Introduction: Running the Pier 9 Zcorp 450 3D Printer

Picture of Running the Pier 9 Zcorp 450 3D Printer

Too big for the Objet? To detailed for support removal? Don't want to wait for Shapeways? Need full color but the MCor is just not going to work? It sounds like you may have the perfect print for the Zcorp 450!

The Zcorp is a bit different than any of the other printers at the Pier. It's process is based on laying down very fine layers of powder and using an ink jet head to spray binder that fuses the powder together. It's one of the highest resolution, fastest, and most versatile methods of printing. It's very very similar in concept to the way 2D printers work, in fact many of it's components are directly taken out of 2D printers. Finally It's also an order of magnitude less expensive than Objet printing.

With all it's advantages it has a couple major disadvantages: it's a very finicky machine that needs extensive cleaning to stay running. Although the parts it produces can be very detailed as well as thick they are not very strong. I'll go over basic setup of the machine, file setup, sending a print, cleaning and basic removal of a print in this instructable. I will be covering methods of solidifying prints in an other instructable here (coming soon).

So lets get started!

If you are looking for what to make on the Zcorp or how to post process your prints click here

Step 1: What You'll Need

Picture of What You'll Need

The Zcorp 450 3D printer

(currently located in the back left corner of the Pier 9 3D Print shop)

A file to Print

the printer can print 8x10x8" at high resolution. It can print features down to about 1mm thickness. It can also print full color, for full color you will need a VMRL or OBJ/MTL file. For mono-color an STL,OBJ, or PLY file will work well.

Cleaning Supplies (available in the Objet Cart)

91% Alcohol Spray

Microfiber Wipes

Step 2: Cleaning and Prepping the Printer Part 1

Picture of Cleaning and Prepping the Printer Part 1

The printer will probably be in Sleep mode when you first get to it. Click on black knob once to wake it up. It should now say "online/warming up". The first this we need to do it so prepare the build chamber. This is the silver area in the front of the machine with holes. This is where your print will be made.

Since we will be cleaning the printer open the door using the sliver handle, it's heavy and slides up, make sure nothing is sitting on top of the machine that could be knocked over.

Scroll though the main menu on the LCD panel until 'prep build chamber' is displayed, click down on the black button to select. It will ask you to confirm the bed is empty and the station is clean-we will be cleaning the station later so just click ok if there is nothing in the build bed.

The bed will automatically raise to its full height position.

Step 3: Cleaning and Prepping the Printer Part 2

Picture of Cleaning and Prepping the Printer Part 2

Now we need to disable the motion of the arm so safely clean the print area. Open up the 3DPrint Application from the desktop. Make sure the build volume is clear then Navigate to the Tools Tab, then the service button, then unpark. (tools>service>unpark). The printer will move away from it's home and you will be able to move the arm by hand.

Activate the Vacuum on the machine with the LCD.

Use the Hose to clean as much powder from around the bed as possible. Move the arm to the front of the machine manually to clean all the powder off the arm surfaces and behind the arm.

Replace the Vacuum back in its receptacle and the vacuum should stop automatically.

Step 4: Cleaning and Prepping the Printer Part 3

Picture of Cleaning and Prepping the Printer Part 3

The next step is the clean the cleaning station in the left front of the build volume. Move the arm away and open the hatch. Clean the wiper of any hardened powder using alcohol and rags. Clean any residual liquid and built up powder. Make sure the small white wash pad is moist and clean. Close the cap.


The last part of the machine to clean in the park station. This is very important and is often missed. This pad covers the heads makes sure they do not dry out when the printer is idle. It is located in the back left of the machine where the head parks when not in use. Wipe the rubber pads clean with alcohol.

The printer should not be clean and completely free of powder in the build area.

Make sure everything is clear in build area and the vacuum is back in the receptacle, go back to the screen and hit 'OK' to re-park the printer.

We're now ready to load a print!

Step 5: Sending a File to the Printer

Picture of Sending a File to the Printer

Now go back to the 3DPrint interface, in the Home tab "open" a file. I've opened a monochrome print of a fruitbowl.

You will need to confirm your units and scale your part if necessary. Do not change the powder type, the printer is currently loaded with ZP151. Depending on the size and complexity of your model it may take a few moments to load. If the file is exeptionally complicated the model may display in 'fast rendering' mode. To change display modes go to View>Fast Render.

Here you can also toggle the 2D display of your model, by scrolling through the layers of the model you can visually see if there are any strange things happening with your model which may need to be revised. If it all looks good then it's time to send your file.

Go back to the home tab then to Build.

Press next to build the whole print (this is where you can recover a print that has stalled at a certain layer).

The printer status dialog will now appear. This is the final dialog before printing begins. Here you can confirm that the printer is ready to go. You can also enable automatic de-powdering which is useful for larger prints by clicking "Empty Build Plate after Printing" in the bottom left corner. Once you're satisfied with the setting hit "Print".

Step 6: Monitoring the Print

Picture of Monitoring the Print

After hitting print the printer will start filling the build bed and then printing. It will sweep powder onto the build plate and build up base layers. Once the filled has completed the layer that is being printed will show up on the screen in black. The layer number will also appear on the LCD interface. Before leaving the print check to make sure the binder is coming out. Watch the head move as it prints out binder, the shape of the off white color should correspond to the shape of the section on the interface. Once you're sure a few layers are working it's safe to walk away and let the printer work.

The printing dialog will show the time remaining and the finish time.

Step 7: Removing Your Print

Picture of Removing Your Print

Woohoo! Your print is done! The machine won't look like much but the interface will tell you the print is ready. If your print is robust than you can use the auto-depowdering routine on the printer. This is automatically remove all the powder around the part and reveal it mummy style!

From the main menu on the LCD go to buildchamber>emptybuildchamber then click down to begin the automatic depowdering. The powder will begin to disappear into the bed, after the routine has completed your part should be mostly clear of powder. If you wish activate the vacuum and use the brush to remove any residual powder. With the doors still open transfer the piece into the right hand de-powdering side of the machine.

Close the doors.

Enter the machine into depowdering mode, it will take a second to warm up and you will hear the air compressor turn on. Use the air hose on the right side of the machine to remove any residual powder from your part. In order for any post treatment you may do to work, all the loose powder must be removed. Make sure to flip over your part and use the air gun on it from all sides. When the powder has been removed put the part back down on the mesh base and turn off the depowdering. Wait for the dust to settle then open the doors and remove your part.

Step 8: Cleaning the Machine (again)

Picture of Cleaning the Machine (again)

Now that the print is done it's time to clean the machine again.

Reactivate the vacuum and remove all visible powder from the build plate and build area of the machine.

Un-park the arm and re-clean the home station and the cleaning station. Leave the printer cleaner than you found it and make sure you repark the heads.

Check the vacuum filter for any small bits that may have broken off during printing. This is the black panel in the upper right of the build chamber. Remove the filter and clear it out into the trashcan, DO NOT WASH IT any moisture will damage the printer. Replace the filter with the open side up.

That's it! The zorp is ready to go for the next person.

You can find tips for post treating your Zcorp prints here

Comments

famfilho (author)2015-09-17

Hi, how many US$ I will pay for this machine and what the cost per piece or per kg?

fozzy13 (author)2014-07-23

When did they get this incredible piece of 3D printing awesomeness? I love the full color prints!

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Bio: Smith|Allen is a design firm based in Oakland California. Our work is interdisciplinary in focus bringing design, innovation, and novel concepts to bear on ... More »
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