We Are Learning 3D Printing Through Our Personal Experience…
Time for testing another upgrade for our MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer, we found an interesting offer by a company called AVN Swiss on eBay that offers a performance hotend upgrade for the device. It is a kit containing a specially coated nozzle and thermal barrier tube with a very low friction plating called TwinClad XT. According to the manufacturer TwinClad XT is a nickel composite coating designed to be very hard, corrosion resistant, and have good release properties against plastic. It is supposed to offer one of the lowest coefficient of friction, better then nickel with PTFE codeposit and the hardness supposedly makes this coating abrasion resistant. So if you are working with more abrasive filaments like Carbon Fiber, Aluminates, ColarFabb MetalFill etc. this upgrade is supposed to greatly increase the life of your nozzle and thermal tube. Low friction will also prevent clogs in thermal barrier tube, a critical zone where plastic liquidizes.
We have tested numerous different nozzles on our MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer, including low friction ones with additional coating, but that did not completely resolve the issues we’ve had with filament jams from time to time. After installing the hotend upgrade kit from AVN Swiss however for about a month already we haven’t had a single filament jam. So it seems that while the nozzle is important the thermal barrier tube also takes part in the cause of filament jams and so the result is that this kit does a great job in preventing them. Definitely a good upgrade, however we should warn you that the installation and adjustment of the new thermal tube and nozzle can be quite hard and is not advised for novice users that are not yet familiar with their 3D printer. So we would recommend this upgrade only to advanced users that are familiar with their hardware and will easily manage to remove the old nozzle and thermal barrier tube and replace them with the new ones.
The upgrades for MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printers made by BC Technological Solutions are among the highest rated and recommended ones by users of the device in the 3D printing community. So we’ve had to get them and try them out and after a bit of waiting for the order to arrive we are ready to share our initial impressions starting with the Aluminum Arm Upgrade. What we can say for sure is that the installation of the Aluminum Arm Upgrade is not for the faint hearted and inexperienced users with DIY and hardware as it does require a lot of disassembly and a bit of tinkering to adjust things for smoother operation. The whole process does take some time, but the results are really good after the upgrade. The installation instructions that came with the upgrade kit are not as detailed and as easy to work with for inexperienced users that do not know well their MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer. So do have in mind if you decide to order this upgrade, there are more affordable and easier to install alternatives that will provide similar improvement, though not as good as with these.
The parts in the upgrade kit, especially the aluminum arms are very well made, though on one of the arms we received the mounting holes were a bit off which made it a bit harder in the adjustment phase, but was not a problem in general as you have some room for adjustment available from the bearing retainers. Mentioning bearings reminds us for another advantage that the Aluminum Arm Upgrade from BC Technological Solutions offers – it allows you to install bearings on the Z axis as well and since we already did the bearing upgrade for the X and Y axes this essentially completed the bushings to bearing replacement. The standard plastic arms do not allow for the addition of linear bearings on the Z axis as there are apparently no suitable linear bearings available that can fit there. With the custom aluminum upgrade arms however you not only have the ability to use linear bearings instead of the standard bushings, but they are even included in the kit.
Apart from the fact that you need to spend some time disassembling the 3D printer, installing and adjusting and then reassembling the whole thing which can easily take up a few hours the Aluminum Arm Upgrade is nice and works well. At $150 USD it is a bit expensive and it could use some more improvement in the design to make it easier to install and adjust, but the end result is worth it. If you are looking for a more affordable and easier to install solution you can check out the Performance 3D Aluminum Arm Stiffeners upgrade we’ve used prior to installing the arms from BCTS.
If you add a Heated Build Platform (HBP) to your MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer you will need to do some modifications to your working process whenever you want to be able to print with a hot build plate. Using the MakerBot Desktop software with a Replicator 2 with HBP can be pretty easy just switching to the profile of a Replicator 2X, but there are some drawbacks. In order to be able to have more control on your prints with a Heated Build Platform on a Replicator 2 3D printer you probably would want to go for a different slicer such as the Simplify3D that we are already using. Since Simplify3D already has built-in support for Replicator 2 3D printers with installed HBP it is easier to take advantage of that along with the many other available options to control the printing process that the software offers. Enabling the HBP support and using it properly in Simplify3D however requires a bit more to make it work properly, so we are going to be looking at what steps you need to take.
First you need to enable the Replicator 2 with HBP profile in Simplify3D, to do that you need to do the following steps (we assume you have already selected a MakerBot Replicator 2 as the printer you are using in the slicer):
– Start the Simplify3D software
– Open the Tools menu and go into Firmware Configuration
– Go to the X3G tabl and under GPX Configuration select the Replicator 2 with HBP profile
– Click on Save and you are almost ready to go
Next you need to manually add some additional code to make sure your Replicator 2 3D printer will first heat the build plate before starting to print and that the temperature will be kept at the desired value until the print finishes. To do so follow the steps described below, the end result should look like on the screenshot above.
– Click on the Edit Process Settings Button
– Go to the Scripts tab and open up the Starting G-code
– Look for the following line of code: M126 S[fan_speed_pwm]
– After the above line of code you need to add the following two new lines:
M140 S[bed0_temperature] T0 ; heat build platform
M134 T0 ; stabilize build platform temperature
Then add some more extra code to make sure that the 3D printer will stop the heating of the build plate and cool it down after the printing finishes. To do so follow the steps described below, the end result should look like on the screenshot above.
– While still in the Scripts tab and open up the Ending G-code tab
– Look for the following line of code: M104 S0 T0 ; cool down extruder
– After the above line of code you need to add the following line:
M140 S0 T0 ; cool down heated build platform
After this you should be all ready to start 3D printing using the heated build platform on your MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer, the only thing left too do is set the desired temperature of the Heated Build Platform that you want to use. You can do that with the following steps:
– Click the Edit Process Settings button of your current printing process
– Go to the Temperature Tab and click on the Add Temperature Controller
– Enter a name like HBP for example or Heated Build Platform
– Make sure that under Temperature Controller you select Heated Build Platform
– Set the desired temperature of the HBP by double clicking on the available Setpoint
– We are using 50-60 degrees Celsius for PLA (if needed) and 80-100 for ABS printing, use these as a reference