Big ol’ printer

A few years back I purchased a large form 3d printer, the Creality CR10-S5. This has a bed size of 500x500mm, and can print over 500mm high. Just about right for a single print R2 dome!

However, since getting it I’ve managed to get one half decent print off it. The problem is that this size bed is pretty much the limit of the standard Prusa design. That means that bed levelling is a real pain, and therefore first layer adhesion is a problem. Doesn’t help when the supplied glass can be bowed quite badly.

Oh, and did I mention loud? Even on a couple of inches of foam to cushion it off the floor it could be heard all over the house. Not good when you are wanting to do prints that may take over a week of constant printing.


So all that being said, it has been sat idle for well over a year. I just couldn’t be bothered with the faff of getting a print working on it, and then not being able to sleep because of the constant whine. Thing is, its a big piece of kit to sit idle, not to mention fairly expensive, so I decided to research a few upgrades.

So far, I have done the following:

  • Added stepper dampers
  • Added a PEI metal sheet for the bed
  • Added a BLTouch sensor
  • Replaced the motherboard


The dampers are just some shock absorber addons to try and reduce any vibration from the actual motors. This was the first upgrade I did on the X and Y axis, tho it didn’t have that much effect.

PEI Sheet

The PEI sheet I got seeing as my official Prusa Mk3S has one, and it is very useful. Just needs a clean after every print with IPA and the next print will stick with no issues. Tho it does need to be heated to work properly I’ve found


The BLTouch probe allows for automatic bed levelling. It doesn’t actually level the bed, but it probes a number of spots and the firmware then compensates as you are printing. The bed still needs to be reasonably level, but it does mean you don’t have to level after every single print.


Now this last one. Replacing the motherboard is a bit of an understatement. I basically threw away all the electronics that came with the printer and put new ones in. From the power supply, to the motherboard, to the stepper drivers. The drivers you use can have a lot of effect on the noise of the steppers, so I wanted to go with Trinamic based ones as they can run the steppers really quietly. To get these to work, I got a BigTreeTech SKR 1.3 motherboard, and five drivers. For power I got a 12V 30A power supply, it needs the high current for the heated bed.

The added benefit to this is that it is now a 32bit based machine, with much fewer memory restrictions, and can run Marlin 2.0 firmware. I’ve actually forked the Marlin firmware repo to keep track of the changes I make to the config files:


So far, I am very pleased with how the printer is now running. Bed levelling is a lot easier/non existant, first layer adhesion seems reliable, and we can hardly hear it running in the house, just a dull whine when its doing certain operations.

I’ve also been using PrusaSlicer, rather than the more usual Cura, so I’ve had to do my own profile for the printer. It still needs a few tweaks, but the results are good.

Future Work

Its still not perfect. There are a few things I still want to do to make printing more reliable and to speed it up.

  • Braces – The top part of the printer can move quite a bit, so I want to brace this. Might also stop some of the resonance.
  • Heated bed cable cover – The cable to the heated bed can get caught or frey, causing many issues and possibly a fire. I want to strengthen that up.
  • Tweaks to Marlin – The BLTouch is still a bit temperamental so some more tweaks are needed on that front
  • Tweaks to print profile – Still a fair bit of stringing, so the retraction needs increasing. Its also very slow on some operations so I need to find the balance between speed and quality.
  • Tidy up – Well, its taken a lot of messing to get it working, and the area around the printer is a state, as well as cables coming out everywhere and the MOSFET for the motherboard hanging loose. Everything (including the Raspberry Pi running Octoprint) needs to be tidied up somewhat.

I’m glad I finally got round to doing all this work, I was seriously at the stage where I thought I was going to get rid of it. But whilst its not up to official Prusa standards, its actually not too bad.

Reprap update

So, been a while since I’ve done any updates, but then I’ve been a little busy recently. Since my last post I’ve been in the states working again. This time, not only Washington, but Boston too. Anyway, not much to talk about on that, just lots of flying and propping up bars in hotels.

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It flew!

I got a stable flight out of my quadcopter at last.

I played it safe, and took it to the parents’ house seeing as they have a larger garden than I do, and made a few test flights. Only a low level hover, but it was controlled, albeit very roughly. Just goes to show how much practice it is going to take before I can start flying it properly. It wasn’t the most stable of flights I must say, I think amongst other things theĀ propellersĀ and motors all need balancing. It all was going fairly well until I got a bit to cocky and lost control. Only broke a propeller, so not too bad. Since then I’ve also secured the flight controller (an OpenPilot Copter Control) a bit better, which will hopefully keep it level and prevent any major drift and I’m going to make sure the motors are balanced. One recent purchase was a pan/tilt platform so I can put a cheap cam on the front to get a birdseye view of the flight. I’m very tempted to get a full FPV rig too, but I think it’ll be better to walk before I run.

Initial flights were in a + orientation, with one rotor being at the front. I’ve since changed that to an X orientation which means that there are two rotors at the front and the forward direction is in the middle of these. This makes attaching a camera a lot easier, and is the prefered orientation for FPV flying, so might as well get used to it from the start. I could do with some coloured propeller blades so that I can see which way is forward from a distance. Either that, or I may attach some LED strips to the two front arms.

In other news, I’m just building a new hotend for my printer. After the last .5mm one backed up, I tried the .25mm nozzle I got but I think that was a bit too ambitious. After a few hours of tweaking settings, I still couldn’t get a decent reliable print out of it. I’m just waiting for the fire cement to set properly on the new one, and then I just have to solder the wires onto it and mount it. One thing that is being a pain is the thermistor legs are very thin and fragile. I’ve already broken two and they aren’t the cheapest of components. They definitely need to be handled with care and strengthened up.

I also nearly melted another MOSFET buy hooking up the heated bed. Checking afterwards, the bed has a very low resistance (approx 1.5 ohm) which means the MOSFET gets very hot rather quickly. After a bit of digging in the forums, it was suggested that I put a heatsink on it. Nice idea, and easy solution, except the Sanguinololu board that I’m using has very little room to attach one. I’ve got a few different ones to try, and hopefully I can get one fastened on.

So, if the hotend is set by this evening, I may get chance to hook it up and give it a test! I may actually finish this project at some point!

Slow week

Easter weekend started off well, I actually got a test print off my printer! Unfortunately, the nozzle started to back up and got clogged, and whilst I was trying to clean it out (needed the heat one to do this) I seem to have shorted out the heating resistor which had the knock on effect of over heating the MOSFET, which also melted the plastic connector next to it. Not really a big issue, except I had no spare MOSFETS handy, so back to RS to order them. It did give as rather bad headache after a couple of hours in my cellar after the meltdown. Must get some better ventilation installed at some point!

On the plus side, the couple of small prints that I got off were rather good, and looked to be quite accurate. Once I get the replacement parts installed and a clean (or possibly new) hotend I can get some better prints off, along with some pictures and video! The hotend is turning out to be the most difficult part of the whole build, and also the part that seems to be least documented. Lots of different types of hotends are available on the reprap wiki, but none seem to be a clear choice, and also very little info on mounting them to the actual printer. Once I get that part worked out properly, it should just be a case of a bit of calibration!

The parts arrived after the long weekend, but by this time I’d come down with a bit of a cold. Nothing bad, but enough to put me off doing any intricate electronics. Of course, typically, the weekend is now approaching and I’m still feeling bunged up. Quite an annoying cold this. Also have a few extra hotend types to try.

In other news, Good Friday was the Alex Reunion. The Alex was a night club that a large number of people went to regularly in Lancaster, especially on its GRIP (Goth, Rock, Indie, Pop) nights. It was a very popular place, and had a great community behind it. The club closed down 10 years ago, and I thought it was high time that someone got everyone back together. That someone turned out to be me! The wonderful manageress at the Yorkshire House let me have the function room upstairs for free for the night, knowing full well that it would be busy with a good group of people. Nice easy (but busy) night for the staff. Thanks to the notoriety of the Alex, I had to do next to no publicity. All I did was to create an event on Facebook, and that was enough to get me worrying about the capacity of the venue, and the number of people turning up.

So, Good Friday came around, I got some old posters photocopied (thanks Sarah), a projector was loaned to me (thanks Coops), and I totally cheated on the DJing! Sarah also loaned me a banner from the very last night at the Alex. A roll of paper was hung on the wall and pens supplied for people to write their memories and thoughts. Sarah has lovingly looked after this for the last 10 years and it took pride of place on the wall of the reunion. Thanks to the projector, I also had nearly 300 photos projected onto the back of the stage, which kept people enthralled when they first arrived. Lots of good memories. The playlist for the night was one of the most fun, but most difficult, part to do. So many classic tunes were requested that it was very hard to narrow the selection down to just one nights worth. I also had to exercises my geek, to cut out any silence from the end of the tracks. A quick bit of scripting and I had a program called sox cutting off a few seconds here and there from all the mp3 files I had selected. It actually cut enough off for me to be able to squeeze another track in! Song editing, and using rhythmbox, meant that the sum total of work I had to do for the night was to press play and leave it. I wanted to enjoy the night too, and not be stuck behind a computer!

I’m happy to say that the night was a screaming success. The room was packed, I had people dancing all night (Kari and Dany especially!), we made the walls drip, and lots of singing to the last few songs. The comments left on the Facebook group for the Alex were wonderful and made the grin I already had even bigger. There have been lots of requests for a repeat performance, but currently I have no plans. Definitely won’t be one this year, but I may be able to be talked into an annual one.

For anyone interested, here is the playlist from the night:

  • Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden
  • Would – Alice in Chains
  • Animal Nitrate – Suede
  • Common People – Pulp
  • You Love Us – Manic Street Preachers
  • Love Spreads – The Stone Roses
  • Nuclear Holiday – 3 Colours Red
  • Paranoid – Black Sabbath
  • Symphony Of Destruction – Megadeth
  • Walk – Pantera
  • We Care A Lot (2009 Remastered) – Faith No More
  • Enter Sandman – Metallica
  • Blue Monday – Orgy
  • Don’t You Want Me (Original Version) – The Human League
  • Kick In The Eye – Bauhaus
  • Vision Thing – Sisters Of Mercy
  • Sin – Nine Inch Nails
  • The Beautiful People – Marilyn Manson
  • Sonne – Rammstien
  • (Can’t You) Trip Like I Do – Filter/The Crystal Method
  • Firestarter – Prodigy
  • Def Con One – PWEI
  • Jump Around – House of Pain
  • Anthem for the Year 2000 – Silverchair
  • Monkey Wrench – Foo Fighters
  • Chop Suey! – System of a Down
  • I Alone – Live
  • Celebrity Skin – Hole
  • Hey Dude – Kula Shaker
  • Rocks – Primal Scream
  • Place Your Hands – Reef
  • Girl From Mars – Ash
  • Pure Morning – Placebo
  • When I Grow Up – Garbage
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous – Republica
  • Laid – James
  • Son of a Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield
  • Torn – Natalie Imbruglia
  • Stuck in the Middle With You – Stealers Wheel
  • The Size of a Cow – The Wonder Stuff
  • Come Out and Play (Keep ‘Em Seperated) – The Offspring
  • Wuthering Heights – China Drum
  • Basket Case – Green Day
  • All the Small Things – Blink 182
  • The bad touch – Bloodhound Gang, The
  • Girls – Beastie Boys
  • My own worst enemy – Lit
  • A Certain Shade Of Green – Incubus
  • Blind – Korn
  • Sway – Coal Chamber
  • Davidian – Machine Head
  • Killing In The Name – Rage Against The Machine
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
  • Screamager – Therapy?
  • Weak – Skunk Anansie
  • Riverflow – The Levellers
  • American T.V. – Terrorvision
  • Stupid Questions – New Model Army
  • Rearviewmirror – Pearl Jam
  • Been Caught Stealing (2006 Remastered Album Version) – Jane’s Addiction
  • Add It Up – Violent Femmes
  • I Wanna Go Where the People Go – The Wildhearts
  • Epic – Faith No More
  • Welcome To The Jungle – Guns N’ Roses
  • Rag Doll – Aerosmith
  • Poison – Alice Cooper
  • Creep – Radiohead
  • Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Hey Jude – The Beatles
  • Birdhouse in Your Soul – They Might Be Giants


Nearly there! The hotends have arrived!

I got a nice parcel delivered today. Two nicely build hotends for my new Prusa Reprap. After all the issues with the Huxley, the Prusa has been a total doddle. The last piece I needed for it was a hotend, and after having some issues sourcing some of the components, I had a look on eBay for any pre-built ones. I found one guy shipping some from Poland that looked perfect for what I needed, not only did they have all the molex connectors already done in a way that is compatible with my Sanguinololu board, but he was offering a twin pack with one .5mm and one .25mm nozel. Oh, and a pre hobbed bolt too!

Prusa build

So, with the body built and the electronics tested, all I have to do is figure out how to attach the hotend and I can start building. I’ve already posted a video a few days ago of the body moving nicely, which is further than I ever got with the Huxley. Never know, maybe by this weekend I’ll be able to print something! Just have to finish work first.

Here’s the video of the first test of the electronics.

Prusa build

Back in Blighty

Well, had an eventful three weeks in the states, but I’m back now and eager to get on with things!

The first two weeks of me being away were taken up with work as part of my regular visits to the states to see everyone in the office. I’m glad I was out there at this particular time thanks to an email received in the early house of Monday morning, informing me that the american arm of 2ergo had been sold to a company called SoundBite. A bit of a shock to say the least! Still, the new company sounds promising and once I have a few HR things sorted out I’m sure things will be fine. As long as I have servers to play with I’m happy!

The last week of stateside was spent with my partner in crime, sightseeing around Washington DC. We both love museums, and these took up the majority of our time, along with a trip to the National Zoo, and a fantastic Segway tour of the city. Many thanks to Carly, our guide from Segs in the City. There ended up only being us two and the tour guide, so we could go at our own pace and managed to get a lot more out of the tour than we would have if we had a bigger group.

Segways are great fun… Hmm, I may have to build one!

Here’s a few photos from our trips.

Was a great week off, and a first for us to both be abroad in the same place at the same time!

But, I’m back home now, and back at work. I’m hoping this weekend I can get my quadcopter flying again if the weather is nice, and to also get a big chunk of my new Prusa based 3d printer built now that I have all the parts.


Huxley on Hold

I didn’t want to do it, but I’ve had to give up on my Techzonecom model Huxley printer. I’ve spent another couple of hours on it today and decided it just isn’t worth the hassle. It certainly helped that I found someone on eBay selling printed parts for a Prusa for a decent price.

The Huxley isn’t totally lost, there are many options open to me to get it working, once I have a working printer. Its a chicken and egg problem.

One thing I do have to say, and it seems I’m getting backed up on the forums about this, is never buy anything from TechZone Communications. They seem to have lost the plot and have a long stream of unhappy customers, as well as a below par product. Besides missing parts in the kit I received, and electronics that burst into flame, it also in my opinion is a poorly designed reprap printer. Captive nuts are needed to be melted into the plastic parts, the extruder is external to the main printer with no easy way to mount it and the electronics are just shoddy.

I bought my kit via a UK company called RepRap Central who it turns out are resellers of TechZoneCom kits. I didn’t know this before I bought it, and they don’t make any mention to TechZoneCom. They do however sell other brands of printers, including MakerBot. Communications with RepRap Central are pretty good, and they do have good prices on filament.

So, I’ve got the plastic parts for a Prusa on order, I’ve got plenty of hardware, I’ve got a completed Gen 7 electronics kit built. Hopefully the parts will be arriving next week, and I can have a start at building it. Unfortunately, I’m off to the states for a while for work, so its going to get put on hold for a little while.

Hopefully the Prusa will be a little easier.

Replacement electronics are here!

The replacement electronics for my Reprap Huxley arrived today at long last. I’ve had them plugged in for nearly an hour over dinner, and no flames. Good start!

I think this evening and weekend are going to be devoted to trying to get my printer working. I hope nothing else turns out to be faulty with the kit I bought. I’m already very disappointed with the quality of it overall. If I had a better understanding of the whole Reprap process, I would have gone with just ordering the plastic parts from somewhere and building my own. I’m sure I’ll do a full write up on it at some point.

To recap, I’ve got the frame built with all the stepper motors mounted and the belts in place. So all(?) I have left to do is:

  • Calibrate the electronics
  • Finish the extruder – Just needs the motor mounting I think, and the tube inserting.
  • Finish the hot end – All gunged up, just needs the electronics attaching to the nichrome wire and thermocouple.
  • Mount the hot end
  • Mount the end stops

Once all that is done, I may actually be able to start testing. The testing is going to be a long process I think, I very much doubt I’ll be printing quality objects from the start. Lots and lots of wasted plastic doing test prints, levelling the base, etc. Still, if I can finish this weekend with an actual printed object I’ll be happy. Roll on 5pm when I finish work!