Friday, December 19, 2014

A Cube3 Essential (Shameless overstatment of fact)

OK.  This is a shameless plug.  So, if you don't like shameless plugs, exit quickly!

As mentioned earlier, I have designed, for my own use, a tool caddy to keep the essential tools I use with the Cube3 organized.  But, I believe that it is designed well enough to be very useful for all Cube3 owners and users.  The caddy is designed in three models characterized by the number of extra print tables it stores.  I use a 3 print table version.  But, there is a version that stores a single print table and another that stores two print tables.

ALL of the caddy STL files also include THE most useful item I created to help me set up my Cube3, a gap tool alignment guide.  It not only makes sure that the gap tool is under the correct print jet; but, keeps the gap tool from slipping.

Here is the single print plate version.

Single Print Plate Cube3 Tool Caddy

I STRONGLY urge users to purchase a second print plate so that glue can be put down on one plate while another is printing.  So, the basic caddy provides a place to store an extra print plate.  For those using the Cube3 in the classroom, even more print plates maximize your classroom print cycles.  So, the large version that I use provides for 3 print plates.  All, however, have an equal number of tool holders and the gap tool guide.

I can tell you from experience that it really helps clean up your Cube3 work area.  And, the gap tool alignment guide make positioning the Gap Tool a breeze.  No more slipping off the table!

Gap Tool Alignment Guide on Print Table

And, the great thing about it is that it can be left on the print plate during the auto gap and auto level

I plan to sell each Caddy design for $10.  And, I wish I could tell you that the STL was available on  But, while I had figured out how to do so on the first Cubify store, the new 'Design' feed has me completely baffled for the moment.  

As a test, I tried to upload the Gap, Level & Print Jet object with which I test the quality of the print setup on a Cube3.  You have seen images of the completed printed objects sitting on a Cube3 print table.  But, the automated analysis that came back stated that it could not be printed on ANYTHING! 

Cubify Analysis Report

That's a LOT of NOs!  You know of course what this means.... ANOTHER QUEST!

I had completely ignored exploring the changes to the Cubify site because the clogging issues took every bit of my spare time to research and address.  So, I am just getting around to expanding my knowledge of the other aspects of for entirely selfish reasons.  I want to sell you useful things to help pay for my passion!!!   If I can't figure it out, I can't sell!!! :)

But, first things first.  I need to first figure out how to GIVE you useful things... like the Gap, Level & Print Jet test file, above, for FREE!  As soon as I can figure out how to do it so that Cubify says it CAN be printed on a Cube3, I will post the link.  In the meantime, I am trying to find someone within that can hold my hand through the learning process.  I sure hope they don't mind dealing with whimpering old men.  There are a lot of things I DON'T know.  But, I DO know whining and whimpering!  I'm an expert at it.

By the way, as soon as I get the Cube3 Tool Caddies up on line you'll see another area of expertise...  Groveling.  I do that almost as well as whining!!!  "Please, oh PLEASE buy my uploads!"  How's that for a start.  LOL!

Thanksgiving is Not the Only Time to be Thankful

If you asked me to describe my current attitude in one word right this minute it would be "Thankful".

I consider myself among the most blessed Cube owners in the world because I am privileged to know some of the people behind the Cube series of 3D printers.  For that I am thankful.

And, I am also privileged to hear from many of you.  This is a most resourceful and creative community.  You know about Eric Albert and Chris Crowley.  And, you will soon hear about Ken Sipes when I publish an email that he wrote that set me off on a new quest of discovery about how our printers deal with thin walls, etc.  I love being around people with brilliant, perceptive and creative minds.  And, that is exactly what this blog has done for me.  For that I am thankful.

I love 3D printing because it turns intangible ideas into tangible objects.  3D printing is a solution waiting for an active, inquiring mind to envision.  My 3D printers sit there ready and waiting to jump into action when my brain comes up with an idea.  For that I am thankful.

The Cube 3 is an engineering marvel and, in my opinion, is HUGE leap forward for consumer 3D printing.  Feature after feature, the designers thought about us at every step in the design process.  But, more importantly, they have taken our feedback and continued to improve the firmware and hardware as time goes on.  For that I am thankful.

Clogging was the elephant in the room with the delivery of the Cube 3.  Fortunately, the idea that it was a filament quality issue rather than a fundamental design issue seems to have been validated by my success using the new filament!  For that I am thankful.

The Cubify support staff has been under immense pressure and, based on most of the emails that I've received from users, they have been on top of things to the best of their ability.  While 3D Systems communications to users could, admittedly, be improved,  The support team has performed very, very well under the recent circumstances.  For that I am thankful.
Note:  While some have suggested it was a waste of time replacing clogged cartridges with cartridges containing the original filament, that was all that was available at the time.  And, until run, there was no way to know if a cartridge would fail.  Interestingly, some users have had NO issues with their original cartridges.  Remember, my original Black cartridge worked perfectly.

The Cubify Team didn't panic.  They just kept on moving forward to address the early issues.  For that I am thankful.

Finally, It has been my privilege to see the Cube manufacturing team in action.  Each year we take our YouthQuest 3D ThinkLink cadets to the factory in Virginia so that they can see the very printers they are using in class being made.  This brings me into contact with the people that actually make our Cube 3D printers.  And, to a person, I KNOW that they are committed to seeing that the printer you get has been well built and tested.  Of course there is probably not 100% perfection.  But, I can tell you that they try VERY hard to achieve that goal.  And, that extends to the fantastic people in charge of getting everything out the door and onto trucks bringing our printers and supplies to us.  I love these people!!!!  And, for them, I am VERY Thankful!!!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

20+ Hour - Two Colors: Success

The first intrinsically useful 2 color object has successfully completed.

Here is the printed Cube3 Tool Caddy that can hold 3 extra print tables.

Print Cube3 Tool Caddy

And, here is what it is intended to do.

Cube3 Tool Caddy in Use

 It still needs a little work from a design perspective.  The tools that now fit are:
  • Palette Knife
  • Pliers
  • Hex Key for table alignment
  • 1.3mm Hex Driver for Print Jet Alignment
  • Glue (Stored upside down)
  • Gap Tool
  • Printed Gap Tool Alignment Guide
  • Sand Paper
  • 3 Extra Print Plates
What does NOT yet fit correctly:
  • Cube Manual USB Drive
I will now print a 1-bay (Stores 1 extra print plate) version in a single color to see how long it takes.

But, I'm very, very pleased with the result.

I use a previous version of the Caddy and it is really helpful.  When I get the design absolutely right I will  put it up on and provide better images of the caddy and the gap tool alignment guide at work.

Things are definitely looking up.

12 Hours in and Still Printing Beautifully

I'm 12 hours into a 20+ hour print job and, so far, it is printing very precisely and extremely cleanly.  The next 8 hours tells the tale.

The object being printed is a 3 plate bay version of a design, if successful,  that I hope will be made available on the Cubify cite, as will a single plate bay version and a dual plate bay version. 

Cube3 Tool Caddy - 3 Plate Storage with Gap Tool Guide

As you can see, the are many tall structures and they are printing perfectly so far.  The colors in the image are notional as the actual colors are chosen at print time.  Of course it would print MUCH faster in a single color.  Normally, I would only make the gap tool holder (right object) a different color to make it more visible in the cradle in which it sits in the caddy (behind tool towers).

It caddy really helps to organize Cube3 accessories and recommended tools compactly.  And, the gap tool guide makes using the gap tool a LOT easier.  WAhen it finishes printing I will put up an image with all the tools, etc. in place.

See you in 8+ hours with great news, if it finishes successfully, or sooner with not-so-great news if it fails.  I'm pretty confident it's going to run to completion.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2 Color Test Results: New Filament Success

For the first time since I received the new Cube 3, I can report that I have been able to successfully print in PLA using the new filament.  I am VERY happy.

Here is an image of the new design for testing Filament, Gap, Level and Temperature Control.

And, here is the printed results.  Click on the image to examine it in full size.  

The "R" shows some close wall anomalies; but, other than that, the test was a resounding success.

As soon as I get some white filament, I think I will throw a little party and have some home made icecream!  It was easy to whip up using Moment of Inspiration.

Moment of Inspiration Icecream Sundae

Now, none of this would be possible without paying close attention to ensuring proper gap and level before printing.  New filament is not going to fix a poor gap or level condition.  But, I think we are now off and running!!!

I plan to upload the test file to 

Dual Jet: Filament, Gap, Level & Jet Consistency Test Object

The problem we have when we try to determine what is causing clogging in our printers is that there are so many factors that can contribute to the problem.  In designing a test object to print, all of these factors need to be considered.

I have come up with a design that I think addresses all of these issues.  It looks like this.

Filament, gap, level & Temperature Print Test Object


It turned out that the new filament delivery system required an equally new level of quality control in the PLA manufacturing process.  That has now been accomplished.  I am told that the current ABS should work equally well in a well calibrated printer.  But, to accurately test whether or not the new filament is up to the task there are other factors to consider as we design a test object to attempt to print
In the above design, the objects for both left and right printing are identical and relatively simple to rule out STL design issues.  If one color prints correctly we can assume the other print jet should be able to handle the design also.  I will only use a cartridge in the right side of my machine that has been tested successfully in the left side.


Clogs in Cube 1 and Cube 2 were almost always caused by a gap issue.  Either the user put the plate on without properly seating it or the gap was so small that the print jet touched the glass plate.

While the Auto Gp on the Cube 3 is nice to have, in my particular machine it always leaves the print jet touching the table.  I have to manually adjust the gap.

Gap issues are compounded in a two print jet machine and that is especially true for the earliest runs of the 3rd Gen Cube,  We have to ensure that both print jets have the proper gap, not just one.  Recently delivered Cube 3 printers should no longer have this issue.

The best way to determine if the gap is correct is to print an object that is no more than a few layers thick so that we can analyze how smoothly the layers are printed.  In this case, the square areas are .70mm thick and large enough to give us an accurate picture of our gap situation.


In all three Cubes, one can set a perfect gap at the center of the table only to find that the print jet is too close on one corner or the other.  The Cube 3 is INFINITELY easier to set the level of the print plate.  And, I am testing a new firmware (V1.09A), which may be already be released by the time you read this, that refines the auto leveling process even more precisely.
The reason why the large, thin pads are arranged in the corners of the print table is to allow us to assess the level of the print plate.  If we get a nice smooth result in one corner; but, an irregular result in another corner it should help us decide if we need to pay closer attention to our print table leveling.

Print Jet Consistency

In my machine the new filament works flawlessly on the left side.  But, I have managed to clog one of the cartridges that worked worked perfectly on the left side when I moved it to the right side. That would lead us to believe that it is either a filament issue or a print jet temperature control issue.  But, unfortunately, the two color design I was trying to print was very complex and actually was a poor choice for my first two color test of the new filament.

One of the Cube 2 machines used in our YouthQuest 3DThinkLink classes had a print jet heating failure.  From the earliest RepRap days heating failures have been common.  So it is not out of the question that the right print jet has a temperature control issue causing it to behave differently than the left.  But, to actually prove that I need a simple print task being performed by both left and right print jets. 

There is a related scenario where instead of the temperature dropping too low, the melted filament backs up to a point beyond the heated area and cools.  If this should happen we would, most likely, see a separation where the extension enter the print jet tip housing.  I haven't seen that as yet.
The simple circular towers are 20mm high.  They provide the best test for finding most print jet temperature issues.  Since both print jets are performing the same task on two different areas of the print plate we can assume that a failure of one color is an indicator that temperature control should not be discounted as a clog causation.  If a color fails before completing a tower, I will return the printer for evaluation.
If this test completes; but, I still experience print failures, I will extend the tower

Current Observations as the Objects are Printing.

I felt the need to redesign my test to reduce the time.  The new print job is reported to be about  4 hours vs. 12 hours for my first design.  This is an image of the earlier design that I aborted to start running the more efficient test.  It was NOT stopped due to a failure.  It was stopped to allow me to run version 2 of the test file.

Even so, it tells me what I needed to know.

Aborted Test using version 1 STL

The thin pads printed completely and the towers printed to about 7mm tall before I stopped it.

Essentially everything looks  positive.  I am printing with Red in the left side and Blue in the right.  Previously, the Blue has been used to create several mid-sized objects and the results were beautiful.

Because the thin pads extend outward, to the corners, I am able to observe the quality of the print.  Based on the pads in the above image, I thought my gap was probably a bit too large for both print jets.  But, it turned out that the STL had issues that cause the pad to look a bit rough.  The new version, while not yet finished, has printed the pads perfectly.  So I think the gap is actually OK.

So gap and level can already be eliminated as the cause of a clog.  All that is left is the potential for temperature control or filament issues should it clog.  And, while I didn't let it run to completion there was no clog at the 7mm height.  All towers were of equal height.

That probably means that my earlier clog, with the untested complex object, was caused by an STL design issue, 

Complex two color print - right jet failure

Perhaps the design was too flat to be supported well enough.  Here is the bottom of the piece that exhibits drooping from being too horizontally to shallow.  Note how rough it is.  THAT is a DESIGN issue.

Complex two color print - bottom view

I have no idea if this condition alone could cause clogs.  But, it's certainly possible.

In any case,  I'm running now version 2 and it looks better than the first version.  The great news is that I should be able to see a problem shortly after it happens because all towers should be equal in height for each layer's print cycle.  When I see a difference of more than 2-3 mm I can abort the print job.

NOTE:  Great News!!!!  No more little fragments falling on the print table from the parking and purging operations!  The print table is absolutely perfectly clean!   Be sure to update both your client and the firmware to the latest versions.

Be sure to check back to this same article later to see the results. 


 I declaring the new PLA works!  This is the finished print. No Clogs!!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

New Filament - So Far, So Good!

This past Friday, I picked up 3 cartridges loaded with the new filament.  The colors are Yellow, Red and Blue.

The factory receives spools of filament that they then must load into cartridges, seal them in packaging and load them into boxes.  They were at the cartridge building stage at the time I went by and they weren't even boxed as yet.  I only mention this because it would be unrealistic to expect some on your doorstep tomorrow.  They only released these to me for testing for a report on this blog.

They know that you are anxious to know if the new filament is the answer to our PLA clogs.

While I haven't been able to really give the new materials a thorough workout, so far, with the Yellow and Blue, I have not had a single clog running small and medium jobs of moderate stress.  I have not tried the red as yet.

Both the Yellow and Blue performed flawlessly from my left print jet, which I am certain, is perfectly gapped.  In trying a two color print with the Blue on the left and the yellow at the right, the yellow came loose from the plate after about 15 minutes.  This was NOT a clog problem.  It simply means that I have not yet achieved perfect print jet leveling.  The print from both colors was flowing nicely until the yellow piece broke loose because of a poor first layer.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the new filament does look like it is going to do the trick! 

And, I might add that the latest Cubify Client software has also fixed the droppings issue with two color prints!  There are absolutely NO little random bits of color filament to mar the print..

The bottom line is this:
  1.  I'm confident the new filament solves the clog issues with PLA
  2. I need to go back to the drawing board and make sure my print jets are even.
For me to declare absolute success it means being able to print colors from both print jets successfully.  So, I'll work on leveling my print jets to give both sides perfect gap and get back to you.  :)