of MegaMax (a 3D printer built at the Milwaukee Makerspace) went to the Faire.  This year he had two companions to keep him company- an extra-beefy printer being built by Erich Zeimantz: MiniMax XY.  MMXY isn’t complete yet, but promises to be a super high quality, high speed printer.  He’ll be operational at next year’s Maker Faire.  SoM also brought his big brother, Ultra MegaMax Dominator, named that because he is ultra, mega, maximum, and he dominates.

MiniMax XY at Milwaukee Maker Faire

MiniMax XY at Milwaukee Maker Faire

 

Ultra MegaMax Dominator and Son of MegaMax at the Milwaukee Maker Faire

Ultra MegaMax Dominator and Son of MegaMax at the Milwaukee Maker Faire

UMMD and SoM rotated between the booth and the dark room where the both printers’ UV lighting and fluorescent filament was a big hit.

UMMD in the Dark Room at Milwaukee Maker Faire 2017

UMMD in the Dark Room at Milwaukee Maker Faire 2017

We had a few things besides 3D printers at the booth.  Tony brought in some Bismuth crystals to give away, and surprisingly, they didn’t all disappear in the first hour.  Tony thinks people left them because the Makerspace logo on the info board on which the crystals were sitting looked a lot like the skull and crossbones that usually indicates poison.  The crystals do have an other-worldly toxic look about them.  Oh well…

Bismuth Crystal

Bismuth Crystal

Marcin’s LED signs on the table at the booth and hanging above the entrance to the Dark Room were also very popular and hard to miss, though I managed not to take any pictures of either.  The one above the Dark Room was so bright that if you saw it, you’ve probably still got its image burned into your retinas.

Everyone involved had a great time and we’ll be there again next year with even more cool stuff!

 

 

Further Adventures in 3D Printer Upgrades (upgrades?)

As previously promised, MegaMax’s Y-axis has been converted to screw drive along with the addition of a larger motor, DSP based driver, and 32V power supply.  The SmoothieBoard arrived and was quickly swapped in to replace the ATMega2560/RAMPS combo.  After studying and configuring the Smoothieboard I attempted a few test prints.  That’s when the problems started.

32V Power supply for Y axis motor.  No regulation necessary!

32V Power supply for Y axis motor. No regulation necessary!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smoothieboard is supposed to read the config.txt file from its uSD card (conveniently accessible via USB) every time it boots.  That makes changing configuration very easy and fast – all you do is edit the config.txt file, save it , and reboot the board.  Firmware is updated the same way.  With the ATMega2560 you have to find the configuration variables by searching through multiple configuration files, make the necessary changes, recompile the firmware, then flash the controller.  I said the SmoothieBoard is supposed to read the file every time it boots, but it wasn’t doing it.  I’d make changes and they would not appear in the behavior of the printer.  Hmmmm.

Layers kept shifting in the X-axis- I expected Y-axis problems, but not X!

Layers kept shifting in the X-axis- I expected Y-axis problems, but not X!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I attempted some prints and managed to get two decent ones in about a week of screwing around with it.  I tried dozens of combinations of speed, acceleration, junction deviation (smoothie-speak for jerk) and even tried different slicers.  The machine went completely nuts on two occasions and ignored the Z-axis limit switch and slammed the extruder into the print bed, gouging through the Kapton tape and into the aluminum!  I decided I needed some professional help so I got on the #smoothieware IRC channel and discovered that the developers of the board/firmware hang out there quite a lot.  After a lot of back and forth Q and A and testing someone suggested it might be the uSD card causing the problem.  I picked up a new card at Walmart, put the firmware and config files on it , booted the machine, and attempted a print.  PERFECT!

The new uSD card worked!  The small round post is 4mm diameter.

The new uSD card worked! The small round post is 4mm diameter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have made several prints since last night and they have all come out fine.  I still have a little tweaking to do and to test the limits of the machine’s performance, but I think the problems are behind me.

Next up:  X-axis redesign/build.  I’m replacing the two guide rails with a single linear guide.  I have also ordered and received a BullDog XL extruder to replace the hacked up QUBD unit I’ve been using.  I’ll be adding a DSP driver and 32V power supply for the X-axis motor, too.

After that, I have some ideas for a filament respooling machine and ways to fix the retraction problem in the SnakeBite extruder.

It never ends!

 

The never-ending 3D printer project

MegaMax has been and continues to be my main project for the last 2+ years.  I am currently working on some upgrades that will make him more Mega and even more Max.  The Y axis is being converted from belt drive to screw drive and the round guide rails are being replaced with linear guides and bearing blocks.  The X-axis will also get converted to linear guide and bearing block and change from 5mm pitch belt to 2 mm pitch belt drive.  I feel confident saying that once these modifications are complete the flaws/errors in prints will be due primarily to the nature of liquid plastic squirting through a nozzle, not positioning system errors.

I recently updated my web site with a sort of historical look at the project, including all the mistakes I’ve made along the way and the often failed attempts at correcting them.  Here is the page that shows how it all started, how it has ended up, and where it is going.  http://mark.rehorst.com/MegaMax_3D_Printer/index.html

Don’t ask me why I do this-  I have no choice.

MegaMax beginning

From this…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MegaMax present state...

To this…

Roomba-Bot!

Today, I stopped in at the Makerspace with the plan to work on a small project for a Halloween party this Saturday.

The plan was to take a “Roomba” robot vacuum cleaner that I got for $1.00 at a rummage sale, and covert it into the robot base for a giant spider or some other scary creature that could wander around at a Halloween party.

I started pulling screws out of the bottom to figure out how to remove the brushes and vacuum blower. It took some tinkering to figure out what I could and couldn’t remove and not cause a fault. In the end, it didn’t look like I could remove the blower motor and still have the thing run, so I simply removed the fan blades from the blower.

By that time, I was now thinking about video cameras and how easy it would be to run a 1/4-20 bolt right through the plastic. A bolt and two nuts quickly made a camera mount.

In the other room were some ping-pong balls, and I had a black sharpie. A little hot glue and Roomba-cam has some personality.

Look for Roomba-cam running around the Milwaukee Makerspace and please treat Roomba-cam nice – he is watching you and WILL upload to YouTube!

-Ben Nelson