We Are Learning 3D Printing Through Our Personal Experience…
Last year we have tried the Low Friction MK8 Extruder Nozzles from Performance 3-d as an upgrade to our MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer. These were among the first, if not the first, 3D printer nozzles that were available with a low friction coating to help prevent filament jams and extend the life of the nozzle. Since then we’ve seen more options getting released on the market in the form of nozzles with various material and coatings, and since we’ve also seen a lot of new exotic filaments released on the market these more durable 3D printer nozzles have become a hot topic. We have already tried some other alternatives to and now Performance 3-d has also upgraded their product line with improved nozzles and new models from different materials.
Performance 3-d now also offers improved thermal barrier tubes to go along with your new improved nozzle upgrades with both being Swiss CNC machined and plated with our Duraplat3-d low-friction, wear resistant coating making them great for all around printing as well as when using abrasive filaments like carbon fiber or metallic. They are now offering not only Brass, but also high-heat transfer Aluminum and tough-as-nails Tool Steel 3D printer nozzles that are all completely coated with the Duraplat3-d coating. The direct replacement and upgrade for Makerbot Replicator 2 thermal barrier tubes can also improve the experience by reducing problems as they are also plated with the electroless nickel based Duraplat3-d coating. The high lubricity plating, along with the stepped internal bore, will prevent clogging in the liquid zone of the hot end meaning that when combined with a plated nozzle filament jams should become a thing of the past.
Duraplat3-d coating benefits:
– Specially engineered for improved lubricity and low friction
– Entirely coated inside and outside
– Reduce extrusion stress and help prevent hang-ups
– High hardness (68Rc) for a lifetime of printing
– Eliminate plastic globs stuck to nozzle
– Reduce plastic curl during extrusion
– Wear resistant for abrasive filaments (carbon fiber, metallic, etc…)
– Corrosion resistant
– Used in aerospace and injection molds and dies
We already have got some nozzles from the new and improved Elite series (coated brass nozzles) as well as from the Hercules series (coated steel nozzles) and the new coated thermal barriers to try out, so we’ll be posting our feedback from using them shortly. Meanwhile you can check the specifications of the new specially coated nozzles as well as the new thermal barrier tubes from Performance 3-D for full specifications and additional details.
Time for yet another upgrade for our faithful MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer, this time we are going to be upgrading the plastic filament drive mechanism of the extruder with a better all metal version from Fabberworld. The filament drive upgrade comes as a full kit containing all precisely CNC machined parts from aluminum that will replace the plastic parts, along with stainless steel screws, replacement bearing, spring and even a pulley gear for the motor. The kit is designed for Replicator 2 3D printers that have a total thickness of the plastic parts of 20mm as there are models of the printer with slimmer 15mm parts, but we have figured out an easy way to install it even on these. We are going to get back to that in a moment however. There is also a version of the upgrade available for MakerBot Replicator 2X 3D printer where you essentially get two kits – a left and right one for each of the motors of the dual extruder 3D printer.
Probably some of you will ask why we would want to upgrade the standard plastic parts with aluminum ones, the answer is simple – plastic wears off easily, it breaks and it does not handle that well a lot of heat. The standard plastic parts are from injection molded ABS plastic that is pretty durable and resistant to high temperature, but over time it can start to wear off from abrasive filaments and to deform or even break from the constant high temperatures around it. Back on the metal upgrade kit, it not only replaces the plastic parts, but also comes with some improvements that help you get more consistent and problem free prints and these actually do seem to work well. On the top “lever” where the filament goes in there is a wider opening to allow the PTFE tube to slide in and make the filament slide in easily when you load it into the extruder, though if you are not using the Teflon filament guide tube this can actually make it a bit harder to load filament. The included MK7 pulley that replaces the standard one has a smaller gap where the filament goes through that is more suitable for the 1.75mm filament that the MakerBot Replicator 2 uses. The standard pulley that our printer came up with seems to be more suitable for 3mm filaments than the 1.75mm one that we are actually using, so after the upgrade you should also get more contact surface and force pulling the filament through the nozzle and thus in theory less problems with filament jams.
Now, how to install the filament drive upgrade for the extruder of MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printers that come with 15mm thickness of the plastic parts. We have figured out a way to do everything as easy as with 20mm models, all you would need are two 5mm spacers to bring the motor back the needed extra space. The only thing that you would need to remove is the fan grill in front of the cooling fan of the extruder and then the two screws holding everything in place will be long enough to accommodate the 5mm spacers (you can use two 2.5mm ones or a different combination if you do not have a single 5mm ones). The cooling fan blades are small and if you do everything with a bit of extra caution around the extruder while the printer is operating you should not have trouble even with the fan grill missing. Alternatively you can look for screws with extra 5mm length and keep the full build with the fan grill, but finding only two 5mm spacers should be easier and you can probably build them with existing smaller spacers that you may have lying around.
For the price that the MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer sells one would expect to get a 3D printer that is well built and very durable with no problems while printing, but our experience has shown that after you get the device you still need to do some upgrading and tuning as you go. One of the good upgrades that you might want to do in order to have less problems on the long term with issues working with the 3D printer is the filament drive upgrade of the extruder, though it is not the only one. Do note however that some of the upgrades, including this one are not as easy to be performed by people that are new to 3D printing and are not familiar with their 3D printers as it requires to disassemble the extruder and then assemble it again with the new parts installed.
We have told you about the GeckoTek build plate last year as a very promising upcoming product that started as a Kickstarter project. Back then everything sounded almost too good to be true, but along the way things changed and the end product is not as functional and versatile as it was originally promised. Nevertheless back then we’ve ordered a GeckoTek build plate along with a magnetic base for our MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer and we have finally received something. It is the PLA only version, though originally it was promised that the plate should be compatible with both PLA and ABS prints, the end result however is a bit different as there will be two separate versions – one for PLA and one for ABS printing. The model designed for ABS is not yet available, but the PLA version is already shipping and we have received ours and it is start to share some initial impressions.
The product comes well packaged, as already mentioned we have ordered the GeckoTek build plate (we got the PLA version) along with the magnetic plate and the package also contains bolts and nuts along with pink-purple spacers for mounting (?). The spacers are 3D printed, but not that good as apparently they did not use support material when printing them, so the end result is not that great and we did not get to print the 3D model of the spacers ourselves as apparently everyone that ordered a build plate apparently already has a 3D printer and can do that. The instructions for mounting the GeckoTek plate are not very detailed and no photos are provided for easy installation by novice users, but that should not be an issue as the procedure is pretty straight forward and easy. The finish of the special coating of the GeckoTek build plate looks decent enough, but far from perfect and the same goes for the looks of the magnetic build plate that is essentially a big aluminium piece with mounting holes and magnets. The coating of our build plate has some darker spots and fine scratches, and we even noticed a slight press mark apparently left by a hot extruder pressing a bit more on the build plate than it should – it seems the plate has been tested prior to shipping.
We are planning to start testing the GeckoTek build plate in the next few days, so you can expect our initial impressions from using it pretty soon. Unfortunately it has arrived a bit too late and is not what we initially expected it will be and we have already installed a Heated Build Plate to our Replicator 2 3D printer with a great removable build plate system that we use with BuildTak and are very happy with the results (apart from the relatively fast wearing of the BuildTak surface due to the not so easy removal of the printed parts). So if we like the results that GeckoTek provides we might think of a way to make only the build plate usable with our currently installed solution from BC Tech and the magnetic base will not get used. Also if we integrate the GeckoTek build plate to our current workflow we would also need to get one for ABS as well and at a price of $39 USD (for the PLA plate) it is not the most affordable solution, especially if you need to buy two separate plates for ABS and PLA and each of them does not manage to provide you with at least a few hundred prints before wearing off. We may still end up replying on the BuildTak as the best priced and most versatile and durable solution we have found so far, even though it is still not the perfect one we need or at least until we find a better alternative as we continue searching for one. If the GeckoTek build plate ended up what was initially promised it might’ve been a good alternative to BuildTak, but we no longer think so even if the plate we got does ends up working well…