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Printer Consumables -- Preventive* Maintenance

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  • Printer Consumables -- Preventive* Maintenance

    Almost a year-and-a-half in, I have been going through a series of replacements and upgrades to my Creality Ender 3 Pro filament printer.

    I have replaced the hot end and all of the filament feed hardware except the motor. I've also gone through a number of nozzles. I've bought replacements for the flexible magnetic build bed -- the original got damaged. I've got a couple of the glass build beds on order -- I think the surface on my current one is wearing out. I purchased some of the Capricorn brand Bowden tube.

    I installed an aftermarket bracket that mounts the filament feed on top of the print head. That has been a success. I no longer have issues with the filament jamming. The added mass on top of the print head has not caused any issues with the accelerations of the print head.

    That Capricorn Bowden tube had been purchased in the hope it would resolve my filament jamming issues. It was a flat failure. The smaller diameter internal bore of the tube made matters worse. When I installed the direct filament feed I went back to the original Creality Bowden tube for the much shorter tube required, and that has worked just fine. I have also installed a metal clutch chassis for the filament feed, because I thought the original plastic chassis was getting distorted. I've replaced the knurl wheel because it was getting worn.

    I've bought a lot of stuff that I haven't installed yet -- some upgrades, some spares. I bought spare timing belts for the X and Y axes. I've a stack of spare nozzles including a pair made of hard steel. I bought an all-metal hot end that I haven't installed yet. My new hot end is a direct Creality brand replacement for the original. I bought an automatic leveling system -- also not installed yet. I have a spare control board that I purchased because the original has developed a glitch that, to date, has been concerning but nothing more. I also bought a spare filament feed motor, because I thought maybe my filament feed issues had to do with the motor. I never installed it.

    I had to replace the main board because it lost the ability to control the bed temperature. That was provided by Creality even though my machine was a week or two out of warranty. But I did have to pay US$18 for express shipping from China.

    What I have not had to replace is any of the motors, the limit switches, the gantries, their drives or their bearings.

    In summary I have spent a lot of time and a fair amount of money repairing, refurbishing and upgrading my printer. It has been quite a journey, and I can't say it is over yet.

    I am developing the attitude that my printer is something like an automobile out of the 1950's -- simple, functional, but requiring a lot of maintenance and repair to keep it roadworthy. The parts are inexpensive and relatively easy to replace, but have rather limited life.

    One thing I have added to my machine is an hour-meter. It is a simple electronic device that clocks the amount of time the machine has been running. I have the idea that I might be able to use it to help me schedule regular replacement of consumable parts before they degrade enough to cause trouble. This is known as "Preventive Maintenance" and is a common practice in industry -- at least at companies that have the good sense to know that equipment does need maintenance.

    Some folks might say my machine is a jalopy and that I'd be better off junking it and getting something better. For now I'm going with the idea I've learned enough about it that I can keep it in good running condition with regular maintenance. Maybe by year two I'll know if that is smart or not.

    Ed Bianchi

    * Note I spell that "Preventive" and not "Preventative". Lots of people say "Preventative". I don't. And I don't say "Preventa" instead of "Prevent". Pet peeve.


  • #2
    And that is an expectation of a budget machine. Nothing wrong with that, but a $200 machine isn't really a $200 machine for long. ;-)

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    • #3
      I'll willingly concede a more expensive machine should have longer mean-hours-to-failure. Although it did take a year for my Ender 3 Pro to start giving me trouble, and I had been using it pretty intensively.

      Wish I had had an hour-meter on it from Day One.

      But the question is... does a US$600, US$800 or a US$2,000 machine cost less to maintain? The Creality parts are awfully cheap. Will the expensive machines actually require fewer hours of repair/maintenance?

      Your point, Mr. Flippant is well taken. I'm reminded of that old television commercial, "Pay me now or pay me later!"

      I'm showing my age, yes?

      Ed Bianchi

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      • #4
        It's still enough of an emerging market that there are plenty of overpriced machines that are of no higher quality than the cheaper ones, either because of poor design and/or low quality parts. That said, we're not at the 2D printer phase yet, where one can buy a $100 printer/scanner combo and get many years of maintenance free printing from it.

        Have I had to do things on my Prusa printers? Yeah, mainly from my own mistakes. So far, nothing has just "worn out" on either of them. Unless you are printing with abrasive material, though, a brass nozzle should last quite a while. Even clogged ones can be rescued with a few cold pulls.

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        • #5
          The 3D printer market is fundamentally different from the 2D market in that there's no such thing as a proprietary filament cartridge. The old Gillette model of giving away the razor and selling the blades never happened.

          Or did it? Did someone try to make proprietary filament cartridges? Hope they went bankrupt.

          What this means is anyone who makes 3D printers has to make a profit on each sale of a machine. There's no guaranteed follow-on purchases to make up for loss-leader pricing. Nor is there the auto-dealership model of heavily discounting the sale and making it up in the service department.

          What they can do is follow the Detroit model of planned obsolescence. Follow a schedule of planned "improvements" to make their established customers always lusting after this year's new models.

          Problem is there are too many manufacturers out there eager to jump the line and offer the latest developments before anyone else.

          The companies that stand to make the most repeat sales are those offering aftermarket parts and upgrades. The J.C. Whitney's of the 3D printing world can make a bundle helping folks with aging and obsolescent printers eke another year out of their machines.

          And us consumers just have to be patient while the industry matures. It is going to be a while before we can command, "Earl Gray, hot!", and get exactly that with no fuss.

          That day will come.

          Ed Bianchi

          PS - Or is it "we consumers"? Captain Pedantic, help!!!
          Last edited by HO RacePro; Yesterday, 04:02 AM.

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          • #6
            Actually, yes, there were (are) several manufacturers that made their printers work ONLY with their spools of material. The material AND printers were (are) painfully overpriced. How does such a company still exist? Easy. The business and education market. You'd be amazed (ok, maybe not any more) at what an ignorant person can be sold on by a fast talking salesperson from one of those companies. My local high school has a tech lab with a half dozen different printers that either don't work at all, or rarely work, that cost thousands of dollars each, and upward of a hundred dollars for every spool of filament that we pay less than $20 for. And they buy into a new one every other year or so, while half the kids in those tech classes have better printers at home for a fraction of the cost. There's no such thing as a turn-key 3d printer, but they are still being sold like they are. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the first low cost printers to enter the larger consumer market, e.g. being sold at Target and Wal-Mart and such places, DOES have a system to prevent non-OEM materials from being used on it. There are valid reasons for doing this, but it's the cost associated with it that's so bothersome. I mean, wouldn't it be nice to slap a spool on the printer and have the PRINTER know what kind (Even color) material it is, and automatically adjust all the settings? I've seen some that have a dedicated system where the printer is on-line and connected to a repository of models (Thingiverse, usually), and the user need only to search and select a model. With the printer model and material information uploaded to the cloud, the model is sliced and the gcode downloaded to the printer. From a user perspective, it pretty much IS a replicator. But, when it fails... that user quickly learns that even the smartest machine isn't ready for a Star Trek episode.

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