This hack can refill your Stratasys 3D printer

[Dan] has his own Stratasys Dimension SST 768 3D printer. It’s a professional grade machine which does an amazing job. But when it comes time to replace the cartridge he has to pay the piper to the tune of $260. He can buy ABS filament for about $50 per kilogram, so he set out to refill his own P400 cartridges.

Respooling the cartridge must be quite easy because he doesn’t describe the process at all. But the physical act of refilling it doesn’t mean you can keep using it. The cartridge and the printer both store usage information that prevents this type of DIY refill; there’s an EEPROM in the cartridge and a log file on the printer’s hard drive. [Dan] pulled the hard drive out and used a Live CD to make an image. He loaded the image in a virtual machine, made some changes to enable SSH and zap the log file at each boot, then loaded the image back onto the printer’s drive. A script that he wrote is able to backup and rewrite the EEPROM chip, which basically rolls back the ‘odometer’ on how much filament has been used.

[Image Source]

Comments

  1. flink says:

    I wonder how long it’ll be until Stratasys slaps him with a DMCA lawsuit….

  2. MorbiousStone says:

    Good tired of all this proprietary rip off nonsense!! lolz :P

  3. Rob says:

    Nicely done. About time!

  4. Crazy Person says:

    I wonder if you could hook up the diagnostic console to the machine itself, add scripts to automatically “refill” cartridges on boot/cart change and just watch it all through SSH.

    It’d be awesome if you could make the machine hack itself!

  5. No offense, but what dicks take a large, expensive machine like that and then also try to tether you to their crappy refills? I think the higher the initial cost, the more free you should be to tinker with it and it should NOT act like a $50 Brother printer “OMG I *think* I’m out of toner so I won’t print.”

    • Hack Man says:

      Pretty much all of them.

    • Ren says:

      I was looking briefly at printers last night, ink cartridges for our 12 year old all-in-one HP are now about 3x their original cost, and some stores have stopped stocking them. Thanks for the warning about Brother…

      • Ian says:

        With Brother printers, all it takes is a little bit of electrical tape to fool it into thinking its cartridge is still full.

      • cutandpaste says:

        My $50 Brother printer seems perfectly content with ridiculously-cheap generic cartridges from random Ebay vendors.

        The printer itself even comes with some verbiage that says, mostly, “Please use Brother ink. It’s just better. But if you use someone else’s ink, it won’t void the warranty. Unless the ink itself somehow breaks your machine, and then you’re hosed.”

        Which really is about the most sensible way to go about it.

        In terms of nefariousness amongst consumer printer makers, Brother is about last on the list.

        (It does complain loudly when it begins to run low on ink, but that’s more because you Really, Really don’t want to ever run it dry: There’s a lot of plumbing in there that wants to always be full of ink, and never full of air, and the print head needs fresh ink available at all times to avoid becoming clogged with dried ink.)

    • daid303 says:

      The same dicks that trademarked “fused deposit modelling” (so they can claim that they are the best “fused deposit modelling” machine in the market)

  6. Scuffles says:

    I for one am certainly tired of all this proprietary bullshit and trying to push goods as services. So I’m all for this ^.^

    Well the only possible ethical problem I can see here is if they had some sort of contractual lease on the machine.

    If they bought the machine outright the they can do any damn thing they want to the machine.

    Just don’t go crying to the manufacturer when anything goes wrong because I’m fairly certain any warranty or service contract is null and void at this point :)

    • andar_b says:

      I’m reminded of the contract my old company used to have with Xerox. We paid cost-per-click but they supplied all the consumables and support, even when we thrashed the machine by printing nonstop for days.

      Now, on the other hand, IIRC law is such that a company CANNOT void your warranty for using 3rd party refills. I think it was IBM that caused that law, they sold punch card machines at a loss but charged a premium for the cards. Someone came up with 3rd party cards for cheap and IBM wasn’t happy about it. Fortunately IBM lost.

      • n0lkk says:

        In the event I remember reading correctly, such legislation has it’s beginnings in the automobile sector. Where manufacturers tried to restrict none dealer repairs to using OEM replacement parts. Given what I have been told by those who can afford to buy new vehicles with the now longer manufacturer warranties, the manufacturers have found a way around the older legislation that they couldn’t require dealer provided service & OEM parts to keep the warranty intact.

      • seriously, Xerox is so slimy that they’ll even try to sell you their own, “very special” non-repro blue pencils, and they have their own paper and cardstock too.

        Nowadays, of course, they also make red-light and speeding traffic Scameras.

  7. Ren says:

    Yep, the old “give away the razor, but charge for the replacement blades” business plan.

    Ardent, Alliant, Symbolics (erstwhile computer makers) also charged a premium for peripherals, it didn’t take users (sysadmins, electronic engineers, programmers) long to find ways to make 3rd party equipment work at less than half the cost…

  8. Doug says:

    Every time I see this sales aproach it kinda sickens me. They assume all people will look at is the upfront price tag and ignore the fact that you are getting stiffed on the back end (refills, manditory service, etc…)
    Lately the one that I have seen do this is the airlines. I just took a flight on one of Alegiant’s falling apart fleet of old planes. It cost $180 for the ticket, then I got suprised with another $150 for luggage. I expected to pay a bit for the extra piece, but I felt like I was mugged.
    Hopefully people start seeing the dishonesty in this aproach and stop buying from companies that do this.
    Good job on this hack BTW. Spread the word on how it is done and hopefully the company learns a bit of a lesson.

    • JB says:

      What I am surprised is that people still fly despite TSA abuse (not counting business)

      • Le Samourai says:

        What’s the alternative? Take a 10-hour train ride instead of a 3 hour flight? Right.

        • Steve Kelem says:

          That’s only a 3.3x time hit. It’s 11 hours to take the train from San Jose to Los Angeles, 1.25 hours to fly, which is an 8.8x time penalty.

          • Steve Kelem says:

            Actually, the two times are closer than you think. The 1.25 hour flight has an hour check-in and wait before the flight, an hour each way to get from parking to the terminal (LAX), 45 minutes to get your luggage, an hour to get to and rent a car…makes the flight closer to 6 hours. (The overhead for a train ride is a LOT less.) Maybe I will take the train next time!

      • JB says:

        It would be better than getting raped by the TSA. The alternative, don’t fly unless absolutely necessary. Hit the airlines where it hurts.

        Right after 9/11 no one flew for weeks so gov. had to bail them out. That won’t happen in this economy. They can be hurt again.

  9. brsnow says:

    Hmm, plastic filament………what about weedeater string? I don’t have a 3d printer, but that just popped into my head. It’s plastic, filament-ish, and pretty cheap. If you buy the big rolls, you could probably work out some kind of real simple auto feeder to pull right off the spool. Someone give it a try and let me know. I don’t even know what temp the stuff melts at(heading to garage with weedeater string, a lighter and IR thermometer, just for curiosity’s sake)

  10. Mike bradley says:

    I almost bought that machine for our shop, last minutes, literally, last minute, I pulled out due to the ridicules service fee agreement, I explain I have 1/2 million horizontal cnc, and it’s only $1,200 year for service contract, theirs was about $5,000, the said with if a major piece breaks it covers it, I said I could buy a new machine every 4 years for the service contract price!

  11. Galane says:

    The older ZCorp powder printers can be refilled with hydroperm and saki or vodka or other high proof alcohol booze containing some water to partially set the powder. The alcohol makes it evaporate quickly so you end up with a model instead of a mushy blob.

    http://haveblue.org/?p=1149

  12. Bubba Gump says:

    If you don’t (or in my case been told DO NOT) want to root your machine, bolsonmaterials dawt com.

  13. Matias says:

    It always makes me sick seeing this kind of garbage pulled on buyers by companies. It should be illegal, but instead it is a legal minefield to defeat…
    It seems standard practice now, but fabrication machines, from the simplest inkjet and up, should NEVER have lockouts for non-manufacturer material beyond a simple “Are you sure? This voids your warranty!”.
    Anything more is simply unethical.

    Great hack!

  14. chris norman says:

    Kraftwurx, in conjunction with sister company digital reality agree that forcing you to buy refills for manufacturing via 3D printing is like selling you a HAAS cnc mill and then you can only get your blocks of aluminum and steel from HAAS.

    Sell the machines, focus on that and you will be successful. If you try to be controlling, the makers will destroy you, reverse engineer things etc.

    Why do you think there are so many low cost/open source 3D printers coming on the market?

    • kraftwurx says:

      i bought a car. i run whatever oil i wish….I bought a Bridgeport CNC mill, I use wahtever material I wish and tool bits. I buy a 3D Printer…I refill it with materials that are exactly what the OEM sells but a fraction of the cost. They refuse to service it…I say…oh yes you will! IIRC!

  15. Jarno says:

    Hello!
    I’m looking to hack a SST 768 to convert it to a Elite. Anyone have a Elite printer and can explain to me what are the specific hardware and software difference between the two?

    Next, I’m looking to use the Fortus Insight software ti create the toolpath and hack the exportet CMB file to make it readable to the Catalyst EX. Anyone interested in this challange?

    • Graeme bond says:

      Hi, i have a dimension bst and now buy from bolson materials. they are cheaper than stratasys and they supply a spool and chip to load into the original outer casing.
      i would love to get a permanent fix on the material issue. thanks

    • Bruce says:

      I also have the stratasys insite 9.1 software for my Fortus printer. I would like to use the same software for one of the open source printers that seem to need G code. Does anybody have any idea how to convert this software to use on other printers?

  16. Mike T says:

    Dimension is just screwing themselves with this. Like a lot of companies, the place I work does runs of only a few hundred items. Say 300 and the injection mold is $3000 – that’s $10 added to the shot price. A Reprap can make the parts cheaper, so could a uPrint, (with better quality and less BS) but Dimension charges so much the injection mold is actually cheaper so we mold instead of buying their machines! INSANE.

  17. Chris says:

    3DSystems uses the razor blade model on their consumer Cube printers too :-(
    Their filament costs 5X what a spool costs. Here is a work-around until they patch their firmware: http://www.howmuchsnow.com/cube/

  18. The other option is purchases generic ABS material spools that work with Stratasys brand 3D printers. Replacement’s easy and saves loads of $$ down the road. Main US distributor is https://argylematerials.com/

  19. Gardoni says:

    If the problem is that the printer registered the used chip by its serial number, then the chips I have are diferent serial from the ones you have, would it be possible change the chip used on my printer to a new reffilled cartdrige and put it in another stratasys printer? this other printer would not have that serial registered and should show as new cartdrige correct? if any of you people want to try this out please let me know, my email jgardoni@jogarplastics.com I have plenity of chips from all the cartdriges I have used. I am located at mexico city by the way. If anybody has done this before please let us know if it worked.

  20. azabu says:

    Hello and thank you for the precious info. I have just bought a Dimension 768 but I don’t have the software Catalyst.
    Do you know where can i download it or find it for cheap? A copy is also nice.
    Thanks.

  21. plaspro says:

    Note since there are hundreds of different types of ABS and other materials, you really do take the health of your machine into your own hands if you use generic materials. The ABS typically has a wide range of melt temps within a grade of material and in various types (injection, extrusion, etc.) The software and hardware are matched to the material in the Dimension lines. The old adage of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” and caution should apply.

  22. Maarten says:

    Hi,

    We use 2nd party spools for our Dimension Elite. We get them with new chips and sent the old chips back to reset. So wouldn’t it be easy to “just” reset these. Does anyone have an idea to do this? I searched, but nothing found. Only messing with the harddisk of the printer…

  23. mARk says:

    My Dimension BST needs a head/heat/nozzle block. Apparently I have to buy the motoors, nozzles, wiring and frame to get the last part the filament touches before being squirted on to the plate. Tragic! Any body got a beast for salvaging?

  24. mARk says:

    We have a BST. It went all daffy one day. No action, and the circuit board LEDS blinking on/off in unison. First, the switch mode power supply, ($2256 from stratasys), A “pull” on e-bay was $130. Next, the power distibute board had no 12V or 120V DC output. Found and jumpered a broken PCB trace in one of the embedded levels of the PCB, $2495 saved. Piggy back supply,($512), had a bad switch chip, ($11). The extruder channels in the head had a small obstrucion in the “M” section. Whipped up a 120VAC adjustable pulse width supply. Hooked up a Fluke thermocouple meter to the thermo output. Dialed in the temp. and started inserting/retracting the plastic while forcing as much compressed air as possible fron the nozzles backwards. Solved. NOW I need the crtridge heater for the head, (they don’t like being handled after they have worked). I can’t EVEN get a return call from a rep. the factory folks won’t sell, now I’m stuck buying a $3952 assembly for lack of a $30 part. Go figure.
    billbigrig

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