After a long summer hiatus, I’m finally back working on the Solidoodle V2. Suffice to say it wasn’t ready to print right out of the box. Several issues were apparent – the bed was not level nor at the right gap from the tip, and there was a gouge out of the Kapton tape cover on the heated bed. Then I was bamboozled by an undocumented change to how the unit would get to the home position in addition to the reported temperature settings being 20C off of reality. These are all things one might not expect, but then again, getting an early unit from the start of production you have to be willing to work out some bugs.
After two firmware updates, bed leveling, replacing the Kapton sheet, and working on Skeinforge settings, I have my first successful print.
On the hardware side, the V2 is much better than the V1. The metal frame is well made, with crisp corners and solid construction. Actual threaded inserts are used instead of sheet metal screws into thin steel sheet. On the minus side, the electronics sit on the back side of the case with exposed wiring, and while this is low voltage, in the V1 the controller board was nicely isolated inside the case. I ordered mine with a heated bed which honestly could use a higher wattage heating element — it is slow to get to temperature, unlike the extruder.
OK basically if you set the temp of the extruder with Pronterface to 200C what you get at the tip is 218 – 220C! This is not good. Would somebody please save me the trouble of doing a thermistor calibration table for the firmware? If I set the extruder to 210C or whatever in the gcode file or from Pronterface, it should be 210C at the tip! (consider this a mild rant).
Parts not Sticking to the Build Platform
A huge issue. I spent a lot of time leveling, gap setting, and cleaning the Kapton. The build platform should be around 100C but mine never gets there. 85C is about all it can do, and then it has the issue of being wrong anyway with the thermistor calibration. I’ve not taken the time to measure the actual temperatures, but I did find an absolutely bullet-proof solution (pun intended). The 3D Systems Cube printer comes with “magic glue” to coat the aluminum build plate (there is no Kapton on it) and it washes off when done. Without a doubt this is some sort of PVA water-based glue [update: no, it is rather something like “Mucilage” of days gone by…] It is thick with a slightly amber color. It washes away with warm water in an instant, so it cleans off both the platform and part without a trace. Putting a thin layer on the Kapton surface, my prints have stuck with incredible success and are fairly easy to remove and clean!
After hours of getting this to work for the first print, I’ll have to admit that at times I was ready to pack it up and send it back or unload it on ebay. I’m no stranger to these machines (as this blog should prove) but the lack of updated and machine-specific documentation, a serious temperature calibration issue (which could lead to hot-end meltdown), and some other quirks have proven to be frustrating. And, the first prints are still showing oozing and other issues that mean the Skeinforge profile needs tweaked. I’d like to see the electronics better protected. Some of the wiring cables appear to be too short and I’m worried that with more use they will break from fatigue.
I’m a big fan of competition in these sorts of things, and at the price it is a reasonable value if only the unit would live up to the results I got in the V1 right out of the box. BTW an excellent new blog on the V2 just went live in late August, so check out Ian Johnson’s Solidoodletips for lots of helpful material if you are looking to get your V2 set up.
Did I mention the Cube(tm) 3D printer? Yes, mine is working as I write this. A review will come next. How are the prints? Incredible right out of the box! 🙂
UPDATE: After trying to make a known size calibration cube, it became painfully obvious that something was wrong. The X and Y dimensions were well within specifications, but the Z was crunched by about 15%. I thought of all sorts of things, including the firmware calibration factor for the Z screw but that was not the problem. The Z axis motor driver was way too hot and the idle voltage was well over the .500 V the troubleshooting page suggests. This is how it came from the factory, so I made sure all of the stepper driver boards were adjusted to the suggested values, or slightly less, and now things are fully functional. I’ll put up some prints of parts soon. One change from the V1 to V2 for the Z axis is that the V2 uses a 5/16 threaded rod and the V1 used a 1/4″ Acme screw (which is far more precise). But, such is the need for cost savings.
Rob Fusi said:
Very interesting experience and write-up, Eric, thank you. I currently have an order in for the Solidoodle 2, but have been rethinking it based on the posts of many like yourself. In reading the Google Solidoodle Group, it seems the device is far from “plug and play”, and one can expect to devote a notable amount of time to getting it up and running correctly (both software and hardware). I’m also trying to better understand the quality of the prints of these cheap machines, relative to one another. In your opinion, is the SD2 still a solid (no pun intended…OK, maybe it was) choice, or is it wiser to spend a little more on something like the Cubify or Replicator?
Eric Albert said:
Rob: my review of the Cube(tm) is coming soon, but to give you a quick comparison — it is a quality built device and the “ecosystem” works well right out of the box. The software is straightforward, setup is simple, and it just plain works. On the other hand, your options are far more limited — you must use their filament packs (it is chipped like an inkjet cartridge) and there is only one source (so far) for the other supplies and parts. Things we are used to “tweaking” (layer height, fill ratio to name two) are fixed at the moment. Hard to know if there will be more options. However, that said, if you want something that works without the fuss and trials of other units, then the Cube(tm) is the better option.
Rob Fusi said:
Eric: On another note, did you see the Formlabs Form 1 SLA printer? Thoughts on it? I ended up canceling my Solidoodle 2 order and put the funds toward a Form 1, so I’m hoping for the best.
Eric Albert said:
Rob: yes, and I think you made a better investment, so long as they can work out the bugs of a new design. Realize your material costs will be much higher, but so can the quality of the part you make. The potential is there to get some super results – I’ve several part samples from similar commercial machines. Be aware though that part design can be interesting – like a hollow part – where you get trapped, uncured liquid, unless you vent it somehow. Also, the resins have a shelf life much shorter than ABS filament, and even shorter once opened and in the machine’s vat. Having said all that, I wish I had a spare $2500 to go for one, but do let me know how it goes when you have your machine!
Rob Fusi said:
It is definitely a bit of a gamble to thrown down $2500 on an unproven machine, but I figured I’d roll the dice. It is also a negative to get the first batch of production units before they work out the bugs, but that is the price you pay to be an early adopter. I very much need the (relative) higher resolution for the projects I have in mind, and hopefully the Form 1 is robust, reliable, and consistent. I feel like there is warping in pictures of some of the sample parts, but that may simply be an optical illusion. They are offering resin at $129/L, which is more reasonable than commercial SLA resin, but nowhere near ABS rolls, as you mentioned. Feel free to reach out to me in February if you want feedback on the machine in real world use. In the meantime, I enjoy reading your blog entries.
David K said:
i realize this blog post is 8 months old. but i have to add my $.02 incase anyone reads this who is currently looking at the solidoodle 3 or new version 2 as an investment.
i recently purchased a SD3, and have had ZERO issues with it out of the box. you of course have to do your basic calibration steps that are common to every 3d printer on the market. bed leveling is a once a week maintenance procedure, so im not sure why OP said the bed wasn’t level as if it was a negative thing. you have to calibrate the extruder steps and flow rate for every new roll of plastic, so that falls under maintenance as well. and x/y calibration will change as the belts age and require readjustment and rods need grease. these are all the negatives i see people complaining about, and i don’t really understand because they are all basic adjustments that even need to be done on $500k CNCs.
not ranting, just wanted to point out to any potential buyers of solidoodles, that in the past few months many of the problems these old posts point out have been eliminated, and the rest of the complaints are basic maintenance that you have to do anyway, so just do it and dont complain. lol
Eric Albert said:
David: you are quite right in that my post is old; my bad in not getting some newer info posted. However, as I have machines from 8 different manufacturers, my experience is that the Solidoodle still has some faults. Does yours still use wirewound resistors for the extruder and bed heaters? If so, IMHO it is not a good practice. My Cube3D has only sealed cartridge heaters in both places and so does the MakerBot Replicator series. The bed leveling is as you say, but not made easy by the placement of the screw heads. Others are easily adjustable from the bottom. Kevlar reinforced belts can be used to reduce belt age issues. However, the Solidoodle is a good buy and I personally know they are committed to continuous improvement — watch for news later this summer. And thanks for pointing out I needed some refresh here! 🙂