Monday, December 29, 2014

It is Amazing to Me That I'm Able to Focus on Such Small Tolerances

For the past several days, I have been focused on experiments to minimize artifacts that are at  such small, sub-millimeter measurements that they require the use of a microscope to study!

In spite of the admitted frustrations of very early owners, the Cube 3 is proving to be an exceptionally accurate 3D printer.  And, if history of the 1st Gen and 2nd Gen Cube 3D printers is a predictor of what is to come, the 3rd Gen Cube is only going to get better and better.

From the first time I saw the Cube 3, I knew that it was a solid platform.  I've heard some criticism from some that question the decision to put the extrusion into the center of the cartridge.  And, obviously, that decision gave engineers some unique challenges.  But, while many, if not most, of the first owners suffered a clog, those clogs were limited to the cartridges themselves.

In other printers clogs would have crippled the printer itself, which is why some many 3D printer owners maintain backup print heads.

Both of my new Red and Blue cartridges are now showing less than 7%.  I've printed many large and small items at both 200 and 70 microns without a problem.  Based on the fact that once my gap was correctly set, I've had no clogs while using the new PLA, I trust clogging will be a rare event in the future.  So, we can get on with making beautiful prints.

No News is Good News

I have no idea how many Cube 3 3D printers were opened for the first time on  Christmas day.  Not knowing when those printers might have been purchased, I fully expected to hear from some of those users asking me about a clog.  Nothing.  Nada.  Not one email or new comments so far.

I realize that could change in the coming days and weeks.  But, for now, I take this silence as good news. 

Looking Forward

Perhaps our biggest hurdle over the next few weeks is a lingering backlog of filament orders.  Our focus here will continue to test the characteristics of the printer and understand the implications of uneven print jet protrusion (something owners of the latest printers don't need to be concerned about) and make absolutely sure that my gaps on both print jets are precisely correct for the best print possible.

Another quest is finding THE best way to restore filament flow in ANY cartridge that suffers a loss of flow..  Even though the new PLA is working perfectly, all of us should be aware that a poor gap or poor level can still bring a cartridge to a halt.  So, pursuing a strategy to restore flow, once the original cause is fixed, should be a useful thing to know.

Plus, we will continue to study the print from the Cube 3 to help determine the best design criteria to yield prints that deliver on our expectations both big and small.  My experiments with very thin lines has been both fun and enlightening. If they have revealed anything, it is the incredibly fine print with very tight tolerances reflected in the final print result.

It has also revealed that we might be able to create strong objects with a lot less bulk than with many other 3D printers.  I'm amazed at the strength and integrity of .61mm walls.  This might mean that we can use the "Hollow" setting for more applications than we might expect and thinner outer walls, saving filament.

After years of believing that thicker is a requirement, it's going to be interesting to see what the new structural requirements actual are to provide the same strength and reliability in printed parts.

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