Prusa i3 3D printer build

We recently decided that we needed a new 3D printer for the space, given that one of the members who had been kindly lending us their printer (thanks Vic Harkness) has moved away, and the other main printer we have, which is also lent by a member, is currently not working. We’ve had several people joining recently because they wanted to do 3D printing, so we decided it was important to have a printer that was owned by the space, which we could maintain collectively. We settled on a kit of the Prusa i3 printer from prusa3d.com (see image, which is copied from their site).

Original prusa i3 mk2 kit

The box arrived just in time for our Wednesday open meeting last week, and was eagerly unpacked. As several other blog posts I’ve read have said, it was immediately obvious that a lot of care had gone into the design and also the packing of this kit. The outer box was pretty substantial and all the parts were well organised and neatly packed inside smaller boxes. The 3D printed parts and smaller fixings were put in plastic bags labelled by the assembly they belonged to, which makes it easy to work through the assembly manual and know that you have all the parts for the current step to hand. There were even screen printed labels on the motors to say which axis they belonged to.

Starting unpacking
Starting unpacking

Due to peoples’ time commitments, we had to wait until Monday morning to make a start on building the printer. The building was done by Gustavo Carreno and Andrew Baxter.

The assembly manual was pretty clear and helpful, with colour coded photos of the tools needed and the 3D printed parts used in each step. There is an online version available on the prusa3d website, which people are advised to consult in case of problems. The online version is also useful if you can’t make out the details in some of the pictures.

The assembly manual
The assembly manual

The main thing to say about the build process, apart from a few small points I’ll make later, is that it’s pretty much just a question of preparing yourself for a number of hours of careful assembly work, following the instructions step by step. (We did it over 3 days, but two of them were half days. Some people have done it in an afternoon, but expect to take longer if you’ve not built a printer before). None of the steps are that difficult in themselves – you just need to keep paying attention to what you’re doing. I would suggest that it might be worth at least skim-reading through the instructions for each stage of the assembly before you work though and build that stage, just to get an idea of where you’re going with it. However we mostly just worked through in order and didn’t have any real problems.

Gus working on the Y-carriage
Gus working on the Y-carriage

One thing that we did a bit differently from the manual, which I think is worth passing on, was to do with aligning the y-axis stage. If you look at the assembly manual, on page 6 of the version I have, under ‘Step 6 – Fully assemble the Y-axis stage’, it points out that it’s important to get the axis perfectly rectangular at this point, or you’ll have trouble calibrating later. One thing here is that it’s probably better to get a reasonable alignment here, but wait until a few steps further on before you really try to get it precise. This is because in the following steps you will be fitting the stage to the main frame, and also to the smooth rods that carry the Y-carriage, so some of the dimensions may need to be changed.

Another thing is that the automatic calibration process is actually pretty good, at least at aligning the X and Y axes, so the kit should be reasonably forgiving of small alignment errors. In other words don’t do what we did and spend a whole morning trying to get the Y-stage perfectly aligned, only to discover that (a) as I’ve said above we then needed to change things again, and (b) the automatic calibration takes out most small errors anyway!

You might also like to try the following trick for getting the frame rectangular and level. Do this after you’ve fitted the length of the carriage to the 8mm smooth rods, as in step 10, but skip step 9 (‘tighten the sides to the y-axis stage’) for now. In other words, at this point you should have fully assembled the Y-axis stage, and adjusted the length of it to the smooth rods.

Aligning the Y-axis stage
Aligning the Y-axis stage

What we did next was to start by loosening all the M8 nuts on the Y-axis stage, so that it could adjust in width (but not length) to fit the main frame.  Next we slid the front end of the stage into the slots in the frame, setting the width. Then, which is what is different from in the manual, we moved two of the loose M10 nuts which will eventually hold the frame in its final position all the way down the threaded rod until they could be used to clamp onto the frame, and used a spanner to tighten them, as shown in the picture above. The idea was that with the M8 nuts still loose, this would force the two M10 rods to be close to perpendicular with the frame and thus make the stage rectangular. Then at this point we carefully tightened all the M8 nuts.

Finally we took the Y-axis stage out of the frame and used a ruler to check all of the widthways and lengthways dimensions at each end, and made final adjustments as appropriate. Whether this is better than what the manual suggests, I’m not sure, but we did okay when it came to running the automatic calibration.

Gus admiring the completed Y-axis
Gus admiring the completed Y-axis

The X and Z axis assemblies were pretty straightforward – as I said above just a case of working through the instructions carefully. Tightening the X (and Y) axis belts was a little bit tricky – the knack seems to be to make a loop of about the right length held in a pair of pliers, then keep trying it against the belt holder and if it’s too loose, keep moving it tighter one tooth at a time and trying it again.

Andy working on the extruder assembly
Andy working on the extruder assembly

Don’t do what we did and forget you can slide the whole X-axis down along the Z-axis to get to the back of the X-carriage and work on the belt. You might also like to pause at this point and admire the skull-like appearance of the back of the X-carriage!

Yes the X Carriage really does look like a skull from behind
Yes the X Carriage really does look like a skull from behind

The extruder was also pretty straightforward to assemble. Managing all the cables going from the extruder to the electronics was tricky, but we did all right following the instructions step by step. Using a piece of 3mm filament to stiffen the cable bundle is a neat trick.

Gus working on the cable management
Gus working on the cable management

After the extruder, it was time for the LCD assembly. The main thing here was to be careful not to crack the circuit board of the LCD while getting it into the plastic frame.

LCD assembly completed
LCD assembly completed

Next was the power supply and heated bed.

With the power supply and heated bed assembled
With the power supply and heated bed assembled

Finally, it was time to wire it all up – the electronics assembly. One difficulty here was that because all the parts on the electronics housing are black, it was hard to make out what is what in the printed photos. The online manual is useful here. Getting all the cables to the right place needs a bit of care, as many of them take the same fittings. However if you just follow the manual and double check each stage of the assembly you should be okay.

Gus wiring up the electronics
Gus wiring up the electronics

Finally, after 3 days work, on and off, we had a fully assembled printer. At this point, we had to break while I (Andy) went to an un-missable appointment and had lunch. Gus chivalrously waited for me to get back before we did the grand turn on.

Somewhat to our surprise (mine anyway), it passed all its tests first time. The calibration took a while but went all right (although the first time we did it, the printer seemed to lose the settings when we turned it off and we had to re-calibrate). It was interesting to see how it first scanned roughly around the points where the calibration markers were, and then homed in on them more precisely.

Then it was time to do the first print. There are several prints on the SD card that comes with the printer – we chose the Prusa logo, which came out nicely.

Printing out the Prusa logo.
Printing out the Prusa logo.

I don’t want to spend too much time on a review of how the printer works – this post is meant more as a guide to the build process rather than a review. Maybe one of us can do a review of the printer when we have a bit more experience using it. However, my first impressions are very positive. The prints are as good as or better than the Lulzbot TAZ we were using before, the calibration system is very neat indeed, and the LCD controls are easy to operate.

In summary, I’d say that this is a well designed and neatly packaged kit which anyone with a reasonable level of mechanical aptitude should be able to put together over a couple of days without too much trouble.

Build A Bug and Save Your Mobile

The Event

October sees the annual, full-weekend, Lancaster fun Palace return to Lancaster Library and just as we did in June LAMM will be playing a great part.

LAMM will be holding two great mini-builds as part of their series of Fun Palace events. Last time we were at the Library LAMM successfully entertained you with the very popular Gadget Destruction event which saw us, and you, tear up a host of gadgets and computer equipment to demystify modern electronics and find reusable parts (watch the video here). This time our theme is construction.

For our two day events we will be holding two different workshops, continuously throughout both days. The first if Build A Bug and the second Save Your Mobile.

Build A Bug

Kids and adults will love this workshop as we teach you how to build your own small wooden bug from a range of coloured wooden parts. There are a host of shapes to choose from in a variety of colours which will mean that bugs can be individualised by you and your child. The fun doesn’t stop there. Our bugs have light up eyes, or legs, or wings, but probably eyes, as we add a battery and some LEDs to the build.

This workshop will allow young minds to blossom in a creative and fun project and teach them elements of construction, design and simple electronics. Best of all they get to take the bug home at the end.

Save Your Mobile

How many of us have an electronic device, a mobile or small media device, that has an easy to scratch screen, or a shiny case that picks up every scratch or dent of the pocket or bag we toss it into. Sure you could buy a case or a pouch for it, but anyone can do that…

LAMM will show you how to build your own pouch out of simple materials using a traditional method that is hundreds of years old. Learn a traditional craft with a mini-loom and make a pouch for your device that is as individual to you as you want it to be. Once again you can take away your creation after the end of the workshop.

A Thank You

Materials for the construction of both bugs and covers have been kindly donated by LAMM (members) and by Lune Crafts. Build A Bug is based on an original design developed by Hacman (the Manchester Hackspace).

…a bit more info

You can see more details about this event on the Lancaster Fun Palace Website:

Lancaster Fun Palace

Presence sensors revisited

In my previous post I talked about 24v presence sensors for Loxone home automation:

Is there anybody there? Click once for yes!

Shout out to Malc Crook (https://hackaday.io/mal8837) and Adam (https://hackaday.io/Bobbsta10) who both contacted me to say that the PIR linked to in the original post is no longer the one you get when you order the same item from the same seller 🙁

Fear not, for I have hacked the new one this evening and it’s pretty straight forward 🙂

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Well that mostly looks similar…

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Still looks similar…

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Well that’s different. The two boards are fixed together and the front board has to come away from the plastic shafts for altering the time and lux level

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Those are really annoying to get back in but I’ll come back to that.

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Different AC supply board this time around. Let’s take a look see what’s going on..

pir-ac-board-layout

So capacative dropper is driving an actual bridge rectifier this time rather than four discrete diodes. Seems like there’s a lot here we don’t need….

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I always end up with spare bits when I take things apart….

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Right, so now we look like:

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So having removed all but the diodes for protection and the capacitor for smoothing the supply, we’re left with +24v going in and a working automation PIR! I put the front board in place without screwing it in and put the spacers on the back board as it came but without the screws. We’re no longer dealing with mains voltage and the spacers keep everything sensibly… well… spaced… Best update the labelling…

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That’s a bit neater than the previous scribblings with a sharpie… 🙂

I’m hoping that step by step pictures and the diagram will make it clear how this change works. The PIR module is 24v all along, all we did was remove the AC components and drive it directly.

There doesn’t seem to be an LED on this model. The relay is triggered by dropping the signal line from the front board to 0v. It floats at +24 otherwise so technically we could lose the relay completely and drive that back to an input. I’ve not tested that so your mileage may vary.

Hopefully that update will be useful to people!

Keep hacking, Ian.

Why make when you can bake

The upcoming open Saturday (Saturday 17th September) will see a change to the hackspace.  While we busy ourselves with preparation for the Lancaster Fun Palace (October 1st and 2nd), there will be something spongy, crispy, something with a lovely crumb or maybe a good snap. Yes that’s right we will be holding an informal bake off.chocolate-cake-1576494_640

If you watch the BBC, you’ll be no stranger to The Great British Bake Off which started back on the telly last week. Quite a few of us seem to be keen bakers, so for a bit of fun we’ll be taking our best bakes into the space for a bit of a competition.

There will be three prize wining classes

  1.  Biscuits or Cookies
  2. Bread
  3. Cake

Please feel free to bring your best bakes and join in

Prizes will be given for the best in each class chosen by those there.

(Please note we will NOT be baking in the space)

Okay so that’s the fun part.

We do need peoples help to prepare for the Fun Palace and there are, as always, jobs to be done around the space.

Fun at the Fun Palace

Last Saturday (18th June) the Lancaster and Morecambe Makers were hosting a ‘Gadget Destruction’ workshop as a part of the Lancaster Mini Fun Palace.

What is Gadget Destruction?

Well it is as simple as it says on the tin, it is a chance to take apart gadgets and items and see how they tick.

The theory works like this:

We all pass through the stage of wanting to pull apart things to see how they work (some of us never leave that stage). Often though we do not get the chance. If they are functional then our parents/guardians and siblings might be a little miffed if we take a screwdriver to the items. If they are broke we may not be praised for the mess or potential danger.

The destruction of gadgets creates a lot of e-waste
The destruction of gadgets creates a lot of e-waste

Gadget Destruction with the local Makers gets around that issue. We have a bunch of adults who have happily taken things apart for years and sometimes put them back together, fixed, or as essential components in something new.

We also have a lot of experience in guessing a function by what the item is connected to, and we learned those from friends, books, the internet, TV and by pulling stuff apart. We like to share in taking things apart and we want to make sure that people learn the skill in doing that. It isn’t just by force (though occasionally force is used) mostly it is by working out the many ways that things are fixed, learning how to take it apart helps in learning how to put it back together.

We are also experienced in knowing what can be a danger before you take a screwdriver to it (so we took away batteries and other hazardous items that were easy to remove or taken out during the destruction process).

How Went the Day?

We had a great time. Thanks to a whole load of gadgets donated to take apart, laptops, monitors, desktops and other assorted paraphernalia. Some people even brought their own.

We had a spectacular group of people who came to visit us. I didn’t have time to count how many came through but at one point there were twenty children between ages three to twelve, with their parents, all taking something apart.

Taking things apart
Children of all ages studiously taking things apart

The Library staff and Fun Palace organisers were very helpful and very supportive and seemed to love allowing us to cause a small area of mayhem in the centre of the library (we did however clean up after ourselves).

Cleaning up after the event
Cleaning up after the event

The kids loved it. I had parents telling me that their normally fidgety children had spent three hours quietly destroying things. But it wasn’t really destruction, it was just messy education 😉

The thrill of being able to pull apart a laptop, or a TV or a toaster was exhilarating and liberating. The look of delight on faces when asked ‘what can I take apart’ and you answer ‘want to pull the rare magnets out of a laptop?’.

As for me, I brought along a five year old who loved being able to take apart a laptop and spent a good twenty minutes playing with diffusers from a television. It was ace.

Ben and the diffuser
Ben and the diffuser

So even though I was a part of this and loved being on the ground on the day, I want to say thanks to all my fellow LAMMers. This includes those who couldn’t make it on the day but helped in the preparation and take down of the event. You’re all stars.

PAD-03 laser control panel

Our Just Add Sharks Greyfin laser cutter is an awesome piece of kit supplied by a UK based company who really love to engage with their customers – in short Dominic and Martin are awesome community players who love the hackspace movement as much as we do.

But what happens when you want functionality that your machine doesn’t provide? Perhaps you want people to log in and record the timings for billing purposes.

Continue reading PAD-03 laser control panel

Castles

Those of you that know me will already know I have two young boys (and a third imminent), for those that don’t well, you do now. As a small, fun, afternoon project with some cardboard I recently built a castle with the eldest to replace the one that got wet that he built at school.

Which got me to thinking…

I have Inkscape. I have access to a Makerspace. It has a laser… to the drawing board.

After about a week of real time passing (and about 8hrs playing in Inkscape) I had design version 2.0 of my castle (if we assume that the cardboard was version 1.0).

It’s not bad, it needs a few tweaks and stuff but it came out quite well. A few hours with a pot of glue and a Stanley Knife for minor corrections (mostly tight fighting pegs) and it was all done.

The kids love it, and you can all have a look at some of the pictures of it below.

Now, will I have time to do a version 3.0? I think it needs a redesign from the ground up to be bigger 🙂

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A boy and his castle
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I even built little supports for the battlements
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It’s a ‘LAZ’R’
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45 minutes to cut 3 sheets of A3
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Towers and supports – roughly Lego Minifigure sizes
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The Gatehouse could be modified to have a drawbridge as well as a portcullis
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A whole bag of bits to assemble
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Hmmmm very church-esque

“Hack Your Half Term!”: Kids Open Afternoon @ the Space

Nothing to do during half term? Want to come and find out what you can do in a Makerspace?

One of our smaller LAMM members will be hosting an open session aimed at younger people who want to learn what a Makerspace is and there will be hands on stuff to do, play with and make. Adults also welcome, especially if accompanied by a young person 😉

When: Wednesday 17th Feb from 12pm to 5pm.

Where: LAMM Space, Unit 5 Sharpes Mill, White Cross Business Park, Lancaster, LA1 4XS

What: A whole host of interesting possibilities!

We will have small robots to play with like the MBot. You can use an app or a remote control to send it around the Space, or you can programme it to follow the path you want:

building the Mbot
Building the MBot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or maybe you want to have a go at making yourself a key ring on the laser cutter or a paper shape on the Silhouette cutter…

acrylic laser cut star keyrings
acrylic laser cut star key rings
A mirrored acrylic keyring
A mirrored acrylic keyring
rainbow paper cut skull containers
rainbow paper cut skull containers

Or have a school bag that lights up in the dark…

Backpack with electroluminescent wire
Backpack with electroluminescent wire

Or maybe you just have some almost-broken charger cables that need a little Sugru to “hack it better”…

How to fix a cable with Sugru
How to fix a cable with Sugru (from Instructables.com)

Or maybe you have something you want to take to bits to see how it’s made, or learn to solder, or learn how to use a 3D printer (we have several 3D printers in the Space).

Come with a plan, or come to experiment.

Most of all, come and be a Maker!

(For the health and safety conscious, there will be at least one adult full member present at all times, and children must be accompanied by an adult.)

 

 

Wine and Cheese Night

So recently we decided to run a Wine and Cheese night, for all the members to get together and chat, drink wine, and eat cheese! Helpful, as several of us members enjoy Cheese, Wine (or in this case, Port), and each others company.

After the initial sorting out, including Claire cutting some signs for each Cheese out of Acrylic on the Laser Cutter, we started digging in – many thanks to Ian and Claire for sourcing the Cheese, and Mark and Louis for sourcing many of the Chutneys on show.

There was a large selection of cheese, as can be seen above – the most popular was unarguably the Snowdonia Original, although the Irish Original Porter dissapeared soon after. An unusual one was the Sticky Toffee Cheddar, which was… well, sticky and tasted of toffee. Interesting in a non-disgusting way by all accounts.

All in all, a wonderful event, with only one dissapointed member – Ben the dog, who was on crumb watching duty the whole evening.

If you missed this event, and would like to see us do it again (or something completely different!) Then let us know, or if you would like to organise an event, then again, let us know!

Until next time!