Introduction: 101hero $99 3D Printer - an Upgrade Story

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Intro

The 101hero is a cheap 3D printer that sells for $99 over here. Most likely the cheapest 3D printer on the internet. Thats actually why and how I got my first 3D printer :)

The official words

101Hero PYLON 3D printer

- Your First 3D Printer Start from US$ 99 Get Your 3D Printer

- Simple & Easy-to-Use

- Designed to be compact and easy-to-use, you simply turn on the printer, insert the memory card, and print anything that you want

What you really get

A real 3D printer that in most cases is able to print out of the box. Printing quality is - lets say you get what you pay for. There also might be some additional steps between "turn on" and printing. BUT the most and important thing that comes with the box is a license to really learn and understand how 3D printing works.

After all I was not expecticing this initially. However after applying some modifications here and there made the 101hero actually print not too bad. I am pretty sure I deserve at least a certificate for the beginner learners level of 3D printing now :). So thanks to 101hero team and the 101 Hero (Unofficial) and 101Hero Deutsch

In short - where are the weak points of the 101hero?

  • the 3pylon motors are cheapest on earth, so NEVER move the motors by hands unless you intend to break the small plastic gears inside on first touch
  • the frame is very instable, top and bottom plate are not carrying any force
  • the delta rods are flexible plastic not carbon and mine have a lot of backlash in the ball bearing ends
  • extruder is wearing out after a couple of prints

Attention!
At some point in this instruction I was applying some cables to a 230V power supply and I had to solder some cables. If you are not familiar with handling high voltages - dont do this instructable! If you are not familiar with soldering - dont do this instructable!

ALL ACTIONS FOLLOWING UP ON THIS INSTRUCTABLE ARE AT YOUR ON RISK!

IF YOU ARE NOT SURE WHAT YOU ARE DOING - DONT DO or ASK TRAINED PEOPLE!

Damages of electronics, burns or any human damage may possible when done incorrectly.


What is this instructable about?
The following pages include the modifications that I made, sometimes with little luck, sometimes with hard thinking and most of the times with the help of others. So I try to be accurate and name the people. If not or missing please feel free to come back at any time - I am happy to add author information. The pictures of the white boat is where it started and the red clamping parts is where printing quality is now.

  • add spool holder
  • add additional frame parts to allow higher accelerations
  • modify delta rods to avoid backlash
  • some fans here and there
  • upgrade power supply
  • replace motors by NEMA14 steppers
  • replace hotend and extruder

Need printed parts?

Usually all parts from this instructable are printed with the 101hero before upgrading. This is simply because I do have only one printer - the 101hero. So you can do the same thing - print before upgrade.

In case you are not familiar with printing yet or just want to save time - I am happy to send all parts as a kit - worldwide. The kit includes all parts that are needed for this instructable. Just send me a message.

Please note that all models and 3D prints are available in my thingiverse, created by Fusion360.

Your Idea Counts!

Please let me know if I can add your great idea to this instructable and share with others.

Step 1: Needed Material - an Overview

Here we have an overview of needed parts if all upgrades are done at once. For more details (links, shops, prices) please check following pages.

3D Printed Parts

Electronics

  • power supply of at least 10Amps at 12V

  • 4pcs 40mm x 40mm fans

  • 10mm x 10mm heat sinks for the stepper driver ICs

  • 3pcs NEMA14 stepper motors

  • J-head Hotend 1.75/0.4mm Nozzle Tube Extruder Kit (incl. fan, holder, tube, ...)

  • Aluminum Extruder kit

  • High torque NEMA17 stepper motor

Hardware

  • M6 screw rod of about 10cm

  • M6 nuts 2pcs M4 x 15 screws + nuts

  • 6pcs of about 18cm length alloy bars with angle bracket 30mm x 15mm

  • 3pcs of 20cm x 20cm alloy plates, thickness of 2mm

  • 6 pcs of M4x 40 screws + nuts + shimmers (upper plate)

  • 6 pcs of M4x 30 screws + nuts + shimmers (lower plate)

  • M3x 15 screws+ nuts + shimmers

  • 6pcs M4x 55 screw + shimmers + nuts

  • 12pcs M3x 8 screw for motor mount

  • 2pcs M3x 15 screws + nuts for hotend holder

Step 2: The Spool Holder

Why is this needed?

To be frankly - the roll of spool doesnt unroll on the table :) There is are comon typical principals to hold the roll for unrolling. This holder has the advantage - it can be printed directly with the 101hero.

What parts are needed?

  • printed parts download (need printed parts shipped worldwide - send me a message)
  • M6 screw rod of about 10cm
  • M6 nuts
  • 2pcs M4 x 15 screws + nuts for top plate assembly

How to do?

The printed parts can be mounted on top of the hero.

Step 3: Additional Frame Parts

Why is this needed?

The overall body is made of molded plastic. The construction is nice thought trough and does what needed. However I intended to run higher speeds. With higher speed the stiffness of the frame plays an important roll here. You might watch the video. Thats why I decided to add angle brackets and aloy plates. Aloy can be easily cut with standard jigsaw and fine blade. Which feels like sawing wood. I went through cutting all the items within less than 2hrs.

What parts are needed?

  • 6pcs of about 18cm length alloy bars with angle bracket 30mm x 15mm
  • 3pcs of 20cm x 20cm alloy plates, thickness of 2mm
  • 6 pcs of M4x 40 screws + nuts + shimmers (upper plate)
  • 6 pcs of M4x 30 screws + nuts + shimmers (lower plate)
  • 3D printed parts - glas plate holder - download
  • jigsaw with fine blade

  • drilling machine

How to do?

  • Note: to push the long screws through the holes I had to use a 4mm drill to expand the holes
  • angle brackets
    • the top 3pcs are exact 18cm length
    • drilled with 6mm hole diameter to mount them on top
    • the bottom 3pcs are exact 15.8cm length
    • drilled with 6mm hole diameter to mount them on bottom
    • for later adding an extruder I did prepare some side holes already :)
  • top plate
    • I used the original plate as a blue print on the alloy plate
    • used the jigsaw with fine blade to cut out
    • mounted top plate together with top angle brackets and 6pcs of M4x 40 screws
  • bottom plate
    • I used the original plate as a blue print on the alloy plate
    • used a jigsaw to cut out
    • mounted the bottom plate with bottom angle brackets and 6pcs of M4x 30 screws
  • super bottom plate
    • following the same scheme like top plate I also mounted a third plate underneath the printer
    • additinal 6pcs of M4x 60 screws + nuts + shimmers are needed in that case

Thats it :)

Additional Sources and Ideas

  • Reinforcement by johnwaynesurfer for pylons 101Hero thingiverse

Step 4: Modify Delta Rods to Avoid Backlash

Why is this needed?

The ball ends of the 6 delta rods do have a lot of backlash in my printer. This might be due to the fact that the plastic rod is been pushed over the brass ball and widened a little in that process. Backlash has the negative effect if axes are switching motion directions. As they are doing this all the time - eliminating backlash - for me is a must have.

What parts are needed?

I used

  • rubber band and a paper clip others use printed parts - see below.
  • That ideas is taken from 101hero (unoffical)

How to do?

  • well in this case I suggest to follow the pictures :)

Additional Ideas and Sources

  • 101hero rubber cord Clip by rulzAT at thingiverse

  • Rod tensioner by brendanb98 for 101hero thingiverse

  • very nice blog from hargoolink

Step 5: Some Fans Here and There

Why is this needed?

Maybe its just a feeling, but hot controllers and motors can be easily cooled with cheap fan units. Overheated chips or motors will sooner or later wear out. Compared to add a fan here and there this can be a headache for replacement.

Additionally to that most printers are running with decent cooling of the object itself in different ways. Either with a side standing fan unit or an hotend-mounted fan. The easiest way is to use some old PC fan units that stand close to the printing bad. Typically due to motion they tend to "run away". So attaching them at least with tape for short term or a screw for long term might be a good idea.

What parts are needed?

  • extruder motor fan mount 3D printed part download
  • pylon print fans download
  • 40mm fans $3ebay
  • 50mm blower $2.5ebay
  • 10mm x 10mm heat sinks for the stepper driver ICs $0.20ebay
  • M3x 15 screws+ nuts + shimmers

How to do?

I created two holders for 40mm fan units. There are heaps out there - especially on thingiverse. Typically M3 screws will fix them to the frame.

Additional Sources and Ideas

Step 6: Upgrade Power Supply

Why is this needed?

The shipped power supply comes with 3Amps at 12V. The total amount of current with additional fans and upgrades is drawing more than 3Amps.

I added some fans. When start printing I noticed a reduced speed of the fans although they are not speed regulated. So I assume the current of the standard power supply was not able to drive an additional fan of 0.2Amps at 12V. Thats why I immediatly upgrade my power supply.

What parts are needed?

  • power supply of at least 10Amps at 12V ex $17 on ebay
  • power cord
  • some thick two wires cable

How to do?

ALL ACTIONS FOLLOWING UP ON THIS INSTRUCTABLE ARE AT YOUR ON RISK!
IF YOU ARE NOT SURE WHAT YOU ARE DOING - DONT DO or ASK TRAINED PEOPLE!

Damages of electronics, burns or any human damage may possible when done incorrectly.

  1. attach power cord to power supply
  2. attach thick cables to power supply
  3. open 101hero controller
  4. solder thick cables to 12V input positions

Step 7: Replace 28byj-48 Motors by NEMA14 Steppers

Why is this needed?

The original motors have limited accuracy and can be broken too easily. When moving the motors by hand even once, the small plastic gears inside the original motors will break. Although these motors are cheap ($2/pcs) compared to NEMA stepper motors ($12/pcs). On the long run the NEMA motors will pay out as they are not wearing out and can achive higher motion and printing speeds without backlash. That means higher precision in motion. Where as the original motors wear out, have to run slow, have backlash and are providing limited precision.

What parts are needed?

  • NEMA14 stepper motors - 3pcs for about $30 on ebay
  • motor mount - a 3D printed part download
  • 6pcs M4x 55 screw + shimmers + nuts
  • 12pcs M3x 8 screw for motor mount

How to do?

  1. hardware
    • get the motor mount from 3D printer hub or print yourself
    • attach the NEMA14 motor with 4pcs M3 screws to the motor mount
    • remove the original motor including the black bracket insert from downside
    • remove the belt pully from the original motor and attach to the NEMA14
    • place the motor mount to the pylon
    • use 2pcs of M4x 55 screws to fix the motor mount to the pylon
  2. wiring
    • 4wires of the NEMA14 need to be connected to the 5pin connector
    • I used the old motors connect + cable and cut it close to the motor
    • the red wire is not used so, I removed it completely
    • the other 4wires are connected as follows
      • pink - green
      • blue - blue
      • orange - black
      • yellow - red
    • each wire is well isolated with some melting tube
  3. electronics
    • to run at faster speeds some cooling devices should be added
    • additionally each of the motors can be driven with higher current
    • setup current will be done by the poti positions - notice the flat side
    • appropriate torque will be achieved in positions as per screenshot
    • NOTE: cool down the motors whith fans!
  4. software (big thanks to 101hero unofficial)
    • I am using Software CURA 15.02.1 for direct printing through USB
    • the gear ratio of the NEMA14 motors is different to the original motors
    • unfortunately the gear ratio cannot be stored permanently in the controller
    • thus the gear ratio need to be entered each time after restart
    • the easiest way is to put it into CURAs startup script (see screenshot)
    • GCODE
      M92 X204.8 Y204.8 Z204.8
      G28
      G28
      M203 X150 Y150 Z150 E150

    • NOTE: the value 204.8 need to be fine tuned to meet your exact height setup
  5. configuration
    • Note: with higher speeds - I had to replace the extruder motor as well - see next page!
    • now if the everything is setup speeds of up to 150mm/s are possible !
    • please note that reducing speed improves printing quality
    • at 40mm/s printing speed I had very good results
    • nevertheless 70mm/s inner-filling speed and 150mm/s travel speed can be done and thus shorten printing time

Additional Sources and Ideas

  • workshop tinkerers replaced by NEMA17 motors, there is an excellent video here on youtube

Step 8: Replace Native Hotend and Extruder

Why is this needed?

In short: "because its cheap to replace and makes significant better printer results".

I think the reason is the same like for replacing the pylon motors. The original motors just wear out after some prints and printing quality decreases rapidly and I was furious in try to figuring out why my prints are getting worse.

After replacing the hotend and extruder. My prints got significantly better without any tweeking.

What parts are needed?

  • J-head Hotend 1.75/0.4mm Nozzle Tube Extruder Kit (incl. fan, holder, tube, ...) $9ebay

  • Aluminum Extruder kit $4ebay

  • High torque NEMA17 stepper motor $9ebay
  • 3D printed part: Hotend holder download
  • 2pcs M3x 15 screws + nuts

How to do?

  • Hotend mechanics (I did remix the hotend holder from workshop tinkeres - big thanks!)
    • remove the original extruder from the delta rods
    • attach the J-head to the printed hotend holder and use 2pcs M3 screw and the holding bar
    • place the hotend holder in the printer and attach the original delta rod screws - they simply drive into the plastic
  • Extruder mechanics
    • in this case I go for RTFM :)
    • please follow the instructions on ebay - let me know if I can be of some help
  • Hotend wiring
    • I did a simple trick because I did not have the correct connectors attached
    • I simply cut the original connectors from the original hotend and re-used them
    • connectors are named in the pictures
      • Connector E: thermistor (polarity irrelevant)
      • Connector F: hotend fan (take care for polarity; red is +, and green is - )
      • Connector G: heating (polarity irrelevant)
    • I just soldered the cables of the J-Hotend to the old cables
  • Extruder wiring
    • the most important thing is direction of motion
    • the extruder motors goes to Connector D
    • the controller connector has 5pins, however the last pin can be omited (see picture)
    • I directly connected the motor connector to the board after swapping two wires
    • the final pinning is
      • 1 - red
      • 2 - green
      • 3 - blue
      • 4 - black
  • Extruder Motor Current Setup
    • the extruder motor current is setup by poti P37
    • the poti can be carefully rotated with a small flat screw driver - switch off the controller when rotating
    • there is a flat side that can be oriented
    • if you use the exact same motor the orientation in the pictures works perfectly fine
    • if you use a different motor the rotation needs to be self adjusted to avoid step loss
  • Software
    • I am using Software CURA 15.02.1 for direct printing through USB
    • the gear ratio of the NEMA17 motor is different to the original motors
    • unfortunately the gear ratio cannot be stored permanently in the controller thus the gear ratio need to be entered each time after restart
    • the easiest way is to put it into CURAs startup script
    • GCODE
      M92 X204.8 Y204.8 Z204.8 E97
      G28
      G28
      M203 X150 Y150 Z150 E150

      NOTE: the value 97 need to be fine tuned to meet your exact extruding setup
  • Configuration
    • With the new hotend much higher printing speeds are possible
    • the original printing speeds are 10mm/s to 14mm/s
    • with the new hotend speeds of 70mm/s or 90mm/s are possible!
    • when it comes to retraction settings this is an importing thing to avoid nozzle oozing
    • additionally when the tower motors are upgraded this hotend will keep pace with the printing high printing speeds
    • no other configuration needs to be done :)
  • thats it!

Need printed parts?
Usually all parts from this instructable are printed with the 101hero before upgrading. This is simply because I do have only one printer - the 101hero. So you can do the same thing - print before upgrade. In case you are not familiar with printing yet or just want to save time - I am happy to send all parts as a kit - worldwide. The kit includes all parts that are needed for this instructable. Just send me a message.

Step 9: The Final Result

That's it! Lets sum up.

Attached are some nice prints that a reach typical printing quality of a low end printer.

  • printing speeds of up to 90mm/s are possible
  • travel speeds of 150mm/s are possible
  • the overall cost of all the upgrades together with initial cost of the 101hero is in a range where other low end printers start

BUT: Nobody can take the fun and the learning out of making this $99 3D printer to a printer that is able to print acceptable quality!!!

If you think this instructable is cool then please vote for it :)

Thanks!

Comments

author
StephanD23 (author)2017-05-06

Hallo, you stated that you directly connected the new extruder motor to the board. Now ist seems to be that the motor you advise is a 5V one andere the one build in the hero ist a 12V one. Do i miss out something or do i need an additional dc dc converter?
Greetings

author
tswaehn (author)StephanD232017-05-06

The voltage of stepper motors is typically around 3V to 6V. As the controller is a current controlled driver, and the torque is only proportional to current, this works perfectly fine with a 12V power supply.
The only thing that have the be cared of is the max current. The 101hero can be setup to change the max current.

When increasing current two things have to be checked, overheating of the driver IC and overheating of the motor. Not big issues, but need to have an eye on.

author
DI123 (author)2017-04-28

how close should the printbed and the hotend be

author
tswaehn (author)DI1232017-04-29

Typically one piece of paper. I usually measure at three different points. With the G0 command I travel around and check like

G0 X0 Y0 Z0

Then
G0 X-30 Y-30 Z0

And
G0 X30 Y30 Z0

This includes a bed level check.

author
DI123 (author)tswaehn2017-04-29

thanks

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