2011.09.09

Wisconsin in Sketchup
Wisconsin in Sketchup

After seeing the blog post about the United States Electoral Vote Map, I decided I needed to print out a 3D version of Wisconsin. So I grabbed one of the Sketchup files from Thingiverse and deleted every state except the one I live in. (Which, you know, happens to be Wisconsin.)

Wisconsin in ReplicatorG
Wisconsin in ReplicatorG

Once I had our dear state all on its own, I used this “Sketchup to DXF or STL” plugin (download skp_to_dxf.rb) to export it as an STL file so that I could load it into ReplicatorG.

Yeah, I know it’s tiny. But since everything up until now was the easy part, and the actual controlling of the MakerBot and the print process was the (supposedly) difficult part, I decided to start small. Here’s where it gets hard.

See, last week when I had my first MakerBot Adventure, Drew (the owner/operator and fellow Milwaukee Makerspace member) did all the hard work, while I just handed him a file. This time, he wasn’t around, nor was the laptop that normally connects to the MakerBot, so I was on my own.

I wish I could say skimming this wiki page titled How To Print revealed the secrets to the MakerBot universe, but it took a whole bunch of wiki pages, and some Google Groups messages, and some random searching based on error codes, and at some point, I got it mostly figured out. Mostly. (I also had to remember that I was using a Cupcake and not a Thing-O-Matic, as they have a few differences.)

ReplicatorG Control Panel
ReplicatorG Control Panel

Ah, the Control Panel… where the magic happens! Or should happen. Or something. All that digging around on wiki pages provided me with just enough info to be dangerous here, and put in some values I thought would work. The one thing Drew said was “As long as you don’t drive the extruder head into the platform, you should be good.” That was enough to scare me into being overly cautious, and my first attempts obviously had the head too high. The other issue was, the feed rate of the filament was zero. I tried really hard not to force things, but eventually applying more pressure got the filament moving. (Thanks Royce!)

One thing I noticed about the Control Panel is that the settings did not seem to stick, and I had to enter them over and over again. (Which is why I’m posting it here.) Besides that, ReplicatorG was fairly easy to use. I’m still not sure how to determine the size of the thing being printed, but I’ll work on that.

So at this point, I had the extruder head down low enough, plastic was flowing, and the platform was moving. That’s right folks… I was 3D printing!!!

And how did it turn out, you may be asking? Well, here’s some amazing images of my first “all on my own” 3D print.

Wisconsin [3D]
Wisconsin (with quarter, for scale)

Yeah, like I said… it’s tiny. No matter. I’ve made it this far… Now on to bigger and better things.

View the super large photo, or the alternate, at Flickr.)

6 Responses to “MakerBot Hands-on”

  1. Tim BertramNo Gravatar says:

    Cool! I can’t wait to see what your able to do.
    I think some of those settings are stored in the gcode header file. I would look, but I don’t have ReplicatorG on the chromebook

  2. Tim BertramNo Gravatar says:

    I have yet to find said header file I was thinking of. If I find it, I will keep you posted.

  3. Tim BertramNo Gravatar says:

    I was reading
    http://www.makerbot.com/blog/2011/01/26/how-to-get-better-results-from-your-3d-printer-%E2%80%93-part-iii/

    This page mentioned tuning your start and end files, but after reading it again, I don’t think it will help you with the settings you are having issues with.

  4. Yeah, it looks like there’s a lot to mess with. Way more than the Egg-Bot!

    I’ll tackle it again tomorrow morning, though now I’m really getting the RepRap itch. :)

  5. Oh, and I bet if I sat down with Drew and went over all his settings, that would help as well.

    I think he’s cool with me experimenting though, so I’ll keep hacking on it for as long as I can.

  6. Good news! Drew sent me his files, and I also looked into the generated G-code a bit more (start and end parts of the file) so I’m hoping to make some more progress this week. (Exciting stuff!)

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