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Behind the scenes at Idea2Product Lab

Current and past Idea2Product staff members share the behind the scenes work of the lab with individual blog posts. Being part of a Maker Space allows for the staff to teach students what they need to know about 3D printers as well as learn from our members. Managing the labs printers is a full time job for our staff, and they’d like to share with you the challenges and work they do.

Blog Post by Zach Ellis:

Like any machine, 3D printers break down over time. Belts stretch, plastic parts warp, and nozzles clog. In the Idea2Product Lab, most of these repairs are done in house. A majority of the lab’s Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers are Lulzbots. Lulzbot is an open source 3D printer manufacturing company based out of Loveland, CO. Being an open source company means that all Lulzbot products that can be printed, are posted online.

When parts on the labs printers break or warp, the lab can print a new part on another printer and replace the old part. The ability to repair our own printers, saves time and allows Lulzbot to distribute part redesigns and upgrades widely at a low cost. Overall the open source nature of the company greatly increases the rate of innovation and helps their clientele stay in production.

Blog Post by Jim Wise:

Seen here in lime green are the new, extended couplers attached to the Z-axis threaded rods.

One of the oldest 3D printers in the Idea2Product Lab is an old Taz that we have modified throughout its existence to be as up-to-date as possible alongside Lulzbot’s newest Taz models. One of the issues we had encountered after upgrading this printer was that the Z-axis threaded rods weren’t tall enough to utilize the entire build volume. What that meant was that the vertical acme threaded rods that rotate to move the extruder up and down were so short that if the print was too large it was possible for the entire extruder assembly to fall off when it went too high.

The couplers that are commonly used on Lulzbot printers are about two to three centimeters long, but the parts of the Z-axis mounts that are attached to these threaded rods never actually move all the way to the bottom. This means that the extruder assembly doesn’t go low enough to use the full length of the rod, and after seeing that longer couplers weren’t available in the size we needed we decided to model them. The new couplers were modeled to be over nine centimeters long with spaces for the motor shaft, threaded rod, and set screws. The new parts have not changed the quality of the prints.

Blog Post by Blaze Johnson:

Over the years the Idea2Product lab has had many printers, but the first and oldest printer that we had in our lab is the Afinia H480 printer. As the years went on our lab phased out the H480 printer and began to replace them with the Lulzbot Mini’s and Taz’s and with that the H480’s were put in storage for an indefinite amount of time. During Fall of 2016 I was tasked with bringing the printers back to life and over the course of last semester there were many unforeseen challenges but through those challenges my coworkers and I learned new information about the printers that had previously been lost, and at the end of the semester I had set the parts in an acetone bath to clean out the nozzles, and other parts over winter break.

My coworkers and I reassembled the Afinia extruders and the printers began working at a higher efficiency and broke down less often. During this time we also worked on getting another Afinia which was having issues with its heater block working. Wade Foreman and I were able to repair the broken heater block by using solder to reconnect the wires to heat the block to remove it. After replacing the heater cartridge we were able to get three out of the four Afinias working, but after a series of unforeseen events two of the printers went down unexpectedly. In the end though the Idea 2 Product Lab regained valuable knowledge about the Afinia 3D printers.

Blog Post by Daniel Sanchez:

Idea2Product’s SLA printers use a liquid resin that needs to be consistent throughout when printing. However, every once in awhile when a print fails, thin layers can be found floating in the liquid. This is a problem because if these thin layers are in the resin when a new print starts, the print will likely fail or not turn out. To help remove these imperfections in the resin, combs were design and 3D printed out of nylon to fit this need.

To use these combs, choose the correct comb for the printer so that the resin types do not mix and slowly run the comb from one end of the tray to the other end. Throw the thin layers that are picked up away and repeat until the comb comes out clean. After having used the combs for a few weeks, I redesigned them by making the distance between the bristles larger and the comb longer in length. This way the resin cleaning process would flow more quickly while still catching the thin layers.

If you’d like to learn more about the Idea2Product lab and our products, visit our websites technology page or become a member of the lab.