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How Simple is that!!

So, I got the shipping note that my 2016 Simple was on the way, and I checked the USPS website daily until they said my parcel had arrived and then it was the turn of Parcelforce until I got the note on my doorstep that it was in the local depot.  I phoned the depot to see how quick it could be delivered and they said you can collect it…. I was in the car before the lady at the depot had put the phone down!

So I got my parcel <insert squealing and excitement here>… I knew there was some assembly required, but some serious thought had gone into this.  The bed assembly consists of the X motor, X end stop, mounting plate and the bed, already with the belt fitted and tensioned.  It required the connection of the motor wire and the end stop wire.  Four screws and you’re good to go!

2016-11-27-19-32-03The box contained a neat little spool of filament that sits nicely on the spool holder.  The thread on the spool holder is such that the turning spool will not loosen it, another well thought of idea.

The videos on the website give clear instructions on the first print and showing you round the menus on the touchscreen.

This printer is really an order of magnitude better that the original Simple.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my Simples (I have 3) and they are real workhorses, but there is always a bit of tinkering required to get the best quality out of them if you move them around.  There are loads of community mods for the Simple (I’ll call it the v1 from now on), but the 2016 doesn’t really need any.  I’d like to see a heated bed, but with the rails and stuff, that may not be the easiest add, but for PLA it doesn’t really need one.

The Touch Screen LCD make this a truly standalone printer.  No hunting through menus for this printer.  Clear buttons and icons make navigation through the options so simple.

The two wiring looms on the v1 has been replaced with a tidy ribbon cable.  It makes the whole printer look more ‘grown up’ than it’s predecessor.  The ribbon is routed along the inside of the Y arm and runs the connections for the extruder assembly and fan2016-11-26-09-13-46.

The 2 individual Y/Z bearings, joined by motor mounting plate has been replaced by a seriously hefty piece of aluminium.  This gives more stability and really looks the business.

This is so much more than just a printer though.  The new controller board, based on the Tiny G of CNC fame make the printer a lot quieter in it’s movement and the motors barely get more than warm.  The cloud based slicer and repository, with direct ties into your Thingiverse account and your saved items.  All the things you saved as a ‘I need to print this’ can now be dropped, over the air, onto the printer and just printed.  No more, downloading, slicing and printing.  Import the project to your cloud account direct from Thingiverse and you’re off and running.  Once the files are on the printer, you can print without a wifi connection, just swiping on the touchscreen and pressing the print button.

2016-11-26-08-26-11I’ve had this printer a couple of days and I really felt the urge to write about it already.  It is a major step forwards, not just for Printrbot, but I think there will be more people using this technology on other printers.  I’d love to try and retrofit the G2 and LCD to a v1, to see if the performance is just with the controller or the printer as a whole. (If you have one spare guys-you know where I am :-)).

I’m sure I’ll have more comments as I get to grips with it more.

Well done Brook and Team!



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New Filament in Store

Dr3DFilamentSo, from tonight, we’ll be offering the Dr3D Filament range of 3D Printer filament. PLA, ABS, ASA, PMMA, PETG and anything else we can get from their fantastic range of materials and colours.  If it’s not on the site today, it will be added over the coming days.

We are shipping all filament ex-works, so there shouldn’t be any issue with sizes, colours or materials.

All material come packaged in vacuum sealed foil packs with silica gel to keep it dry.  Once opened, try and keep the filament in the foil packet with the silica gel to keep the filament in top condition.

Their filament has a dimensional tolerance of +/- 0.03mm which means the size you order is the size you get.  I don’t think you’ll find a filament manufacturer that can do better.

So, check out the store later and let’s see what you can print…

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Need a Doctor?

So I was at a 3D Hubs Meetup when one of the guys from Cinter said was I looking for a filament supplier.  Now I will always look at filament as for me, it is the next progression in 3D printing.  Most of the printers now do exactly the same thing, just with different mechanicals.  But filament, that’s where we can still make big steps.

So, of course, I said ‘yeah, why not’, and that’s when I was introduced to the doctor – Dr3DFilament to more precise.  Now, after speaking to Martin, I realised that he has  passion for filament, a serious passion and it’s working really well.

Now I didn’t realise that I’d met his PLA before, through a different supplier, but 2016-07-09 07.48.16the packaging he uses is unmistakeable.  The filament comes in shrink-wrapped foil, with the compulsory silica gel bag inside.  Now I like his PLA, I like it a lot and, to be honest, I’m glad I found out where it came from.  I knew it was UK, but I didnt know where… now, all is revealed, Weston Super Mare.

Anyway, so I ran some test prints with the samples he sent me, and I still need to run one more test, when I get my dual extruder Printrbot Plus out, which is a support filament called Scaffold.  I will report on that soon.  I printed on my extended Printrbot Simple Metal and ran the same model in each case, the 2016-07-09 14.08.50Angular Vase by Ysoft be3D.  I printed in ABS, which is a material I’m not particularly fond of, because of the warping – but it printed fine straight off.  I then went on to try PETG, which is becoming more popular at the moment and then I 2016-07-09 10.20.47went on to ASA.  ASA is a UV resistant ABS but like the ABS, it printed fine.  I was really starting to like these filaments.  Then I finished up with PMMA, which is 3d printable acrylic.

Everything I tried printed without a hitch.  The settings varied a bit, hotter beds, hotter print temperatures, but every vase came off the printer looking really well.  Since the initial vase tests I’ve been using the PETG a lot more, liking the translucent effect but I would happily recommend them all.

2016-07-09 23.35.05These Engineering filaments is going to be a 3D printing game changer.  Nothing will really make the printers a lot faster, but the ability to print these stronger, more adaptable materials, will allow people to produce prototypes that are more usable and durable, and able to be seriously tested.

I was so impressed that I’m going to start stocking these, and the other Dr3Dfilament materials in the store.  The price is attractive and the spools are a full 1kg.  So let’s see what you can print with it.








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Need a Helping Hand?

Need a Helping Hand?  Isabella did, so we did our best to help her out.  I first met Isabella back in April 2015.  I was manning a stand at a EUL Docklands Open Day and i’d made arrangements to meet her there, with her mother and uncle.  I wasn’t too sure what to expect, I’d been a member of the Enabling the Future ( volunteer community helping people to be fitted with a prosthetic hand, for over a year, but this was the first real contact I’d had with a recipient.

Isabella was born with Symbrachydactyly, which is a congenital (present at birth) hand anomaly, Isabella Handwhich affects a single upper limb.It is characterised by short,stiff, webbed or missing fingers.The underlying muscles, tendons,ligaments and bones are all affected.  This occurs in one out of 32,000 births.  

Isabella is a bit of a character.  Instantly likeable and a very bubbly personality, she seems to take her disability in her stride.  I took some measurements and, using the Hand-0-matic tool on the E-nable website, I created a set of files and got printing!

Now her original request was to make it colourful, but the initial files produced gave me a hand that would fit me (I’m 53 and she’s 8), so the scaling was a bit out.  But the downside was that it used all my pink filament!

Next I went for a thermoformed gauntlet (forearm piece).  It prints flat and then, when heated in in 2015-05-14 07.18.15boiling water, can be formed around the arm, making a better fit.  Then I used this gauntlet and scaled it to fit the palm and the fingers.  The result was a nice, black, silver and gold hand in Colorfabb filament.

Isabella and Mark, her dad, popped over to my house on a Saturday morning and we thought we’d give it a try.  Looking nice is one thing, being practically useful is something completely different.

2015-05-14 19.07.56We sat in my kitchen and strapped the hand on for the first time.  We checked the padding, the tension on the screws and then, finally, we were ready for a trial run.  By flexing her wrist she was able to open a close the fingers.  That worked fine so now it was time to try and pick something up.  We didn’t want anything breakable or too heavy, so we settled on a plastic spray oil container.

The result was a complete success and she took the hand home.  It made the local press, Evening Standard, BBC South West and ITV news.  Mark has made some post-fitting changes to improve the fit and the grip and she’s been getting on like wildfire.

I saw her again, last Saturday, as it’s been getting on for 6 months now, and I wanted to see how she was getting on.  The current hand still fits okay, but there have been some more recent design changes from the fantastic designers involved with Enabling the Future, so we’re going to have a look at a few of those to see if we can come up with something new for her.

2015-09-12 17.05.22Because of that, I thought we’d try and cast a copy of her hand using Alginate and Plaster of Paris.  We had some fun, mixing and casting and came up with the picture on the left.

To be honest, I was really surprised how it came out, but it did feel a little bit on the fragile side, so I got my Occipital Sensor scanner out and ran a quick scan and the printed a plastic copy for day-to-day testing and fitting.

2015-09-13 17.58.31 I have to say that, with the technology available today, the whole process from casting to scanning to printing was completed in a number of hours.

The technology from companies such as Printrbot, Occipital (and Apple) and Filament from Colorfabb (and others) made all this available to makers and tinkerers and, hopefully, will enable e-nable hands to be fitted to more people.



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Rafts-will your print sink or swim?

raftI’ve been 3D printing now for a while, getting on for 3 years and, in that time, software has progressed.

When I started, the recommended software was Pronterface and Slic3r, running separately to produce your model.  Now, when you start printing, especially when it’s new and you’re going to change the world with it, you play around with the settings, to get the best print you can.

My first printer was a Printrbot LC Plus and came supplied with ABS.  Now I have to say, ABS as a first print material is like giving someone the best, creamiest cake ever and then spending all the time they eat it telling them how fat they’re going to get.  It looks fantastic to have this new, wonderful device, moving via computer, oozing a plastic thread and then watching print after print fall off the bed.  Once you’ve mastered the temperatures of filament and heated bed, and maybe some ABS Juice, you finally get something… today, PLA makes that first print so much easier…. anyway, I digress..

You load Slic3r and go through the settings, you find the one that says BRIM and SKIRT and have a play with those and then you get to the support material and check the RAFT box.  It sounds such a great idea, a bed of filament that your print will sit on and stick… and then, when your print finally comes to an end and you go to remove the raft…..ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.  It takes as long to get a nice finish as it did to print the thing!!   So from then on, rafts were relegated to the toolbox with the left-handed screwdriver and the chocolate teapot.

Now things change, new versions of Pronterface, Slic3r and the new player Repetier Host come along.  Repetier uses Slic3r, but all wrapped up in a nice, one program interface (to be honest, Pronterface did the same thing, but I could never get my head around where the settings were configured).  Still, rafts were not used, heated beds were used for PLA instead, to save the time of the cleaning.

Then Cura came along.  Originally for Ultimakers, it soon joined the ranks of the Open Source printer controller software.  Again though, not a main player in my arsenal.

Eventually, with the latest version, they added the profiles for my Printrbot machines and, to the average 3D printer, I probably seem to have more than normal but, as I help with Technical Support for them, I like to know the kind of issues people may face… Anyway, Cura is now the recommended software for Printrbot and I was having trouble printing some pins for a print I was doing so, out of shear desperation, I selected raft from the pull down box and told it to print.2015-04-29 20.07.57

Well, I wasn’t expecting what happened next.  It started with an outline and then widely spaced lines in the Y direction.  Then it moved to a 45 degree fine line and then a complete layer in the X direction and then, finally, another complete in the Y direction.  I watched the whole thinking when’s it going to start – how many layers is this thing.  And then, finally, the print finished.  I took it off the bed with some trepidation and applied a bit of pressure to the first pin… it popped off, so smoothly that I dropped it!   They all came off, so easily.  Then I tried it with some bigger prints and, every time, the print just popped off the raft.

I have to say Cura, you’ve converted me to rafts, especially for smaller pieces that may have trouble sticking.  If you haven’t tried it, give it a go… you’ll be surprised.

2015-04-29 21.50.58

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FabLab London Printrbot Metal Simple Build Day

FabLab London
FabLab London

It was a cold morning at the end of January when we turned up at FabLab London for the first Printrbot Metal Simple Build day of 2015.  Even a little

drizzle was not going to dampen any builder spirits today!  We started on time and the guys were all set and ready to go.  We had 3 build ‘teams’ although, only one was really a team – with our young Maker on the team!

Kits were unpacked and construction started.2015-01-31 11.12.46

Now we work pretty much to the Printrbot Build document, but we the added experience of several printer builds under our belts.

Now the kits come with Allen keys, but we throw in some pliers and side cutters, a USB flashdrive with the latest versions of the Open Source software Printrbot recommend and, most importantly, some 3D printed feet for the printer in Java Ninjaflex.

The build went pretty smoothly.  By myself, I can build one of these in 2 1/2 hours, but the more people you have, the slower it becomes as you try to keep people in line with each other.  Even so, by lunchtime things were starting to look like printers!2015-01-31 14.14.07

The afternoon session started and we soon had all the printers assembled and ready to go.  Then we got to the configuration…. Now I love Cura for 3D printing at the moment (I do go through phases of having different favourites) but the Pronterface UI for printer control has such a small font and I haven’t found a way to make it larger, so we started with Repetier Host to get the configuration started.

Now 3D printing is all about the first layer (well not all about, but any printer will tell you how important it is) and with the induction sensor, there is a fair amount of trial and error to get it right.  So you print a bit, then stop and adjust the Z probe and then print some more and adjust the Z probe and it may take about 20 minutes until you have the ideal first layer.2015-01-31 15.16.30

Then we can switch to Cura and we’re ready for some serious printing.  Now the guys that write this are very active on the forum and will happily talk about issues and to answer questions.  The software is now the recommended software to use with Printrbot printers and the New Printer Wizard will take you through selecting the right printer, which will set the dimensions and nozzle diameter and some of the finer points

It was, and always seems to be, a fun day for everyone.

We will be trying to run these regularly and, in my mind anyway, it’s a good way to get started with 3D printing and to understand how your printer fits together.


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BioFila Linen Filament

BioFila Linen
BioFila Linen

As a 3D printer, I am always on the lookout for new and exciting filament and when I saw the posts from twoBEars ( and their BioFila Linen, I thought I really need to give this a try.  Now, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t really sure exactly how this was going to differ from other filament I print with but, with the waste of plastic that 3D printing seems to generate quite happily by itself, the chance to try something that was touted as sustainable was certainly going to get tried!

Out came my hardworking Metal Simple and as it didn’t have a heated bed then (it does now) I started with my stock PLA settings at a temperature of 195C.  2014-07-13 11.25.06It printed really quite well.  I was a bit worried about the high (90C) heated bed that was cited with the test prints, that it would have trouble sticking, but it was fine.

The layers bonded well and smoothly and it came out as a very satisfactory print. So, looking at the sample page, I thought I would try the recommended temperature for a shiny finish.  Now 170C is too low for my Marlin configuration, it kicks back with Cold Extrusion Prevented, so I upped it to 175C and, again, it printed fine.  However I didn’t see a great deal of difference in the print between the 195C and the 175C prints.  Now the colour is, to be honest, a bit drab, being a light beige, but being linen based, I am wondering if it can be dyed, maybe something I can try in the future, unless someone has already tried and can let me know how it turned out?

side by side

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ColorFabb Woodfill Fine

So when I first got into 3D printing, with my Printrbot Plus LC as it was known at the time, I had a play with LayWood.  It was 3mm and was really

woodfill Fine
woodfill Fine

thick and I hadn’t played with printers much.  I tried to print the same as I would print the ABS (which was all I printed with then) and ended up with a shiny faced item where the back was really just the melted vehicle the wood was suspended in.

The other side was okay, but the hot end was pretty clogged for a while afterwards.

So when I saw the woodfill at the 3DPrintshow in London, I knew I needed to give it a try.  Now my schedule is quite hectic, with 2 jobs and all the fun 3D printing stuff so, all in all, it did take a while to get an order into ColorFabb.  And then they were moving, so the order was a bit delayed and then it arrived and I was busy but now, finally, I had a chance to play with it.  So I placed an order for ColorFabb WoodFill Fine.

It comes in the normal ColorFabb cardboard box,  but this time there is a small flyer, giving some printing advice and a spool of quite rough feeling filament.  Now the flyer suggests printing as you would with PLA, so I loaded up a quick STL and sliced with some settings that Naomi from RoboSavvy came up with.

The filament was flowing quite easily at 200 C, so I started off the print on my Metal Printrbot Simple.  The first couple of layers went okay, but when it came to curves, the speed seemed to be a bit much for it.  I tried again with my rock steady, slow-but-sure settings and started again.

Now the STL I was printing was one from Leo the Maker Prince (@leothemakerprince).  I met Carla at the London Hackspace Open Day a month or so back (and she really is awesome!).  I was printing the Ocarina, a small flute type

half an ocarina
half an ocarina

instrument.  Lots of curvy places, some holes, not the easiest of prints, so a fairly useful test.  There are 2 versions of the STL, one cut horizontally and one cut vertically.  I took the horizontally cut one and then split it, using slic3r, into 2 separate pieces and then sliced them.  I have to say, the quality came out pretty awesome. Both from a filament point of view and also the model.

There will still need to be a bit of sanding done and then I’ll need to glue the two pieces together to make them airtight.

But let’s talk about the filament.  The print quality was excellent.  There is a smell, a bit like burning MDF while it prints.  Not an unpleasant smell, but more than you normally get with PLA.  When sanding it tend to end up with white marks so, ideally, try not to print something that needs sanding!  I didn’t get round to trying some different temperatures to see if it adds a ‘grainy’ look to the prints.

After my early experiences with LayWood I was expecting a similar performance but time has moved on and this was as easy as printing with any other PLA/PHA plastic from ColorFabb.  I would certainly recommend it if you are looking for a different look to your prints.  I’m thinking maybe some ‘wooden’ jewellery or some artistic pieces.

I would like to see some of the filament suppliers offering a sample pack of their ‘exotic’ filaments for people to try.  Sometimes a full spool is a bit much if people just want to try.

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But Windows 8.1 doesn’t recognise my printer :-(

Okay, so you’ve got nice shiny Windows 8.1.  You’ve installed 3D Builder and done some funky stuff with embossing and resized and now, it’s time, 3D Builderyou want to print it.

There is nothing quite like the feeling of holding something in your hand that used to be an idea… So you go to the Print option and….. there’s no printer.  You don’t understand, you have Slic3r and Repetier and you’ve printed a tree frog from Thingiverse, so you know it works, but why can’t you print your new, fantastic design?

Well Windows support isn’t available for every printer yet, Makerbot, Printrbot, they’re in there, but not a lot of  the others.  So what can we do?  3D Builder uses Microsoft’s own file format .3MF, which Slic3r can’t open but, and it’s quite a significant but, Microsoft use an online version of Netfabb to fix files that need fixing.  So, this is what we do…

page 1We’re going to start with our design.  No, this isn’t one I prepared earlier, I just opened one of the pre existing designs that 3D Builder has.  Then we need to save it.

We don’t really have a choice what file type to use as MS only have the 3MF extension, but we don’t care, because that’s why we’re reading this!

So we have our wonderful new design for a single floor dwelling, lets call it house, and we saved it to somewhere on our machine that we can get to.  So then we go to Netfabb Basic.  NetFabb is a fantastic bit of software.  You can repair and scale and slice and I use it mainly to repair the bad designs I do…

You can actually find the free version here.  So open it and then go to Part and then Add Part and, in the dialogue box, page 5browse for your 3MF file and load it in.   Once you have it in the box, you can go straight back to Part and then Export and then select STL.

Save the file back to your machine and now you have a file that you can load into Slic3r or directly into Repetier and slice and print to your hearts content.

It’s a slightly long winded way to get round Windows not recognising your printer, but the ease with which you can add embossing and other cool stuff in 3D Builder means its certainly worth a bit of time to have a play with.

There is also a cool video series by Microsoft all about 3D printing and using 3D builder that you can find here




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Getting Out Of The Wrong Side Of The Bed?

Okay, now with everyone using microswitches and servos or induction sensors, this may seem a little late to the game but, for the ones that don’t (yet) or want to stick to simple ‘back to basics’, I’d like to talk about making sure that the bed is level so you get good prints (maybe not first time, but in single digits!).

Home position on Printrbot Simple

Now, mechanically, what our printer is doing is laying down a layer of plastic, lifting the configured layer height and then laying down some more.  We really need the first layer to stick well (and all the others to stick to each other) as otherwise your print will come off the bed.  So if you’ve carefully made sure that, when all the axis are home, you can just get a piece of paper underneath, if you haven’t checked that that’s true in all the corners, and the middle, then it’s a bit of a gamble what’s going to happen next!.

So let’s start by homing all axis.  Now depending on your printer, where this is will vary a bit.  On the Printrbot Simple Makers edition (and like most RepRap machines), this is on the front left corner of the bed.  So adjust this Z stop screw to make sure that you can just fit a piece of 100 gram card under the hot end.  Starbucks give away some cards to use in the Apple store for songs, games and other stuff, these are an ideal size for this.  So once that is adjusted, then go to X Max.  Now here, we use the corner adjusting screw to make sure the height is right.  Then we go to X Max, Y Max and adjust the corner screw and then, finally, X Min, Y Max.  And that should be out four corners.

Now, sometimes, when you get to one of the corners, there may not be enough adjustment in the corner screw to get the level right.  When that happens, we need to adjust the Z Stop screw and then visit all the corners again.  And again until we have the bed level.

Then, as a final check, we move the head to 1/2 X Max, 1/2 Y Max (the centre of the bed) and check again.  Now, if all the corners are flat, then the centre should be right as well – as long as the bed is flat.  If it is bowed at all, then the middle will be out and we will have to investigate why then  bad isn’t flat and look at ways to make it right.

Bed Levelling is very important to overall print quality.  Spending a little while getting this right will save time and disappointment in the long run.