We Are Learning 3D Printing Through Our Personal Experience…
Today our upgrades for the MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer that we are using made by BC Technological Solutions have arrived and we are already eager to start installing them. We’ve had to wait a bit for these to arrive when we have ordered them earlier this year, but it was well worth the wait – the shipping should be faster at the moment once you make an order. We have ordered both the Aluminum Arm Upgrade and the Removable Heated Build Plate Upgrade that the company makes for Replicator 2 and Replicator 2X owners and although a bit expensive, these are probably the best you can get if you need to stiffen the build plate and add heated build plate to your device.
We have already installed Aluminum Arm Stiffeners from Performance 3-D on our Replicator 2 3D printer and they are working quite well. The Aluminum Arm Upgrade from BC Technological Solutions however is much more advanced product as it is not in the form of an addon to your existing plastic arms, but completely replaces them. Another important advantage is that with the new metal arms for the build plate are designed in a way to accommodate linear bearings for the Z axis of the 3D printer. We have already made the Upgrade to Linear Bearings on our MakerBot Replicator 2 earlier this year for the X and Y axes. While doing the upgrade however we have discovered that with the stock plastic arms there are no suitable linear bearings that we can use for the Z axis, one of the reasons we actually decided to get the arms upgrade from the BC Technological Solutions.
By design the Replicator 2 3D printer from MakerBot is not designed to be used with ABS filaments as it does not come with a heated build platform and while we do not miss this feature much as we do not often need to resort to ABS printing. The problem is that there are already quite a few interesting experimental filaments that also require a heated build platform, so we have decided to add that functionality as well. Looking over various options raging from cheap DIY solutions to the more serious upgrades kits available we again ended up going for the Removable Heated Build Plate Upgrade from BC Technological Solutions as the best choice that not only adds heated build platform, but also includes some useful features such as the removable build plate attached with magnets. The only drawback with this upgrade is that it does nto include all the required things for installation on a Replicator 2 – you still need to order a 24V, 9.2A power adapter separately as the standard power adapter of the printer is not able to handle the increased power usage when using the heater. So you need to take into account the additional cost for a power adapter such as the 220W Meanwell GS220A24-R7B adapter that we have also ordered separately and are currently waiting it to arrive any moment now to start installing the upgrades.
We got a spool of the ColorFabb XT filament (the standard transparent one) that is based on Eastman Amphora 3D polymer as an alternative to PLA filament to try it out. ColorFabb says that their XT filament, unlike PLA, is absolutely neutral from color and completely transparent. So if your 3d print project requires some transparency the they recommend to give XT a try, the problem however is that this filament is apparently not as easy to print as standard PLA. It is more like printing with ABS and although heated build platform is not required it is recommended to have it and use it with this filament as otherwise you might get warping of the printed objects. The ColorFabb XT filament also needs higher printing temperature and the advantage it brings is that it is stronger and resists higher temperatures as compared to PLA.
The manufacturer recommended printing temperature for the ColorFabb XT filament is between 240-260 degrees Celsius, with a 40-70 mm/s extrusion speed and the use of a heated build platform that is at 60-70 degrees Celsius. Since our MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer does not come with a heated build platform we have tried printing the ColorFabb XT on a cold build platform. This has caused us to struggle a bit until we find the best settings that would allow us to print without warping and get good enough results, but we have managed to do it. The settings that worked for us were 245 degrees C for the extruder, 40 mm/s extrusion speed and using rafts for printing as well as turning off the cooling fan that cools down the extruded filament. You should note that the MakerBot Desktop software does not come with a feature that disables the cooling fan upon user request for a specific model, but thankfully the Simplify 3D software that we also use does come with such a feature available for the MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer.
On the photo above you can see a direct comparison between the ColorFabb XT filament (their transparent version) on the left versus a MakerBot Neutral PLA. The PLA seems a bit less transparent and has some yellowish tint while the ColorFabb is whiter and more transparent. When talking about transparency however there are some important tips that need to be taken into account with the ColorFabb XT filament to get the best results. To get the most transparency out of the print ColorFabb recommends to try the following: disable cooling fan for the entire print; print slowly at about 20-40 mm/s; increase flow rate, so the perimeters melt together; print at rougher layer heights, such as 0.27mm – 0.35mm. Also taking into account the infill you are going to be using depending on the type of the 3D model you are going to be printing is important when you use transparent filaments in general and not only ColorFabb XT.
Our conclusion about the ColorFabb XT filament is that it definitely has some useful advantages over traditional PLA filaments such as the increased strength and temperature resistance. We have tried soaking 3D printer parts using the ColorFabb XT in water with temperature of 80 degrees Celsius and the parts remains pretty strong and solid, unlike PLA that will get really soft at temperatures of over about 65 degrees. The drawback that a heated build platform is recommended for easy and problem free printing makes the filament less attractive for users that have 3D printers with no heated build platform. For such people we would recommend to not go for the ColorFabb XT as although you might still be able to get decent prints most of the time you would most likely have problems printing at times especially with bigger and more complex models.