Makerbot 2 Review: Tips FDM

This blog is translated from German with DeepL.

Gimelli and the Makerbot 2: Review and User Tips FDM

The range of a wide variety of 3D printers, including those for the broad consumer market, has grown considerably in the meantime, and prices have dropped. Even with the now quite affordable offers, the question arises whether such an investment is worthwhile. This is because many service providers at home and abroad offer a wide range of generic manufacturing processes, fair prices and fast delivery. The parts are produced on professional equipment, which would hardly be profitable for most SMEs.

Being able to print parts yourself is simply too much of a temptation and offers even more flexibility. Thus, among other things, a Makerbot 2 was purchased at Gimelli Engineering AG. Less with the ulterior motive of contract manufacturing of parts, but much more to supplement the product development processes. Therefore, the decision was made in favor of a relatively inexpensive FDM printer (Fused Deposition Modeling).

Commissioning is very simple and quick. With the supplied sample files, a 3D print can be started within minutes after the necessary settings have been made. The initial steps include unpacking, aligning the platform and inserting the supplied filament. The intuitive menu navigation makes these tasks easier.

The quality of the parts from our Makerbot is quite respectable. The layer thickness, probably the most important criterion in FDM printing, can be set to 0.1mm, 0.2mm or 0.3mm. In our experience, you have the fewest problems with 0.3mm and the printing times are in an economical range.

With the 0.1mm resolution, we had problems with clogged nozzles or unclean geometries from time to time, in addition to the long processing time. Furthermore, some filaments tend to leave fine threads at the edge of the parts. However, the quality is quite appealing.

The included software “MakerBot Desktop” is clear, uncomplicated and offers a lot of possibilities to influence the print. For example, the support material can be decisively influenced. With “Leaky Connections”, for example, the support can be detached from the part much more easily.

The “Raft”, a kind of printed base plate, provides a secure hold, especially for small parts with little support surface. In addition, the most important parameters such as temperature, speed, density, etc. can be freely adjusted.

Since the components of the Makerbot are not of industrial quality, it is important to know the printer well and to perform the necessary maintenance regularly, such as oiling guides, checking belt tension, adjusting the printing plate, etc.

When printing large parts with associated large support areas, we have found that material shrinkage as the layers cool causes the parts to warp significantly (warping). This in turn means that the entire underside curves upwards and the edges of the part can become detached from the printing plate by several millimeters. There are heatable plates which are supposed to prevent this. In the meantime, we use a special adhesive mat that also prevents this phenomenon quite effectively.

If parts are to fit together, it is advisable to design the 3D models with sufficient clearance. For movable cylindrical fits, for example, we give 0.4mm clearance in the radius. This saves tedious rework. However, the parts can also be reworked relatively comfortably. For example, with sandpaper or even on a lathe or milling machine. Also with the soldering iron at 160-200°C surfaces can be smoothed or even parts can be welded.

We have now tested many different filaments. One of our favorites is the material with 40% wood. The material can also be sanded and reworked much better than the normal PLA filament. By the way, it smells wonderfully of wood. A tip for this: Use the 0.4mm nozzle, because especially with “wood filament” the 0.3mm nozzle clogs quickly. The flexible “Ninja-Flex” filament is also very interesting. With it, amazingly high-quality soft parts can be produced.

We were able to find considerable differences in the PLA filaments. Here, the price is not decisive according to our experience. We also achieve the same or even better results with inexpensive filaments.

The selection of different filaments is surprisingly versatile. ABS, PLA, ASA, POM, nylon, filaments with wood, copper, brass, steel or even food-compatible materials are available. For example, we will soon be testing a filament with copper content. We are curious!

Makerbot is part of the ever-growing DIY movement – do-it-yourself. Resourceful tinkerers everywhere are upgrading or modifying their printers, or they are assembling the 3D printer themselves (e.g. Reprap). As a result, a large community has developed on the Internet. You can download 3D models, get help in forums, watch tutorials on Youtube and even download add-on parts to print yourself.

We now also use our printer for customer projects. The quality may not compare with other additive manufacturing processes from professional suppliers – but when you present a concept, the appearance of the functional model is secondary in the first moment.

Our conclusion: it works!
Here are some more helpful links:– online store with a good selection  – large collection of 3D models, community, tutorials– German site with test reports of different filaments

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