Monday, December 22, 2014

When That Cube3 Box is Opened for the First Time

If you are fortunate enough to find a Cube 3 under your tree this year, you are in for a lot of fun turning the ideas in your brain into concrete, real objects. Just having the Cube 3 will wake up your brain to even more great ideas and original solutions.

With something SO cool, there is the temptation to dive right in and start printing.

That could be a mistake.

Unlike earlier 3D printers, the Cube 3 can lay down layers just 70 microns in depth.  That is incredible layer definition.  To lay down layers at that precision, everything about the Cube 3's set up has to precisely configured.

While each Cube 3 undergoes hours of testing after it was built, it then had to travel some distance to your home.  Now, while we would hope that it got tender loving care at every step along the way, it is wise to make sure that your shiny new Cube 3 is set up as precisely as possible before starting that first print.

Here some of the things that will help ensure your best first print result.
  • Attach your Cube 3 printer to your WiFi 
  • Activate your printer
  • Check to see that you have the most up-to-date firmware installed
  • Install the Cartridges
  • Run Auto Level
  • Run Auto Gap
  • At the end of Auto Gap manually use the Gap Tool to ensure a successful gap of BOTH Print Jets
  • Download and install the latest Cubify Client

Attach Your Cube 3 Printer to Your WiFi  (Cube Manual Pg 12-13)

The Cube 3 can operate as a standalone device, using a USB flash drive for printing and firmware updates, or as a connected device via your local WiFi.  Updating firmware is incredibly easy when done using WiFi.  And, it is far easier to have the Cubify Client software print over the WiFi connection than to have to transfer files between the client software and the printer via a flash drive.

Activate your Printer  (Cube Manual Pg 13-15)

Activation is more than simply telling 3D Systems that you have a new Cube 3.  It lets you set up your Cloud account and shelf for storing the items you create should you want to take advantage of the Cloud.  It also activates your warranty.

Check to See if You Have the Most Up-to-Date Firmware Installed.  (Cube Manual Pg 86-91)

While the Cube user manual suggests loading the filament cartridges as the next step, I'm going to suggest a different order.  

All who have had any of the Cube 3D printer models for any length of time appreciate the fact that Cubify engineers are constantly working to improve the performance of their printers through firmware updates.  In fact, from the first day that the Cube 3 started shipping until the day this article was written there have been at least 4 firmware updates.  And, each one considerably improved our experience with our Cube 3s.  I tend to check for updates every week!

So, it is very important that you take the time to make sure that the firmware in your Cube 3 is the latest available.  If you are connected to the WiFi, simply go to:
 SETUP > FIRMWARE > WIFI
using the touchscreen display on the Cube.  Follow the directions in the Cube Manual Pages 86-91.

Install the Cartridge(s) BUT DO NOT RUN TEST PRINT (Cube Manual Pg. 17-18)

Follow the directions for loading the cartridges.  One of the reasons for downloading the latest firmware before installing the cartridges is that a firmware install insures that we run through Auto Level and Auto Gap before we print the built-in test object.  And, the processes of Auto Level and Auto Gap have been significantly improved with each firmware update.

It's OK to select 'Print' after installing the cartridges; but, should it not first go to Auto Level and Auto Gap, stop the printing cycle immediately.

Run Auto Level (Cube Manual Pg 19)

The Cube 3 has a very sophisticated Auto Level process that checks that the print table is perfectly level.  Sometimes, it will find that the print table is NOT level and it will guide you in what to do to make it level.  Remember, 70 or even 200 micron layers require very tight tolerances.  If a print table is not level it is virtually insured that your print jets will clog on your very first print as the print plate blocks the print jet by contacting it.

Run Auto Gap ( Cube Manual Pg 19-20)

Once Auto Level completes successfully, it immediately begins the Auto Gap procedure.  Even if Auto Gap reports that it was successful, my advice is to manual ensure that BOTH print jets have the proper gap.  This is extremely important.  The gap cannot be too big; but, it is a disaster waiting to happen if one of the print jets is too close to the print plate.  For most users Auto Gap should prove effective; but, for some an 'adjustment' is necessary to ensure the proper gap is achieved.  And, the only way to make sure that no adjustment is required is to use the Gap Tool BEFORE pressing the check mark to test the gaps of both print jets.

Try to pass the Gap Tool under BOTH print jets.  If either one will not allow the gap tool to pass under it you are going to have to set the gap manually by selecting 'adjust' and sliding the gap tool under the print jets until just a little resistance is felt.  If there is no resistance, the part will not stick to the print table.  If there is too much resistance, the filament could clog.

ALERT:  some very early production Cube 3 printers may have misaligned print jets.  One might be lower or higher than the other.  Don't worry.  In these cases, the print jets can be leveled using a 1.3mm hex driver.  Contact Cubify Support for clear directions for how to correct the issues.  My printer is among these and after adjustment prints very well.
Once you have ensured that neither print jet is touching the print plate, it's OK to print built-in test print using the touchscreen.   SETUP > TEST PRINT.

Download and install the latest Cubify Client

Like the Cube firmware, the Cubify team is constantly improving the Cubify Client.  So, it's important to ensure to use the latest Cubify Client.  The job of the client is to slice the object and to convert the shape into a series of commands that the Cube 3 understands.  With each update to the Cubify Client, the quality of the print generally improves; but, some updates improve the client interface itself to improve the user interface and/or the feedback it collects from the Cube 3 as it prints.  Expect constant improvements over the life of the Cube3.

Be alert to sights and sounds with your first prints.

The first two layers are crucial indicators of a proper gap.  The filament should lay down evenly.  If the surface appears warped, it usually indicates the gap is too large.  If the lines are too flattened, the gap is too small and a clog is likely.  If you hear a clicking sound, stop the print immediately as this usually means that the filament flow has been stopped and the extruder gear is stripping the filament.

Most of the time a too small gap is the culprit.  But, some of the PLA filament in early delivery machines, while working well in the Cube 2, which had a 'puller' extrusion system,, was apparently too soft for the Cube 3's 'pusher' extrusion system and could strip.  If your printer has a clog well into the print job, contact Cubify support and let them know.  The currently shipping filament has been produced specifically to be used in the 'pusher' style extruder used in the Cube 3 cartridges.

Summary

While Auto Gap is a great feature, there is no substitute for making absolutely sure that your particular printer's gap is correctly set with Auto Gap.  Checking the gap is quick and easy.  Having a clog or poor print due to an incorrect gap is painful and time consuming.  Waiting to print until you are certain your new Cube 3 is properly set up and aligned, will go a long way to providing you with quality prints every time.

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