Tuesday, 29 November 2011

StepStick - Allegro from snipermand configuring

As I mentioned in my last post I purchased a StepStick stepper driver from spinermand on eBay (link to item) and the trimpot kept turning.

I posted the a thread on the RepRap forums and promptly got the following reply.
On the 'normal' stepstick it would be the left pad and upper right. If your multimeter supports measuring resistance, you might want to use that to determine how far the trimpot is open.

Ironically enough the person how replied was (or at least seems) to be the same guy who runs RepRapWorld. Which I purposely avoided due to the questionable selection of parts in the RAMPS DIY kit.

Connections to measure highlighted

By attaching the multimeter in resistance mode to the highlighted points (see above image) on the new
StepStick then comparing it to be resistance one of my RepRapWorld StepStick I was able to match the settings.

For this reason I would avoid snipermand for StepSticks as it adds another step to the set-up and would be even more tricky if don't have a StepStick with a ended trimpot as you'd have to calculate the values.

Monday, 28 November 2011


I just noticed that I haven't updated this blog in quite sometime.

Why the delay?

Stepper motor driver

Firstly the stepper driver I fried. It took about a week for a new one to arrive.
Instead of going with RepRapWorld (I choose against it due to the issues I had with the RAMPS kit) I brought it from eBay (link).

It worked out about £1 more, but I thought it would be nice to try a different supplier.
I ordered it on the 16/11/2011 and it arrived 24/11/2011, this alone set me back a full week.

When I came to install the stepper driver yesterday I noticed the trimpot (the little circular part at the bottom) kept turning.

I asked the supplier and got the following reply
There are no stops to these trimpots.
But you can adjust the current limit by measuring the voltage on the trimpot dial.
Adjust the voltage to 0.7 x max stepper current.

This means more testing and even more delay

Drill bits, drills and family business

When I planned for this project I took into account a selection of tools which my father owns. Unfortunately for me he was using them at my sisters new house which meant I couldn't just use them.
This set me back a few days.
Then when I finally got hold the a drill he didn't have a 3mm drill bit...

On top of this my sister is pregnant and she offered to let me go with her for the scans. I can build a RepRap any time, but my sister will only have her first pregnancy once.

Wire strippers and hot glue gun

These two items I brought myself and thought I knew exactly where they were. However it turns out a family member had borrowed them then another family member put them in a bag then into the back room*.

I spent a few hours yesterday cleaning out one of the large cupboards and still didn't find them. On the plus side I did find a selection of tools and strangely enough about £20 worth of women's beauty products.

*the back room is where all the random items go, similar to a loft only with fishing tackle and pet hedgehogs.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

It lives (RAMPS)

After finally finishing the RAMPS assembly last night I thought I'd give it a test run.

In truth I was expecting it to go pop and not even turn. I did so many things wrong or in a roundabout way it is stupid.
To quote on of my favourite songs, Do as I say not as I do.

I found the easiest way to wire RAMPS up to a computer psu was to use the pin pin 12v yellow and black connector.
Snip the end, strip the wires then attach.
For anyone reading the RAMPS 1.4 wiki entry and wondering what the heck the COM wire is on  diagram explaining how to attach the power its ground.
COM = ground
It stands for common return path.
So using the 4 pin connector wires it goes;
*top near the 6 pin screw connectors*
*bottom near the reset switch*

A quick way to start an psu is to use a paperclip (I was told this my Corsairs psu technicians) from the power-on lead to any ground.

I powered on the RAMPS board, connected the usb then booted up the Arduino software (link to download page).
Windows 7 picks up the Arduino drivers, however with XP or similar you'll have to point Windows to the drivers folder in the Arduino software folder.
After setting the coms port to com 3 (generally you have two ports com 1 and com x, use com x) and board to 1280 I uploaded the test file (link).
To my utter surprise it worked, well the LED's all flashed.
So I powered down RAMPS and installed one of the stepper drivers (I'm using StepStick) and attached one of my stepper motors.

Before I installed the stepper driver I carefully turned the dial to 25% (all the way counter clockwise then back 25% of the way), however in a complete daze I installed the stepper the wrong way around.
Install the stepper drivers so the dial away from the mosfets.
Bam Windows no longer regonised the usb device and I instantly knew what I had done wrong.

Luckily it only blew the stepper driver and not the whole RAMPS board. Replacing the stepper driver with a new one and installing it correctly resulted in my stepper motor majestically turning left then right.

Of cause this means I'm one stepper driver down, but atleast my RAMPS works.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Avoid RepRapWorld for electronics - UPDATE DIY kits only

I posted earlier about a few of the pins being bent on the stepper drivers and the headers.

As the assembly went on I noticed more and more issues.

After the pins I discovered the red LED's where far smaller then the green LED (I suspect 0603). This made soldering them harder and much trickier.

As I neared the final steps I noticed RepRapWorld had supplied me with 6x 8pin headers (for the stepper drivers) as opposed to 2x 24pin header. This meant I had to file the middle headers and slightly force it in, both of which are risky to do.

On top of all this the Arduino Mega 1280 (a clone..) doesn't even come with a USB cable or feet. To make matters a little more confusing (to a newbie at least) its preloaded with the blink example.

Add all this to the fact it took them 13 working days to even dispatch the order, I'm not happy with them.

To top it all off when I mentioned RepRapWorld on the IRC channel Kliment instantly said RepRapWorld had caused people no end of hassle and he was getting annoyed with RepRapWorld.

Honestly if my RAMPS board ever works I'd be surpised.

OK I'll be honest some of the trouble is down to be and my tools*, but RepRapWorld have caused way more then there fair share of issues.

*I know the common phrase a poor workman blame his tools, but in my case my soldering iron tip was fubar and it seems like my soldering iron overheats.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Quick update - misc items

The crimps and connectors from Hobbytronics arrived yesterday.

The loupe (20x18mm) and 0805 10k resistors arrived today, pretty damn good considering I only ordered them yesterday.

The difference a loupe makes is immense. From barely being able to read the 0805 rating to being able to see the individual pixels on my phone.
This means I can be 100% sure my soldering is on spot on (well as best I can achieve).

I would highly recommend anyone who is even considering soldering ramps themselves to budget for one and I consider it an essential if you choice to assembly the ramps yourself.
Seriously the difference it makes counters the very small cost of one.

Fingers crossed my new soldering iron tips will arrive tomorrow and I can resume the soldering.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Connectors, crimps and wires

When I was initially budgeting for my build I didn't think twice about the connections I'd need for the stepper motors, endstop or anything else.
I just thought, I can save time and hassle by soldering them on.

Now looking at the time its taking to solder RAMPS (damn you tiny smd parts) I'm very reluctant to solder anything to the board. Its like a piece of art which is taking time to create and perfect
You don't go and whack a nail though the canvas on a piece of art now do you?

There is only one reasonable solution, crimped connectors.
However there are literally hundreds if not thousands of different connector types. All in different shapes and sizes.
After looking through the RepRap forums I found this thread. This gave two very important bits of information;
1. Dupont connectors are good for the job
2. The size is 2.54mm or 0.1"

This in mind I headed over to ebay to see if I could find any dupont connector. There were loads, however they were all based in the US or Asia. Both of which would take at least a week to arrive (without I paid a silly premium).
Back to google I went, after about 10 minutes of searching I found exactly what I needed at HobbyTronics.
A nice selection of 0.1" housings and both female and male crimps.

I figured I need 4 crimps per motor (excluding one of the Z motors), 2 for each end stop and 6 for the hot end (4 for the resistor and 2 for the thermistor).
So 28 ( (4*4)+(3*2)+6).
For the housings I need a few sets of 4 (for the motors), a few sets of 2 (for everything else) and some singles just in case.

Final basket

1x Female Crimp Pins for 0.1" Housings 50-Pack  - £2.25
1x Crimp Connector Housing: 0.1 inch pitch 1x4-Pin 10-Pack -£0.45
1x Crimp Connector Housing: 0.1 inch pitch 1x2-Pin 25-Pack -£0.59
1x Crimp Connector Housing: 0.1 inch pitch 1-Pin 25-Pack -£0.55
Sub-Total -£3.84
Delivery - £2
Total - £5.84

Bargain now I don't have to trash the connection on RAMPS.

PS. I ordered around 3pm and there where shipped at around 4pm.

Arrg, damn you 0805 resistors.

On Monday when I started soldering the smd parts I had managed to drop one of the resistors on the floor which luckily I found a few minutes later.
However last night I managed to lose 2 of them.
First it was a 4.7k resistor, which like the night before, shot out of the tweezers and off the desk. I did manage to find this later.
Second and most baffling lost resistor was a 10k. I opened the package on the plastic side, I resealed it then went to tin the connections. When I went to pick up the resistor there were only 4 in the packet where there should have been...
I looked everywhere, but couldn't seem to find it.

In the end I managed to find someone on eBay selling a set of 10 for £1.30 (with 1% accuracy compared to others on eBay with 5% or higher).

On top of this I noticed my soldering irons "hotspot" no longer seems to be the tip, but about 5mm down from the tip. I had tried sanding the tip then re-tinning, but it didn't do anything.
So I ended up ordering a set of replacement tips at £3 for 3.

While I was in a buying mood I purchased a loupe so I can check the finished soldering and properly read the resistor numbering (in case I ever need to change them).

Looks like I won't be done soldering until this weekend.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Electronics finally arrived!!!

During my daily refresh of RepRapWorld last Thursday (3/11/11) I noticed it was finally marked as dispatched and given a tracking number.

A lot of excitement and a few days later I received the package.
So last night when I arrived home I had a spool of PLA filament with a center of electronics.

Prep and Issues

First thing I noticed was one of the Stepstick pins was a little bent so I carefully corrected that.
Second was the scary size of the 0805 resistors, I was expecting small, but they are tiny. I envisioned them being slightly smaller then a grain of rice which was way off the mark. The best example I can give (pictures don't really show the size too well) is pick up a standard staple then cut one of the small sections in half thats roughly the size of the smd 0805 parts.

The last thing I noticed and what took the longest to rectify was lack of markings on the resistor packaging.
With the hardware Thingfarm had labelled each bag and the items which weren't labelled were so different anyone would notice the difference.
RepRapWorld on the other hand only separated the main components of the full kit; Arduino MEGA 1280, Stepsticks, Stepstick heatsinks and the diy RAMPS board/parts.

As the resistors weren't marked up I had to read the numbering from the top. Remember how small the resistor is (as described above), now imagine trying to read a set of 4 digits from them.
I couldn't find my magnifiying glass anywhere was after a lot of rumaging and fumbling I found a pair of 1.5x magnification reading glasses.
Luckily the only resistors which could be confused are the 3x 10 with 3x 1.8k and the 5x 4.7k with 5x 10k.
I used this resistor calculator to work out the ratings (last time I resistor values where back in school years ago).

The soldering

Tools used

I had these lying around
Soldering iron
I brought these for this project
Flux pen
Soldering braid

With my freshly marked up resistors and clean working desk I began the fiddly process of soldering the smd parts.
I used the official RAMPS 1.4 guide from the wiki (link).
I fluxed each contact on the pcb just before soldering and used this guide for my soldering methodology (the actual soldering starts around the 7 minutes mark).
C2 was a little hit and miss, but that was to be expected as it was my first go at real smd soldering.
LED1 (the green one) threw up another curb ball, Place these with the end having green dots away from the + mark on the PCB, fine, but my pcb didn't have any + marks on it. Luckily the images on the wiki show the + mark and it was fairly easy to work out which way was which.
For some reason the red LED's (LED2, LED3 and LED4) seem to have half the width of the green LED which made soldering them a little more tricky.
R13, R14, R15, R12 and R23 all went in fine. I'd recommend soldering R13 after R12 as R12 is situated between R13 and LED1 making it a little fiddly.

Now I bet your wondering why I stopped at R23 and didn't do R24 and R25 at the same time.
Well the answer is I had a slight accident. During the soldering of R12 to R15 I managed to touch a hot section of the soldering iron with one of my fingers. I wasn't a big deal and it barely tingled, however for some reason while grabbing R24 my hand trembled, causing the resistor to shoot off the desk.
I kept my calm and soldered R25 (as I didn't want to lose that as well), then spent about 20 minutes on my hands and knees looking for it.

I was just about to give up then noticed it had landed on the top of my pc and not the floor itself.

I soldered R24 in then called it a night.

My poor burnt finger

Time to order a loupe and clean my soldering iron (the tip isn't heating correctly).

I'll continue the soldering tonight.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Still no electronics

I've not posted any updates in a while as I've not been able to make any progress.

I currently have a full frame, set of stepper motors and assembled extruder (including hot end), however I'm missing the electronics.

From my experience building computers one of the first things you learn is check everything works outside of the case. Its too easy to screw everything in and cable tie the wires in place, only to find one part doesn't work. Leading to dis-assembling the whole thing just to find the issue.

For this reason I've not fixed in any of the stepper motors or hot end.

I ordered the RAMPS Full DIY kit along with some PLA on 16th October . On the 22nd I sent an email asking for a quick update and recieved the following message:

Dear Joseph,

There was a little problem with the RAMPS board. I will shipp it Monday by priority airmail and you will receive it within a few days!

I am sorry for the inconvenience!


Shortly followed by:

Ok! Thanks.

Your board is now fully tested!

Kind regards,


So I was expecting the order to be shipped on the Monday (24th) and arriving within 3 to 5 days.

I kept checking the order status on RepRapWorld and it never changed.
Now 15 days after I placed my order the status is still the same as it was only a few minutes after placing my order.

Below is a screen shot of the order.
Note the order is still processing and was placed on the 16th.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

26th October - A little more work on the frame and `not` a trip to B&Q

Like the previous post this is a back dated post.

A little more frame building and alignment

With my new M8x45 bolt (couldn't find a fully thread M8x50) I went back to building the frame.
I spent about 1 hour aligning the frame, double checking the distances between sections and completing pages 59 to 67.

I choice to leave 1 and 2 on page 63 until after steps 3, 4 and 5. Then just thread the plumb (or in my case a nut on some fishing line) line through the rod hole.
I did this mainly because I was worried about losing any more parts as it doesn't really save any time just a little space.

Thread the plumb line through the bar clamp.
I found that threading the plumb through the top and bottom bar clamps (pictured above) allowed me align bar clamp on 2 axis' as opposed running the plumb beside the clamp and only aligning one axis.

B&Q or not

I didn't want to proceed to gluing stage without having the print bed set (as it looks like a pain to get in once the z axis is in place).
So I thought I would grab a quick bite to eat then head off to B&Q for the mdf.

I was about to leave at 7.20pm then my sister chirped up that she wanted to come along for some wall paper. Fine, but we'd have to take another car as the mdf would mean the back seats in my car would have to be down.
Two more family members wanting to go to B&Q and 10 minutes later we were ready to go.
The only trouble was the time was now 7.30pm, B&Q shuts at 8pm and it takes atleast 10 minutes to get there.
I jumped in the back of my sisters husband car and as soon as we set of my sister decided that B&M was cheaper for wall paper and as they sell DIY stuff she was "sure they have mdf". This added another 10 minutes to the journey time, the store is in the other direction and requires going through a town.

We got there 10 minutes before they were due to close and after a quick run around the store looking for mdf it appeared they did not in fact carry mdf. To make matters worse after 10 minutes of looking at wall paper they decided none suited the rooms and that B&Q might have been better...

Total time spend building my reprap: 4 hours 30 minutes

25th October - Building the frame and extruder

This is a bit of a back log as I jumped straight into the build on Tuesday as soon as the hardware arrived.

I'd ordered the Prusa hardware kit, J Head hotend, Wade's extruder hardware and some kapton tape. All the parts seemed to be present and accounted for so I set of building.


I thought it would be easiest to start with the extruder, how wrong I was.

It all went along swimmingly until it was time to check the alignment of the hobbed bolt.
Using 2 washers it was off by about 0.5mm, so I reduced it to 1 washer. However once I'd assembled the extruder I noticed this caused the motor bolts to rub the gear.
After some disassembly, inspection and consideration I noticed that the bearing on the gear side wasn't as flush as the other side.
It was barely noticeable about 0.5mm more then the other side. Problem solved, I'll just find any bumps and sand them down. The only trouble was I couldn't see any, so I just ground them down a little and pushed the bearing in with a little more force.
This worked fine however I did have to remove the washers from the motor bolts as the clearance was extremely close.

Lesson learnt ensure the bearings on the extruder are as close to the plastic as possible and check the alignment before assembling the extruder.

I've edited a screen the the relevant section from the visual guide.
Red light is the filament path, blue block is the bearing in question
and the yellow blocks are the bolts which attach the motor

Note if the bearing (blue block) is out then the hobbed section is out.

The extruder took about 1 hour 30 minutes to make due to error and my blind haste.
I have yet to mount the hotend as I'm still considering the best way to mount it.

Frame Build

This is all fairly straight forward.

Its worth noting down which threaded rods are which as the visual guide on mentions the lengths on the BoM page then just refers to them as location rod (eg Bottom rod).
This will save a lot of time skipping from the page your one to the BoM every time you switch rod lengths.

When assembling the X axis (page 57) getting the nuts to stay in the traps is a little tricky. The easiest way to do it is get them place (I used a cable tie to poke them in) then slide a smooth rod into the hole. This way they can't slip out of the traps.

I got upto page 59 then I realised I'd misplaced the 50mm threaded rod and couldn't find it anywhere. Luckily I got one from work the following day.

Excluding the print bed (I forgot to buy the mdf, so I'll be visiting  B&Q soon) it took me just less then 2 hours to get to this stage (page 59) with the frame.

Total time spend building my reprap: 3 hours 30 minutes

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Blogs of interest

When I started researching RepRap in-depth apart from the wiki and forums I found blogs to be one of the best source for getting started. They generally, like this one, follow someone on there path from researching and BoM's, all the way to printing, refining and upgrading there RepRap

Until now I've only mentioned one or two of the blogs which have helped me during my current stages. So I thought its only right that I list them for future RepRap'ers to look over and read.

Hyrdorapter (nophead)
This was the first UK based RepRap blog I found.  This blog has a ton of posts and how he refined and redesigned RepRap to suit his needs (as well as making a bit of money with it).This blog is one of the reasons I choice nophead for my plastics as just by reading a few posts you know he cares a lot about the project and has a lot of knowledge.

I started following this blog as he had only just began his project in August this year. This meant the information was all update and any BoM's, tweaks and issues would be highly relivant to my project.
Unfortunately Julian is located in Australia so most of the sources aren't relevant to a UK RepRap'er.

I can remember stumbling upon this blog when it was merely two posts, I placed a comment then for some reason couldn't find it again for a few weeks :-X.
Like Julian's blog I started flowing it he had only just started his project a few weeks before I started researching RepRap.
A massive plus is that Indieflow is from the UK, this means I can use the same suppliers and all the pricing is relevant.

Like nophead and Indieflow I started following RichRap as he's UK based. Unlike nophead, RichRap sticks to full RepRap's as opposed to RepStraps. There is lots of upgrade and tweak related posts which makes it a must if you want anything more then a basic RepRap.

Official Blog
I couldn't write a blog section without including the official blog. Not as relevant from a newbie looking to build side of things, but very interesting and informative about the project as a whole.

There a tons more which I've yet to discover so I'll update this list as I find them.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Stepper motors arrived and a few pictures

The stepper motors I brought from ruben-ikmaak on the #reprap IRC channel arrived today.

I did notice that instead of the €15 shipping I'd paid for he had shipped next day costing €20.
Its a little strange, but I think he might just have forgotten to send them on Wednesday/Thursday then panicked when I checked to make sure everything was OK via IRC on Friday (as its the day the box was marked as being sent).

I'm very, very impressed with Ruben. Not only is he a really nice guy to talk to, but he also did me an amazing deal on the motors. In fact I'm ashamed to say I think I cost Ruben money. As there was a slight issue with Paypal taking a larger cut then he expected and the fact he seemed to have shipped next day.

Ruben if your reading this and ever need anything just let me know and I'll repay the favour. Or if your in the UK and near me, I'll buy you a pint or four.

Anyway onto the photos. As I mentioned before I took some pictures last week but the quality was terrible (as I used my mobile). I did run into a little issue though, half way through taking the photos with my camera the flash seems to have fubar'd one of the sensors so the display and photos have a red tint.
Sort of looks like Riddick's vision on Pitch Black.

Stepper Motors
Micro Switches - Endstops

Flux pen

Soldering Tweezers

Soldering braid/wick

Unfortunately as my camera broke I don't have pictures of the plastics, but they do look identical to the ones on the eBay listings.
Its worth noting (I was going to photograph it) that all the pulleys have grub bolts/screws and nuts already in them. Another point for nophead :-p

Roll on tomorrow night. Finger crossed all the parts will have arrived by then.

RE: Waiting, Anti-Climax and Delay

Yesterday I got a reply from Thingfarm.

Your order was shipped on Friday, sorry for the delay in updating this.

Along with a tracking number, which according to parcel-force it should be with me tomorrow.

Finger crossed I'll be building my frame tomorrow night.

I will take some pictures of the various orders tonight. I did take some on my mobile last week but the quality was terrible.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Waiting, Anti-Climax and Delay


The last 5 parts of my build, admittedly 4 of the big 5 needed to build a reprap, have been ordered and I'm patiently waiting for them.
I say patiently, its more like a child waiting for a birthday present.

Anyway the electronics,  hotend and hardware where all ordered on Sunday (16/10/2011). I was expecting them arrive ready for the weekend. That way would have 2 days to soldering, frame and extruder build.

I figured 2 to 3 days to process the order (they were all paid for via paypal when I ordered) and 2 to 3 days shipping. Leaving them arriving any time from Thurday onwards.

With all the trouble I had sourcing the stepper motors I was expecting those to be last. I contacted ruben-ikmaak on the #reprap IRC channel on Friday, he said they had been shipped and should be arriving in 2 to 3 business days.

Anti Climax

On Thurday I got an email from my sister (currently out of work) telling me a brown smallish package had arrived for me.
Great I thought that will be the electronics, so I borrowed a multimeter from work and walked home with a smile on my face.
I looked at the package and instantly thought it couldn't be the electronics. I was right it was just a non-reprap related cable.

On Friday I received a similar message from my brother (bruised the bone in his leg, so he's off school), largish package with my name on it. Again I got excited, borrowed the multimeter and waited for my shift to finish.
About an hour before I was due to leave I received another message, Oh it was just that item I ordered in your name.

Today I was planning on staying in waiting for the postman (as all 3 items are fairly large), however I was persuaded (with food) to go shopping.

As soon as I got back I checked for post or any packages which the postie might have put safe. Nope nothing.


I checked my order status on both Thingfarm and RepRapWorld, Thingfarm had the same message it had had all week Payment Accepted, RepRapWorld also had the same message it had had all week Order Processing.

I was a little concerned about this as apart from 8 extra bolts, washers and nuts added to the Thingfarm order, everything else had been in stock at the time I ordered.

So I sent an email to both Thingfarm and RepRapWorld (only few hours ago at around 6pm GMT+0).

Within an hour or so I got a reply from RepRapWorld.
There was a little problem with the RAMPS board. I will ship it Monday by priority airmail and you will receive it within a few days!

Not the best of news, but atleast they where making sure he board works and there wasn't any massive issues.

As I was righting this post I thought I best check to see if Thingfarm had replied. Nothing yet however I did get another message from RepRapWorld
Your board is now fully tested!

My reaction :-D

So fingers crossed by mid next week I'll be ready to start my build or soldering.

Depending on how soon the parts arrive I'll either start posting the build or post how I came to pick the other parts of my build.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Super quick update

The flux pen arrived yesterday.

Now I'm just waiting for Thingfarm, RepRapWorld and stepper motor orders.
Understandably the RepRapWorld and stepper motor orders should take the longest as they are coming from the Netherlands.

Fingers crossed I'll receive either the Thingfarm or RepRapWorld order by this weekend, or better yet both.

That way I can either start soldering or building the frame as currently I've just got a stack of packages which have little use without the Thingfarm or RepRapWorld orders.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Quick update on my orders

All of the parts have been ordered, fingers crossed the only extra items I either have already or can get from the new B&Q that has opened near me.

I drew up a little table for comparison purposes.

Supplier Via Order Date Ordered Date Delivered
idg-trading eBay 1.5mm solder braid 13/10/2011 17/10/2011
t-4-j eBay Soldering tweezers 13/10/2011 15/10/2011
pretty-pink-daisy eBay Flux pen 13/10/2011
nophead eBay Plastics 13/10/2011 15/10/2011
think3dprint3d_gmail eBay Microswitches 16/10/2011 18/10/2011
RepRapWorld RepRapWorld RAMPS 1.4 DIY Kit + 0.5kg pla filament 16/10/2011
Thingfarm Thingfarm Extruder hardware, J Head Nozzle Mk2, Prusa Hardware (T5) and Kapton Tape 16/10/2011
ruben-ikmaak IRC 5 Stepper motors - SY42STH47-1684A 18/10/2011

Out of the first batch of orders I was shocked by nophead's customer service, it was brillant I received a nice email confirming the dispatch, delivery times and a good luck message.
Another shocker was t-4-j, the tweezers were only about £3 with free delivery so I was expecting to get them this week. Nope they arrived at the same time as the plastics.

The braid I wasn't really too bothered about as its something I've never really used much, but thought it would be worth while.You don't get much for your money, althought that might have been due to me ordering the smallest width they sold.

I'm asured by eBay the flux pen has been dispatched as is on its way.

The microswitches where another prompt delivery, when I received the package I was expecting the flux pen, but I was pleasantly surprised it was the switches.

As for Thingfarm and RepRapWorld, I'm a little disappointed with them both.
After placing and paying for (via Paypal) my order I received an order confirmation from both. Thingfarm took it a little farther and confirmed my payment.
3 days later my orders still haven't changed status on either site, nor have a received an email from either.

I'm only disappointed as thingfarm had replied to any query I had within minutes of my sending it to them, so I was expecting a super speedy order processing.

If anyone from Thingfarm or RepRapWorld are reading this, I'm only disappointed because I personally can't wait to received your products. I feel like a child wanting for Santa during those long few weeks before Christmas. I have nothing against either company.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Stepper motors

Out of all the parts to source the stepper motors have been the biggest head ache.

The beginning

First I looked over the forums for the best UK source and ZappAutomation seemed to have great reviews with the SY42STH47-1684A and SY42STH47-1684B.
For £11 each they looked like a bargin, however at the point of order the shipping cost was added on. £10.
This brought the total to £65, not as cheap as I was expecting.

As I was sourcing my hardware I noticed Thingfarm were selling stepper motors for £13 individaully or £58 for 5. Unlike ZappAutomation the shipping was only £5, perfect a total of £63.
A small saving of £2, but a saving none the less plus it cut down the number of suppliers.

First Issue

If you read my last post you'll know when I came to place my order with Thingfarm the set of 5 steppers where sold out.
Fine I'll spend the extra £2 any by them from ZappAutomation, nope they had sold out too.

I was left with 2 choices by them from Thingfarm for £13 each plus £5 delivery or find another source.

I picked the later option in the hope that Thingfarm would restock the 5 motor sets in the mean time. However every EU stepper motor source seemed to want either €20 (about £18) for each motor and/or a silly delivery cost.

Another Issue

Back to Thingfarm however just before I placed the order I did a quick google search and stumbled upon this blog by IndieFlows.
Who so happened to be the person who created the thread (link) which came to the conclusion of ZappAutomation being the best UK source of stepper motors.
Anyway the post in question which got me thing was this one. This discredits Thingfarm's stepper motors claiming nophead recommended ZappAutomation's steppers instead as Thingfarm's aren't ideal for the job.

Now I must have read the thread in question half a dozen times and I never noticed the conlusion Thingfarm's weren't ideal.
So I decided to pick through the thread one more time. For some reason I had over looked this paragraph from nophead
I was referring to the eBay ones but the Thingfarm ones do seem to be similar. It is almost impossible to get 2A from a Pololu / Stepstick, even with a heatsink. Since the current available is limited, the torque from these high current motors will be be limited to about 1.65/2.5 * 48 / 43 i.e. 74% of the torque you can get from the Zapp ones. I think that would limit the extruder max flow rate and for a given torque the drivers will run a lot hotter.

Now I read that paragraph before as just saying the eBay ones weren't ideal.
So I went back to Thingfarm's stepper motor page (link), which seemed to lack the specifics merely saying see download tab for datasheet.
At the time of writing this there is no download tab.
Not one to give up easy I decided to check there North America site.
On the stepper motor page (link) there is a download tab.

Finally I got the specs Thingfarm's stepper motors.
In short they are
Rated Voltage - 3.1
Rated Current - 2.5
Holding Torgue - 4800g/cm

Now I can see why nophead wouldn't recommend them as they need 0.5 more amps then the stepper drivers can give to achieve the torque rating.

What now?

So back to looking for another source.
In a last ditch attempt at finding a source I decided to post for help on the RepRap forums (link to thread).

Thankfully devijvers (you might notice I've posted his name before, he's becoming a real savour) recommended ruben-ikmaak on the #reprap IRC channel.

So off I went to the IRC channel.
Within a few minutes of sending him a message I got a reply and within a few more minutes he gave me a brillant price and quoted 2 seperate shipping costs.

It turned out the stepper motors he (I think it was a he) was selling where the ZappAutomation stepper motors I was looking at to start with...

Paid via Paypal, information sent and was told the latest it would be shipped would be tomorrow.


I ended up paying a little more then I was expecting, but atleast all my parts should arrive at a similar time.

Cost of Stepper Motors (x5) - €82 = £74.26
Total Cost so far -  £372.55

Monday, 17 October 2011

Hardware + Extruder

As you can tell by the number of posts my project is flying along at this stage.

Since the plastics arrived on Saturday and electrics ordered, I really need to get a move on with the hardware and extruder.

As I started to enter the items from my BOM into the cart at Thingfarm I noticed all the stepper motor kits where sold out.
No trouble as I can just use Zapp Automation, its a tad more expensive, which means I can get all the parts around the same time.
Nope all the nema 17 stepper motors suitable for my RepRap where also sold out.

After browsing various other RepRap stores I noticed a trend they where either sold out of nema 17 stepper motors or charging €18+ each (excluding shipping) for them.
Well over the £65 budget for the motors.

I contacted Thingfarm and was informed they would be ordering more stock the same day, however the lead time as roughly 2 weeks. Not only this, but the cost might be more (due to an increased price from there supplier).

I could order the single motors for £13 each or just wait a few days and see if Zapp Automation or Thingfarm get new stock.

For the moment I picked the latter.

Hardware and Extruder order

Prusa Hardware kit (T5) - £46.67
J Head Nozzle MK2 - £35
Wade's Extruder Hardware Kit - £18
Kapton Tape - £3.33
Delivery - £5

Total - £108

Why did I pick Thingfarm?

Because the prices are great, they include extras and a few freebies.
The above order includes 100 cable ties, plumbers tape and heat shrink tubing all free.

On top of this after placing the order I noticed I needed an extra 8 M3x20 bolts, nuts and washers. Gingerly I sent a message to Thingfarm if this would be ok. Within a few minutes I got a reply saying it would be fine and they are considering added them to the kit as a standard.
Thats what I call good customer service.

Hot Ends

There are 3 main types of hot ends currently being using for RepRaps.
  • Arcol.hu
  • J Head
  • Simple (don't know the correct name)

Arcol.hu. is the most complex design, the looks and number of parts put me off this design almost straight away. Its also considerably more expensive to source in the UK then the alternatives.
J Head, combines the nozzle and heater block, making the hot end form a J shape.
Simple, is almost the same as J Head only with a separate heater block.

For me it was a choice between J Head and the standard simple design.
In the end it came down to cost, a standard hot end with the resistor and thermistor worked out at £40+, the J Head worked out at £30+.
Plus I prefer the look of the J Head nozzle.

I choose MK2, as after reading as much documentation as I could find about J Head nozzles/hot ends, is designed to be easier to mount. As this is my first build I want this to go as smoothly as possible so I spent the extra £5.

Cost of Hardware and Extruder - £108
Total Cost so far -  £298.29


I was planning on ordering my micro switches for the end stops from RepRapWorld, but I was informed by members on the official RepRap forums they could be purchased from elsewhere for less.

I checked the other suppliers I was using and not of them sold micro switches for RepRap.
Maplin had them in but wanted more then RepRapWorld (when delivery was included).

So off to eBay it was.
A quick search for RepRap switch (isolated to the EU to reduce shipping time and cost) lead me to this.
£3.74 deliveried, which works out at a saving of ~£2.
Not much I know, but with upgraded extruder nozzle and few other upgrades/tweaks to my BoM it all adds up.

I could probably got them for even less, but the seller says they'll fit the default mounts and it saves me spending a lot of time looking for a small saving.

Electrics and Filament

Which electronics package?

There are 2 main types of RepRap electronic packages.
  • All in one
  • Modular

All in one, does exactly as it says on the tin, everything is packaged on one board with the board being stand alone.
Modular, on the other hand is a base board to which other boards are attached to. For example the stepper drivers and usb host are separate.

On top of this each type of package has numerous variations and upgrades.

The most popular all in one packages are Gen 3, Gen 7 and Sanguinololu.
On the modular side there is only one choice RAMPS (RepRap Arduino Mega Pololu Shield), however there are numerous versions.

Which one did I pick and why?

After much research and a few questions on the offical RepRap forums I went with my gut and choice RAMPS 1.4.

I choice RAMPS for a few reasons.
  1. Its modular, if something breaks I can just replace the broken part without too much soldering or hassle.
  2. Upgrade-ability, as its modular I can reuse a lot of the parts if I ever need to upgrade to a newer package
  3. Add-ons, there are a decent amount of worthwhile add-ons which are exclusive to (or atleast easier with) RAMPS. Such as SD support, multiple extruders and heated print beds
 Cost wise they work out about the same in the UK as they have to be imported.

Assembled or DIY kit?

The next big decision once I'd decided upon RAMPS was do I solder the kit myself or buy it pre-assembled.

To help with the decision I needed to find a RAMPS 1.4 supplier which ships to the UK and doesn't cost an arm and a leg for it.
After looking at various sites I stumbled upon RepRapWorld which offers full RAMPS 1.4 kits including all the required items.

Cost of DIY Kit €100 + delivery
Cost of Assembled Kit €130 + delivery

So if I can solder the parts I save €30, seems simple enough.
That was until I read this line on the description;
In RAMPS 1.4, the resistors and capacitors are now surface mount to fit more passive components. This does add another set of steps to assembly, but we stuck with larger sizes to make it fairly painless.

Through hole soldering I'm fine wit, but I've never done any surface mount soldering with anything as small as the resistors required.

After more videos, research and a forum post I was assured it was just a little tricky.
Luckily I brought the tweezers, braid and flux (I was only expecting to through hole solder).

So I headed back over to RepRapWorld and added RAMPS 1.4 DIY Kit Full to the basket.
At the same time as I was checking RepRapWorld reviews/comments on the forums I noticed they also offered the lowest price on PLA filament so I threw in 0.5kg of blue PLA 3mm filament (to save on re-ordering later and paying for delivery again).

Cost of RAMPS kit + Filament - £108.29
Total Cost so far -  £190.29

First orders placed

I've had a pretty busy weekend and things have moved along quite quickly on the RepRap side.

On Thurday (13/10/11) I placed my order for the plastics from nophead, via ebay, as well as a few other items.
On Friday I recieved an email saying the order had been shipped, along with a tracking number. The email stated it should be with me no later then noon monday, but most of the packages sent on a Friday had been delivered on Saturday.
As I mentioned before I was a little busy on Saturday, but low and behold when I returned home Saturday the plastics where there.

I opened them in a spite of excitement and the parts where all I had hoped for, lovely finish and all parts present and accounted for.

I shall take some pictures of the full set tonight as well as a quick review.

The other items I ordered at the same time where just bits and pieces I've been meaning to buy (RepRap being the final nudge).
  • Soldering tweezers
  • Solder braid/wick
  • Flux pen

Out of the 3 the tweezers arrived at the same time as the plastics.

I'll write a mini review of each items (just in case anyone's interested) when they all arrive and I've used them for this project.

Cost of Plastics - £82
Total Cost so far -  £82

Friday, 14 October 2011

BOM v2

If you have read BOM v1 you'll know I was a little unhappy about the number of suppliers and the cost of that build. So after spending time researching other vendors, as well as reading other RepRap blogs, I came up with BOM v2.

Ramps 1.4 DIY-kit FULLFull RAMPS 1.4 DIY kit, Arduino MEGA 1280 and 4x stepper drivers (with heatsinks)€100+€2RepRapWorld
Prusa KitAll the bolts, nuts, washers, springs and belts (T5) for Prusa£47+£5Thingfarm
PlasticsAll plastic parts including plastics for Wade's Extruder£75+£7nophead - eBay
Stepper MotorsNema 17 high torque stepper motors x 5£58+£5Thingfarm
J Head HotendComplete hotend set (including electronics)£30Thingfarm
Wade's Extruder Hardware KitAll the hardware for the extruder£18Thingfarm
MicroswitchEndstops x3€6RepRepWorld
Total€108 + £246

BOM v2 is almost £20 cheaper and includes a few freebies from Thingfarm (cable ties, plumbers tape and heat shrink tubing).

On top of this I reduced my total number of suppliers from 4 (5) to a mere 3. As well as all the suppliers being RepRap specific this means I should be able to get support for each item.

BOM v1

Please note this post is purely for reference and the BOM itself is obsolete.

Ramps 1.4 DIY-kit FULLFull RAMPS 1.4 DIY kit, Arduino MEGA 1280 and 4x stepper drivers (with heatsinks)€100+€2RepRapWorld
Hardware KitAll the bots, nuts, washers, rods and print bed. Plus hotend hardware (excluding electronics).£100+£10RepRap Kit Store - eBay
PlasticsAll plastic parts including plastics for Wade's Extruder£75+£7nophead - eBay
Stepper MotorsNema 17 high torque stepper motors x 5£55 + £10ZappAutomation
ThermistorFor the hotend€7RepRapWorld
ResistorTo head the hotend£2+£2n/a
MicroswitchEndstops x3€6RepRepWorld
Total€115 + £261

Total vendors 4 (5)

Why didn't I go with this BOM?

Firstly it was more then I was expecting to pay for my first RepRap.
I had budgeted £300 to £350 for the full build, this BOM works out at £360ish
Second I was wary about the number of suppliers, nophead and RepRapWorld have good reviews however information on the others where non-existent.
On top of this from previous experience (building PC's) the more suppliers you have the more frustrating it can get if you have an issue.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Reprap getting started

If your reading this blog you probably found it via a post on RepRap forums or something else RepRap related.
But on the odd chance you stumbled upon my blog then I suppose I best explain what Reprap is first.

The idea is fairly simple, create a 3d printer capible of reproducing itself. As 3d printing is generally used for rapid prototyping and the the aim is to create a replicating machine, you get RepRap.

The best place to get a feel for RepRap is the official wiki, thingiverse and youtube.

Where to start?

When I started researching RepRap a few weeks ago there wasn't really a newbies guide, however luckily for anyone reading this blog sdevijver over at RepRap forums has started to create this guide.

Its the only beginners guide I seen and the level of detail is excellent, I would highly recommend it as a starter reference.

Basic parts

All RepRaps consist of 4 main parts; Electronics, Hardware, Extruder and Plastics
Electronics control the RepRap and bring it to life, its broken down into;
  • Stepper motors
  • Stepper motor drivers
  • Controller board (RAMPS, Sanguinololu and RepRap electronics Gen x)
  • Endstops
  • *Arduino MEGA
*Only if using an Arduino solution such as RAMPS

Hardware is all the nuts, bolts, rods and surfaces needed to create the RepRap itself.
The wiki is the best place to get a full list of hardware parts as they vary depending on model and which variation.

Extruder, its a combination of all 3 other main parts and for that reason I've given it its own section.
The extruder consists of;
  • Hotend
  • Thermistor
  • Resistor (heat source)
  • Plastics (depending on extruder variation)
  • Nuts, bolts, washers and screws (again varying depending on extruder variation)
Plastics, these are the plastic parts which with the hardware create the frame and remaining parts of the RepRap.

This is just a rough run down of parts, the types and number of parts vary depending on RepRap type, variation and personal preference massively however they will all be present in one form or another.

First blog, First post

Hi all,

As you may have guessed from the title this will be my first blog.

Why now? Why another reprap blog?

Well when I discovered Reprap I was amazed by the possibilities and cost of creating a 3d printer.
I've seen 3d printers before, but until I discovered Reprap they were always something I'd only own if I won the lottery.
After reading the introduction pages on the Reprap wiki and reading through the forums I thought I was almost ready to order the parts.
However in true newbie style I'd completely over looked some vital parts.

I posted on the official forums and the reaction to my post was a mixed some posting that I was lazy and other being very helpful.
As I learnt more about Reprap I thought back to my initial thoughts on the project and how mixed and messy it was to find the basic, get your own project going, information.

So I thought I would start a blog allow others to follow me through my personal project as well as offering a nice reference for anyone wanting to build there own Reprap.