I thought I’d start saving some tips and tricks I’m learning when it comes to my specific printer, and as they relay to many other makes and model printers. Most of them aren’t extremely different. I mean if you keep the basics, the same- Boden tube, no laser-cutting or dual extruders or hacks/modifications, and just an everyday machine.
I’m trying to keep away from modifications for most reasons. I’ve learned over time and as we proceed into the future, that more and more, the engineers that create these remarkable machines – not just printers but cars and other intricate mechanical and electrical marvels- know what they’re doing better than I and have the resources, time and labs to prove it and keep working to make them even better. This wasn’t always the case, even 3 years ago. But these days I’m finding that’s more and more trust, as much as (mostly men) want to try and “improve” things.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t always room for optimization. Iterative or even wholesale improvement is something I’m always on the lookout for and always available. But that means we should be reasonable, smartly skeptical and ready to switch tacks when appropriate and prudent. 3D printing, I’m learning, is one of the wonkiest of hobbies because “best practices”can be so unique, and the number of ways things can be adjusted, experimented with and “unregulated,” meaning measured and agreed upon as “the best,” is so variable. Everyone’s always in learning mode still, and while that’s ongoing, new, and different, and better, methods are constantly appearing. In obscure places, usually, I’m finding. There are no real centralized forces behind the hobby or endeavor. It’s way more of a community still, for good and/or bad.
And with that very idea firmly in place, here’s where I’m curating what I’m at least finding to be some of the best tips and tricks and advice and troubleshooting and places to find help for my unique make and model printer. Most of the more experienced have several makes and models and ones they’ve settled on as their own favorite.” I’ll probably end up in that same boat eventually. But for where I am now this will be helpful for me, and maybe someone else in my shoes at some point. The model and make of my printer seem to be getting much more popular since I bought mine, which is gratifying and reassuring of course, but it provides even more resources and people to collaborate with. One thing I’ve noticed is the people in 3D printing are among the most positive, patient, and helpful you’ll find online. This is where you’ll find them, They are a quiet, indoor bunch who seem to like tinkering and are introverts. That even describes me to an extent. But one of the things I like is that with the available technology, it’s possible to have the printer working while I do other things outside, away from the operations, and possibly even asleep. But I can monitor what’s going on with a camera and real-time data and feed right from my printer itself to my iPhone. I have AI software monitoring it as well so that it’s always watching it and if ANYthing seems amiss, I’ll be notified. Pretty cool and hands-off when-wanted hobby, which still toils away and allows me to do other things. Which is cool. It’s like having a bunch of distal elves back at the tree working away when I can’t supervise.
Which I suppose should lead me to quickly explain some of the best practices I’ve found, relying on several months of research, try/fail, communication with the very people that engineered and built my printer in China, and annoying endless people in online forums(and getting some major help from some smart people along the way.)
The Anycubic Mega S
Firstly, this printer, the Mega S, is a model that seems to be created to fit in line between the earlier i3 models, which didn’t have as many nice features, and the other more “feature-rich” models, which include a laser-etcher. I already have a laser etcher, and I find when you begin attaching “non-essential” features like a laser cutter, you’re asking for more trouble. So when the laser goes south, you’re left with also a printer that doesn’t want to work 100% and gives you problems in other ways. I learned this lesson most notably from having used 4 and 5-in one paper printers. When the scanning function went kerplunk, so did everything else. It’s best to have dedicated machines for every single task, in other words.
So what it does, I’ve found, it does well. And I haven’t found many ways to modify it that I don’t resort to going back to manufacturer’s recommendations that simply work best. When I’ve been tampering with settings or going above diligent maintenance, that’s when things go awry.
So that’s one lesson with this printer. Trust your instincts and the engineers that built this thing. It’s what I’d describe as a SUPER printer for getting started with printing, depending on your comfort level with technology, and getting your hands dirty with taking hardware apart and digging into code and advanced settings and adding plugins, and certain improvements available. Such as Octoprint, which is a big one.
I was dubious about Octoprint. But eventually became sold on its usefulness. It doesn’t cost anything for the software being opensource, which is awesome. If you aren’t afraid to learn code and get into the inner working and not be hand-held all the time. That drives a lot of people away, and for understandable reasons.
That isn’t me, however. I also realized not only did I have an extra Raspberry 2B+ laying around (he many people can say that?) I have a Model 1 with some cool accessories, like a wireless dongle, Pi SD card, a LED “hat” and some covers for both, for each which I had forgotten about. Which was all I was missing. I was about to shell out about $135 to go ahead with Octoprint, just when I discovered that. Cool! And an old Camera which I forgot about, however, I can’t find a NICE webcam I KNOW I bought and is lost, or was stolen along with a lot of other valuables that were taken last year. On the other hand, I did break out a VERY nice Canon camera and accessories/lenses/stuff I had and set away to forget about but plan to use again. something I realize is that sometimes I get too far ahead of the curve and the things I get into are just too prime for their time. SO I set them in a closet, only to discover them when they’re more mainstream. I did this with drones, and Probably VR, which I still have a lot of gear for, waiting for a better day to use.
So I set up Octoprint with my Raspberry Pi2, which works great, and 3D printed a cover for it as well for free, which was satisfying. If you get a Mega S, or any modern 3D printer, you really should learn to work Octoprint and set it up. It’s liberating on so many levels, frees up so much time, enables you to adjust and make settings so much easier, and reduces operational friction by a matter of multiples. There’s a learning curve to be sure, though if you’re starting from scratch.
You’ll need a good assortment of little tools to get anywhere. They aren’t expensive, but you need to know where to look. Alibaba, Geek.com(which has an app, I’d recommend over the website) and Amazon are good places to look digitally, and Harbor Freight Tools if your city has one, is a place you’ll visit often at first. They just have SO many useful little tools for SO cheap. From dental picks to small files, to a $9, low-RPM Dremel tool, to calipers, magnets, clamps, tiny screwdriver and hex sets, X-acto knives, and on and on. I have these items listed in 3d Printing Resouces. You can probably get all these things for under $20.
What triggered me to write this post was this video I found today. The video isn’t “new” or any newer than the Mega S itself is(or at least all iterations of the S, of which there have been 2 I know of. Note the one in the still-shot of the video has no touchscreen or filament holder, and I don’t think the bed was heated on these earlier ones, plus a few other upgrades, while keeping the price almost static- UNBELIEVABLE), but I found it to be so helpful and obscure I felt compelled to share it here, at least. It has some tips in it that the creator doesn’t cover, but I’ll try to.
What happened with me is my filament broke off in the extruder gearbox, meaning a small line of filament was stuck in the Teflon tube. How to access it and get it out without disassembling the box or hot end or doing something totally unnecessary? I’ve done that before so I wanted to avoid repeating it. I found this video which reminded me of a few things.
One is that the Teflon tube is removable at the extruder end. But to do that you have to push down on the small black ring at the base of the tube. This is subtle so it’s not readily apparent. Plus the way the extruder is set up, up, a lot of it has to be accessed from underneath, meaning you would have to lay on your back to see what you’re doing or be able to mount and work using a mirror, which is not only tricky but hardly desirable.
Also, there is a small black “funnel” that’s inserted in place, and not firmly, into the bottom of the extruder that wants t pop out whenever changing filament. So don’t let it fall out and lose it, which is easy to do if you’re working over a very ornate oriental rug, as I am.
I had a lot of difficulties learning to change out the filament on this machine. No longer, but it took time and a lot of tries and learning. Again, mostly because of how it’s designed and inverted. Make sure the hot end is at the right temperature whenever changing out the filament. When it is, then press the “filament in” or filament out” button. When you’re removing it, as it comes out of the extruder and Teflon tube, you’ll want to cut the ending clean for next time and so it’ll fit through the feeder on the side more easily. Then be sure to press “STOP.”
The same goes for “filament in.” But his time let the hot end heat up, then press “filament in,” then pull back on the trigger and very carefully and deliberately run the new filament through the feeder divide(very important and easy to forget!!) and run the filament all the way to the hot end where it’ll flow out, pushing a little of the previous filament out before it. When that happens, press” END”(Stop) on the touchscreen to stop it. It’s that easy, but you can’t forget any little detail.
When my filament was stuck up in the filament Teflon tube, I had to remove the type from the extruding end by depressing the black ring. Luckily, I had a small bit peeking out which I could grab with my needlenose pliers. I bought the smallest set of needlenose pliers I’ve ever seen at Harborfrieght, only BECAUSE they were so small (and I think 75 cents) and they have come in all sorts of handy. Even for changing my guitar strings.
One of the most helpful sites I’ve come across for the Anycubic Mega S has been The 3D Printer Bee. He has referral links, but don’t let that dissuade you. He doesn’t get a commission from sponsoring certain products and it’s of no cost at all to the buyer, so the only thing you’re doing is getting a credible, vouched-for product at a good deal and helping out a person who has tried to help the community with his knowledge, as I’m hoping to do as well with these articles.
There’s a lot to learn with 3D printing, which I personally like. It’s at the point where there’s a gentle learning curve that almost anyone can jump onto as far back on as they need to begin. I am glad I made some good decisions when tip-toeing into this hobby. First is, I’m glad I considered it a hobby from the outset, and not some path to riches, or cure-all for all my modern worries, or a lot of other people I think to get into some new technologies, like Crypto and the Blockchain or web design or development. I say that from the experience of having waded in a lot of them myself. And I see/saw many join in with misperceptions or perhaps the wrong goals in mind. I’ve seen that behavior in so many pursuits: real estate, financial planning, and mostly low-barrier to entry “hotspots” as they quickly become in an ever=growing number of people who seek the latest and greatest. Which is easier and easier to do with the perpetually growing internet/online adopters, who are another group that is building over time with early-adopters first, then adventurers, then the group that HAS the matter forced upon them, usually by an employer, peer pressure, government, or some other external force we, as humans, internalize. and on down the line until it’s beyond mainstream. The same place Electric cars are headed, thanks entirely to Elon Musk, who is the most superhuman phenomenal man of my time, at least. And I’ve been fortunate enough o have lived long enough to include some heavy-hitters in competition with Musk. A LOT. That’d be an interesting and fun list to make: the most important men in my lifetime and why indisputably. And for equal fun, the LEAST (in relative terms and definition) important. And women; don’t mean to be sexist. There are some chicks who have their fair shares of good and evil. And that would be a fun, and hotly polarized & debated list to cross-reference and see comparisons/contrasts and patterns. And to see if anyone comes to the other’s defense and “rescue” (or rejection of) of positions and reasons. And there will always be the haters, no matter what. You can guess what their stances would be before getting started.
Another good decision was to get this model and make – the Anycubic Mega S. It was a great price by a firm that has really treated me well, and I couldn’t be happier with the quality of the product and their service. I try to reasonably high standards, and when people meet them or exceed them I like to make sure I give them due credit. Too many people are too quick to criticize, and too few are too distracted to give acclaim, I think. At least online where there isn’t as much face-to-face interaction. That fact itself is what makes both phenomena easier, one way or the other.
To try and get back on the tracks here,
What I’ve had to do to mine so far, mostly due to user error, miscommunication (I don’t speak either variant of Chinese, to my regret) and inexperience on my part (notice a pattern?) is this:
Replaced the extruder. I don’t know if this was my fault or not; inconclusive. For context, I couldn’t get the new filament to feed don’t the Teflon tube. I went back and for with the Anycubic people being as straightforward and helpful as I could. And they were super-patient and wonderful to work with, I thought. You’ll see people hating on them across the internet, but I chalk their complaints on missed expectations due to a lack of research beforehand o the consumer’s part. There’s a duty to go into any negotiation prepared for what you’re getting into before you put your money down because, at that point, the choice has been made By the consumer. So they lose the leverage to go back and blame the manufacturer or distributor without being well-armed. And I see the case that they aren’t more times than they are, to be candid, especially by the types of people that are willing to back online and trash the supplier of the goods/service. And that is usually due to an incapability to satisfy the customer, which is a risk the person took after their own standard and level of due diligence were met. Any decent company with any longevity or reason to elicit and maintain a high-profit margin not based on scarcity of the product alone should be able to have a meeting of the minds with any reasonable person. That’s not to claim that all people on either side are “reasonable” all the time. There will be exceptions as there are with nearly any case imaginable. There will be even the smallest of variances and unknowns which we need to factor in. Plus the exceptions don’t make the rule. I’m sure there’s a funny, satirical cartoon or skit involving that. But I’m too focused on other things to look. I have a shortcoming I’m working on fixing that comes to putting more graphics, and especially video clips, GIFs, and even maybe some more long-form video Sincerely, if worth the time.
Like this, for example. One of the most astounding things I’ve come across in a while both on and offline. The former providing a lot more of that than the latter. The next time you think you have it “hard” or work is becoming too unsuitable, or any number of things 1st world humans fret and worry about these days become a problem, watch this whole thing. And think of the differences between them and yourself. That’s what I did. It makes you feel a lot of ways. It did for me at least: Grateful, embarrassed, jealous, relaxed, restless, inspired, humbled, spoiled, educated, overeducated, overworked, and with a lack of focus (despite that being a top priority), motivated, curious, stifled, frustrated, and a host of other thoughts and emotions. Which is a shower of brain activity I often enjoy.
I know for a fact I began typing out a list of the best things to do when getting started with 3D printing, or at least with a Mega S. And went to do something else, came back here, and lost my writing. It’ll happen. But it’s frustrating. So allow me to try again. I’ve already forgotten what was on the original list, which is why I tend to make such lists and why it’s frustrating when they unexpectedly disappear.
- Label things for present, or future, organizational purposes. Don’t be lazy. The seconds it’ll take you to “tag”, rename, give logical names to the file of, or create a folder for and drop it in, will be far less of a time-waste than you think of it as now, versus when you need or want it and cannot locate it. Anywhere. That’s why it’s also good become familiar with where searchboxes are and how to pull them u, or even set a hotkey for to use when needed and make it even quicker,or use an app like Alfred to built efficient workflows to handle often-repeated tasks that cululatively amount to a lot of time. Zapier, Alfred, IFTTT are good places to look fo rhelp with workflows. Even Hey “Siri” can be connected to Apple’s “Shortcts” app to set up quick worklows to often used commands. That’s one way I look for ways to condense time it take to do frequent tasks. That’s a pretty rich tip!
- Another way is tolog what you’re doing and have done. It represents a record of how and what you’re spending time doing. Obviously don’t let all this logging and labelling become more effort that you’re reaping as a dividend of thies epreventative practices. Maek it simple, logical toyour own brain, not someone else’s template or way of doing things but how YOU think, as lineraly as possible. Meaning, “what would I look for if I wanted so find something likde this later?” And label it that.
The example is below. I began this 3D print that was to take 11 hours. And 20% into tit I forgot what it even was. You can’t go just by looking at what it’s printed, becasue of rafts, supports and the way it looks now, there’s NO WY to guess. What is this thing A mutant crab? A sidways fox riding a bike? WhAT!?
And before I get onto #3, I know you can look in Cura, or in Octoprint, and look at the file name or something to ID it, but a simple website like 3D Print Log will fix that even easier, and allow you to log a bunch of info in it easily. I have this set up with a plugin on Cura so whenever I hit “Print” it automatically opens the site and logs it in for me. I have the chance to add/edit the details and hit “Submit” and have a detailed log of all my prints, which I can store, and delete or manage from this very site.
What I’m going to try to do, if I have time tonight, in fact, I’ll build a macro that will take this info from that website and takes it over and save sit in a Google Sheet or Excel file. Since Google Sheet is free and I know integrated with a few things, I’ll give that a try, I may have to route it through Gighub or something, but this is worth a try. If I can then save that as data, I can cross-reference it to look for patterns and trends.
3) —-> W.I.P. I’m publishing this as-as just to get it out of my “pending” folder which is bursting. I have lots of work that I’m being too particular with to not just publish. sometimes things have to be “perfect.” Just get them out, active and come back when you can. There’s enough material to work with, and some things won’t ever be perfect or to a too-high of a personal, inexplicable standard. I have to accept that.