Frequently asked questions

Do you offer warranty?

Yes! It's 1 year on parts excluding consumables, ACME screw, and tubes. We don't cover damage from: electrical surges or USB port surges, lack of cleaning and/or lubrication, the touch screen caused either by excessive force or corruption of the firmware, or damage from disassembling the extruder before unloading the pressure off of the clay. Full information on our warranty can be found here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Z9jx1DyrXjjfqQqdB9YPhhqOt0luRj0OLynrjKcb8s4/

International Shipping

3D Potter ships world wide. If you are outside of the United States, please email us at: zaneta@3dpotter.com so we can get you a quote on shipping. 3D Potter can not do Purchase Orders outside of the United States.

Getting Started, Machine Setup and Operation

Box to Pot, assembly video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DVUnrFeb7Y

Scara assembly video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VD5aZVHdcLM

You can also visit our google drive which has the instruction manual as well as back up files and additional information.

Version 8 Printers and down (Touch Screen): https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B7b2lLQFTIura0hGVlRCNFg5MDg

Version 9 Printers and up (Wireless): https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/15QhDbIAj-o0iCR9iy-oebU3WgN6MYzBd

Scara printers: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1uqPCrsD1GMpe-4wL3-Rgpq6kx_IPM0ik

Do I need 3D printer or pottery expiece to use a 3D potter Printer?

You do not need previous experience, but it helps a lot. 3D Potter printers work just like a normal 3D printers. 3D printers read g-code files, which must be generated by a slicing program, which must be fed a model file. If you have no 3D printing experience, you must be willing to learn model file generation as well as slicing software operation. There are hundreds of videos on youtube that teach you how to use 3D printers, give them a watch and see if it is something you would be willing to learn.

The other big part of our printers is working with clay. There are many factors that can affect the properties of clay and our printer can only handle a certain range of consistency. Having clay too hard or too soft can cause issues with our extruder system. You must be willing to get your hands dirty with clay when loading and preparing the tubes we use with our printers.

Clay preparation

1. Cut purchased clay into smaller sections, put in micro fiber towel or felt in the plastic bag add 10-15 oz of water, close the bag. The moisture from the cloth will penetrate into the clay in about a day or so. 

2. Manual wedging with adding extra water until the consistency is right.

3. Use pug mill and add small amounts of water while cycling the clay through the pug mill several times to get the right consistency. Then the tubes can be loaded directly from the pug mill.  

These are our favorite clay bodies which are readily available here in the USA from any pottery supply or ceramic craft studio.

  • WC‑901 Maccabee Mix 5 Clay - stoneware

  • WC-902 Axner Mary's Porcelain Clay - porcelain

  • EM‑700 Vince's Low White Clay - earthenware

After all the testing we seem to prefer the Maccabees cone 5 stoneware. It has the best interlayer adhesion and is quite easily extruded in both of our extruders. We do add some water to the stoneware which seems to help with interlayer adhesion and ease of extrusion.

The Vince's Low White Clay earthenware performs well also although it does not extrude as easily as the stoneware. The interlayer adhesion is a little bit less than the stoneware also but this doesn't seem to be a problem as long as you do not let the moisture come out of the clay too fast after printing. 

Axner Mary's Porcelain Clay is the only porcelain that we have experimented with. Interlayer adhesion seems to be a problem as the moisture dissipates too quickly on a large print for the layers to adhere. Especially on larger vessels where the nozzle comes around to the overlap point after period of time the moisture doesn't seem to be there. This also depends on your environment temperature and humidity. There's so much to say and so much experimenting to be done in our 3D ceramic studio. We have yet to make up our own clay preparation and this is another way to go.

 
clay1.jpg
clay2.jpg
 

Loading your polycarbonate tubes

Pug mill

There are several ways to load the cylinders. The easiest way by far is with the use of a pug mill. It's necessary to machine a small transitional flange from the nozzle of the pug mill to hold the polycarbonate tube in place.
For best results you should use a de-airing pug mill and a double auger will give you better performance than a single auger. Although a single auger is adequate, the consistency of the clay is more critical when it comes to loading the tubes. The consistency of the clay should be similar to a standard throwing clay, but wetter. This can be accomplished by running the clay through the pug mill and adding small quantity of water. If too much water is added to the clay the pug mill can actually not function sufficiently enough to load the tubes. This happens because the auger has no traction against the side of the pug mill as the clay mixture becomes too loose. It also depends on the pug mill and its ability to forcefully push the clay.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtHcdhgxBe8

Loading by hand

The simple answer is add 15 ounces of water to standard 25 pound bag of clay.
Cut the square bag of clay into 4 long pieces and put microfiber towel in between the clay pieces before adding water. Now roll up the bag again and make it airtight. Wait until the water has penetrated the clay, usually one to two days. Now take out the clay that has the proper moisture content, roll it into a cylinder a little bit smaller then the diameter of inside of the tube. Put the nozzle on the tube with tape over the end and gently tap the long piece of clay into the tube. Tap the tube and nozzle on soft piece of carpet so not to damage it. That's it, this is your best method to load your tubes without a pug mill.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PubP7hfHmwM

Trowel

This is done with a trowel or a spatula on a flat table. As you force clay you can tap the tube to move the clay further down as you continue to load the tube. If the consistency of the clay is correct, you can eliminate the air at the same time. This is the hardest loading method.

Changing tubes on the extruder

Changing out an empty tube on an extruder for a full one has many steps involved. Moving parts, such as the acme screw, need to be kept free of all debris. Please watch our Extruder Tube Changing video for a full tutorial on how to easily change your tubes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWvMl37TE4s

How do I create an object?

Basic object creation and slicing tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umOpoPM2Asc

In order to create an object you must first develop a shape. There are some simple programs like, Tinkercad, but our favorite is Fusion 360 which is free for students and small businesses. These software programs are capable of just taking simple shapes and turning them into very attractive objects to print on our ceramic printer.

After you've generated your vessel, it's a simple process with Fusion 360 or any other program to turn it into STL file. From the STL file the program needs to be sliced and processed into g-code. This process has become very simple over time with multiple free programs like Repetier, Cura, and Simplify 3D which is $150 but has some very good features and visualizations.

Once you slice your object and set the parameters for the printer, it automatically generates the G code. This G code can be saved to an SD card and inserted or uploaded into the machine.

After loading the SD card, it's a simple process of pushing two or three buttons and your print will start. From the touchscreen you have full control over the speed and ceramic flow again so that you're capable of fine tuning the print even while it's in process. For our wireless design, you can view all of your files and select which file you want to print.

Here are some of the most popular slicing programs, we prefer Simplify 3D.

Test Vase.png
10.png

Simplify3d factory settings test prints link

These files are Simplify 3D factory setting. The real advantage with Simplify factory settings is that not only does it include the STL file, but it also includes all of the settings and parameters of the slicing program and options. So for our customers that have Simplify 3D it's as simple as double-clicking on one of these files, Simplify 3D will automatically launch and all you have to do is generate the G-Code. All of these files have been tested on our machines here at our shop. You might have to adjust your speeds and feeds but probably only slightly for your clay consistency. If you do not use Simplify 3D, there are screen shots of the settings as well, such as printing speed in millimeters per second.

Starting Programs and Simplify .FFF files (Models 8 and lower, Touch screen)

Starting Programs and Simplify .FFF files (Models 9 and higher, WiFi)

Setting the Z height for additional printing room (Version 7 and 8 Printers)

When your printer arrives it's typically set at a moderate Z height. The problem with setting maximum Z height when we ship the printer is that if you're printing a small object it takes a long time for it to come down to the bat to start the print. If you're always printing objects 200mm high then you should set the Z height at something like a maximum of 250mm.
If you want to utilize your 3D Potterbot to the maximum ability on the Z axis: First put a tube in the machine (with a nozzle) as high as it can go on the clamp. Now jog down the Z axis till the nozzle is almost touching the bat. Now take a tape measure and measure from the top of the car to the limit switch on the top of the Z rail (The top of the car to where it would be hitting the limit switch in its highest position). This is your maximum Z that you can enter into the configuration (Config) file in millimeters measured. DO NOT CHANGE THE FIRMWARE FILE.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKtd7GA88xM

To change this number power off the machine and unplug the power supply. Now plug that USB cable into your printer which is located under the screen. It should show up as a USB drive on your laptop. There will be two files and you want to open the config file. Look at the gamma_max (325), this is the number that you have to change to change the Z height in mm. Just hit save and that's it. Be sure not to change this file in any other way or the machine will not function. I recommend that you back this up before you even start in case there is a problem. Do not run the USB cable while the machine is plugged into the wall.

# Endstops
endstops_enable                 true      
scara_homing                    true      
alpha_min_endstop               1.24^!
alpha_max_endstop               nc
alpha_homing_direction          home_to_min
alpha_min                       0
beta_min_endstop                nc          
beta_max_endstop                1.26^!            
beta_homing_direction           home_to_max
beta_max                        157.6
#gamma_min_endstop               nc
#gamma_max_endstop               nc
#gamma_max_travel                0
alpha_homing_retract_mm         3
beta_homing_retract_mm          3

gamma_min_endstop                            nc               # this was working
gamma_max_endstop                            1.29^!           #
gamma_homing_direction                       home_to_max      #
gamma_min                                    0                #
gamma_max                                    325          #was  325

Motor Settings

Hybrid closed loop stepper motor circuit diagram: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mM3pHgCQtC6CkLPrFC18jmNuRIZwesA1/view

3D Potter uses two type of motors on our printers, normal stepper motors and hybrid closed loop steppers. The hybrid closed loop steppers, which use green connectors, have 6 setting switches on these motors. These switches control settings such as speed and direction. If the machine is not printing correctly, such as printing ovals instead of circles or rectangles instead of squares, one of these switches my have been accidentally flipped. To change them, you need to remove to protective tape covering them, and flip them to the correct positions displayed below.

7 Series printer
X Motor 1 and 4 ON
Y Motor 1 and 4 ON
Z Motor 1 and 4 ON
Extruder Motor 3 and 4 ON

Duet Series Printer
X Motor 3 and 4 ON
Y Motor 3 and 4 ON
Z Motor 3 and 4 ON
Extruder Motor 3 and 4 ON

Wifi Networking

All 3D potter printers broadcast there own WiFi network to connect to. Here is a guide on basic connection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5__oClYqolI

The Scara and version 9 printers can be connected to in multiple ways. It can connect to a WiFi network, or generate its own becoming its own router. When programming the WiFi to connect to an existing network (or to generate its own), the exact name and password of the wifi network it is connecting to (or generating) must be entered as a command, this is a one time event. When it powers up it runs through all of the commands in config file located in the sys folder. One of these commands is to tell the machine to connect to a network (M552 S1) or to generate its own network (M552 S2), this must be changed to what suits your needs.

WiFi programming guide:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BwdYpcely2xSUYif5ZjxdKp1nnoRooya53lZVmJBwJY/edit
https://duet3d.dozuki.com/Wiki/Gcode#Section_M587_Add_WiFi_host_network_to_remembered_list_or_list_remembered_networks
https://duet3d.dozuki.com/Wiki/Gcode#Section_M589_Configure_access_point_parameters

Connecting to the board via USB: https://duet3d.dozuki.com/Guide/1.)+Getting+Connected+to+your+Duet/7

USB drivers: https://github.com/dc42/RepRapFirmware/blob/dev/Driver/DuetDriverFiles.zip

YAT terminal: https://sourceforge.net/projects/y-a-terminal/

What lubricants are used with the machine?

On the main acme screw Lithium Grease, White is used. Purchasable at most hardware stores and Home Depot
https://www.homedepot.com/p/Lucas-Oil-8-oz-Lithium-Grease-White-10533/202535870

The rails have a very light coat of cleaner wax on them, make sure that not too much is applied. You should not be able too see any lumps on the rails, only a very thine sheen of reflecting light when viewed at an angle. Purchasable at car parts stores and online.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0002U1TVW/ref=twister_B00ODVQYE8?_encoding=UTF8&th=1

Nozzle STL Files

3D Potter printers use PLA+ nozzles. These are 3D printed parts that you can print as well. You do not need to use PLA+, you can use normal PLA, t-glass, or other 3D printer materials. We just find PLA+ to be the best material.

STL Files: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/15FejMbBkQjvuXlme5Wl7tcbEqSsKPWkT

Filament used by 3D Potter: https://www.amazon.com/eSUN-1-75mm-Printer-Filament-2-2lbs/dp/B01EKEMUEK/

Linear ram extruders with robotic arms

In order to drive the linear Ram stepper motor you will have to supply engage, step, and direct signals at 3 amps (these are typical stepper motor requirements). 

You can purchase our standalone Standalone Extruder Driver assembly, or DIY one but this requires medium to high experience.

The stepper motor we use requires ~2.7 amps so plan accordingly if you're going to supply this directly from your equipment.

If you decide to drive your RAM remotely with hose please be advised that we supply a hose adapter kit ($175). This kit comes with 24 inches of flexible high pressure clear  hose. Please follow the recommended clay consistency when using the hose assembly. If your clay is too thick you will damage the hose assembly and/or the ram. This is a disadvantage of using a hose assembly or compressed air and auger arrangement. Your clay has to be considerately thin in order for the pressure to remain relatively low. This is again why I recommend direct nozzle extrusion because you're able to extrude a much thicker clay and achieve much larger vessels faster and without the disadvantages of thin clay mixtures.

How to re-flash the touch screen

Use a clean SD card with only the files you generate from your slicing program to prevent the firmware from being corrupted.
The touch screen has its own internal firmware separate from the control board. This firmware can be corrupted by inserting an SD card with files unfamiliar to the firmware.
I also recommend that you do not try to calibrate the screen, we have had more than a several customers attempt calibration and through miscalibration lose control of the screen. And this is another reason to reflash the firmware.

To reflash the touch screen go to this link and you'll find one folder and 2 files.

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1DBV5RblKxdkBFsivuoPm1V5pGU3L-ai0

It's imperative that you copy these exactly like they came off the drive (all 3, the folder and two files). Load these onto a clean formatted SD card under 64 gigabytes. Insert the card and power up the machine, the files will automatically load onto the touch screen and it will be to factory new specifications. Make sure that the unzipped folder, the mks_config.txt and the mkstft28.bin are the only thing on the card when trying to reflash the firmware.

If you have problems loading programs with the SD card, there are several possible problems:

1. The SD card is a poor quality one, corrupted, or for formatted incorrectly.
2. The SD card is too large. I recommend only using small SD cards, typically I use between 1 and 4 gigabytes, even smaller cards are acceptable. We have also had problems with the high performance SD cards
3. We have also had problems with Mac computers writing additional data onto the Gcode files which make them unusable. Please be aware of this and if it's a problem, try to switch to Windows machine.

When you flash the touch screen with these files please be aware they can only be used one time. The process of flashing the screen changes the files on the SD card. If you need to do it again, use clean card and get a fresh copy of the file from the above link.

Control Over USB (Verion 7 Printers)

We do not support or recommend using our printer over USB. The Smoothieware boards are not compatible with every device (Certain versions of Windows, Mac, linux, etc.) In some cases, the board is sent too much power over USB, while the machine is plugged in, causing it to draw power from two sources of electricity to run the machine. This has caused circuits to burn out..

For our printers that use the SD card and touch screen, we highly recommend that you never use the USB. The only acceptable time to use the USB is to edit the configuration file for the maximum Z rail travel distance shown in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKtd7GA88xM

We have had too many issues of different variations in which a whole circuit board gets fried due to issues of excess power over USB.

For information on control over USB please see: http://smoothieware.org/usb
The manufacture of the board (Smoothieware) also warns that they will not help/replace for any shorts or over voltage caused by the user.

Any damages caused by surges over USB to the machine are not covered under warranty.

My Ram is making a bit of a grinding noise

The sound you are experiencing is most likely the stepper motor stalling. There are several reasons this could happen. 

1. There is not enough lubrication on the screw and/or the anti-rotator nut that moves up and down the square tube (this is likely).

2. The clay is too hard, not allowing the motor to overcome to force needed to push it out through the nozzle, or there is a blockage in the nozzle (this is likely).

3. The piston is jammed in the cylinder (this is unlikely).

4. The gearbox is jammed, or the motor is defective (this is highly unlikely).

Unable to extrude the last .25" to .5" of clay in the Ram

We also get about 1/4-1/2 inch (~6-12mm) or so of harder clay remaining at the end of the clay cartridge. This can be from clay being exposed to air in the tube, causing it to dry out faster than clay in the middle of the tube. The ACME screw can also be a cause of this problem on our longer tubes. It is possible that the screw could of been bent slightly, causing a deviation from being straight the more it is extended due to clay that is too hard.

New i20 Gearbox for Z axis

The new i20 Gearbox has a reduced ratio of 1 to 20, rather than 1 to 30. This allows the motor to run at a slower speeds, as some prints were causing the motor to run at max RPM. If replacing the i30 with an i20 gearbox, the config file on the circuit board must be changed. The easiest way to change the file is by unplugging the machine first, and hooking up the USB cable to the underside of the screen to edit the config file. DO NOT CHANGE THE FIRMWARE FILE.

The line “gamma_steps_per_mm...” must have its value changed to the appropriate value depending on which motor you have.

Stepper Motor: 952

Hybrid Stepper (10): 7775

i20+gearbox.png