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FLSUN Upgrade with AliExpress Volcano Knockoff

Volcano Clone Installed

Volcano Nozzle Upgrade on FLSUN Delta

I purchased a knockoff E3D V6 and volcano nozzle set on Aliexpress through Anycubic, because I wanted to upgrade my FLSUN Delta. The volcano upgrade is a nozzle set designed to allow significantly more filament to be extruded, so you can print tougher parts in less time. Genuine volcano kits are available for around $50 or more, but I’m a cheap bastard so I am going to use the chinese clone. It was around $11 for the entire kit when I purchased it in early March 2017. Shipping took a long time as expected with Aliexpress, but everything was there and it looked good. It came with a full clone J-Head assembly, including a 30mm fan, heating element and thermistor as well as a separate volcano kit. The volcano kit came with a larger heating block and four nozzles that range from 0.6mm to 1.2mm. Quality looked pretty good, and it’s definitely going to be an upgrade over my old, worn-in E3D V5 clone.

 

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Upgrading

Upgrading my FLSUN delta was straightforward. Installing the new hotend was essentially the same process as removing the old one. I removed the old hotend by disconnecting the bowden tube, electronics and the two screws that hold it in place. I took the old hotend assembly out of the bracket. On the FLSUN delta, only two screws have to be loosened to remove the hotend assembly from the effector so it’s pretty easy. I put the new volcano hotend assembly into the bracket and tightened it into place. There is a screw that is used to adjust the auto-leveling function of the effector, and I had to make sure to readjust that to be accurate.

I soldered the fan to some extension wires so that I could run it down to the control board. The polarity of the thermistor and heating element don’t matter, so reconnecting them was easy. It took about fifteen minutes to install the new hotend, and run the wires. I had some trouble removing my old hotend assembly, because it melted into the plastic effector slightly over time.

 

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Systems Check

Temp Graph

I accidentally overtightened the thermistor, which caused it to short and throw a temperature error. I checked the thermistor using a multimeter, and found that the resistance was 0Ohms which confirms a short circuit. I wanted a reading between 70k and 80k to confirm that it was working. I fixed my mistake by putting some kapton tape on the exposed wire, and then I carefully put it back into place. I wrapped the hotend in some ceramic insulation, and then I wrapped the insulation in aluminum tape.

I ran a quick self check, and then a PID tune. If you need to do a PID tune, I personally referenced Tom’s guide for configuring Marlin. Everything looked great, and the temperature was surprisingly stable after my first check. The temperature graph shown is from the purple vase print that’s coming up.

 

Printing

I loaded a scripted vase into Simplify3D, and sliced it in vase mode. I wasn’t sure was settings to use to start with, so I went with the following:

  • 0.8mm nozzle
  • 0.4mm layer height
  • line width of 1.0mm

I thought that using a line width of 1.0mm would cause the layers to squish together firmly, increasing strength. I primarily wanted the volcano to quickly print strong objects, so I thought that a vase would be a perfect way to test speed and the strength of walls/layers.

Right off the bat, there was some cooling issues due to the lack of a part fan. The thick lines were holding onto too much heat, and they started to sag. I added a small desk fan to help with air circulation, and the print quality increased quite a lot. Printing slower would also help. I have some blower fans coming in the mail that I will install on the effector for a more permanent solution. I stopped the vase print after 15 minutes to examine it. The surface finish is beautiful, where the part was properly cooled. The thick layers have a charming texture and the way that they line up nicely is quite satisfying. It’s also incredibly strong, the thick lines give the vase some real structure even though it’s only one layer thick. The infill left a lot to be desired, lots of missed gaps because of the huge extrusion width. I can fix that with settings, though!

Purple Vase 0.4mm Layers
Purple Vase 0.4mm Layers

I tried some cable chains at 0.4mm without any part cooling, at around 80mm/s print speed. I printed four links at once, to give each piece some time to cool down. They came out quite ugly with 0.4mm layers, but they functioned well enough and were very strong. Most importantly, they printed FAST. It only took about 2 minutes to print each link, which is at least two times faster than my original Prusa i3 Mk2s with the stock setup.

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I started tweaking the settings a bit, and settled on the following for my next test:

  • 0.3mm layer height
  • 0.8mm line width
  • 25% overlap
  • 200C nozzle
  • 80mm/s print speed

I noticed that the volcano nozzle has significantly less oozing than the stock nozzle, so I reduced my retraction from 6mm to 3mm. I put a desk fan in place to act as part cooling, and printed some test nuts & bolts. I printed two bolts and two nuts at the same time, with the bolts spaced apart to test retraction. I added a 2-layer brim to the parts to make sure they stayed put on the bed. They came out looking pretty nice, and the total print time was only around 10 minutes! Retraction seemed perfect. They worked right off of the build plate and they are incredibly strong. There are some minor banding and over extrusion issues, but for the third print after upgrading the quality impresses me.

 

I adjusted some acceleration settings to help compensate for the heavier hotend, and then I ran another vase mode print. I printed another scripted vase, this time at 160% scale. Still using the 0.8mm nozzle, and a layer height of 0.3mm. An hour into the print, my filament ran out, so I had to stop the print. I managed to print about 85% of the vase, so I’m not calling it a total failure. The vase came out incredibly strong, and the surface finish is getting better with every print.

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Conclusion

I’m quite happy with how the upgrade went, and I’m surprised at how low the cost was considering the quality of components. It took forever for the parts to arrive, but when you consider the incredibly low cost you can’t beat it. The seller ANYCUBIC also refunded me on a set of 5 nozzles that took an extremely long time to arrive, and they were responsive to questions. A genuine volcano setup would most likely produce higher quality parts, and it’s going to be made with higher quality materials and more stringent quality control. On the other hand, you really can’t complain about the knock off when you basically get two functional hotend setups for around $11 Canadian. It was basically a straight replacement for the stock nozzle on my FLSUN delta. There was some minor fidgeting to get the fan attachment on with the stock effector, but it ended up working out fine. It took about 30 minutes to change the hotend and get printing. Half of that time was spent doing a PID tuning.

The strength of printed parts and increase in speed is awesome. I primarily use my original Prusa i3 for prints where quality is important, so it’s great to have this option on my delta to rapidly produce tough parts. The volcano clone still produces high quality prints under the right conditions, and it will only get better as I tune in my settings. It’s also nice to have a higher quality hotend assembly on the Delta, so that I can reliably print materials other than just PLA.

 

I seriously suggest this upgrade to anyone that’s considering it. The monetary investment, and time spent is so small compared to the time it will save when printing. Upgrading from a 0.4mm nozzle to a 0.8mm nozzle immediately cuts print time in half. Thicker lines also mean less layers and stronger layer adhesion, which results in much stronger parts. Plus, bigger individual lines means less individual movements and it results in smaller gcode files that are easier to process! The only downside ( other than aesthetic quality ) is that the upgrade doesn’t come with a dedicated part cooling fan, so I’m going to have to improvise. I’ll probably just hot glue a blower fan onto the effector and call it a day.

 

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Designing and 3D Printing a Multi-Color Business Card

3D Printed Business Card
3D Printed Business Card
3D Printed Business Card

 

Earlier today I was experimenting with multiple shades/colors and materials using my Prusa i3 Mk2s. I have some black PETG from Fused Filaments, and some natural NextPage PLA. I wanted to see if I could combine them, so I tried to make a minimalistic business card.

 

Designing The Card

I used 3DS Max to design this card. Virtually every 3D modeling software has tools that let you follow the basic steps that I outline here. I tried to keep it as simple as possible. The basic design idea is split into two parts –

  • solid background in one color or material
  • raised features like text/border/design in another color or material

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Base:

I made the base of the card by creating a 90mmX50mmX0.4mm rectangle. I chamfered the edges so that it would be more comfortable to hold.

Text:

I made a text spline and then extruded it to be 0.4mm thick. Then I positioned it on top of the base.

I find that Arial Round MT Bold is a great font to use for 3D printing, because it has nice corners and good legibility.

Border:

I made an outline of the edge of the card, and positioned it on top of the base like I did with the text. It is 0.4mm thick, like the text.

3D Printed Business Card
3D Printed Business Card

Printing

I sliced the model using the latest version of Prusa3D Slic3r. I used the following settings on my Prusa i3 Mk2S:

  • 100 micron layers (0.4mm standard Optimal setting)
  • 215C 1st layer
  • 205C PLA layers ( 2nd to 4th layer )
  • 240C PETG layers  ( 5th to 8th layer )

I uploaded the model to the Slic3r ColorPrint webpage and used their tool to modify the G-Code. I simply set it to request a color change after completing the background. When I inserted the PETG, I had to make sure to adjust the temperature to 240C using the tune option on the LCD panel.

 

Design Thoughts

I thought that it would be best to use my natural PLA for the background, and the PETG for text to get a sharp contrast. The opposite would work well, but I thought that the transparency of the natural PLA would be nice as a background. The PETG also requires a printing temperature of ~240C, so it has no problem adhering to a PLA surface. Printing PLA onto PETG might have adhesion problems, because of the lower printing temperature of PLA.

There was minor stringing with the PETG because I was using my standard PLA settings, and only changed the temperature during the color change. It still turned out quite nice considering how little effort I put into it. I started by printing one card, and then I printed six cards at once. Both batches turned out nice.

Stringing on PETG lettering
Stringing on PETG lettering

The cards are pretty flexible but still firm with a 0.4mm base and 0.4mm border. The text gives a really nice tactile feedback when you run your fingers across it. I’m going to try printing them with a base thickness of 0.6mm instead of 0.4mm. The 90mmX50mm size profile is standard, but you could go any direction with the shape or size or design. There’s so many options.

The PETG lettering stuck firmly to the PLA. I twisted, bent and crushed one of the cards and it didn’t break or lose letters. I had to use a knife to peel the letters off, and they were pretty stubborn. The borders didn’t stick as well as the letters, though. I was able to peel the border off of two cards with my fingernails. Perhaps it was too thin.

Crushed Business Card
Crushed Business Card

I am going to experiment with further modifying G-Code, so that I don’t have to manually adjust the temperature after a material switch. Maybe I should pick up some black PLA so I that I don’t have to fuss with temperatures.

 

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My New 3D Printer! Why I Chose Prusa instead of Flashforge or Rostock

For the past few months, I’ve been seriously considering buying a second 3D Printer. Currently I have a heavily modified FLSUN Delta, which still works beautifully, but I need to expand my options. I am constantly wanting to print multiple things at a time with different filaments, and I regularly have to wait for my printer to finish to start a new print. I set my budget around $1000-$1200 CAD and went out exploring my options.

 

Rostock Max V3

I was originally looking at the Rostock Max V3. I have heard nothing but great things about the Rostock line of delta printers. After asking multiple Rostock V3 owners on Reddit, the general consensus is that the printer has a very straightforward assembly and reliably produces beautiful prints with minimal effort. My time with my FLSUN Delta has also given me quite a lot of experience with delta printer design and troubleshooting. The build volume of 265mmx400mm is also very attractive. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to source a Rostock Max V3 in Canada for less than $1400 CAD all things considered, which was unappealing. The Max V2 is available for around $1,000 CAD, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted the V2. Maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right place?

 

Flashforge Creator Pro

Then I set my sights on the FlashForge Creator Pro. Quite a big change from the Rostock. It’s aesthetically pleasing and enclosed, has dual extruders and has great reviews. Sadly, it has a fairly small print volume ( around 225mm x 145mm x 150mm ) and the price ($1200 CAD) was still above what I felt comfortable with. I also feel like the dual extruders would turn out to be more trouble than they are worth.

 

The enclosed build space is attractive and would be great for ABS prints, but isn’t really required for most other common filaments.

 

Turns out that the FlashForge is just a clone of the Makerbot, though, and there are plenty of other clones! Two other very popular printers that are virtually identical to the FF Creator Pro are the Qidi Tech I and the PowerSpec Ultra. The PowerSpec Ultra wasn’t easily available to me, but the Qidi is available for a flat $999 CAD on Amazon.ca.

 

After researching the Qidi, a lot of users complained about a lack of proper cooling fans for the printer and an outdated board. Other users said the opposite, though, so I contacted Qidi directly about the printer. They assured me that their December 2016 Tech I version has improved cooling and an updated board. I was almost settled on the Qidi, but then I looked into the Prusa i3 again.

 

Original Prusa i3 MK2

Honestly, I had put the Prusa on the backburner because of what I’ve heard and seen about it. After looking at it more, though, I realized that everything bad I’ve heard or seen was about cheap Prusa i3 clones, and not the actual original Prusa Mk2. I guess I don’t pay close enough attention.

 

After researching the actual i3 a bit more, the one built and sold by Prusa Research, I was sold. Reviews for it are golden, and the price ($700 USD, about $1050 CAD) was right in my sweet spot. The Cartesian design is new to me, but it’s going to be a fun learning experience. The amount of upgrades and changes that can be made to the stock printer are also very appealing to a tinkerer like myself. The huge open source community surrounding the Mk2 is a big plus as well.

 

My Prusa Mk2 is on backorder right now. It will be about 5 to 7 weeks for the kit to ship, so expected delivery is early March. I ended up getting the black printed parts kit. I hope the wait will be worth it!