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Sunday, 26 January 2014

Nearly there - Taken two days so far

Do you want to know the good, the bad, or the ugly? or, how about all?

The Good

Our 3D printer kit is assembled. Communication between computer and printer is established. All mechanical and heating functions operational. Two of us spent most of the weekend getting this far and it was very pleasing to see the machine moving under command at the end. Next stage is calibration and then a test print.

The design of the unit and manufacture of mechanical parts is very good. The instructions are pretty good too and trouble shooting tips provided are helpful (and essential). However, assembling this kit is not for the feint hearted. I feel you really need to have skills in both mechanics and electronics to achieve success. The step by step instructions need to be followed precisely and anyone who cannot abide written instructions will not succeed.

The Bad

All the cables require fitting of connectors and some of them have terminals that have to be crimped onto the wire ends and then slid into a connector housing where they lock into position - permanently. Can you see what is coming?

I knew great care is needed to put the wire in the right hole but unbelievably I pocked one into the wrong hole and could not get it out. Only course open to me was to cut the wire and solder the right one onto the end.

I'd prefer the cables to be pre-made by the manufacturer but I know that would increase the price for the kit.

Another set back was a micro SD memory card that I destroyed due to my own clumsiness, helped by the fact that its connector is set back too far on the PCB. A long finger nail or thin tool is required to push it home. I used a scalpel that broke through the card casing into the circuit - kaput. But, we had another and with extra care on insertion it worked OK.

I expect every kit builder encountered some problem and probably different to ours. It depends on how skilled you are, how much patience you have and whether you can keep focused on the task.

The Ugly

Initially, and for some hours, we could not get communication working between computer and printer. Tried reinstalling drivers, swapped cables, even changed the computer. Communication is via a USB interface and all indications were that there was an active connection because Windows detected hardware and a USB active light on the printer was illuminated.

We read a trouble shooting tip to check that the USB socket lugs on the circuit board were all soldered as any loose could cause the connector to move breaking electrical contact, and indeed two of the four lugs were not solderd. I soldered these but still no joy.

At this point we were composing an email for escalation to tech. support when I thought to try reseating the socket. The surface mount USB socket looked well seated but never the less I resweated the four solder joints whilst pressing the connector onto the PCB to remake any broken surface mount connections. I then had trouble refitting the interface cable, which interfered with the PCB surface because the connector clearly had moved closer to the board. It required some force to insert the cable. Next time we powered up we gave a great sigh of relief to see the welcome message on screen from the printer.

I cannot see how the PCB ever passed manufacturing test, or at least testing of the USB interface. It could never have worked as it was. The manufacturer will be notified when we have completed the remaining tasks.

To Part 3

To Part 1


  1. Re PCB's. I used to work in an area that ran QC checks on PCB's. commercially made and populated boards ran at around 10% fail rate, everything form joints not soldered to foreign inclusions ( of some bizzare types too). Yes I would have thought that the cables would have been made up especially if they were needed to be crimped. "You have done very well" to quote young Mr Grace.... I think I'mm buy an assembled machine...

  2. The thing I love about 3D printing is that it saves so much time....


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