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Configuring your Extruder
Configuring your extruder has a massive effect on the print quality. The best results are obtained by getting a consistent flow through the nozzle, and then tweaking the finer points of the slicing process to match.
The exact temperature setting will depend on your print material and your exact setup.
Printing with ABS
ABS melts at about 105 degrees C, but needs to be up near 200C-240C for smooth extrusion . The nozzle will have to be about that temperature to extrude correctly - but the temperature measured by your thermistor/thermocouple might vary quite a bit, you may have to set the temp setting to higher or lower than this value.
If you have problems reaching this temperature, try insulating the nozzle with silicone/fibreglass/loft insulation. Whatever you use, make sure it can resist temperates of 250 degrees.
If the temp is too low, it will not melt properly and will not come out or extrude very slowly.
If the temp is too high, ABS goes brown and can go hard and block the nozzle. It can also start to smoke or give off fumes.
Try extruding by hand at every 10 degrees C to feel where the easiest and smoothest temp is. Note that hotter is *not* always better. The hot and melting plastic thickens and presses against the inside of the barrel.
Starting your extruder
Using the extruder exerciser, set the temp to 220 to warm up your extruder and make sure the temp reading is rising.
When it has stabilised at the right temp, turn on the extruder motor and run a little filament through. If you've just inserted a new filament, it can take a while for it to be drawn all the way through to the nozzle.
You need to experiment a bit to find a good temperature and extruder speed setting to get a consistent flow going. A stop/start flow indicates a temperature or mechanical problem that needs to be sorted out.
Once you have a consistent flow, you need to measure the flow rate (in mm/sec) and also work out the filament size. wipe the nozzle and run for a sample, say 10 sec and then measure the amount of extrusion.
Some good instructions can be found on RepRapSoftwareTweakingManual.