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Printrbot Simple Maker Kit v4 1405 Rev D – Addendum and Guide

After assembling my Printrbot Simple, and calibrating it to print without issue, I looked back at how much research I had to do to venture to this point. A lot of the time I simply used Google to find the solution to specific issues, and realizing I was spending on average, 20 minutes for each. Not only that, I found myself constantly reviewing the vague build instructions, that seem to cover the previous model, with a few adjustments for the latest model (Revision D).
Most of my answers were user generated solutions, and almost every single issue was said to be remedied
by replacing the firmware. After upgrading my firmware only to find it didn’t cure any issue, I was determined to share my knowledge in hopes to help anyone else working with a Printrbot. The Printrbot is a wonderful printer, but sad that the support lacks so much in terms of helping people new to the 3D printing world, especially when their product is in fact the pinnacle of “new user printers”. So in this article, I will cover everything you need to know before you build it, or after you receive a pre-built model. Keep in mind, this article will cover a lot of information about the Simple Version 4 Revision D 1405, but the overall knowledge of parts, and use of the software can carry over to the other models.

After writing out the outline for this article, I realized that there is a lot of information I’ve ascertained in the past three days I spent setting this printer up. So instead of making one huge article that will cause a lot of “TL;DR” comments, I going to section it out. I will add a description with each section, and you can choose if you want to read the entire thing or not. If you are a brand new 1405 Revision D owner, and haven’t assembled it yet, I would suggest going through each part as you progress through your build. I swear it will make your build 100% easier.
Before Purchasing


I wanted to add this small addition to the article for anyone trying to figure out what printer they wanted to purchase, and additions that could be made.1405 SimpleThe 1405 Simple is the cheapest, and most bare-bones of all of the Printrbots. Luckily with Printrbots, you are not going to lose quality with any model. If you are wanting to learn about 3D printing this model is the best one to get in my opinion. You can choose to have it pre-assembled, but I would highly recommend choosing the “maker kit”. While building the printer, you will learn how it works exactly, and understand the adjustments you will need to make in order to make it print perfectly. If you buy pre-assembled, you will have to do calibration anyways, so you really are not avoiding much aside from the assembly.1405 Upgrades

While this printer is the smallest, and the chassis made completely out of laser-cut plywood, it is extremely sturdy, and has lots of options for upgrades. The first upgrade is the XL kit, where you can increase the X axis and Z axis, as well as include a built-in filament spool (huge plus!).  The XL makes the 4x4x4 kit into a 6x4x7 kit, which makes it on par with the simple metal (except for the Y axis). To add, the 1405 has the option for a LCD upgrade allowing you to turn your Printrbot into a head-less system, where all models are printed directly from a SD card instead of relying on a computer to control it. Last, you can add a heated bed to the 1405, but will have to procure a second power supply, or upgrade the existing one. Such an upgrade can be found on the support site, or the Printrbottalk Forums.

1403 Simple

The 1403 Simple is Printrbot’s metal printer, with a 6x6x6 print area. This printer comes pre-assembled, but significantly more expensive than the 1405. A lot of new users seem to purchase this model, but still have to go through calibration, and don’t seem to have any obvious advantages other than the print area size.  While it’s just as good as any other printer, I think it gives buyers a false sense of being able to avoid the troubles 1405 users encounter. Looking through the support site, it seems they have the exact same issues regardless, but complain about how much they spend for something they had to still “tweak”. Aside from that, the upgradea offered to this model are the heat bed, and LCD panel.

Other Models

The other models I would only recommend to users already seasoned in 3D printing, and know what to expect. I won’t go into much detail here, as they basically offer a larger print size, better resolution, multiple extruders, and heat beds built-in. Either way, you won’t be able to get one of these without spending at least one-thousand USD.




Before Assembly

Printrbot Instructions
This section will go over certain portions of the build instructions, as well as how to approach building your Printrbot. This section will give you an overview of what to expect, and how to make the best out of the online instructions, because the printer doesn’t come with any.
In case you don’t know where the build instructions are, or if you don’t know your model, here they are (if you purchased in the past month or so “July 2014”).
Before you dive into the instructions, let me cover a few important steps to take when building your Printrbot.
1. Be sure to read the comments that are included with each step. Most of these comments are from users mentioning flaws in the instructions, and how to keep from having to fix the step after you are already half way through the build.
2. Take your time. I felt somewhat embarrassed when I noticed my build took 6 hours! Later on I found that this was a fairly average build time, especially with people accustom to building various homebrew kits. If you feel overwhelmed after opening the box, don’t worry, just take your time, and everything will work just fine.
3. As mentioned, this build can take a serious amount of time. If you are about to order your Printrbot, or if you are planning to build it soon, be sure to schedule some time to do this without interruption, or set aside a couple hours each day to build it over a few days. There is no shame in taking your time, especially when it’s time that has been allotted towards the project, and not time filled with distractions.
4. One thing that wasn’t clear to me until halfway through the build, was what certain parts actually were. While there was a bag list, and what parts were in each bag, the bags were not labeled, and each was filled with various “unknown” parts. If you feel this could be an issue for you, be sure to check the next section for help identifying these.
Tips for Building
For this section, I will cover an assortment of key tips to helping you build your Printrbot without issue. Here I will help point out the parts that could be foreign to you, as well as additional footnotes to certain steps in the build process. After that, I will cover calibration, as well as the wiring which is not made clear at all for anyone starting out.The Printer AnatomyThe first thing to show is the meat n’ bones of the printer. The tube covered in red is the extruder. This melts the filament, and lays it out on the bed to create your print. This is what allows you to print in thermoplastic. The tube to the right of the extruder is the auto-leveling probe, and also secretly known as the “Z-axis end stop” (I will get into end-stops a bit more later). Above both is the filament feeder. The gear in the center feeds the filament into the extruder so that it can continuously move filament into the extruder. This is the portion of the build that had me completely lost. There were no real good pictures of the finished product, let alone any explanation of what they did.
So the other parts that were new to me were the “end stops”. Each one looks like a switch, except for the Z-axis, which is the auto-level probe mentioned above. The end stops tell the the printer to stop moving the motor, as it has hit the end of the travel area. Basically, these keep the printer from moving the bed, or arm too far, where it could harm the printer, or throw it out of alignment.
Building TipsFor this section, I want to make a few comments on how to make your build much less gruesome. There aren’t many, but you may find them to be vital to your build. This section is to be used while you build your 1405, using the 1405 Assembly Instructions sertraline anxiety. Once you arrive at the step mentioned below, be sure to read the comments I have made below. To add, do not forget to read the comments that are already made in the build instructions.NOTE: As you start to add electronics to the build, be sure to mark each one with masking tape, and a sharpie. The marks you will want to make are: X, Y, Z, XS, YS, ZS, EX (X axis, Y axis, Z axis, X end Stop, Y end Stop, Z end Stop, EXtruder). The rest of the cables are different enough to know what they are without being marked. Step 7 and 22 You will find yourself having to use the M3 screws in holes that are not already threaded, and have to work the screws in to even get them started. This is an issue especially when screwing the metal plate into the two side pieces on each side of the bed chassis. To keep from splitting the wood trying to get these screws to go into the holes, you can use the M3 hex wrench to taper the holes before starting the screw.* Simply press the wrench into the hole, and twist it a bit to spread the holes. This will taper the hole enough for the screw to go in, but not so large that they fall through. When setting up the holes for the bed, you need to be able to push the hex wrench through both pieces of wood before putting the screw in. If not, you could start the screw, and it could get caught on the second piece, then separating both pieces, and potentially splitting the wood.

*If you have trouble using the M3, start with the M2. 

Step 13 I do not like how this step was made at all. when using the zip ties on the bearings, you want the buckles of the ties to be on the printed side of the wooden piece. The other side is where the PCB (Printed Circuit Board), will be mounted, and you do not want those to cause any stress on the board at all. The other side will be completely hidden, and those buckles will not get in the way being on the printed side of the wooden piece.

Step 21 When using zip ties to mount the rods onto pieces 1109, and 1112, make sure the ones on the right side have the zip tie buckles on the under side. For the left side, make sure that the buckles are on the top side. You need to clip the plastic to where the buckles can sit flush with the sides of the wood. If you don’t your bed will not sit correctly in the space.

Step 26 and 27 The Y axis belt is a bit tricky, and the way to make it work perfectly is not mentioned in these steps. First and foremost, in step 26 when you put the belt through part 1101, you do not want 1101 to be very tight against 1100. The reason being is that it will crimp the belt, and cause the Y axis belt to rub against the side, and throw off calibration substantially. This is a great way to make a cube into a set a steps. Before you put the zip tie on the belt, skip to step 27 where you attach part 1126 to 1102. Make sure that there is a space between these two pieces. Do not tighten the bolt down all the way. Leaving a space allows  you to tighten the belt at a later time, as mentioned in step 23 of the Build Instructions. To add, loop the belt at the end, and then zip tie it. This keeps the belt from being pulled through the tie, and the wood.

Step 37 This one is poorly shown if you ask me. The wiring is extremely important, but showing an older board doesn’t help 1405 owners. So here, have a Rev D picture to use (Click to enlarge of course). I will also go ahead a tell you about each connection. If you marked your cables as I mentioned above, you will be able to get everything setup quite quickly. If you look closely at the board, you will see each plug is marked for what needs to be plugged in, but it’s not very apparent from the instructions as to what each thing is. Starting from the top, there are four plugs along the top, under the power connector. These are the end stop connectors (XS/YS/ZS). The cable coming out from underneath the board itself is the X axis end Stop. The other yellow/black connection is the Y axis end Stop. The Blue/Brown/Black from the Auto-Leveling Probe is in fact the Z axis end Stop. Just below that is the extruder power cable (red/black). On the opposite side you see the extruder thermistor cable (black/white) plugged in. Just below it is the fan cable (black/red). Last, at the very bottom are all of the motor connections  X, Y, Z, EX(blue/yellow/green/red). Keep in mind, you will probably have to flip the motor cables in the calibration process. Getting the connection backwards only causes the motor to move the other direction. Depending on your firmware, you will not know which way it needs to be plugged in (I will discuss this more in the calibration portion). Until then, feel free to plug yours in the same way as I did.

Software Addendum

Here I will present added information that I believe has been overlooked. Doing so will make it easier for you to control your Printrbot using the software recommended.

Repetier

Once you are to the point of having a working Repetier installation, and have connected to your Printrbot, you may find yourself in a predicament where you have a similar message saying “7 Command Waiting”. Not only that, you find that your printer isn’t responding. Don’t worry, there is nothing wrong at all. I read so many support tickets talking about this issue, and people were suggesting to flash firmware because of this! This fact of the matter is that you have to go to “Manual Control”, scroll to bottom, and  click the “OK” button. Basically, you need to send a initiating command to the printer before you can do anything manually. So all of those commands you were trying to do before are all going to flood into the printer in the order they were started. In other words, get ready to unplug your Printrbot.

GCode

Now that you know about the “OK” button, you can use GCode without any issue. From the Manual Control tab, you can type in your commands at the top, and click “Send”, or press ENTER to execute them. To learn more about the different GCode commands, check out the Reprap Wiki’s GCode page. The ones that you really want to know for calibration are the following:

M501: Read stored settings
M500: Save current settings
M211: Max position
M212: Bed Probe Offset (for auto-level probe calibration)

G-Code Editor

Since the 1405 can use the auto-level probe to auto level the bed, you need to add some code to the “Start Code” of Repetier. In the G-Code Editor tab, click the drop-down menu with “G-Code” selected, and choose “Start Code”. In the G-Code window, type the following:

G28 X0 Y0
G29

After you have entered this into the start code, click the “Save” button so that Repetier remembers to run this on start. This will make sure that your bed/extruder is leveled at all points, since setting it in Slic3r will not do that. Without it, you may wonder for the longest time why half of your bed is 0.3mm off, like I did.

Slic3r Settings

If you have been looking around for Slic3r settings, I’m sure you’ve come across quite a few that have varied in every instance. At first, you might wonder why you even need the settings, since you have most of the settings in Repetier anyways; at least this is what I thought. The reason for the settings is that when you slice an object with Slic3r, it uses its settings for the gcode it generates. It is not aware of the Repetier settings at all. If you slice an object up, go to the G-Code Editor tab in Repetier, and look at the settings at the top and bottom of the GCode. You will see your Slic3r settings. If you want to learn more about the settings in Slic3r, check out their Online Manual (Best resource I’ve found so far for settings).

Calibration Tips

In this section, I’m going to give a few simple steps to make your calibration much less painful. By doing so, I will give you the information that’s neglected in any instructions I’ve found, and that I had to find out myself.

Motors

So now it’s time to calibrate your motors. The first thing you want to do, is make sure they are running the correct way. When you click any of the home buttons in Repetier, the axis that’s moving should travel towards the end stop. X should move to the right, Y should move backwards, and Z should move down. Now that you know which direction they should go, you can now calibrate them as intended. In terms of the filament feeder motor, go to Manual Control in Repetier, find the Extrude [mm] option, set the value to 2, and click the down arrow. Check to see which way the gear on the motor is moving. If it is moving counter-clockwise, the motor connection is backwards.

Once you are ready to calibration the auto-leveling probe, be sure to watch this video Z Axis Calibration Video. It is the only set of instructions that will make any sense, and allow you to calibrate it correctly.

Maximum Travel

Once you have everything homed in, you will want to keep your axes from going too far away from the zero point, causing a nasty grinding sound from the motors. To do this, home the axis, and start traveling the other direction manually. Once you get to the point where it should stop, use the M211 command to set the correct max position. As an example, my travel settings for my 1405 are M211 X85 Y85.

Flashing Firmware

Ok, I wanted to make a section all about this for one reason, reference. I want to emphasize that the community is “flash happy” from what I’ve seen. I flashed my hardware because I didn’t know how to use Repetier yet, and it was advised for my issue (The OK button issue). Now I’m stuck with a Simple Metal firmware, where I have to switch my Y and Z motors, and came with over-sized settings. NEVER FLASH AS A REMEDY. If you are having issues with calibration, make it work as best as possible first, and have a developer decide if it is in fact a firmware issue. Every single issue I had with my Printrbot was a user error every single time.

After reading the instructions for flashing firmware, it was not very clear that you need to press the reset button on the board before the new device surfaces. There are two different devices your system will see. The Teensie USB Serial to talk to the Printrbot, and the Atmel connection to flash the board. I point this out because the instructions have you installing the driver for the device before you press the reset button. For the record, you have to press the button before seeing the device.

Common Problems

These are the problems I ran across while calibrating my 1405, and thought it would be a good resource for anyone else experiencing the same issue.

Y Axis Homing and Manual Movement Reversed

This is something I encountered on my Printrbot. In Repetier, the Y axis would home in the correct direction, but if I tried to move the Y axis manually after, it would not move. This is because Repetier thinks it’s at the zero point, and everything behind the end stop is the positive movement. To remedy this, go into the Printer Settings, then Printer Shape, and change “Home Y” from Min to Max. Now when Y homes in, it will think it’s at it’s max travel, and then allow you to manually move it away from the end stop.

Reversed Motors

If you end up with an issue where a certain axis does not respond when it hits its end stop, you may have the motor connections mixed up. If you flashed your firmware to a simple metal, which seems to be highly recommended for no real good reason, then you will probably have to switch your Y and Z like I had to do with my own. You can of course switch the end stops as well instead, but switching motors is probably the better solution.

Z Axis Not Going Down

This was a simple issue, but not as apparent as you would think. When I plugged everything in, by guessing what went where, I had plugged the Z axis end stop into the E-STOP plug, thinking, “hey, it’s next to the extruder, it must be related”. Without the probe, the system would refuse to move the Z axis down. This is why I pointed out earlier, that the auto-level probe is in fact the Z axis end stop.

Axis Banging Against Side

Always make sure your motor is moving your axis towards the end stop. If it is not, it will just continue to bang against the side until it hits the max travel distance. If it is going the right direction, make sure that the end stop is plugged into the correct plug. You can use the M119 command, and manually trigger the end stops to see what end stop the software sees it as. If one is registering as another end stop, switch the motors around to match the motors with the end stops. If this is happening to multiple motors, make sure you are using the correct firmware (You should be unless you flashed at some point in time).

Calibration Prints

Here are a few GCode prints I found throughout the community. Use and abuse these until you can print them perfectly!

Calibration Block

Calibration Cube (FirstCube)

If these are your very first prints, you can test most of your calibration in the first layer. Chances are you will see at least one problem.

Printing Issues

First layer doesn’t stick, and moves around:  There are two possible reasons for this. Low heat, or extruder not low enough. The extruder should be zeroed in low enough to almost smear the first layer. If you are using PLA (filament that came with kit), you should be running at least 190 degrees Celsius. 200 for ABS.


Lines are wavy, or moving around: Like the above, this happens because the extruder is not low enough.


Top of print gets smashed:  This happens when an area is being printed too fast, and isn’t getting enough cooling. If you print two of the same prints, you will probably find that they both come out perfect (i.e. Calibration Block linked above).


Edges become stringy and don’t stick:  Not enough heat.


I printed shredded wheat:  This can happen when you are not printing hot enough. If you are using PLA (filament that came with kit), you should be running at least 190 degrees Celsius. 200 for ABS.


First layer fine in some spots:  Bed needs to be leveled. The extruder is not offset the same height across the entire bed.

Congratulations

Hopefully after reading this, you should be printing happily, and not reading through countless amounts of Google results trying to figure out a lot of what has been explained here. I will continue to update this if I find more information that needs to be apparent to any new Printrbot owner. So, have fun, and happy printing!