RepRap Y Carriage


Contrary to what the photo above may suggest, I am not using a laser cut acrylic piece for the Y carriage of my RepRap… What I am using it for is a template to make sure things work properly, and once I’m sure I’ll use it as a drilling template to mount things on the Aluminum Y carriage I have. (Which Frankie gave to me, oh, maybe six years ago!?)


Here’s the Aluminum Y carriage. The photo looks weird because it’s from my flatbed scanner. I often scan objects so I can bring them into Inkscape and trace them to get a vector drawing I can work with. (And I had to scan it in two passes and stitch it into one image.)


Here’s the SVG file created in Inkscape by tracing things. Notice I added more holes, which will be used to hold the bearing blocks.


It seems to slide pretty smoothly. I mentioned in a previous post, the igus drylin slide bearings want to be under some pressure to work properly, so I adjusted them just right with the blocks I printed and did some slide tests. So far I’m pleased!

Next up will be the holes in the Aluminum. I’m not sure if I should drill and tap for 3mm bolts, or drill for pass-through of 3mm bolts and hold in place with nuts. My thought on the first method is that my alignment via drilling has to be perfect, while with the second method I can adjust just a bit with some slop. Thoughts?


Rapid RepRap Disassembly


Part of the process of [re]building my new RepRap 3D Printer involved disassembly of my old RepRap 3D Printer. It felt strange at first taking it apart, probably because of all the hours I spent putting it together, but it also felt sort of exhilarating.


Wow! I forgot how many nuts and bolts went into building a Prusa Mendel. The BOM calls for nearly 90 M8 nuts. The good news is, I can reuse all of these components. I don’t think I’ll have to buy any M8 nuts or washers for quite some time, and the threaded rod should come in useful in the future.


Here are all the components I reclaimed. I disposed of all the printed plastic parts, though I will admit that inspecting them before disposal gave me a few ideas for how parts should be designed.


RepRap (More) Printed Pieces…


I’ve put a lot of time into the x-axis left side recently. It’s one of the more complex pieces and I really don’t know if I’m doing it right but I can’t want to find out if it works. Since I’m starting with some existing parts, I need to design it to fit those parts. (I originally thought about using other existing designs that are available, but it would have meant purchasing the exact parts to fit, so here we are.)


Here’s my model. I’ve hidden the motor, rods, star nut thing, bearings, etc. This is just the part I printed. It seems to do all the things I need/want it to do, but it’s not on the machine yet, so who knows?


Here’s the print, with the pieces attached. Seems to look okay, that’s a good sign, right?


One of the interesting things about this project is that when I started designing my own pieces I also started to pay more attention to other designs out there, and that’s caused me to think about the decisions people made. Often decisions are made based on print orientation of FDM printers, or amount of material, etc.


I also learned that Cura has a feature called “Support Blocker”, which allows you to set areas where support will not apply. (Here’s an explanation, since I can’t find official docs on it.)


I also got some 12mm igus drylin slide bearings for the y axis, and printed a holder for them that allows them to be put under pressure for a solid fit. Things are moving along now!


RepRap Extrusion Preparation


I’m following the Mark Method of building a RepRap frame, which involves using large Aluminum extrusion for the frame. The process involves cutting it, milling the faces flat, and then bolting it together. No wimpy 3D printed corner brackets here!

Adrian met me at Milwaukee Makerspace yesterday and helped me get my Aluminum extrusion cut down to size. I now have seven pieces ready for the next step. There are three pieces at 460mm, two at 480mm, and two at 500mm.


I started by cutting the extrusion to length (plus 6mm) on the band saw in the metal shop. We added 6mm so we’d have about 3mm on each side to mill down to get the final length. Cutting through the 45mm extrusion took some time but it wasn’t too bad.


I haven’t used the Bridgeport before, so Adrian got me all set up and walked though the process. I’ve used a few lathes in the past so the actual milling process wasn’t hard to do, it was mainly learning a new machine. I can see why people love the Bridgeport! It’s a nice machine that has some great capabilities. (I’ve got the old Enco mill at work, so I may need to play around with it a bit more.)

Milling took some time, but there was nothing too difficult about it. One thing I learned about milling is that it’s a messy, dirty process. I mean, the oil and the chips and the metal and all that. Being such a digital fabrication nerd probably doesn’t help.


Neat trick I learned from Adrian. Use a black marker to draw all over the face of your piece so you can easily see if you’ve milled off enough material. (I guess that’s why there’s a container full of Sharpies in the Metal Shop.)


Next in the process will be tapping the ends to accept bolts, drilling holes through the extrusion to get a hex wrench to reach the bolts, and then screwing it all together. The whole process of cutting and milling the pieces took a little under two hours. I still need to clean up the extrusion a bit, take care of sharp edges and remove little bits of metal. Adrian suggested using a Scotch-Brite pad for that.

(I’d like to thank Adrian for all the help, and Mark for the good price on the Aluminum extrusion!)


RepRap 6000 Review…


In my last RepRap post I had modified the design to be much wider in the x and y planes, and as I did that I started to realized that it would cause a number of issues with the build. I mainly did this because I have plenty of Aluminum extrusion to work with, but as I thought about it more I started to remember why 3D printers are mostly the size that they are.

When you go beyond the typical build envelope of most 3D printers things get complicated. You can’t use 8mm rods because they’ll sag under the weight they carry, and if you make them long enough they’ll even sag under their own weight, so you need to start using other methods of linear motion. I thought about following some of Mark’s lessons from SoM, but things get expensive when you start doing that. (He does manage to scrounge and buy used things, but that can be tricky as well.)

I will definitely follow some of Mark’s techniques though. For instance, look at this build for the BA3DP. Start counting the amount of hardware used for those corner plates. Crazy! The Mark Method is to tap the (milled square) extrusion and screw it together. Simple! And you can always add some corner brackets if you want, but they aren’t as necessary and definitely don’t need as many nuts and bolts.

Some printer designs use T-slot frame members joined together with printed plastic parts. Avoid the temptation to do that. If you want rigidity, you have to bolt/weld metal to metal. T-slot extrusions are designed to accommodate standard sized screws. All you have to do to join two pieces is drill one hole and tap the end hole to receive the screw. Likewise, attaching things to the T-slot can be done by using nuts designed to fit the slots (or by making your own).

That’s my plan for assembling a rigid square frame using 40mm Aluminum extrusion. Speaking of the extrusion, here’s a test fit for some of the printed parts. I’ll probably start with these and tweak if needed. Mark suggested I make the motor mounts from square Aluminum tube, and that might be a future upgrade, but I’m okay to start with some printed parts. I do want to try to reuse many parts from my old RepRap, and use parts I have on hand, so I’m going to try to stick to that plan.


One thing I don’t have is 12mm linear bearings for my y axis. I’m going to try igus drylin linear bearings. I’ll need to make mounts for them that compress them a bit so they fit properly. I’ve read enough to know you can’t just zip tie them into place, (To be honest, wires are the only things I plan to zip tie into place.)

I still need to shop for hardware. Either 5/16″ or 8mm bolts, depending on what I’m ordering from BoltDepot or buying locally in the coming weeks.


One thing I’m still not totally sure of is where the vertical pieces of the gantry will sit yet. I’ve tried to calculate where to place it so that the extruder will reach the front and back of the bed properly, but I still don’t have that nailed down… partly because I’m still not sure how the x axis and carriage will work as far as mounting the hot end, connecting to the smooth rods and lead screws… I also want the carriage to be easily removable, and possibly replaceable with, another end effector. :)


Since I’m going to avoid going wider than I need to for this printer, I can get away with 8mm rods for the x axis like I did with my old RepRap. I’ll probably sacrifice a little rigidity and precision, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay right now to avoid paying more for a proper linear guide on a square Aluminum tube. (Future upgrade?)

I’d like to keep the x axis motor within the envelope of the machine, and not hang it outside as many printers do, but I’ll need to design that as I’ve not found a solution yet that fits what I want. Time for more CAD work I guess.