The Berkshire Athenaeum’s well-loved SeeMeCNC Orion Delta printer has seen a lot of use over the course of our programming at the library, thanks to the library’s Self-Guided Program. As it happened, one afternoon when library staff was looking to demo print a job for curious patrons, the machine would not start printing.
When the Orion prepares to print, the machine needs to heat up. The build plate needs to be warm for the material to stick, and the nozzle – the part where material flows out of – needs to be heated high enough in order to melt the material; we have typically been running at 60*C on the build place and 210* on the nozzle. When the machine is properly preheated and about to print its file, the head of the machine rides up on its three arms and “homes”, which means that it bumps its censors a few times to confirm balance before printing. After the machine homes, the machine drops down and begins to build its design.
What we observed was that the Orion was not heating up enough in order to begin printing; this meant that there had to be a problem with the heating unit, or that the machine’s computer was not properly reading or transmitting the proper temperature. Reference Staff conducted research to identify what was wrong with our machine. We hypothesized that replacing the Orion’s thermistor may be necessary after having learned that a thermistor is: “an electrical resistor whose resistance is greatly reduced by heating, used for measurement and control.”
Over the course of a two-week period, the Reference Department organized a group of 3D Printing Library Enthusiasts to come together to learn more about our SeeMeCNC Orion and assist in restoring it to service. Library Patron’s Tim Laporte, Bill Macfarlane and Annette Guertin worked together with the library to disassemble the Orion’s printer head in order to access the thermistor and any other parts that needed replacing.
Our small group of librarians and patrons learned together about the careful process of changing out the Orion’s thermistor. The thermistor, which is made up of two fine wires, is located inside a clear silicon tube from which it needs to be removed. Once the thermistor is removed from the tube, the thermistor needs to be connected to wires which are connected to the Orion’s heat sensors. Once the resistor is resistor is connected to the heat resistor’s wire, we then had to cushion the thermistor wires with the silicon material it came in for protection.
Following the reinstallation of the thermistor, our group tested the SeeMeCNC Orion printer to see if it was capable of heating beyond the 190* where it was stagnating prior to this repair. Since the machine was unable to go beyond 190* and the thermistor was accurately reading temperatures, we knew that there had to be something else wrong with the heating of our unit. Our group decided that it would make sense to try and change out the heat resistors; most likely, the Orion was not heating properly and the heat resistors needed to be changed. We decided we would regroup and change the heat resistors during our next repair session.
As we were working through this repair process, our group learned that the head of the SeeMeCNC Orion has installed on it two heat resistors. Heat resistors distribute heat across the head and nozzle in order to warm up the printing material for flow. We tested the heat resistors and found that they were not equally heating; this confirmed our new theory that the heat resistors were in need of replacing. With the assistance of our patrons, library staff worked to change the heat resistors on our SeeMeCNC Orion.
Once we inserted the new heat resistor into the head, library staff was able to test the part. We found that the heat resistors were evenly distributing the heat; this meant that once we reassembled the head of our equipment, the machine would heat up properly, the temperature would be read properly, and the heat would be equally distributed across the head and through the nozzle (all good news!). After we applied a liberal amount of RTV High Temp Epoxy to the head to keep the resistors in place, we started to reassemble the nozzle in order to keep everything in place. The Epoxy required that we had to let the project dry for 24 hours before fully reassembling the printer.
The assembly part of the SeeMeCNC Orion’s head was led solely by Tim Laporte; we are grateful for his careful hands and fine attention to detail. In order to ensure that the machine was running correctly, library staff calibrated the machine and we were able to successfully print a small model of Wonder Woman’s Head Band (woot!). Library staff also sought the advice of Peter Bell and Joseph Method of the Berkshire County Technology Group for advice on printing with our machine going forward. Since we changed out parts relating to temperatures and heat, we are working with our machine to determine the best temperatures to print at going forward.
We are grateful to all of our community members for their work and support with assisting the us repairing our publicly available printer. The Athenaeum prides itself on serving our community and growing together; the restore of one of our beloved 3D Printer is a wonderful example of how the Pittsfield community works and thrives together.
If you are interested in getting involved with the library and 3D Printing by way of volunteering time or simply learning how to design and print, please reach out to us at the Reference Department (firstname.lastname@example.org) or get started with the Athenaeum’s Self-Guided Program.