Hello, welcome to my blog posts about 3D printing. Last week I received my UP! Mini 3D Printer and began the installation process. However, I started relatively late on Sunday and didn't have time to complete the task during the week. Having a weeks' break wasn't so bad, as it allowed me to reflect on what has been achieved so far, which in all honesty is not very much.
In this post I describe the trails and tribulations I have been through to print my first 3D model.
Saturday Morning 8.26am - Begin
Today I woke up and thought it would be a good idea to continue with the installation of the parts of the printer and see if I could configure it. The UP!'s instruction manual is very diagrammatic, easy to follow and is not too bad at all. However, it appears to be written by a non-native English speaker, which makes it a challenging read at times.
The first task of today was to install the material shaft, which is installed at the back of the machine and is used to support the Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) or Polyactide (PLA) spool. It seems it can only be installed in one way and although the manual's instructions are not that clear it is easy to do. The instructions from the manual are the following: "Install the material shaft .. put the circular bead side up and fix it into the hole at the back of the machine." As clear as mud!
The next thing I did was to install the cell or perf board. This is an approximately 140 mm x 140 mm sized board, which is used to support the printed model. The small holes in the board prevent the model being printed from slipping or moving about, while being printed. The cell board shown in the manual is like the colour of a PCB that has been etched, however the one I received was black, as can be seen on the right-hand side in the image below.
Figure: I downloaded this Dodecahedron from Thingiverse (http://www.thingiverse.com) which, after I managed to setup the printer, I finally printed out on the UP! Mini. The paragraphs following this image describe how I got to this stage of actually printing out models.
According to a YouTube video I had watched by the Inventable titled "UP! Mini Quick Start Guide: Set Up" the cell board should consist of a rough side and a smooth. However, I couldn't discern between the two sides on the cell board provided with my kit and neither could my sidekick who I disturbed, while playing on her 2DS, without much complaint I must add, for the task.
So I just inserted the board, as described in the instruction manual "Install the cell board. Press the platform, and insert the cell board through the slot at the two sides." Initially, it was a bit fiddly to insert, which was mainly out of fear of me damaging something, but eventually I got it to slot into place.
The next step described in the manual is the installation of the print head. This I installed by inserting it between the three magnets, with the fan on the left and the nozzle, obviously, facing downwards. The IDC cable is then plugged into the IDC socket, which is at the top of the extruder's header. It is as easy as that!
A 700g, white plastic, ABS spool is provided as part of the kit. This fits on to the material shaft at the back of the UP! Mini 3D printer, as can be seen in the image on the left. The ABS plastic is then fed into a filament tube, provided in the box of goodies, before the plastic is fed into a hole at the top of the extruder or print head.
Following the success of all of the previous steps, the next things I did as part of the installation process was to plug in the USB cable. This was proceeded by an attempt to install the printer's USB device drivers, which had failed to install previously.
To do so I turned on the printer and nothing happened! Eventually, after recovering from a blind state of panic, I realised that there is an on/off switch at the back of the printer that should be switched on first. Doh! As expected since the device drivers were not installed the printer was not recognised.
Saturday Morning 10,00am Break
Saturday Morning 2.00pm Resume
Time to get down to business! I navigated to the UP! Mini's installation folder located at C:\Program Files (x86)\UP and tried to install the printer's driver manually. I did not have much success at doing this, as can be seen in the dialog in the left-hand side of the image above. There was definitely something wrong, as the drivers were there, but just couldn't be installed. It was time to Google, which I did.
Eventually, after beginning to think that Google was not really my friend, I was convinced otherwise, as the search performed allowed me to gather enough information to understand that the device driver installation problem may have been due to the device driver not being digitally signed. Windows 8.1, by default, does not accept device drivers that have not been digitally signed to avoid one's computer being visited by unwanted guests.
Once I decided to pursue this line of thought it was not too long before Google repaid me for not abandoning it and led me to a website, which detailed how to install unsigned drivers on Windows 8.1. Although I was finally up and running the process I had to go through to get there did leave me a bit concerned about the non-technical user of the printer. They may struggle to get past this point.
Once the UP! Mini's 3D printer device driver had eventually been installed the next thing I did was start the UP software and extrude the ABS material. This is done by choosing the 3D Print menu item and select Maintenance, as can be seen, in the Image, above. In the resulting dialog that pops-up click on the extrude button, which is seen in the same image, but on the right-hand side..
When the nozzle heats up to about 250°C the ABS material, which is what I was using, begins to tickle out of the extruder. Good almost there. The next stage in the setup process is to calibrate the printer.
To calibrate the printer I navigated to the Platform Calibrate sub menu item in the 3D Print menu. The Platform Calibration dialog that appears allows one to manually set the nozzle height, as well as the X and Y limits the extruder head is allowed to travel. I eventually set the height to just over 122mm. This is quite a tricky step, as I was not sure how flush the cell board should be to the nozzle head. It turned out that they should be as close to each other as possible, otherwise the extruded material will not stick to the board. I learnt that lesson the hard way.
Saturday Late Afternoon 3.30pm - Succeed
Finally, finally I had reached the point where I could actually print out a 3D model! However, I didn't have any models to print. LOL. Eventually, on a hunch I navigated to the folder C:\Program Files (x86)\UP\Example where I found some uninspiring UP! Mini Spare Parts. I choose the UP mini BletBlock-X-V1 and loaded it using the UP application software, as can be seen the image above.
Clicking on the Print button led to the dialog shown on the left-hand side above. I left all the default settings as they were and out of curiosity clicked on the Preferences button. This led to another dialog box appearing, titled Setup: UP Mini(M).
I didn't feel I knew enough about the printer at this stage to begin tinkering with the settings so I left the contents of this dialog as the were. There are quite a lot of settings that can be set, which I will introduce as I become more conversant with the printer. Though a nice touch with a lot of the dialog boxes is the restore defaults button, which can be used if one's tinkering with the settings becomes over ambitious.
Clicking on the OK button on both of these dialogs led to a third dialog appearing informing me that 2.9g, or a miniscule amount, of material would be used and it would take 13 minutes to complete the print. The dialog also let me know that the job would be finished by 3.05 pm. The model produced can be seen in the image below.
Firstly, I would like to say that the quality of this photograph does not do the UP! 3D Mini Printer justice. I will need to retake this photograph to show the printer's true potential. For my purposes I am beginning to form the opinion that this is a great 3D printer. Apart from the decent print quality it is not too noisy, allowing one to watch TV, while it hums merrily away in the background.
The quality of the prints on the default setting seem reasonable enough for use in prototypes of robot parts, as well as in other projects. This second blog post on 3D printing has scratched the surface of what should turn out to be the beginning of a beautiful relationship between me and the UP! 3D Mini Printer.