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Posted by on May 22, 2013 in Reviews |

3D Systems CubeX Duo 3D Printer Review- Update

3D Systems CubeX Duo 3D Printer Review- Update

Check out my other posts for my CubeX Duo

Click here for my link to my initial review of the CubeX

Click here for ABS printing / first parts for customers

As of yesterday, I’ve had my CubeX Duo for three weeks and I’ve definitely made some strides in printing and it’s becoming more reliable and predictable- two qualities that were in a 3-way tie for most important feature I looked for in a 3D printer (the other being build volume).  After talking with Brent at Source Graphics, emailing Aaron at Cubify Support, and just reading through this forum here, I’ve been able to make some really good prints. Firstly, in my initial review I had a picture of my build plate support that was pretty dinged up.  After talking with Brent, it was declared that the build plate had come off it’s support during shipping, turned, and then started grinding together as the box was in transit.  That makes sense, because there were sensors on the shipping box that I believe indicated if the box had been turned upside down (just above where it said FRAGILE, thanks, FedEx).    I suppose the damage could have been worse, I’m told that Source Graphics actually repacks the printers before shipping them throughout the country.  As far as how my extruders got so out of alignment… who knows.

This is a close-up of the shock/tilt sensor that you can just barely see on the box in a photo I posted in my first review.  It indicates that the box has been tipped upside down (then apparently dragged to my office on a leash behind the FedEx truck, National Lampoon's Summer Vacation style)

This is a close-up of the shock/tilt sensor that you can just barely see on the box in a photo I posted in my first review. It indicates that the box has been tipped upside down.  3D Systems has remedied their packing procedure so this having the box inverted is not such an issue.  

Below are two files that would have saved me a ton of grief had I known about them from the beginning.  They’re not for everyone, and I’d contact support before using them.

  • CubeX Tip Replacement Guide  -In my case, my extruder tips were at least 1mm off in the Z-axis and so dual color prints would come out pretty poorly (that is if the lower extruder didn’t rip the first layer off that the higher tip was printing and completely ruin the print).  This covers how to completely replace an extruder tip, but if you’re like me, you just need to adjust it so skip to the part where the tip is being installed.  You don’t need to pull the filament out, just loosen the screw, adjust, tighten, and do the necessary recalibrations.
Ideally, you should not need this and Cubify would, I’m guessing, tell you to not jump into this and for you to call them first. I agree. After you replace/adjust an extruder tip there are many other steps you need to do and I suggest doing this as a last resort. Calling Cubify, emailing them at cubifysupport@cubify.com or calling your reseller can save you some work here.
  • CubeX Calibration File -From the factory, your printer should be programmed to allocate for any discrepancies between where the extruder tips are and where the printer ‘thinks’ they are.  That is, if you print the calibration file, it should come out indicating the extruders are aligned.  Again, in my case, mine were off in the X and Y-axes (even before I adjusted the height on my first extruder) so I needed to print the calibration file.  After you print the file (~17min for a Duo and ~19 min for a Trio) the print shows you how off the extruders are, then you adjust those values in the “Offset” window on your printer.
Comparison of the final calibration print (left) and first print (right)

The fourth (and final) print on the left indicates that the extruder heads are now perfectly aligned, as shown by both arrows pointing to each other.  The right file is the first file I printed. Not only are the extruder heads misaligned in the X and Y-axes, my Z-Gap was off and caused the messy print.  I apologize  it’s a little hard to see, click on the photo and zoom in for more detail.

Among those two files, here are some other useful things I’ve picked up…

  • First, I recommend doing leveling your build plate. It’s cumbersome and slow, but essential to ever hoping you can print a model with any sort of quality.  It should be done before you print anything because whether or not your extruders are aligned…

CubeX Duo Advice

  • On my smaller models I can get away with not using the glue, but on larger models it’s required to keep my model from pulling up. Cubify and other users say let it stay tacky, but no matter how much or how little I use, it always ends in a gluey PLA mess for me. Lately, I’ve been letting the glue completely set and it’s worked well. My only theory to support why this works is that the plastic is very hot when it’s extruded and melts the glue a little before quickly resetting while the plastic cools. In my experience, unless the glue is completely set the first few inches after it starts printing will drag.  Also, if you’re doing a large print, it’s nearly impossible to try and get the timing right for the whole area of glue to stay tacky.  Try letting it completely set and let me know how it works for you.
  • On a similar note, I have just recently read about people lining the build plate with blue painters tape then spraying it with hair spray, as mentioned here in the comments.  This is exactly the solution I’ve been looking for and I’m eager to try it.  If you’ve had any experience with it, let me know.
  • If you’ve been having .stl import problems from your CAD package into the Cubify build software, check your exporting options. My Cubify software will often freeze on the dialogue when it asks if the part is in millimeters.  So when I was saving the .stl file, I went into options and changed the default units to millimeters instead of inches. I use SolidWorks, and the options button is found in the window that pops up when you’re prompted to chose file type and name- you must do a “Save As” of course.  That solved the problem for me, and in that same prompt I also remembered that you can change the resolution of the file with both angular and edge deviation for higher quality prints on parts with complex surfaces, such as a surface-piercing cleaver blade boat prop (pic below)
  • I’ve always wanted to know how much material is in a cartridge for quoting purposes, but the best answer I’ve ever found was “a CubeX cartridge can print around 35 medium-sized creations (about the size of a smartphone case)” .  In a close second for best answer, we have ‘we can’t tell you, it’s proprietary’.  They wouldn’t even give me a 5-10 gram range.  But by monitoring the weights of my models and the material left in the cartridge, I’m guessing there’s about 30-35 grams of filament in each cartridge.  In terms of how much material, percentage wise, you can check that through “Info” on the CubeX menu.
  • After having them mixed up for a few weeks, I finally have it straight.  Acetone is used to ‘polish’ or dissolve (depending on how long the model is submerged) ABS material and a solution of sodium hydroxide ‘polishes’ or dissolves PLA.  I haven’t tried a solution of pure sodium hydroxide, just a mix of Drano and water with little to no results.

Overall, the quality of my prints are substantially better thanks to both learning more about the product and having my printer set up correctly.  I would REALLY like to get a hold of a spool of ABS material because I have a lot of models that require support material.  The cool thing about printing your model in one material and your supports in another is that you can easily separate them, unlike printing both the model and supports in the same material.  Then it’s about impossible.  Some printers I know can actually print easily removable support structures along with the model in the same material, but to my understanding, the surface quality suffers.  That may be fine for some, but I need very nice looking surfaces all over. Below I’ve posted some pieces I’ve printed lately, with some more pics to follow soon. Until next time, thanks for reading.  And as always, if you have any questions or inquiries, feel free to email me through my contact page on this site and follow me on Twitter!

The red part is a sample I'm doing for a potential customer here in Quincy.  The white parts are of a hull and deck that I designed and have printed earlier, but this time I printed them without a raft so they could be seamlessly joined.  It's going to look slick.

The red part is a sample I’m doing for a potential customer here in Quincy. The white parts are of a hull and deck that I designed and have printed previously, but this time I printed them without a raft so they could be seamlessly joined. It’s going to look slick.  The third small piece above the ruler is a replacement clip for an appliance.  All parts were printed with the medium resolution (0.25 mm)

 

Close up of the hull and a part of the deck.  I'm quickly learning that boat hulls can bring out the worst in a FDM 3D printer, and this is handling it very well.

Close up of the hull and a part of the deck. I’m quickly learning that boat hulls can bring out the worst in a FDM 3D printer, but this is handling it very well.

 

A 5-blade surface-piercing cleaver prop commonly used on high performance powerboats (in this case 48-foot catamaran).  Printed with medium resolution without the supports broken off yet.

A 5-blade surface-piercing cleaver prop commonly used on high performance powerboats (in this case, scaled from 18″ Dia/39″ pitch for a 48-foot catamaran). Printed with medium resolution without the supports broken off yet.  Now that I have my ABS material, I’ll print the prop in PLA and supports in ABS to test how easily the two break away from each other.

Thanks for reading! Tom Nuessen As I mentioned above, check out my other posts for my CubeX Duo Click here for my link to my initial review of the CubeX Click here for ABS printing / first parts for customers