The third dimension: 3D printing at reserved-bit

Kushal Das said some months ago: set up a 3D printer and you’ll have makers coming in. So we bought a Prusa i3 Mk2 from 3dprintronics, a RepRap printer clone similar to the original with the same name. Kushal warned us that the most important thing (the documentation) was lacking in the Indian 3D printer clones but we went for it anyway. He was right in the end but the journey was well worth the effort.

Why Prusa?

I tried thinking of a more elaborate reason But it really boiled down to the fact that it is Open Hardware and my obvious bias towards Open Source. In fact we considered buying from Josef Průša as a way to sponsor development directly, but backed out in the end because of the very high cost of importing it. We went for the Indian make because of the cost difference and also because the one we shortlisted (3dprintronics) had video guides for installation. However if budget is not a constraint, I would recommend buying from them.

When The printer kit arrived though, we realized that this was probably a mistake. The kit we got was different enough from the video tutorials that we were lost after a certain point. Our setup pace dropped drastically because we realized that we would have to put some real thought into this. It took us many weeks but we eventually finished setting up the printer, cobbling together instructions from various sources. The printer powered up and the head moved. Yay!!

That is it though, because after a while I realized that the end stops were not working and the head would slam in various directions. I was going to have to update the firmware during calibration, but it looked like we would have to do that sooner than that to fix the end stops.

The video pointed out a place to download the Firmware which we did and followed instructions to reverse the end stops and burned the firmware on the Arduino Mega. And then the LCD screen stopped working. After a lot of hunting about, we found that the LCD type default did not match ours (REPRAP_DISCOUNT_FULL_GRAPHIC_SMART_CONTROLLER) so we hacked it up to work on our printer. That got the LCD working but sinCe we were going to customize anyway, we decided to use the upstream version of Marlin.

The upstream code with the end stop tweaks finally got everything working for us and we tried calibrating the printer. I have shared the code on github for those who want to take a look at what we changed. During calibration though the Arduino started acting up and finally lost it. The computer would refuse to communicate with the Arduino over USB. That was also when I realized that sd card printing was disabled by default. After doing a lot of different things like burning the bootloader, trying a Mac, etc., we ordered another Mega (the nice folks at 3dprintronics sent a replacement as well, But an extra Arduino never gets wasted at a makerspace) that arrived a couple of days ago. After finishing calibration, we finally printed the red star, our very first object.

So along with Nisha’s 3d penned Yoda, our 3D printing journey has firmly started. We will continue sharing our experiences with this in future. We will also put up pricing details for 3D printing on our website soon , so stay tuned!

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