This guide allows you to start your 3d printer from ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD... as long as you have internet access. This means while you are off on a work trip, or away for a weekend convention, your 3d printer can be working hard without you babysitting it! This Instructable will take you from start to finish in setting up your 3d printer, and has a few options on removing your 3d prints to start another one! All of this is done with minimum to no cost to you and can greatly increase the productivity and automation of your 3d printer.
Step 1: Google Chrome Remote Desktop
First thing to do is setup Google Chrome Remote Desktop.
Above is a link to the remote desktop app(there are also many other remote desktop choices if you research it yourself), it will require a gmail account to access the appstore and download the app. The steps for hooking up are quite simple and will not be gone over in detail here. Once the remote desktop has been downloaded on both computers, you will use a password to login then you can remotely access your 3d printer computer from any other computer.
Below is a list of different remote desktop choices, but since google is free and easy I chose that.
Step 2: Hooking Up
Once a remote desktop option has been chosen it is time to login to your 3d printer computer and start your 3d printer/webcam. NOTE: a webcam is not necessary to automatic printing, it does however greatly help as you can see the progress of your print, and stop/reset if something goes terribly wrong. Check http://www.thingiverse.com/ for mounting brackets if you need a way to attach it, I used a laptop with built-in camera so I just positioned that strategically! NOTE: make sure your 3d printer computer is plugged in!!! it will be incredibly difficult to print if your computer isn't somehow tethered your printer. I do not have wireless or Bluetooth connection but if you have that capability than no physical plug is needed. Make sure if you are using a laptop or other battery operated system that you have a full battery, it is plugged in, and that your "sleep settings" have been turned off to prevent the print from stopping mid print because it "loses" connection to your computer.
Step 3: Starting the Print
Now you are logged in and your computer is connected to your printer. Open up your slicing software (Cura in my case) and follow the regular steps of getting a print ready. If you are looking for a good idea of something to print, check out http://www.thingiverse.com/ for a plethora of fantastic 3d models and STL files to print! I like to change a few "basic" settings and "START G-CODE" settings to error proof the startup and make sure my end result is a great print.
1. Change your slicer settings so the print will have some sort of brim or raft. I like using a brim with about 20 lines to make sure the plastic is flowing by the time the printer starts on the actual part. A raft can work as well just make sure that plastic is flowing when the raft is printing, to verify the part will stick to the bed. One way to help this is set the G-Code for your extruder to 2 or 3 which will make sure plastic is being pushed out immediately (some testing will be necessary for your printer to see what works best).
2. Make sure your starting z-height matches your raft/brim/part layer height (your brim and part layer height will be the same). Check the 3 spots pictured (see image 2,4,5 )in order to verify this is true. I will usually change my z-height start in G-code to slightly less than my layer height so if my layer height is .2mm I will set my G-Code to .15mm or .1mm. Some testing will help because to tight a z-height can cause nozzle clogging which will screw up your print.
3. Before you attempt to 3d print offsite verify that your print bed is level, that your print bed has whatever adhesive it requires applied, and your print bed is free from any foreign objects.
Step 4: Removing Print
The most difficult and important part of offsite 3d printing is the removal of the print. I will list a few different ways to remove the print and am still working on the "PERFECT" way to do it. NOTE: another place a webcam is extremely helpful is making sure your print is actually removed from the bed.
Lets face it, removing a print when you are physically in front of your print bed can be difficult, so how in the world are we supposed to do hundreds of miles away? Well the answer is "VERY CAREFULLY!!!" there really is no perfect way to remove a print from its bed so I will give you some imperfect ways and that will propel you towards a solution that will work for your individual situation.
So one questionable at best method bouncing around the internet is in the link below. It is a printed boxing glove that "punches" your prints off the table. I cannot verify whether or not this works but in theory I would imagine it does. One problem would be in small prints or flat prints as the glove would not have surface area to remove the part. Another potential problem would be moving your print bed location, causing future prints to not put a good first layer down. A setup guide and parts can be found in the link below.
The method I personally like to use is the "House Wife". If I am away on business or just at work for the day, I will start my print in the morning, text my wife (or anyone who is at home around the printer with the capability to remove it) when it is finished, have her remove the print, then start the next one. I have her use a razor blade scraper, http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:19029 and some Computer Dust Cleaner http://www.amazon.com/Dust-Off-Compressed-Gas-Dust... to easily remove any print (I in no way promote this type of duster was just a cheap one on Amazon). The duster provides cool air to the print causing it to retract from the bed, while the razor blade allows for easy detachment.
My final idea,(and hopefully soon to be reality) is building a robot to replace the "House Wife"(only replacing her ability to remove parts...). There are machines such as http://www.amazon.com/SainSmart-Control-Palletizin... which can be programmed to do the above things with ease. I suggest using something of this sort if the "House Wife" automation is not available to you. There are also many guides on how to setup and get this robotic arm so once you have that ready simply adjust it via your code to match the specific print you are printing. Something like this robot is extremely useful in a high volume production run because it takes little coding as the robot will only do the same thing just on a timer the length of the print. This allows for prints at night with no maintenance required. A lot of testing is required to get something like this going without any flaws so be prepared to put the hours in to make an automated print remover from a robot. (if you have something like this already and want to let me know, I am very interested in doing an in depth look at programming a robotic arm for repetitive tasks such as "TAPBOT" or print removal of the same part printed multiple times). Also programs such as MURGAA http://www.murgaa.com/ (which is an autoclick application) with accurate timers can allow for restarting a print after given a good removal time buffer.
Step 5: Repeat!
Well we have done it, from our desk at work, or our laptop in the airport we have started our print, verified it finishing, removed it, and started another one. In this final step I would like to show how to splice together 2 prints with a 10 minute PAUSE in between, for print removal. If you look at the G-Code in the images above I have highlighted exactly where the print ends/pauses/starts. This will take some tampering on exactly how much pause time is wanted, but through remote desktop, this can be setup away from home. The whole process is quite simple and really only takes the knowledge of Copy and Paste to do. Open up the first desired print, move to the very end of the G-code (I would suggest doing it this way and not changing it in your slicer to prevent screwing up future prints by forgetting you changed your end G-Code) and remove the final lines (as highlighted in the picture), which should be M84 and G90. After they are removed add G4 P(time in seconds), so if you want 10 minutes do G4 S600, if you want 1 minute do G4 S60. Then open the next G-Code file you want to add and copy and paste it after the G4 S600 line. DONE, now just start your print and make sure you remove the part from the print bed before the 10 minutes is up. NOTE: If the print isn't removed in the pause section you may have some problems... just make sure to remove it!!!
WE HAVE DONE IT, a fully automated 3d printer that can be controlled from anywhere you have a computer and internet access! I hope this guide launches your mind into new and better ways to program your 3d printer to get the results you desire, whether it be printing 4, 1:30 hr prints while you sleep, or getting advanced prototypes ready while your away at work. If you have any guides or ideas on a super efficient or strong way to use a robot arm for removing prints let me know, as I do plan on purchasing one and trying it out myself and any help on getting it going would be great.
There are currently many applications and websites that use raspberry pi, or other circuit boards, to connect to your printer. I am not familiar with any of them but have done some research on them, if you would like to check out that avenue for auto printing follow these links. If you are familiar with, or currently are using one of these software's I would love to know how it works for you and your opinion on it.
If you have other questions on 3d printing check out my 3d printing hacks Instructable below or feel free to leave a comment which I will answer to the best of my knowledge.
If you live in North America and want something printed, check out my 3dHub at this URL.
You can also 'like' Jub's Hub on Facebook and stay updated on all my latest prints. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jubs-Hub/146982563...