Last few weeks I've been printing on and on and on. My main problem has been getting my extruder to work properly. I rebuilt it and now it's working fine. Now a huge firmware/Gcode problem has appeared.
I build and it all works fine...then suddenly at somewhere between 1 and 10 layers in it just stops working. My steppers stop working, but my extruder just keeps running and a huge blog just appears under the stuck extruder. At the end of a normal build the M103 command is sent to the machine which turns off the extruder. What happens now is that the machine just stops. I usually turn it off as soon as I can, though I've left it for 30 seconds during a crash once when I was out washing the dishes during a build.
A vaugely similar problem occured a while ago when using firmware 1.4 in that the machine would turn off the extruder, but keep on working. It was as if the host machine just stopped sending M101 signals. I downgraded to 1.2 and the problem vanished. But even using that same 1.2 firmware this problem just kept occuring. I tried upgrading to 1.4 and the problem just kept on, then I tried doing a run entirely from SD card. I tried this and the same problem occured (though this time it didn't crash until it got to layer 10 or so, while from cable it was crashing at 2-5).
Anyway, given that my extruder has been rather shonky, and I want to make myself a new extruder. This is for two reasons, the first is to take advantage of the nophead developments. summed up, it's better to use steel and a heat sink instead of PTFE. This is combined with a short heating region to make the whole thing work better.
The second reason is to finally get around to running my series of extruder experiments where I mess around with extruder diameter. I want to up the speed as much as I can for printing main parts and I want to see what the effect of a 1mm extrusion diameter is. I've already thought up how to do a strength test and it should be interesting.
A search for materials continues of course. ABS and PLA in australia is difficult to say the least.
Getting the Gcode from 3D to 5D
The main problem with getting this process to work is getting the gen 3 extruder working. It runs via stepper motor that can't be run using the makerbot firmware, or at least it's very difficult and noone on the forums has worked it out. Hense we need to use the normal official firmware Made by Adrian Bowyer and the Bath reprap team. This needs 5d Gcode, which does not have any M code and that data is mixed in with the Gcode. The basic difference is that the 5D code has more processing done before it gets to the firmware. Skeinforge is currently only working in 3D Gcode, and I personally very much like skeinforge and how it works (at least now that I've gotten my head around the program). Erick debruijn has developed a code that is written in php which converts this gcode into 5d gcode. For the life of me I can't work out how to use the script though. I've learnt how to make a php server that I can run locally (I use WAMP server which is nice and open source, it gives the same result as a closed source program I tried later) but all I can make the php script do is spit out a single out GCode file which is about 10 lines long which mostly has settings listed. I think that I can mess around with the output file name, but searching through the code I can't work out where to put in the input Gcode into the script.
In a completely unrelated area, the artifactory has been set up pretty well and things are now going really well with it all. I'm using our drill press quite alot in making my new extruder barrels.