Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The September Project, Part 1

Now that my book is finished and out in the wide world, the next project involves 3D Printing.

Last year we took a share on a Kickstarter proposal to help the established manufacturer Deezmaker to tool up for a new product, the Bukito, a portable 3D printer. The reward for our share was a Bukito printer to be shipped sometime after February 2014. We knew that could mean anytime after February.

The printer arrived after I had already been drawn deep into the weeds of finishing, redrafting, validating and publishing My Social Calendar 2014-2015, so the device sat forlorn next to my spouse's desk for several weeks.

No more!

We were smart enough (lazy enough) to opt for the assembled printer, and it arrived not only assembled, but pre-tested. You can still see the ghost of the planetary gear (similar to 409001 on Thingiverse) they printed to test it on the blue painter's tape mat of the print bed.

Even though our machine was already assembled, I looked through the easy-to-follow and well-illustrated assembly instructions written by Joan Horvath (the aerospace engineer who works at the Deezmaker brick-and-mortar factory in Pasadena, CA.

Good thing I did - there is a jumper on the motherboard that must be moved to allow the printer to be powered other than by USB. This allows us (when needed) to take the printer into a classroom and show off its capabilities without an attached computer. (The 3D printing instructions would come in that case from an SD card.)

We'll need this, because I had planned to use my Chromebook to show off the printer, and there are no drivers for ChromeOS. Unless I want to set the Chromebook up for Linux, that is.

First WHUH?!

The add-on extruder fan we purchased had not been installed onto the printer, and to install it we need to remove the extruder cover. This is securely (really securely) screwed to the extruder mechanism to protect the hot extruder from accidentally contacting the user's fingers, sleeves or other flammables and meltables. One screw is so tightly applied that it cannot be turned without threatening a stripped screw.

My spouse (an engineer, too) said we can just run it slower with PLA filament until we can get the appropriate-size screwdriver to torque out the screw.

Second WHUH?!

The use instructions ("Your First Print") start by telling you to download the "latest FTDI driver for serial communication" and the Arduino software that commands the controller board. "Some users have trouble installing it (especially on Windows 8)", the site warns.

This is not surprising, because there is no specifically Windows 8/8.1-compatible software listed on the download page. Reading through the revision history on that same download page, however, there are notes that 2 and more revs back, certain Windows 8 issues were resolved.

I'll take my reservations under advisement tonight, and see if I feel it's safe to go forward with this version tomorrow.