Introduction: Temporary Hack for Overheating Robo 3D R1

This instructable will show you a quick, easy (and Cheap!) temporary hack to keep you printing when your ramps fan dies on your Robo 3D R1 printer. All you need are some Legos, a phillips screwdriver, a small battery powered fan and some batteries.

I have been pushing my Robo harder than usual in the past couple of weeks working on some projects that I wanted to enter in the Mind for Design and 3D Printing contests. Unfortunately, during this process, my prints started failing miserably! I was unable to solve the problem in time to print the prototypes for Mind for Design, so I have since been troubleshooting/diagnosing.

The next little bit of info will explain a little about diagnosing my particular print issues. If you just want the fix, without the fluff, feel free to jump ahead to Step 1!

There were a couple of things that made diagnosis tough. First of all, the inconsistency in the failures. Sometimes it would just quit, other times it would skip layers and sometimes it would keep printing, but the Z would not move up, resulting in a smushed-up, globular mess! These fails (some quite epic, I might add!) seemed to occur without rhyme or reason, varying heights and varying times. Second of all, while researching this issue, I found out there could be numerous causes for such failures. And, wouldn’t you know it, a majority of the possible causes were all relevant and coincided with the unfortunate timing of my printing problems!

Some known causes of these types of failures include:

  • Power Surges-These can be caused by a new appliance recently plugged in or working harder, drawing from the power supplied to the printer. I had just plugged in my window AC for the first time this year. Tried turning off the AC-no luck! Also, my printer is on the same circuit as my refrigerator, which is working overtime now that it is warmer. Tried switching outlets-no luck! Ruled out power surges.
  • Recently added Hardware or Software-Obviously, adding new things to your computer can make strange things happen! I had just gotten a new cable modem. Tried disconnecting the internet-no luck! I had also recently installed a few new design programs. Uninstalled those-no luck! Ruled out new hardware/software.
  • Firmware Updates-Occasionally firmware updates have bugs that are not quite worked out. I had literally just updated my firmware, so I uninstalled it a reinstalled the previous version-no luck! Ruled out firmware updates.
  • Computer Interrupts-Sometimes “handy” features like automatic updates and start-ups can cause misfires in your printing. While I hadn’t had any issues with this in the past, perhaps a new automatically installed update to my start-up or running programs was sucking some of my pc usage. Manually went into the control panel and disabled automatic updates and shut down unnecessary running programs-no luck! Ruled out computer interrupts.
  • Problems with the Z rods-Now my Z rods have been a bit wobbly and occasionally squeal, but upon recommendation on the Robo 3D forum I have been using 3-n-1 oil to keep them lubed up. Perhaps they were getting too gunked up causing some binding. Cleaned them off, applied a new, thin coat of 3-n-1 machine oil-no luck! Ruled out Z-rods.
  • Bad USB Connection-USB connections are (as I recently discovered) notorious for causing print problems. Changed USB cords-no luck! The USB connector port on the Robo 3D R1, is a bit weak so I tried securing it-no luck! Now, I bet you’re guessing I’m gonna say I ruled out USB, but no, actually, I still thought this could be an issue! Surprise twist! So, there was one more thing I could check.
  • Overheating Stepper Motor Drivers-The new Robo 3D R1 has a small fan mounted directly below the Ramps Board on the newly added bottom cover of the printer. This fan has been known to burn out. So, I decided to kill two birds with one stone here. After watching a great tutorial by Barnacules Nerdgasm on YouTube (make sure to read his video description for a discount code) I ordered an XXL Smart LCD Controller from PrintedSolid (this would eliminate my need for a USB tether!) and decided as soon as it came in I would flip over the printer and remove the bottom to check the fan and install the LCD. Eureka! The fan was burnt out! Which now takes us back to the simple hack to keep printing until a new fan arrives!

Step 1: Check Your Fan!

Overheating stepper motor drivers can cause all kinds of bizarre issues. Two ways to help eliminate this problem-at least for the Robo 3D-are printing feet to raise up the printer allowing for better airflow and installing a fan to make sure that air keeps moving over the ramps board. Well, if your printer isn’t working, it’s kind of difficult to print the feet and, if you’ve already wasted a ton of time, you probably don’t want to wait for a new fan to arrive to keep printing!

--IMPORTANT! Always unplug any electronic device before servicing! This includes the USB cord!--

  • Grab a phillips screwdriver.
  • Carefully flip your Robo 3D R1 on to its left side (the left side will position the ramps board and fan toward the top of your work area and make it more easily accessible) and remove the 6 screws that hold the bottom cover on. (When pulling off the cover do so slowly as the fan is screwed to the bottom cover and if you pull it off haphazardly you will pull the fan plug out and you want to make sure to see where and how it’s plugged in!)
  • When you are sure you can reconnect the fan go ahead and unplug it, this will make it easier to remove the fan screws from the cover!
  • Once you remove the fan from the cover go ahead and plug it back into the board. Now to check the fan I wanted the printer to be upright, stable and, of course, plugged back in, so I needed to be able to raise up the printer in order to have access to fan while I powered it up. (Enter the feet-detailed in Step 2.)
  • After you have placed your Robo on the feet, the fan should be dangling below the printer case. Plug in and power on the printer, the fan should come on. If it doesn't-there’s your culprit!

Step 2: The Feet!

Search all over the house for four similar height objects you can shove under the printer to raise it up-OR-grab your handy-dandy box of Legos and construct some nifty feet! Unfortunately, I did not have enough white, black and blue bricks to maintain the Robo 3D color scheme for all four feet so my back feet are a little more colorful!

Because I feel most people can construct a solid rectangular box out of Lego’s I will refrain from boring you with a step-by-step on this. But, the basic dimensions are as follows:

  • The actual lifting area is a total of 8x10 studs, 5 bricks high with one layer of plates on the bottom to hold it all together nicely.
  • On the top I centered a single 6x8 plate and a row of singles on the the outer two edges.

Note: If you don’t have Lego’s or a working 3D printer, you can order the feet from a local printer at 3d Hubs! You can grab the stl files here or, if you want/need taller feet, here.

Step 3: The Fan!

  • Find one of those little battery operated fans we all have lying around the house (or thought we did until we needed it)-OR run to the store and pick one up!* (Don’t forget to check what kind of batteries it uses and pick up some of those as well!)
  • Experiment with the positioning of the fan until you get good airflow across the ramps board.
  • Power on your printer, open your 3D software and conduct a test print.

With the feet and fan in place I had 3 successful prints in a row! Before this hack, I couldn’t even get one! Great big sigh of relief. Now, I just have to wait for my new fan, but, luckily I can keep printing until it does. And, of course, I should print some feet-but now I kind of like the looks of my Lego feet, so, I may keep them! And-while I still need to do a bit of fine tuning after all of the adjustments and jostling-I’m happy!

*After three successful prints, I noticed the small fan I had just purchased was slowly winding down. I turned it off and pulled out the batteries to change them and they were incredibly hot! So, just a word of caution, if you happen to get the cheap little Dollar General fan I got, do not leave it unattended. And really, no matter what fan you get, you probably shouldn’t leave it unattended.

Step 4: This Is Not So Much a Step As an Update.

While I really loved my foam petalled, battery overheating flower fan, I happened across this little “necklace fan” at Walmart today. I think it was around $6 or $7, so a few bucks more than the Dollar General fan, but much more compact. It has really good airflow and so far does not seem to be overheating.

Also, I'd like to give a shout out to MustangDave who created that adorable little puppy in my before and after shots. I printed the full size model for my Mother and it came out awesome. So, now I frequently use it, scaled down, for tests. The model in the photo is scaled down to 30%, so it does lose a little detail, but it is a wonderful scan and prints beautifully.

Thanks for checking out my instructable, hope you enjoyed it!

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