First Steps with the Solidoodle!

I started playing around with my Soidoodle! I was in good company from Workshop 88. Bill, our resident 3D Printer guy, was helping me out and learning about the Solidoodle too. Over the course of 7 hours. We both had broken and fixed just about everything. You can see the fruits of our labor in the video.
The first thing we did was that we got Pronterface running on my machine. I was easily able to connect, but we were noticing some problems. The first problem that we were having was that we were unable to get the system to home. Homing is when all off the Axis move to push a switch so that their position is in a known place in space. We were also having issues getting the bed and tip to heat.

General Picture of the Sillyness

The solution to this is new firmware that was released for the machine. After getting all the files needed, we were able to update the firmware. It was a slightly non-tivial process because an old version of the Arduino IDE is required to interface to the controller on the Solidoodle. Proper drivers are also required. After we knew what to do, it was actually pretty easy.

After we put the new firmware on the machine, we had the opposite issue: the tip getting hot to quickly which caused the temperature to overshoot the target temperature. This caused overheating. As it turns out, the maximum temperature was set at the temperature that we were aiming at. This had the undesired effect of when the tip reached temperature, it “overheated” and shutdown. We ran the Solidoodle through a few calibration cycles which helped, but it did ultimately overheat. We then went into the source code of the firmware and changed the maximum temperature value to be a bit higher than the operating temperature, and we updated the PID values for the tip. In addition, we found through reading that the tip itself runs about 10C hotter than what is actually being measured. We used this to our advantage by setting the maximum temperature to 235C, and then running the target temperature at 220C which is secretly 230C at the tip. It is silly that we had to do this, but we did and it worked.

The wire that powers the heating element in the extrusion tip broke off while we were trying to feed in a new line of ABS. We had to disassemble the head and remove the tip assembly from the carriage so that we could solder the heating element back in and remove a stuck piece of remnant ABS. We got it back under control and made the solder connection proper again. After doing this, the tip seemed to heat a little better.

In the middle of repairs to the head

Concurrently with all of this, we were trying to get either ReplicatorG or Pronterface to try to print something from my machine. We were unable to get ReplicatorG to connect to the Solidoodle at all, and we couldn’t seem to get Pronterface to run through a print. We settled on generating the G Code that we wanted in ReplicatorG and then using that code for Pronterface  No such luck because the programs don’t agree on the format of the comments which is ridiculous.

We gave up on using my machine. We were able to get Pronterface to cooperate with the Solidoodle on Bill’s machine. Our print failed to come out right, but it did prove that the machine does work. I will work on getting Pronterface to work on my machine properly. I am betting that the next release of Ubuntu will fix a lot of bugs.

I want to think you Bill for helping me. This wouldn’t have been possible without your help.

Close up of the repaired head.
A “working” Test Print!