Introduction: Budget 3D Printer Fixes and Enhancements
I recently received a kit for a relatively inexpensive 3D printer, the JGAurora Z 605S. In this article I will provide details on steps that were required to make this printer work properly, as well as provide some insights for those new to 3D printing who may acquire this model, or another RepRap Prusa i3 clone. Your experience will hopefully be better -- you may receive a printer that works right from the start, but if not, I hope the tips provided in this article will help you solve the problems. Once this machine is up and working, it is a fantastic tool -- maybe not Ultimaker 2 quality, but definitely a tool worth having on a budget. All in all, I am pleased to have it despite the initial problems and it is likely that since I've reported the problems the manufacturer of this model may have fixed them if mine was not a fluke. Nevertheless, regardless of where your purchase your budget 3D printer this information may just make the difference in whether or not you ever get it working.3D
Step 1: Issues With the Kit...
The kit I received came with a UK power cord/plug. Obviously this doesn't work in the United States -- not even here in Texas! ;) This however is very easily resolved. Any 3-pronged (grounded) power cord will work. The Power Supply Unit (PSU) has a 110/220 switch on the side. You can use a plug available from any hardware store to resolve this issue.
Be sure to carefully unpack the kit and check off the supply list. I found that my kit was missing all of the M3 nuts -- the most numerous item in the kit! In total my kit was missing about $18 worth of hardware as you. In the United States, metric hardware is generally more expensive and harder to find than "imperial" hardware. Nevertheless, all of the needed missing hardware was available at a local hardware store. (Lowes) You may however wish to check the instructions and fit carefully before purchasing hardware because the packing list is wrong in some cases and some of the hardware was not needed.
Assembly was actually fairly easy and there were few if any problems when the instructions are followed. As previously mentioned there were a few cases where hardware on the packing slip did not match what the instructions called for -- but, in these cases the needed hardware was supplies, at least in my kit.
Assembly took about 12 to 18 hours. This is where you may decide it is more cost effective to buy a pre-assembled system. :) Of course, I probably counted the time put into all of the trips to the hardware store, etc.
There are also some places where you will need to look at photos and decide for yourself the right way to do things. Running and binding cables is one example. Also the instructions do not detail wire connections to the mainboard -- so you will have to know enough about the design of the printer to get the basics in order to assemble it properly. If you are unfamiliar with which Axis is which, or what the heat bed or extruder are, etc., spend some time reading about the original RepRap Prusa i3 design. The photos in my kit for the wiring were based on an older board that is not longer shipped with the JGAurora Z 605S. Nevertheless most of the connections will be similar if not identical.
Step 2: Fixing the Reversed Stepper Motors!
Once my machine was fully assembled I began to test it out using the control panel. It became obvious immediately that there was a BIG problem. Only the Y axis was able to "home" until the limit switch was hit! The X and Z axis both ran backwards!!! In addition to this, the Extruder ejected filament instead of pulling it into and through the print nozzle!
This seemed to be anomalous to the manufacturer, who had nothing to offer. I suggested that I could use my ISP programmer to alter the firmware (supposing the board was similar to a RAMPS board), but was told that the firmware can NOT be altered. Otherwise it would have been trivial to reverse the X, Z, and Extruder motors via simple firmware changes.
Finally I decided to reverse the wires from these motors where they connect to the board. The JST-XH connectors will not allow you to simply insert the connector backwards! (I think the manufacturer must have accidentally shipped a set of boards with either incorrect firmware, or where the JST-XH headers were installed backwards.)
Hilitchi makes a very nice kit containing 480 pieces of 2.54mm JST-XH connectors, plugs, pins, and sockets. The kit is available on Amazon Prime for $20. Using this kit I was able to make 3 cables that reversed the wires in each connector. Just remember reverse all 4 wires so that it would be the same as if you were able to plug the connector into the board backwards.
This solved the problem with the reversed stepper motors!
Step 3: Printing Materials...
PLA vs. ABS
This is one area where the documentation and advertising for the JGAurora Z 605S was correct. This printer really is not well suited to printing ABS. Even the extremely cheap PLA that I bought (before I knew better) prints well with this printer. ABS will not adhere to the printer bed, with blue tape or to glass. There are many articles out there that will tell you how to make ABS stick. For me only one of them worked -- the one where I laser engraved a dot pattern into a piece of 1/4" acrylic and placed it on the bed with the heat cranked up to 100 C. The problem -- I got one thing to print and then the acrylic sheet was warped. Not worth the effort!
PETG: An alternative to ABS...
PETG is a great alternative to ABS, and this printer can handle it just fine. PETG has a shiny finish and has more flex to it than ABS, but it is not as brittle as PLA. Try it out and see what you think. In the attached photos, the blue funnels that I made for casting High Power Rocket motors (another article for another day) were printed using PETG. The smooth finish is perfect for a funnel, and the resulting product is strong. I had previously printed funnels using PLA but it was too brittle and they broke quickly.
I have Ninjaflex TPE and Ninjaflex SEMIFLEX on order and will update this step when I have information on their suitability with this printer.
Step 4: Other Useful Instructables.com Articles...
Assembly and Glass Print Bed...
If you have troubles assembling your 3D printer, this article may help: How to assemble very cheap 3D printer
In addition to the assembly guide, this article shows how to add a glass print bed that works perfectly with PLA. Though the author provides few details, my glass bed was made from the glass from an 8 x 10 picture frame. I used a 40 W CO2 laser to cut it to the right size. You can use a glass cutter if you don't have laser. Also, a power sander (carefully used!) will round the edges of the glass nicely.
If you want to try printing ABS on acrylic checkout this article: Reusable 3D Printing Acrylic Baseplate
Though it was not 100% successful for me, it may work for you. If it does, please add your own tips to the comments on this article. I have two spools of ABS that I can't currently use. :)
If you "Follow" me you will see a few additional articles in the future that feature prints made from this printer. I have big plans, including plans to eventually 3D print a full size (e.g. 8 to 10 foot tall, 4 to 8" diameter) high power rocket -- but that will require finding or building a suitable printer. If you'd like to sponsor such a project (e.g. provide a capable printer) please contact me.
I will also publish an article showing the funnels in use for making High Power rocket motors, if time permits.