Art of 3D printer in the middle of printing a Hackaday Jolly Wrencher logo

3D Printering: Is Hassle-Free Bed Leveling Finally Here?

3D printers have come a long way over the past several years, but the process of bed leveling remains a pain point. Let’s take a look at the different ways the problem has been tackled, and whether recent developments have succeeded in automating away the hassle.

Anycubic Vyper 3D printer, front view
Anycubic Vyper, with an auto-leveling feature we decided to take a closer look at.

Bed leveling and first layer calibration tends to trip up novices because getting it right requires experience and judgment calls, and getting it wrong means failed prints. These are things 3D printer operators learn to handle with time and experience, but they are still largely manual processes that are often discussed in ways that sound more like an art than anything else. Little wonder that there have been plenty of attempts to simplify the whole process.

Some consumer 3D printers are taking a new approach to bed leveling and first layer calibration, and one of those printers is the Anycubic Vyper, which offers a one-touch solution for novices and experienced users alike. We accepted Anycubic’s offer of a sample printer specifically to examine this new leveling approach, so let’s take a look at the latest in trying to automate away the sometimes stubborn task of 3D printer bed leveling.

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A Simpsons TV For A Golden Age

While the pace of technology continues to advance at breakneck speed, certain things in the past are left behind largely subject to the whims of nostalgia. Televisions, for example, are lighter, cheaper, and bigger than they were in the early 90s, but they did have a certain design aesthetic that doesn’t exist anymore. Meanwhile, Simpsons episodes have been (arguably) on the decline since the golden age of the 90s, so [buba447] decided to combine these two facets of a nostalgic past into a custom TV that only plays these older Simpsons episodes.

Update: Now there’s a build guide.

The TV is 3D printed but takes design cues from CRT-based technology from decades past. It even has working knobs emblematic of that era as well. Inside the “television” is a Raspberry Pi which is hooked up to a small screen. The Pi powers up and automatically starts playing Simpsons episodes once it boots. There is a power button at the top of the TV which mutes the sound and also turns off the display. As an added touch, the display outputs in 640×480 resolution, which is also somewhat historically accurate, even if the TV itself is much smaller than its ancient relatives.

Of course, the TV only plays episodes from The Simpson’s first eleven seasons, which includes all of the episodes of The Simpson’s golden era (and a few extra) and omits those episodes from the modern era, which will please certain Simpsons fans as well. This actually isn’t the first time we’ve seen a 24 hour Simpsons device. This Pi-based build serves up Simpsons episodes nonstop as well, but sends them out over the airwaves instead.

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Giant CNC Machine Measures A Full Cubic Meter

There are plenty of designs for table-top 3D printers, engravers, and general CNC machines out there. However, if you wanna build big things and build them fast, sometimes you need a machine that can handle bigger jobs. This gigantic 1x1x1 m 5-axis CNC machine from [Brian Brocken] absolutely fits the bill.

The build relies on 3D-printed components and aluminium tubing to make it accessible for anyone to put together. [Brian] notes that 25×25 mm tubing with a 2 mm wall thickness does an okay job, but those aiming to minimize deflection would do well to upgrade to 5 mm thickness instead. Stepper motors are NEMA 23 size, though the Y-axis uses a pair of NEMA 17s. This is necessary to deal with the immense size of the machine. Control is thanks to an Arduino Mega fitted with a RAMPS board, running the Marlin firmware.

The plan is to use the machine to test out a variety of CNC machining techniques. It could make for a great maxi-sized 3D printer, and should be able to handle some basic 5-axis milling of very soft materials like foams. This might seem silly on the face of it, but it can be of great use for mold making tasks.

We’ve seen giant CNC routers built before, too, and they can readily be put to great use. Video after the break.

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RAMPS Rebuild Keeps Robox 3D Printer Out Of Junk Bin

A 3D printer is a wonderful invention, but it needs maintenance like every machine that runs for long hours. [Rob Ward] had a well-used Robox 3D printer that was in need of some repairs, but getting the necessary replacement parts shipped to Australia was cost-prohibitive. Rather than see a beloved printer be scrapped as e-waste, he decided to rebuild it using components that he could more easily source. Unfortunately the proprietary software and design of the Robox made this a bit difficult, so it was decided a brain transplant was the best path forward.

Step one was to deduce how the motors worked. A spare RAMPS 1.4 board and Arduino Mega2560 made short work of the limit switches and XYZ motors. This was largely accomplished by splicing into the PCBs themselves. The Bowden filament driver motor had a filament detector and an optical travel sensor that required a bit of extra tuning, but now the challenging task was next: extruding.

The printer’s new custom hotend.

With a cheap CR10 hot end from an online auction house, [Rob] began modifying the filament feed to feed in a different direction than the Robox was designed for (the filament comes in at a 90-degree angle on the stock Robox). A fan was needed to cool the filament feed line. Initial results were mixed with lots of blockages and clogs in the filament. A better hot end and a machined aluminum bracket for a smoother path made more reliable prints.

The original bed heater was an excellent heater but it was a 240 VAC heater. Reluctant to having high voltages running through his hacked system, he switched them out for 12 VDC adhesive pads. A MOSFET and MOSFET buffer allowed the bed to reach a temperature workable for PLA. [Rob] upgraded to a GT2560 running Marlin 2.x.x.

With a reliable machine, [Rob] stepped back to admire his work. However, the conversion to the feed being perpendicular to the bed surface had reduced his overall build height. With some modeling in OpenSCAD and some clever use of a standard silicone sock, he had a solution that fed the wire into the back of the hot end, allowing to reclaim some of the build height.

It was a long twelves months of work but the write-up is a joy to read. He’s included STL and SCAD files for the replacement parts on the printer. If you’re interested in seeing more machines rebuilt, why not take a look at this knitting machine gifted with a new brain.

Charger Caddy Shows What 3D Printers Were Meant For

As computers became more popular in the late 80s and into the 90s, they vastly changed their environments. Of course the technological changes were obvious, but plenty of other things changed to accommodate this new technology as well. For example, furniture started to include design elements to accommodate the desktop computer, with pass-through ports in the back of the desks to facilitate cable management. While these are less common features now there are plenty of desks still have them, this 3D printed design modernizes them in a simple yet revolutionary way.

While these ports may have originally hosted thick VGA cables, parallel printer cables (if they would fit), and other now-obsolete wiring, modern technology uses simpler, smaller solutions. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t any less in need of management, though. This print was designed to hold these smaller wires such as laptop chargers, phone chargers, and other USB cables inside the port. A cap on the top of the print keeps everything hidden until it is lifted by hand, where a cable can be selected and pulled up to the top of the desk.

While it might seem like a simple project at first, the elegance of this solution demonstrates excellent use of design principles and a knack for integrating slightly older design decisions with modern technology. If you have a 3D printer and a cable management port on your desk, the print is available on Thingiverse. Not every project needs a complicated solution to solve a problem, like this automatic solar tracker we recently saw which uses no complicated electronics or algorithms to reliably point itself at the sun.

Discarded Plastic Laser-Cut And Reassembled

The longevity of plastic is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it’s extremely durable, inexpensive, and easy to work with, but it also doesn’t biodegrade and lasts indefinitely in the environment when not disposed of properly. While this can mean devastating impacts to various ecosystems, it can also be a benefit if you happen to pick this plastic up and also happen to have a laser cutter around.

After cleaning and sorting plastic that they had found from various places, including scraps from a 3D printing facility, the folks at [dinalab] set about turning waste plastic into something that would be usable once more. After sorting it they shredded it and then melted it into sheets. They found that a sandwich press yielded the best results, as it kept the plastic at a low enough temperature to keep it from burning. Once its off of the press and properly cooled, the flat sheets of plastic can be sent to the laser cutter to be made into whatever useful thing they happen to need.

Not only does this process reuse plastic that would otherwise end up in the landfill (or worse, the ocean), it can also reuse plastic from itself since the scraps can be re-melted back into sheets. Plastic does lose some of its favorable material properties with repeated heat cycles, but we’d have to imagine this is negligible for the types of things that [dinalab] is creating. Of course, you can always skip the heat cycles entirely and turn waste plastic directly into 3D printer filament instead.

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Turning A MIG Welder Into A Metal 3D Printer

Metal 3D printers are, by and large, many times more expensive than their FDM and resin-based brethren. It’s a shame, because there’s plenty of projects that would benefit from being able to produce more heat-resistant metal parts with additive fabrication methods. [Integza]’s rocketry projects are one such example, so he decided to explore turning a MIG welder into a 3D printer for his own nefarious purposes. (Video, embedded below.)

The build is as simple as you could possibly imagine. A plastic adapter was printed to affix a MIG welding nozzle to an existing Elegoo Neptune 2 3D printer. Unfortunately, early attempts failed quickly as the heat from the welding nozzle melted the adapter. However, with a new design that held the nozzle handle far from the hot end, the ersatz metal 3D printer was able to run for much longer.

Useful parts weren’t on the cards, however, with [Integza] facing repeated issues with the steel bed warping from the heat of the welding process. While a thicker steel base plate would help, it’s likely that warping could still happen with enough heat input so more engineering may be needed. It’s not a new concept by any means, and results are typically rough, but it’s one we’d like to see developed further regardless.

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