Cube 3d Generation – AWESOME!

Received my unit yesterday – but due to work obligations (work, yes!) I had to just leave it in the box.  However this new generation is amazing and awesome!  Ten minutes out of the box I was printing a test part (keychain fob) and a greeting (Hi!) in PLA.  The small keychain fob is the Cubify icon.

This new 3d printer has some amazing features.  It automatically levels the build plate, and automatically measures the z-height for nozzle clearances.  While there is no live feed camera, there is a very useful icon of the part being built shown on the color touch screen (and remotely via the client app).  As the build progresses, the icon turns from black and white to green like a progress bar on software installations. The nozzles are integral to the cartridge so they are replaced with a new one each time you replace a cartridge.  Users of Cube 1 and 2 machines will recognize the menu structure of the Cube 3, but now the menu top level scrolls across the screen.  Over-the-air firmware updates are now included, so you don’t have to hook it up to your computer for keeping that up to date.

The build plate is now aluminum with a white plastic coating.  Careful!  The coating seems soft but you still use Cube Glue and wow, does it stick!  Be patient and soak your part in warm water to soften the bond.  And by the way, do that in a non-steel container – the magnets are embedded in the build plate this time and they are strong!  I managed to get the build plate stuck in my square metal (iron) cake pan and removing it was not easy.

This machine is also quieter than the Cube 2 yet still makes some noise, but the level is nothing objectionable.  And the light show it puts on during calibration is quite fascinating.  Speed seems fine – a 3″ rook took 6.5 hours at 70 microns.  The result was incredible.  The layers were barely perceptible.

I’ll be updating this in the next few days with some pictures and build samples to show, but based on my first experience, this is definitely the best one out there!

CEL-Robox – Frustrating out of the box – But now much improved!

After months past the promised delivery date, my Kickstarter edition of the Robox from CEL arrived this week.  Oh wow, what a nice package and level of build! However, my excitement quickly turned to frustration, and now I have what is a cool looking paperweight that has never made a single part.

What is wrong?  The machine failed to load and purge filament.  The cause?  The head with its motor that flips nozzles and valves from side to side is dead, or perhaps the drive electronics behind it. It heats up, fan runs, lights come on, etc. but there is no extrusion. There is filament to the head.  I’m currently waiting for a response but as it is the weekend already in the UK I don’t expect any help until next week. Will update this if things change, but for now, I’m just using it as a nicely lit (programmable color) paperweight! 

Until more of these are out with users and properly evaluated, I’d avoid purchasing one of these.  At $1400 US plus shipping (post-Kickstarter price) you want something that works first time out of the box. I know one of the Beta testers – he is still waiting over a month for parts to repair his machine.  Again, another problem with the head.  My immediate impression is that this head design will be a challenge to keep working in the long term. So until this is resolved, my CEL-Robox is really a CEL-Robrick…

UPDATE: support finally answered back after the weekend, but it has been slow going.  I’ve been running a lot of diagnostics that don’t solve the (obvious) problem of no extrusion – a failed nozzle shuttle motor  and/or electronics.  I’ve suggested sending back the head for a factory inspection – if it is good (it most probably is not) then a replacement or fix at that end will solve this.   If on the off chance it is working with one of their machines, then I’ve got some more detective work to do with the main box.  But at least we will have the problem isolated by 50%!

UPDATE #2: Sent the head back by air mail to the UK and I’m now waiting for the head to be returned – they quickly checked it on one of their machines and it worked. So the culprit in this case was not the head, but my worry now is that the main board is at fault.  They are sending me some replacement head cables in the hopes that this is the problem.  Despite making some rather close inspection of that part of the system, including the connectors at the head shell itself, still this indicates that the problem is with the machine.   While I’m pleased with the level of response from their support team, I’m only a little closer to getting this to work.  And since I never got any error messages or clues from the system, I’m probably going to go to low-level continuity checks of the wiring to the head to get a resolution.  I have already invested 20 hours of debugging time with more to come.  I sure would like to get this thing to print!

UPDATE #3:  The head is back and they sent spare head cables in case something was wrong with the original parts.  So I refitted the head and powered it up – connecting the box to my computer again.  Of course the first thing I wanted to do was test the head nozzle shift – and I hit the button for a nozzle change and AMAZING — it worked!  Thing is, I had never seen this movement before in response to the nozzle change commands.  And I didn’t do anything to the electronics before this was returned, other than a firmware update that came while the head was in transit.  OK, so it is now on to giving this a try for building a part!

UPDATE #4: One more problem – I calibrated the nozzle height according to the instructions, but the head is still too low when it starts a job.  The result is a smeared first layer and occasional grinding noises (from filament getting jammed).  I’ve opened a support ticket.  I’ve not been able to make a single successful print on this machine yet, so despite what appears to be a well-engineered machine, I’m still unable to use it.  Sadly, this failure came during a somewhat public demonstration at my college, so it wasn’t a good sell for the product.

MakerBot Mini – First Impressions

Well today the Mini finally arrived.  Ordered back in late February, but given the problems of the 5th Generation Replicator, I was in no hurry.  I know I got a better engineered Smart Extruder module – one way to tell is if the module has a lot of thin fins in the cooling window (just compare to the pics on the marketing pages for the old style).

So I installed MakerBot Desktop 3.1.1 which supposedly has camera and WiFi support, along with the latest firmware for the Mini. Short answer – it doesn’t work.  Neither camera nor WiFi works for me and there is no clear explanation.  I use WPA2 personal on my router – the WiFi setup procedure seems to work (it sees several WiFi routers in the vicinity), I enter the correct password (no error message after that) but it never shows up on my client list.  And as for the camera, nothing there as well.

Auto levelling seems to work – but there appears to be a low spot on the right front of the build plate, as even the PLA raft doesn’t stick to it but warps (gosh, it takes a lot to get warped PLA on blue painters’ tape).  Something to investigate or maybe send in a support ticket.

So my first impression?  This is still a work in progress as far as the software goes, and perhaps some details of the hardware too. Sorry to say my XYZ Printing DaVinci 1.0 works better at this point and at 40% of the cost.

UPDATE:  After two firmware updates and one MakerBot Desktop update, I now have a fully functional Mini.  And WiFi and remote monitoring now work too.  Still, while I like the package, I think the overall price/performance is not great.  Why?

Rafts:  love them, hate them, you can’t turn them off.  Or at least not without hacking into the software.  Thing is, some parts just don’t need a raft – and PLA sticks well to blue painters tape.  Which, in my case, has to be two layers thick or my prints (raft included) warp off of the front of the build plate.

Layer height:  200 microns and higher (if you like), but no less.  Gosh, this makes small parts.  Smaller layer resolution would be nice.

Noise:  if you are in the same floor as the Mini in my house you know it is working.  And the second floor…

BTW the camera is practically worthless – it is more like a slow security cam feed – once every 8 seconds or so it refreshes.

I have made some quite acceptable parts despite these shortcomings.  However, the competition is at MakerBot’s heels and if they are going to survive they need to ramp up the QC (no more unwitting customer beta testing) and features/price point to make me stay with them.


Another Round of 3D printers

As summer approaches here in the US, two machines that were announced at the Winter CES event are now available.  The MakerBot Mini began shipping two weeks ago, and 3D Systems’ Cube 3 was set for late June deliveries with preorders now.  The third generation Cube claims a layer resolution of 75 microns (.003″) and prints in ABS or PLA in two materials / colors at once.   The exciting thing about this machine is the new filament delivery system, with nozzles attached to the print cartridges.  The price of the cartridges is the same as the previous Cube 2 model, but it isn’t clear if they contain the same amount of filament as before.  WiFi remote is still included but now there will be an iOS and Android control app too.Cube 3D printer

I plan on posting my personal experiences with both of these machines in early July.  The Mini uses PLA only, but you can source your own filament.  The Cube requires proprietary cartridges, but the cartridges come in PLA or ABS with more color choices.  A departure from the previous generation Cubes is that this unit changes to a Bowden-style remote extruder motor that drives the filament using an internal mechanism in the center of the new cartridge.

However, the next wave of personal 3D printers will be those using liquid photopolymers.  And again, capabilities are expanding while prices are going down.  A commercial SLA machine I know currently costs $10,000.  The build envelope is 4 x 3 x 4″.  It does not have WiFi or an internal buffer, thus it has to be in communication with a computer at all times while printing through a USB connection.  But this week, XYZ Printing announced the Nobel 1.0, to be sold for under $2500 at the end of 2014.  Here is a quote from their press release:

“Using stereolithography technology, also known as optical fabrication or photo-solidification, the print resolution of Nobel 1.0 reaches 25 microns. By improving the resin-filling mechanism, Nobel 1.0 provides a stable SLA printing quality so that users do not need to add liquid resin constantly throughout the printing process. Slightly larger
than other desktop SLA printers, the build size of Nobel 1.0 is 5 by 5 by 7.9 inches. It is expected to hit the market in 2014 Q4 at the price level of $2500 or less, making Nobel 1.0 the most affordable desktop SLA 3D printer on the market. Targeting users that are more concerned in printing quality, Nobel 1.0 works perfectly for jewelry designers, dentists, and industries that require rapid molding processes.”

 Nobel 1.0 SLA

Nobel 1.0 SL

While this technology is amazing for smaller, precision parts (like the applications mentioned above) there are downsides.  The photopolymer liquid is hazardous before it is cured, and skin contact is to be avoided at all costs.  The materials have shelf lives of perhaps a year.  Unused material must be disposed of properly – I have resorted to small disposable trays put out on a sunny day to cure.  Models must be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol to remove any remaining liquid, and depending on several factors, might need additional curing with UV light.  Also, this material is eventually degraded by exposure to sunlight, and generally has lower strength and heat deflection temperatures than ABS or PLA.  Supports are made of the same photopolymer, and thus are “breakaway” needing cleanup and removal.

I’ve amazed some of my students by taking a small cup of photopolymer and “drawing” in it with a blu-ray laser pointer.  I pour away the remaining liquid, leaving a “solid doodle” that recorded the light’s movement in the cup.  Yes, this stuff cures that fast.  In fact, heat is generated during the curing process, making for a small risk of fire if you get a large quantity in contact with some catalytic agent – so my advice is never use metal objects with these materials while liquid.

First Impressions – the DaVinci 1.0 3D printer


DaVinci 1.0It arrived just last Friday and is now sitting in my lab space – where it has made a number of successful models.  At the price it is quite amazing!  It worked right out of the box.  So here are some pros and cons based on my limited exposure to using it:

Pros: Software is easy to install, firmware updates happen quickly with no reset buttons needing pressed.  8 x 8 x 8″ glass build platform is heated, and has self-leveling software too.  At some out of tolerance condition, the user is guided to adjust the bed thumbscrews, but the unit is well marked to warn you not to adjust the bed from the initial factory settings unless prompted.  Unit is fully enclosed – top door is sensed when open but the front door is not. Well lit inside for viewing.  There is a 4-line LCD and 6 button interface with a home button. The extruder has a park position with a nose wiper and “spit” bucket for excess filament. Loading filament is easy but you do have to push a bit at first to insure the pinch roller catches it.  The machine goes into an idle standby condition after several minutes, and this time can be set in the menu.  The machine is pretty quiet – far quieter than my 1st generation Cube.   And it appears that the machine will store the current job and does not need to remain connected to the computer.

Cons: The software has a spartan look about it, but all the essential features are there. Slicing is slow, but there are a lot more options than the 3D Systems Cube client.  Four different layer thicknesses can be chosen, and the 100 micron setting does really work.  Setting profiles can be named and saved for later recall.  Currently only ABS can be used, but supposedly PLA is on the way.  Proprietary 600g cartridges are used, but at the current price, they are very competitive and even cheaper than some brands of open reel filament. The machine appears to be a bit slower than the Cube 3d unit, but works smoothly. So is it worth $500?  Definitely – this would make a great addition to a school classroom and clearly would work well for someone with little or no experience in 3D printing.

I’ll update this post with more details as we get more time with the machine.

UPDATE: After two weeks of use, this machine is doing just fine.  There have been some incremental updates to the driver software such that things like infill are now more explained.  The latest firmware (1.1.I as of this writing) adds several useful menu items, such as moving the head to enable easy access to the drip box for cleaning it out.  The only weird thing is that it insists on purging the head above the build platform at the beginning of a job, requiring a manual removal of that stray filament – or it will be dragged into the build.  Why this is happening (when it is so easy to fix) is beyond me.  Why not do that at the drip box???  But once a job has started, I feel confident to leave it to completion.  And if you are patient, the builds easily pop of the glass plate once cooled down – no need for a scraper. Given that there have been a number of early improvements to both driver and firmware, I suspect both will continue to improve the machine’s capabilities with time.

Of course, there is some debate about the chipped cartridges.  Yes, there have been hacks posted… but probably the biggest issue at the moment is just the availability of the cartridges in the retail market.  At $28 for 600g of ABS, that translates to $46 for 1 kg, and although you can get ABS filament for perhaps $30 a kg, I’ve not been all that happy with my samples of the cheaper brands.  At $48/kg, Makerbot filament has been consistently good (at least in my machines) but obviously without hacking the EEPROM you can’t refill an empty unit.

How do the builds compare to other machines?  With careful choice of parameters, I’ve produced models almost as good as a $15,000 uPrint machine.  And, the DaVinci has a bigger build volume though it is a little slower.  It definitely beats my Solidoodle 2, but my Cube 2 can make better quality sidewalls.  This may be a belt tension issue so I’m going to investigate that soon.

By mid-summer the 2.0 dual nozzle unit should be on sale in the US (it is currently on preorder in Taiwan, and they will not ship outside that area).  The WiFi enabled, Android touch panel version comes out after that.  I suspect that this model is causing heartburn in more that a few places that were selling more hobbyist-style models. There is certainly a place for those – but not for someone who has limited interest in sweat equity technology.

UPDATE 2: Yes, the sidewall problems were indeed a loose X belt which was simply fixed with a procedure that is now shown on the support page for the printer.  And with that, the prints have been really consistent.  The purge behavior is still the same, even though I’m now on the “J” firmware version and several client software versions later.  The fix?  I put a piece of 2 mil Kapton tape on the right edge  of the build platform where it purges and that solved it.

The New Crop

The Winter Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is for technically-minded folks something like a theme park for kids.  Having experienced one some years ago, it is about the only reason I’d make a visit to Las Vegas – they can keep the gambling casinos!

If the current show was any indication, 3D printing and scanning is certainly getting more and more attention.  Despite what manufacturers think we want and the prices they hope we will pay, the marketplace will eventually sort it all out.  In the technical goods world, the model over time is clear: as the technology becomes more adopted, features expand, prices shrink.  As we are still in the early days of consumer 3D printing, this trend is just starting to show up, and I believe there will be some clear winners and losers over the next few years.

As someone who always shops for the most bang for the buck, I’ve formed some opinions on the new crop of 3D FFF (fused filament fabrication) printers.  What becomes clear is that some models are way overpriced for their capabilities.  However, one difficult to measure parameter is the true value of the “ecosystem” that the manufacturer provides. Few provide data on noise levels or expected life of extruders, heaters, etc.  My source of information comes from what the manufacturer has published and not from real life tests – as of this writing, most of these machines have been announced but not sold.  However, my long experience in this area gives me some confidence that I am close to reality.

So what machines, as of early March 2014 are on the horizon?  The 5th generation Makerbots have started to ship this week.  Cubify 3d generation machines are still not open for orders.  I have heard early April may be the time.  The DaVinci 1.0 machine, which takes the prize currently on low price and competitive specifications ($499) does used chipped cartridges like the Cube 3D unit.  At $28/600g of filament that is better than the other currently chipped consumer model.  After more than a year in the making, the Makibot A6 at $300 as a kit is now shipping [mine is currently in transit as of late March].  And don’t forget Kickstarter projects Zeepro Zim, CEL Robox, and EZ3D Phoenix are soon to launch into the consumer space!

Also, the emergence of low-cost 3D scanners is upon us this spring, with the Makerbot digitizer, the Matterform unit, and the Rubicon 3D.

Rather than give you my own impressions, here are the links to the product pages for the above.  Happy researching!  I suggest you compare things like build volume and price, material choices, the “ecosystem” offered [client software, etc.] and any warranty after the sale.  I have my favorites, but that might change as I test them – more to come!

Fused Filament Machines (fully assembled)




Zeepro Zim:

CEL Robox:



Makibox: [as of summer 2014, Makibox is bankrupt and did not deliver all orders]





Note that all three of these scanners use laser lines and a camera to measure the object and create a point cloud.  Where things get interesting is in the client software, so while the hardware is fairly easy, the data processing part is not.

Cube 3D Printer Review

I’ve owned a first-generation Cube 3D printer

for almost a year (I ordered it in April 2012, but it was not delivered until a few months later).  I’ve printed a lot of parts with it and most were successful.  So if you are considering this machine, let me summarize the good and bad.  BTW the second generation machine is almost identical but for the build plate and material selection, but more on that later.  Both first and second generation machines offer only a single nozzle, but the client software does provide for rafts and supports.

First the good:

If you are a novice to 3D printing looking for a 3D printer that is more of an appliance than others, then this is a reasonable choice.  Think of this as a 3D printer with a 2D printer business model – most everything is proprietary and you really only have one source of supply – 3D Systems who sells it.  You can’t use your own filament (the cartridges are chipped to prevent this like ink cartridges in a 2D printer), the software to run it is proprietary (free and updated now and then, but still fairly “bare bones” at that), the Cube glue for adding adhesion is theirs, etc., etc.  In fact, the options are so limited in the driver software (both Windows and Mac versions) it severely limits making engineering strength parts (the second generation Cube will do “solid” fill parts though).

If you are looking for a very controlled experience, then here it is.  As for materials, they do offer a range of colors and two materials:  ABS and PLA.  However, PLA is only usable in the second generation machine, but people have hacked the first gens to work with this. And you are effectively paying $49 for .75 pounds of ABS (or PLA) which amounts to $65 a pound, when good quality ABS filament can be had for $16-18/lb. in the open market.  The ecosystem is well integrated into a special Cube web site, so much so that you have to “activate” your printer online before you can use it!

The web site has plenty of supporting materials:  latest driver software download, manuals,  guides, etc.  The supplies and some replacement parts are easily purchased there.  Customer support (when I needed it on a few occasions) was fairly fast and responsive.

The machine is quite compact and hidden inside it are some good mechanical components.  The axes are linear dovetail sliders with plastic bearing interfaces.  The Z and X axes are mounted to a rigid sheet metal frame while the Y axis is on a separate gantry that moves the platform.  The aluminum build platform is heated and can be easily removed – it is magnetically attached with locating pins.  There is an optical encoder on the extruder pinch wheel, and the processor is a fairly capable PIC32MX440.  There is a 2Gb mini SD card buried inside on the controller board, probably buffering space for job files. There are two USB ports, one only for updates the other for a USB thumb drive. WiFi is built in and can be configured in ad-hoc or networked mode. The touch screen interface, while small, is still easy to navigate.  The power supply is a “floor brick” like a laptop, but much bigger.

The Bad:

The first thing you will notice is this:  the first generation machine is downright noisy!  I tried to use it in a demo during a virtual statewide teacher’s conference and even putting it in the back of the room was too much for the participants to bear at the remote facilities – the noise got picked up by the microphone and drowned out the speaker.  Now, it isn’t so bad in a room but you will notice it.  I’ve heard the official second generation machine is quieter, but I have no idea if it is really “quiet.” Slicing a model in the driver software is pretty fast, but there are no choices of layer height.  And you can use .STL files (thankfully!) from anywhere, but they also distribute models in an internal format that can’t be changed or used elsewhere but on the Cube machine.  And in my opinion, the closed system with software and supplies is only an advantage if you are looking for an appliance that serves your needs in 3D printing and you want to put in the least “sweat equity” to get models made.

As for the second generation machines, the aluminum build plate was changed to a glass plate, and the heater for the build plate was removed.  Support for PLA as well as ABS material was added, and the second generation setting in the client software unlocks some new options for model fills.  But from all I can see, the basic machine is the same.  The price as of writing this was still $1299, but with other competition on the horizon, I don’t see how this will remain at that level for much longer.

New Reviews Coming Soon

Looks like early July for some new reviews on 3D printers, most specifically the Revolution  from QU-BD.COM, the PiMaker and the 3D Systems Cube.  The Revolution should be delivered to me before the end of June, the PiMaker kit is being delivered shortly, and I’ve had the 3D Systems Cube for 9 months (but no time to really go into a full article on it).

Revolution 3D Printer (6x5.5x5.5 Build Area)QU-BD  Revolution

UPDATE:  OK, July came and went, and like the promises of a lot of crowd funded projects, they don’t get fulfilled.  So as of early September, I’m still waiting on my QU-BD Revolution machine, despite being one of the first 10 in January of this year to order one.  Soon, so I’m told…yet other orders have gone out that were placed after mine was, and nobody there seems willing to commit to a ship date and my emails are ignored.  Not a good way to build a business for the long term where there is a lot of competition and more buyers expecting the vendor to be responsive to customer needs (Update: RXL received in late October and I will get something out soon on this unit).


As for the PiMaker, I did receive that in late July and got the main chassis work done, despite having very limited documentation at the time (almost none, really).  So, I decided to give it a few months to sort out the details, and that has proven to be useful.  And, somehow I totally forgot that I ordered a makibox ( kit back in April (that was a busy month) and that is expected late September or early October (Update:  shipping started in December 2013 but mine is still in the queue).  Then, slated for February 2014 is the Buccaneer 3D printer from Kickstarter (Update: this has been delayed to April 2014).

I did get my linear bearing and aluminum platform updates installed in the Solidoodle 2d generation unit, and that made a world of difference.  It is so quiet and smooth that it is hard to believe it is the same unit.

So once the backlog of reviews gets posted, you’ll have a lot to read and comment on.  I promise! 🙂

Solidoodle V2 – Updates



Wow, seems like an eternity since last September and I’m long overdue for an update.  First of all, there will be some new machines reviewed here in the coming months – most notably the PiMaker kit from the Kickstarter campaign, and the Qu-Bd Revolution machine.  Both are expected to arrive in March.  Look for some musings about the Cube and Cube 2 to be posted as well….

As for my Solidoodle 2, I’ve made some significant modifications.  So in no particular order, here they are:

Power Supply

I really got tired of the dangling brick power supply, so I replaced it with a 12V, 12A unit and placed it inside of the case.  The original unit was 12V, 10A.  Because I like to take machines to technical events, the original design is not good as the wires on the 12V end are just placed into a screw terminal block. So to accomplish this, I also made the next change…


X Endstop LocationDSC01083

In the as received design, the X endstop is a switch mounted on the right end of the X axis.   The wires for this are routed through the chassis and back under the Z axis.  This was in the way for the location of the new power supply.  So, I removed the switch, installed a smaller microswitch underneath the extruder mount, and added a fixed endstop plug where the original microswitch was mounted.  The wiring for the new location now is in the same bundle that goes to the extruder.  The pictures show it well, so I’ve included those here for you to see.  The result is that now all of the wires that come from the lower left chassis grommet (looking from the front) now stay on the left side of the chassis!  The wood stop was made from some scrap MDF board. I’ve left the MDF unpainted in these photos — much easier to see, but I later painted it black to match the plastic.DSC01082

Electronics Cover and Fans

Again for reasons of making transportation easier
(as well as keeping the electronics cool) I think this should be a standard part of the unit but then at the $499 price it is probably not possible.  The design is straight from Thingiverse thing noted here by lawsy:

About the only thing left to do at this time is to attach some acrylic covers to the sides and a door to the front.  I did not order the door/cover combo.  I am gluing magnets to the acrylic sheets that are thick enough to also be spacers so that there is a small amount of venting of the inside.  As for the door, two common hinges and a knob with the acrylic sheet will do nicely.  This will keep prying fingers out of the box, but the top will still be open.

Solidoodle V2 – First Successful Print



Solidoodle V2 first successful printAfter 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.

First Impressions

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.

Temperature Problems

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.