This instruction set explains how to use a RepRap 3D printer. A RepRap (Replicating Rapid Prototyper) is a hobby-level 3D printer that uses ABS plastic to make custom shapes. While the concept is the same as that of a professional 3D printer, the use of one is much different. It is much more labor-intensive and much less reliable. The advantages of a RepRap over a professional 3D printer are that they are much cheaper and that you can actually make them by printing the parts using another 3D printer!
1. Obtain the STL File for the item that you wish to print. It is listed as a “Certificate Trust List”, rather than an STL file.
2. Open the program, ReplicatorG. This program allows you to orient your print in the most appropriate way.
3. Once in ReplicatorG, press file, open, and open the STL file that you wish to use.
4. When the print loads, you will be able to orient the print in the best way possible. You can view the shape in different angles by holding down the scroll wheel on your mouse and moving the mouse in different directions. Make sure that the shape is on the board by viewing the shape at an angle parallel to the board. If not on the board, click the “move” button on the right of the interface. Then press, “place on bed”. The Shape will then lie flat on the bed. In addition, make sure that the shape is best oriented for printing. Melted plastic is affected by gravity, so any major overhanging plastic will warp towards the ground. Avoid this through proper orientation. Save the STL file when done.
5. Close RepicatorG and open Slic3r. This is a program that converts the STL file into language called GCODE that can be read by the printer.
6. Once in Slic3r, you will see a few tabs. Print Settings, Filament Settings, and Printer Settings are the most important . These control how the print is made.
7. Click on the print settings tab. In the “Accuracy” portion of the screen, make sure that the first layer height ratio is set to 120%. In the “Print Settings” portion of the screen, set the fill density as you see fit. If the part is to be used mechanically, you will want a density from .5 to .7. If the part is a novelty, .2 to .4 will suffice.
8. Click the Filament Settings tab. Make sure that the “Enable Auto Cooling Check box has been checked. Also make sure that the filament diameter is set to 3mm. The rest of the settings should be fine the way they are.
9. Click the Printer Settings tab. Make sure that the nozzle diameter is set to .35mm. This can change based on the printer but the printers that the Penn State RepRap Users Group uses have that diameter. Other settings should not be disturbed.
10. Once the properties are set correctly, press Quick Slice, located on the right side of the Slic3r dialog box. Load the STL file that you wish to Slice and press Slice. The computer then creates a GCODE file out of the STL file and saves it in the same place that the STL file is saved. Close Slic3r when done.
11. Before starting the print, make sure that the printer is plugged into the computer via printer cable and that the green power connector is plugged into the printer.
12. Turn on Pronterface (Labeled Printer Interface in the shortcut). This is the program that allows you to control the printer from the computer.
13. Once Pronterface opens, connect the printer to the computer by pressing the Connect button located on the near-top of the program. It should connect quickly. You can tell that the printer is connected by the visible confirmation on the right hand of the program. If it doesn’t, make sure the cables are connected correctly and try again. If further problems consist, switch to a different printer.
14. Once the printer is connected, you will be able to use the printer controls. There are 3 axes of movement: the X, Y, and Z axes. For the X and Y axes there are buttons labeled 1, 10, and 100. These buttons move the position 1mm, 10mm, and 100mm respectively. The Z axis also has this feature, except its increments are .1mm, 1mm, and 10mm. Press any combination of these buttons and make sure that they function.
15. Press the Z10 button to back the Z axis off of the print bed.
16. Directly under the printer movement buttons are the temperature, extrude, and reverse controls. Type 200 into the temperature dialog box and press the set button next to it. This will set the extruder temperature to 200 degrees. This will heat up the plastic so it can be shaped.
17. Wait 1 minute and press the light red “Check Temp” button. Look at the left side of the program to see that the temperature reads. When the temperature matches the set temperature, press the light red extrude button on the bottom-left of the program. You should see the extruder motor move and plastic filament should easily ooze out of the extruder tip.
18. Clear the extruded plastic away from the extruder tip with tweezers.
19. Make sure that the print bed is covered with blue painters’ tape smoothly. This will guarantee the plastic sticking to the print bed.
20. Now the printer is ready to print. Press File and load. Load the GCODE file that you previously sliced.
21. Depending on the speed of the computer, the print might take a while to load. Once it has loaded, you will see information on the left side of the program about how big the print will be and how long it will take. You will also see the shape of the print in the middle of the screen.
22. Press the print button. The extruder will first move to the corner of the print bed and then start the print.
23. When it starts printing, the tip might be too high off the print bed. This can be fixed by physically gripping the couplings below the Z motors (The highest motors on the printer) and turning them counterclockwise equally until the plastic filament sticks to the print bed. This will require some practice but is intuitive.
24. Once the Z axis has been set correctly, all that is left to do is to wait for the print to finish. Keep an eye on the printer but do something else to pass the time. Watch for print errors. These can occur randomly. If they do, consult an expert.
25. When the print finishes, wait 30 seconds and then use a scraper to pull the finished print off of the print bed. You now have a finished print!