Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thank You For Admitting on the Internet...the Stupid Things You've Done (3D Printer Edition)

I'd like to keep this blog post a short and sweet, I mean long and winding Thank You, to everyone who's ever admitted somewhere on the internet that they've done something stupid. One such person saved me a lot of hassle and a lot of money on my Printrbot Simple Metal.

The exact issue I had? Mysteriously, it would stop two to three layers into my prints. Are you having this issue? Please don't read my rambling. skip to the bottom for the solution that worked for me. Oh, and then come back and read the rambling because I worked hard on it.

I just moved to San Francisco from Portland to work from Google a few months ago. In the process, I got full custody of the 3D printer that my brother and I had bought together. Woo hoo!

A few months in, I start really getting the itch to print something again. I know, months. I'm not really a hardcore user. That will be obvious by the end of the post. Though I had a few things going against me: I had recently ruined my Fedora install in a botched attempt to install 32 bit libs (which had my slicer, modeler, favorite settings...) and an even more botched attempt to fix the failure. If I were to get that working again, I had other more pressing things to do with more important data on that disk. I didn't have a lot of time because it as a new job. And even where to put the printer was up in the air. No, not literally. It ended up on a desk.

Side note, the best part of unpacking our movers' good work once we got settled in the right place in San Francisco, was that everything was labeled by room & general contents: books, dishes, clothes. No, that's not the best part. The best part is the 3D printer was in a box labeled "complicated machine." Which it certainly is. They did their best to pack it well, but the filament strand into the printer broke, leaving likely all kinds of twists in the spool during hundreds of miles of bumpy transport. I had just fixed a twisted spool of pla, and its the simple things that discourage you. Still, better than when the UPS people delivered it to us with the words "THIS SIDE UP" in big letters and completely upside down.

So I officially missed the Christmas season for printing presents and decorations, but alas, there's always one next year.

So two days ago I found the cables, installed the modeler and slicer anew and designed my model. I went to print, and a few minor hitches later got underway on breaking the fast that is my 3D printing hobby. Gotta love breakfast.

But two layers in, it just stopped. Shit.

I of course first simply tried again. Still shit.

USB connection? Nope -- tried it on a microUSB card and it had the same issue.

At this point I reasoned, it could be an issue related to the gcode. Either corrupt gcode from the slicer, or a hardware failure that happens for a particular instruction. Except, no, because the same exact print would fail at different times.

I mean, I'm a smart person usually, and I did a bunch of smart things.

I double-checked that no wires were loose coming into the board. I think that was really smart of me. I did indeed later find that as one of the official instructions for what to do when you have this problem. I smiled that I had beaten that advice to the punch.

But still, no luck. I had already, at this point, dialed up the cost of a replacement board, and a replacement power supply. $80+ was not what I wanted to see. But sometimes that's just how 3D printers roll.

So just before calling it quits, and ordering a part, I decided to read through a long long long long long (like, longer than this blogpost telling one stupid dumb story long), long forum thread about people having this issue. And by the grace of God, there was an idiot. On the thread. An idiot who...admitted it.

Blah blah blah blah, "and oh wow do I feel dumb" were his words. Basically, he had two different power supplies under his desk. One of them was the right one. That is not what he plugged in to his computer.

With less power available, it can only keep the hothead hot and the servos spinning at high speed for so long. Start a print, and you're ticking down until the powersupply is overwhelmed, its voltage drops, and then suddenly...the board crashes. And then recovers, because the power requirements immediately go down. Tries to print again.

At this point it is absolutely crucial that you reread this already really long blogpost about one tiny thing, from the top. You don't want to? Really? Ok, I'll give you a spoiler; I mentioned something about unboxing the cables...

Turns out my Logitech GT25 or something racing wheel has a DC power supply with the same connector as my Printrbot Simple Metal. So that's what I had grabbed instead of the right one. Much like my equally dumb friend on the internet.

Did my dumb friend on the internet have to post that he was dumb? Did he have to post his solution at all? Couldn't he have worded it in the highly-ignorable-but-face-saving-manner of "just check the right cable is plugged in, you jerks!" Yes. And unlike most people on the internet, that's not what he did.

He did something dumb that day and he admitted it.

I did something dumb and I'm admitting it.

The next time you do something dumb you should post it on the internet, too. You might just save someone $80+, time, stress, and the hairloss that comes with it. We're all stupid, and it helps to admit it.