I want to talk more about what I’m doing with the printers artistically, but I suspect there is also some interest in the printers themselves.
I know this because I’m asked often about this machine or that one; there are many different approaches to this technology and even more companies making printers. I love that there are also plans out there that people are using to make their own 3D printers – the Cerberus printers are all open source. It’s reminds me of the early days of computers when people would build their own configurations.
Eventually things will stabilize, of course. Certain designs will win out over others – and not necessarily because their technology is better (RIP Betamax) – as will certain manufacturers. Right now, though, it’s moving so fast it is definitely the wild west.
So the fact that Steve Graber and I have made modifications to his huge Gigante printer is not a surprise ….
One of the first things I did was change the way the spool of filament was hung. That was the easiest of the modifications, by far. He had it hanging from some wire, and I simply bent some solid steel rod and bolted it to the top of the printer.
Another major change was replacing the carriages with machined metal ones. They had been 3D printed, which is a romantic idea, but they just aren’t as stable as the metal ones. That helped improve the look of the prints as well as enabled us to increase print speed.
It also adds a lot more stability to the operation of the printer – everything we can do to improve its performance is worthwhile. And I don’t think this one is going to break anytime soon.
As I’ve learned, some things are better when they’re made of metal (including sculptures).
We also replaced the idler wheel in the extruder (right). It broke during the middle of a print, probably when I was replacing filament. We completed the print, although the quality of the piece was definitely affected. You guessed it: it was a 3D printed part that we then replaced with metal.
The idler wheel takes a lot of pressure and, although it’s a nice idea to use parts created with a 3D printer to build a 3D printer, at this point I can’t say it seems like a good idea.
The last thing we’ve done – so far – is to replace the belt holder. The original belt holder either wasn’t printed correctly or it was just weak. That meant the head couldn’t move accurately or as far as it should.
In this case, we got rid of the belt holders altogether. Now two bolts hold each belt, reducing the possibility of failure.
I’ve used the printer since and reliability seems to be improving – stay tuned ….
BTW, I can’t say that this is a typical experience, although I haven’t talked with anyone using a 3D printer who hasn’t had to tinker, adjust and puzzle through getting them to work properly. That being said, this Gigante is the first of its kind, which means I signed up for more than most.
Seeing as the tools I use are part of my practice – they influence not only what I create but also how it looks – it all makes sense.