Friday, 7 April 2017

LulzBot TAZ 6 Testing Part 2 - Problems, Printing, Materials and Tuning to perfection.

For this second part of the TAZ6 setup I'm looking at some initial issues found with the setup and operation of the TAZ6. These were quickly resolved, but showing you the process may assist if you have similar problems on your 3D printer.

I was also sent a MOARstruder by the LulzBot team, I talk about it in the video along with a custom tool-head I have made for the TAZ 5/6 using the E3D Titan AERO extruder+hot-end.

Further details about the MOARstruder can be found here, on the LulzBot Website.

The MOARstruder has a 'Volcano' compatible 1.2mm nozzle and long heating block for 100g+/hour deposition rates.

I'll post a separate blog and video about the Titan AERO extruder mount for the TAZ6, I'll also post the files if you wish to try to out too. The Titan AERO saves around 178 grams in weight over the original Hexagon tool head, so you can fling it around faster too.

Further details about the E3D Titan AERO extruder and hot-end system can be found here, on the E3D Website.

The first blog post (Part 1) and video about the TAZ 6 can be found here

The Video below is also over on YouTube if you wish to watch in HD and also subscribe to my channel for more videos, help and advice.

If you want to skip parts, then here is a quick jump index -

00:10 - Intro & Catch up
00:50 - I have a MOARstruder !!!
01:15 - We can print MOAR
02:10 - 3Kg of Polymaker PLA
03:10 - Special Colorfabb nGen
05:00 - E3D Titan AERO on the TAZ6 (Volcano)
06:40 - Mesh Bed levelling setup advice
09:15 - Tweaks, changes & results
09:30 - Setup problems & solution

I will post an update on the print progress with both the MOARstruder and the Titan AERO on the TAZ6.

I'll also tidy up and share my firmware setting changes and print profiles I'm now using for TAZ6 printing. I initially started with PLA, then nGen and PETT (t-glase). I still have Nylon, flexible and composite profiles to generate and test.

On with the 3D printer setup and a few wiring problems...

I had one initial problem with the SD card reader built into the TAZ6. The SD card was not being recognized on the LCD display as being inserted.

First I thought that the SD card may just have been blank or faulty, but after checking it had some contents and was formatted correctly I investigated further.

This cable for the SD-Card connector had fallen off - I'm guessing during transport.

After opening up the side panel housing the power supply and the main electronics control board, I soon spotted that a cable was hanging in mid-air over the main RAMBo control board. When checking this was easily identified as the main serial connection to the SD card mounted on the user interface LCD display board.

Only 4 pins of this 8 way connector are being used, that's not a great deal of friction to lock this connector in place. If you look at the connector in the bottom right, you can see that spare unused pins have been fitted into the 8 way connector. Adding these unused but fitted pins adds more friction and helps to lock the connector onto the mating pins. Especially important on this cable as only two pins are connected. A much better solution is to for positive locking connectors to the RAMBo electronics board.

I checked the correct orientation and connected the cable back onto the RAMBo board. this resolved the SD card reading problem, and allowed me to get started on a test print that's included on the supplied SD card.

This was a simple problem and a simple fix, but for anyone without the confidence or desire to open up the TAZ6 it may have been only fixed by returning the machine to the supplier or manufacturer.

This cable and a few others used on the RAMBo are not 'positively locking', this means that they could fall out with a sudden jolt or unfortunate movement of cables. In this case it was probably during transportation as LulzBot would have checked (and indeed they supply a printed check-sheet of machine functions) that the SD card interface was working before leaving the factory.

This connector for the SD card also only has a few connections fitted, this means that it has quite low friction and is even more likely to fall out. Over the last 25 years as an electronics engineer I have seen a number of ways to combat this problem, you can simply add more crimps into the spare unused pin positions as a way to increase connection force (friction) as seen above. But the best way is to use locking connectors on the electronics board. The basic box header connections usually fitted to RAMBo (and other 3D printer electronics) are very low cost and used everywhere. You can get compatible shrouded box connections that incorporate both polarizing features - to ensure the connector is not connected in reverse or off-set and also a plastic locking clip that will keep the connector mated until you want it to be removed. They would be a drop-in replacement, so would not require any changes other than a different supplier on the electronics bill of materials. One other nasty way is to add a drop of hot-melt glue or silicone to physically 'lock' the connector cable to the board, but that's really not a good solution.

In my view, changes to this and some of the other connections ( housings and mating cables) on the RAMBo board would significantly reduce the chance of cables becoming accidentally dislodged in use or transit.

I would be interested in knowing if anyone has had a similar issue with this or any other electronics that do not use positive locking connectors (comment below if you have or have an opinion on this issue).

On the plus side the wiring inside the electronics box is tidy and many attempts have been made to improve the safety factor for anyone opening up this machine. Mains voltages are well routed with correct terminals crimped and fitted so minimal exposure to live parts are exposed.

Obviously make 100% sure the mains power input is removed and disconnected before you open up any 3D Printer or any other device for that matter.

The power supply is also CE marked as is the entire machine. Along with both European and American EMC testing standards.

As well as a CE mark and electrical safety, it's obvious that this machine has also gone through EMC and electrical standards for operation and interference. That's a really good thing and something that we still do not see on many other 3D printers sold as kits and fully assembled machines.

The round grey ferrite filters shown in the images below, are wrapped around various cables. This indicates that during machine testing of EMC and EMI areas were identified that needed some suppression of electrical noise.

The mains input filter (metal can in left side of image above) also helps to reduce conducted emissions back down into the mains of your house (and other people's houses).

Usually long cables like motor connections for example will act like ariel's attached to the electronics, these can radiate electrical noise and can also pick up radiated electrical noise from other equipment around you.

 Adding a ferrite clamp can often reduce these problems and allow EMC approval of a machine like a 3D printer.

Seeing these indications of a well designed, carefully assembled and correctly tested product makes me very happy. It's something many users don't even think about, but when you have a product with heating components, high currents and moving cables, I would strongly urge you to ask the questions - Has the machine you are considering been both safety tested and passed relevant electronic approval standards for your country?

Top tip for limiting the use of Mesh bed levelling -

If your 3D printer uses mesh bed levelling (it takes a number of probe point measurements across the bed and uses this to compensate for an incorrectly levelled surface) - Then do spend some time trying to get the bed manually as level as possible.

Why? - Basically because when the hot-end moves around the build area it has to constantly raise and lower the Z axis. The Z axis is the slowest linear movement on your 3D printer. Having a poorly setup bed is also more likely to cause print issues like blobs or strings if you are doing long travel moves, where the mesh levelling compensation is adjusting for +/- >0.5mm of uneven surface.

* Update* - The next two images show an example of how to level the X/Z axis. Below the next two images are also some pictures I used as an example in the video of how to help minimize Mesh bed level movement. The measurement distance on each side of the TAZ6 are slightly different (~3mm) so to make sure you level correctly for the TAZ6 3D printer please follow this link here from the team at LulzBot. - 

The LulzBot team measure the lengths from the X axis bars to the top, and that's a much better way for the TAZ6 3D Printer.

For many 3D printers using mesh bed leveling you can measure each side of the Z axis, and manually turn each lead-screw so they are the same (Again, do check how to do this correctly for the TAZ6, see above).

The most important thing is that the nozzle is at a level and flat point across the entire build surface, so if the left and right lead-screw are at different positions, then that's fine. 

Then check if that has actually made the nozzle distance the same on each side of the build surface.
If not, then adjust so wherever you manually move/place the nozzle (move X / Y carriages) it has a similar distance from the build surface (+/- <0.2mm if possible).

You will get better results if you do this, and you can then also start to tune the firmware to reach higher operating speeds and smoother print results. I'll go over my TAZ 6 Firmware changes in a future video.

Just to give you a sense of the change a few firmware and slicing settings can make to the end print result, take a look at the images below -

First layer of the shelf model - It's perfect.

Top part in the image above was printed with the original TAZ6 firmware settings and default Cura profiles for TAZ 6 PLA.

The lower model was printed at the same layer height, same infill and same number of perimeters. The difference was a few firmware changes and revised profile settings. The bottom model also printed around 20% quicker than the original setup.

I use Polyalchemy Elixir PLA to test print quality, it will show up the smallest flaw in printing settings, so it's great to refine your profiles and acceleration settings.

The above model is the really nice secret shelf by Tosh You can get the file here

I'll show more examples of these changes with printed models in the next TAZ 6 video.

Before I made the firmware and profile changes, I did print out the samples Gcode models on the supplied SD Card. They show up some print issues, but they can all be resolved with setting changes.

Printed in Colorfabb nGen (light grey because it shows up defects well to the camera).

You can see some missing perimeter sections in the top of the funnel above.

We also have a few blobs and retraction strings, all of these problems can be resolved. And when they are the TAZ 6 becomes a stunning 3D Printer.

3DBenchy - Attribution: CreativeTools

I'll continue to add more video's and blog posts about the TAZ 6 adventure as they get completed. Please leave comments and feedback below. And I'm really interested in also hearing from any existing LulzBot TAZ owners.

I hope this was useful, thank you for reading & watching, see you next time.


Please join me on Twitter @RichRap3D   -

Files and designs shared on YouMagine -

Files and designs shared on GitHub –

Files and designs shared on Repables -

My Youtube channel is here, all 3D Printing and Hi-Def video content.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Upgrades and changes to the BCN3D Sigma 3D Printer including Bondtech extruders

SIGMA v2016 3D Printer upgrades, changes and tweaks

In this blog post I'm collecting up all the modifications, changes, upgrades and general improvements I have done to the Sigma (2016 version) over the last ~18 months.

This blog post and video is for the Sigma 2015/16 versions, and may not be the same for the new Sigma R17 (2017 model).

A lot of the information here is also relevant for any 3D printer, things to check, changes to make and improvements.

The main goals were to improve complex print performance - especially dual colour or dual material 3D Printing on Sigma, and also to reduce the noise.

Thank you to the team at BCN3D for the allowing me to test out some of the upgrade boards in this machine, and also to Emvio Engineering and Bondtech for the dual drive Extruder upgrade kit.

All the info is in the video below, and feel free to use the quick jump point index if there is something you specifically want to know about -

Quick jump index -
00:10 - Intro to Sigma 2016 changes
02:20 - Auto Fan control for hot-ends
04:30 - Hot-end Thermistor changes (PTFE removal)
07:50 - Adding heatsink compound to Hot-ends
12:10 - Fitting Bondtech Extruders to Sigma
16:00 - Updating Firmware eSteps/mm for Extruders
17:10 - Printing with Sigma and Bondtech extruders
18:00 - Further thoughts on testing and upgrades
19:00 - Compare print results
Final thoughts and wrap-up.

Video is also over on YouTube if you wish to watch in HD and also subscribe to my channel for more videos, help and advice.

I'll post a few images below as they are easier to see than in the video. My thoughts and advice are in the video so I'll keep the post short and look forward to any comments or questions - feel free to post here or in the YouTube comments. Thanks.

In the video I look at a number of significant changes Including -

Automatic fan speed control for both hot-ends -

Hot end improvements -

I replace the original hot-end thermistor sleeves (PTFE Max temperature 250 Deg C) with Fibreglass (300+ Deg C)

Still using the grub-screw to clamp for now, but I comment on why this is not really a good idea.

 I show you how to remove the Hot-ends and improve their thermal performance by adding thermal heatsink compound.

I then fit Bondtech dual drive Extruders into Sigma and compare print results.

In all comparison testing I used exactly the same Gcode for both system configurations of extruders (just the eStep/mm setting was changed in firmware for the new Bondtech gear rate).

The Hollow Draudi printed small with standard 0.4mm nozzles is a very tricky small print for FFF 3D printers - Designed by BCN3D

You can get the file here from Youmagine.

"The Hollow Draudi is designed to be created on resin 3D printers mainly due to their empty geometry. In addition, all orifices, modeled with Rhinoceros and Grasshopper, give it a unique personality and a plus of difficulty that will challenge any 3D printer FFF."

This is a tricky print - the extruders need some tweaking, but even with exactly the same Gcode used we can see less stringing and better formed structures between the holes.

Smoother extrusion on the feet - easier to see on the Brim rings - less indications of the individual extruder stepping points on the Bondtech print.

Low-Poly Bulbasaur - Multi and Dual Extrusion version - by- Agustin Flowalistik

Get this great 3D model from Youmagine here

Smoother extrusion and less problems with filament control here using the Bondtech extruders.

And yes, I know you can get better results out of the Sigma, by slowing down the print speed and being slightly less aggressive with the extruder settings, but I wanted to do a like-for-like comparison of exactly the same Gcode here to show the difference a gearbox and dual drive teeth make to a 3D printers extrusion system.

Sigma 2017 -

I also now have the new Sigma R17 machine now, so do keep an eye out for another comparison of the above tests along with the new Sigma R17 version.

If you have a Sigma 3D printer and need any help or advice, please catch me on twitter and I'll do my best to help out. I have been printing with Sigma for a few years now and have (I think) mastered using it for single and dual colour/material printing. It's my go-to printer for all dual 3Dprinting.

I'm really excited for the new Sigma 2017 and can't wait to show you what it can do.

Thank you for reading & watching, see you next time.


Please join me on Twitter @RichRap3D   -

Files and designs shared on YouMagine -

Files and designs shared on GitHub –

Files and designs shared on Repables -

My Youtube channel is here, all 3D Printing and Hi-Def video content.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Using the LulzBot TAZ 6 3D Printer - Part 1 Setup


LulzBot are without doubt (in my opinion) the most open-Source 3D Printing company in the world.

Here is the start of my journey with the TAZ 6 3D Printer.
I could spend an entire blog post just telling you how LulzBot have open-source in every single aspect of their business. Not just the 3D printers they design, develop, support and manufacture, but all the systems they use, computers running them and well just everything. If someone told me they only drank open-source coffee? I would not be surprised in the slightest.

To the point they will contact independent developers (anywhere in the world) and help them finish, refine and improve a little-known open-source software package, because they would like to use it in their business too.

Just have a poke around on the LulzBot development site if you want to be impressed by Openness -

LulzBot (and the Parent company Aleph Objects inc.) support many independent projects and diverse developments, they don't always shout about it, they just get involved and encourage. If I lived in the USA I would be camping out at LulzBot HQ.

We need to see more of these manufacturers in an amazing community like 3D Printing. I hope LulzBot always manage to stay that way. Anyway, enough of that. You can see I have a lot of time for the LulzBot team, their products and everything they stand for.

My admiration of LulzBot is not going to stop me from a detailed (and sometimes critical) look at their 3D Printers, software and generally the user experience with all of it. They thrive on all feedback and it's one of the fundamental aspects of open-innovation, so here we go with a first look at the LulzBot TAZ 6 3D Printer.

I'm not going to attempt to 'sell you' on this 3D printer. It's been out for a while and has already won awards on 3D Hubs and has a good reputation in the 3D printing community. You can make your own mind up about the machine. See if it's right for you and at the price point and feature list you need.

I'm not even going to go into detailed specifications about print size or capacity, you can google that or just look on the LulzBot website. I'm going to focus on the experience and how reliable it is over a long period of use and abuse in the real-world and how it handles lots of different materials.

I hope to be able to show you what it can and can't do over this and more blog posts and video's. If you have any questions or want me to try something specific, just send me a message (twitter is best, but anything usually works - apart from carrier pigeon).

If you watch the first video below (it's long, but I make no apology for that) you will see that you get a really good first experience with unboxing, assembly and setup of the TAZ 6.

I hardly ever do 'unboxing' video's, but this machine just deserved a showcase.

Quick jump index -
01:28 - Materials
03:35 - Unboxing the TAZ 6
06:15 - MOARstruder ???
12:30 - Approvals, regulations, safety
17:00 - Taz 6 Assembly
28:50 - Power ON...
30:30 - Handheld Gaming (3D printed)
32:55 - In the next TAZ 6 Video

I have always been a huge fan of the LulzBot 3D printers, I printed out and built up one of the very early prototype TK-0 machines back in 2013 (an early version of the TAZ design) I made many modifications and eventually dedicated my variant as a portable machine to use at shows and events.

During discussions after the TCT Show in 2016, the team from LulzBot kindly offered to send me a TAZ 6. This is not only great, but as it's a machine that is not normally seen in the UK / Europe I really want to help support the growth and awareness of LulzBot products (and their open-source / Open-Innovation nature).

I did have some initial setup problems, I will go into detail in Part 2 of this blog post and video series.

A pesky dislodged connector caused me some initial setup problems, but it was quickly identified and resolved. Much more about the problems, issues and resolutions in the next video / blog post - along with lots of 3D Prints and feedback about both print quality and user experience.

LulzBot also sent me over some materials that are tricky to find over in the UK or Europe. These have been really great to try out and do work exceptionally well in this 3D printer.

 LulzBot standard ABS Filament.

 Chroma Strand Labs Inova-1800 Co-Polyester.

 The only Taulman3D material I had yet to try out - Taulman n-vent
 And Verbatim PLA.

LulzBot also included some sample filament in the TAZ 6 Box. This is what you would get if you just ordered the printer - Very nice filament from Proto-pasta and Colorfabb.

Initial assembly is very straightforward, a detailed manual guides you through all the steps and provides great advice along the way.

Every single part (including the full set of tools provided) feels high quality and 'engineered' to a fine level.

I talk a lot about the approvals and regulations for this 3D printer in the video (it's a very good thing). I'm not going to repeat myself here, but do watch the part about 3D printer approvals (12:30 onwards) as it's good to know why fully assembled, well designed and tested machines are worth the extra cost etc.

Noise level is acceptable during setup and also full operation. It's around the same overall noise level as a Prusa i3 MK2 (normal setting) the Prusa quiet setting is slightly lower. The TAZ6 has a lower frequency to it's noise level output (slightly bigger fans than many 3D printers) so feels less annoying and less distracting in the background. The TAZ 6 is a lower overall noise level than the BCN3D Sigma (2016 version).

I have no problem with the TAZ 6 running in the same small room when I'm 1.5M away from it.

 Bucket O' Octopi by yeoldebrian, published 

A test print Octopus (Above) was included, I had no problems replicating and exceeding this print quality with the Taz 6.

We did plenty of  'play printing' over Christmas, lots of the standard objects, test prints and plenty of decorations. When it was all dialled in I started to explore what the TAZ 6 could really achieve.

The Red Chroma Strand Labs filament was really nice to use, and strong. I designed and printed some hooks for hanging objects to rafters, they were clean prints (just look at those perfect layers) and very strong indeed. I'll see if I can work out a way to break these and compare the results with PLA or ABS for the next blog post.

It was not long before 17+ hour prints were being tested and then multi-day objects in ultra fine and full build area dimensions. (more on that next time).

As default it is set to print quite slowly. The default profiles for Cura have a low speed of travel rate, it can handle a lot faster. The firmware (Marlin) acceleration feels slower than my normal settings. There is nothing wrong with going a little slower and having a lower acceleration, in fact it can improve both print quality and further reduce noise level.

The issue is more with the fact this printer can print BIG, so really you are going to need a compromise of both speed and quality for some bigger prints if you want them to finish in a working day or before going to bed. That's no different to many 3D printers, so this issue is not aimed at the TAZ, just an observation with bigger build areas in general.

LulzBot have installed a 0.5mm nozzle as standard. This provides a a good mix of speed v quality in many types of printed model. The original RepRap 'standard nozzle size' was 0.5mm, but over the last five+ years it's now much more common to see a 0.4mm being fitted to almost all 3D printers.

You could replace the nozzle, but if anything I may decide to go even bigger, this machine is just crying out for a great big nozzle to produce some serious 3D prints fast and accurately. And on that point I had hoped to be testing out the now MOARstruder, but sadly it was not quite available when I asked about it.  (see below).

MOARstruder is now fully available for the TAZ5 and TAZ6 directly from LulzBot on the website, you can check it out here.

After a lot more printing and testing with the TAZ6 Hexagon hot-end, I'm probably going to make a new extruder for the TAZ6 using the E3D Volcano. The Volcano is very similar to the new MOARstruder, in fact the nozzles are interchangeable for the Volcano ones, so you can fit hardened, stainless, brass or copper types.

In the next LulzBot TAZ 6 blog post (and video) will go into a lot more detail about the print quality, settings and use of both Cura and other slicing engines on the TAZ 6.

The TAZ6 did a lot of printing towards the end of 2016 and over Christmas. I now feel I understand many of the limits and balance between quality and settings for this 3D Printer. I significantly tweaked the profiles and then also stopped using Cura. It's producing solid and consistent results and has handled all materials I have thrown at it.

This 3D Printer is a very well engineered (slightly over-engineered, but in all good ways). It feels solid and always in control, the bed-level system is low-tech, but reliable and more importantly it works really well.

I'm totally enjoying the 3D printing experience with the TAZ 6. Plenty of things I would (and will) change, but for an out-of-the-box experience, it's delightful from delivery to first print (apart from the issue I had, but more on that next time). I have a lot more feedback for anyone considering this 3D printer, so join me text time for a closer look at the prints, profiles and capability of the LulzBot TAZ 6.

I almost forgot, in the video I talk about a Handheld Retro Gaming PC system I made up (Windows 10 to emulate older games and the like) - it was a simple and fun 3D printing project (anyone could do), I'm happy to go into a lot more detail, let me know if anyone would find this sort of project interesting. I do a lot of projects using 3D printing and often electronics / Arduino etc. - Not really sure if I should post more of these here or not?

Not printed on the TAZ 6, but I found it and talked about this project in the TAZ 6 video above, let me know if you want to see more projects (and maybe a design / assembly guide?) on these sort of things.

This was just a brief introduction to the TAZ 6 experience. Lots more next time, I hope you enjoyed it.

RichRap on Youtube