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MakerBot Upgrades

I received my MakerBot upgrades last week and got a chance to put them through their paces this weekend. After having so much trouble with the original out-of-the-box setup, I'm so excited by the progress I made the past few days! Here's the list of things I suggest every MakerBot operator purchase:
Here's the lot of them in action:

The filament spindle is a great enhancement. It's nice to be (mostly) unconcerned with the filament getting tangled up and stopping a print midway through. I say mostly because so far I've had a couple jams. Only one actually caused the filament to strip. The jamming occurs because the filament slips off the spindle and gets wedged underneath. I suspect this problem will go away as I use more of the filament, but I'm trying to come up with a solution to prevent it in the meantime.

The heated build platform is a must have. It's amazing! The bottom of all my prints are now glassy smooth and warp free. The assembly instructions suggest roughing the Kapton. Don't do it! It works great smooth. I've read that cleaning it occasionally with isopropyl alcohol keeps the prints sticking to it nicely. I soldered on all the LEDs by hand with a soldering iron. It was my first SMT board and I think it was a great experience. I had a good teacher, but I believe anyone with a little soldering experience can manage it. The relay board was a breeze. I've read several times about people having trouble associated with powering the HBP via the extruder controller. The relay board is definitely recommended.

The MK5 drive gear and aluminum idler are really a necessity for anyone that's not switching to the MK5 extruder. The combination of these two make for a rock solid extruder. I've had zero problems. Another must have. When I took apart my original plastruder, I damaged the 606 bearing and the MK4 drive gear because I had to pry off the bearing with a screwdriver. This time around, I filed the inside of the bearing enough so that it slipped on to the motor shaft easily. Should I need to change anything in the future, it should be easier to remove!

Finally, Rick's plastruder is awesome. I bought one pre-assembled 0.5mm PEEK plastruder and one 0.35mm PEEK SuperPack. Rick tests every pre-assembled plastruder, includes a sample print, and throws in miscellaneous replacement parts and accessories. It's really a great value. The SuperPack is also great. However, I did have some issues with assembly. There are no instructions for how to build the Molex connectors, so I had to learn by trial and error. Fortunately, Rick threw in a few spares of most everything. Here's my tips for building a SuperPack:
  • When assembling a Molex connector, the male pin goes into the female plastic connector.
  • There are barbs on the pins that hold them inside the plastic connectors. When pushing them in, use a small stick, screwdriver, or needle nose pliers to push the pin in by sticking it in the hole with the pin. Don't grip the wire and try to push it in that way. You'll damage the insulation (like I did on almost every single one until I figured out what I was doing wrong). If you do damage the insulation, wrapping it up in Kapton should prevent any shorts in the future.
  • When soldering the pins to the hookup wire, be careful to keep the solder out of the female pin (or you won't be able to stick the male pin in). The best way to avoid this issue is to pay attention, solder from the back of the crimp pin (i.e. furthest away from the female end), and try not to use too much solder.
  • The modular thermistor insulation is especially easy to damage. Be extra careful when inserting the pins into the plastic connector.
  • When building the heater cores, leave them to cure overnight (not just for one hour like the instructions say). You'll get better results when you heat them up if they've had longer to cure at room temperature.
  • After completing a heater core, sand down the side that will be tightened against the nozzle (i.e. the side opposite from where the wires come out) using a sanding block so that it's flat. Don't try to do it by hand without a block or it won't be properly flat and it won't make good contact. The edge of the ceramic should be flush with the brass when you're done.
While playing with my new toys this weekend, I did some calibration prints, upgraded my MakerBot to use an extrusion catcher, and designed, printed, and assembled a multi-day pill container.

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