Adventures - and misadventures - in 3D printing

Level with me

Proper bed leveling can mean the difference between a day of wasted, failed prints or several successful prints coming off your bed. There are tons of how-to’s on bed leveling out there. One of my favorite 3D guys has a great overview. Check out Maker’s Muse bed leveling video.

One thing though – you can level until your fingers are raw turning those thumb screws, but if you have a Cartesian printer (XYZ, not a delta) unless your X Axis gantry is level, you’re wasting your time.

You might ask how I know this…well it’s because I just wasted a good 2 hours on and off getting a full bed of parts to print successfully. The front, left corner would print beautifully. I’d walk away and come back a few minutes later to a blob of PLA attached to the nozzle. What the heck! I checked my bed level with the ole’ sheet of paper. Nope – everything is good. Ok, maybe it’s the Flexion extruder tension wheel, or issues with the new filament Polymaker filament (ha – no way is it the Polymaker), or maybe it’s because the sun is shining and the printer is telling me to go outside and play with the kids.

Well after some outdoors fun, I came back to the little beast and really gave it a good once over. Holy crap! the X axis was nearly 4mm higher on the right side than the left. Seriously? How did I not notice that before? Well, of course, the answer is I wasn’t looking for it. See I had a successful print earlier in the day. But that was a red herring as it was only in the center of the build platform and only 10mm in diameter.

Last night I was printing a max build volume (~7″ tall) Low Poly Pikachu by Flowalistic. I’m sure you’ve all seen this little guy
Low Poly Pikachu
Love the low poly stuff and Flowalistic offers some great videos on YouTube reviewing his creations and quickly walking through the actual design process. You learn a ton.

Anyway…I noticed some layer issues randomly but nothing I was too worried about. I felt comfortable that I was good to go to sleep 4 hours into a nearly 10 hour print. Well I woke up at around 2AM to a nearly forming pile of spaghetti. The tail had broken off due to horrible layer adhesion. (Still need to work through that issue.) I can only guess that during the process of de-tail-itation, it pushed up the hot end and skewed my X axis.

So I spent a few minutes to fix it. Ran the X axis all the way to the top, disabled the stepper motors and manually raised both sides to the max. Then lowered it back down and used a leveling guide rod to bring the left and right sides within a fraction of a millimeter based on the Y axis rods.

Restarted the print and what do you know? The whole thing is printing beautifully.*

Moral of the story – take a step back and look over the WHOLE of the printer if the obvious doesn’t quickly fix it!

*Pardon the lousy quality photo. My Surface Pro 3 camera is awful, my phone is dead, and my DSLR is at work…ugh!

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