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 damage from 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.
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.
Loading your polycarbonate ram tubes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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. If you need to do it again, use clean card and get a fresh copy of the file from the above link.
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
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.
How do I create an object?
In order to create an object you must first develop a shape. There are some simple programs like Tinkercad or 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 $140 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 connected to the printer either with the USB cable or SD card. If you choose the USB cable, you can run directly from the above-mentioned slicer programs with full control of speed and flow of the ceramic material.
Alternatively, you can load the G code from your slicer program directly on SD card and insert it into the 3D PotterBot touch screen (optional on some models). 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.
Setting the Z height for additional printing room
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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. The clay is too hard, not allowing the motor to overcome to force needed to push it out through the nozzle (this is likely).
2. The piston is jammed in the cylinder (this is unlikely).
3. 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.
3D PotterBot V1.0 only will not Auto level
If you auto bed level with loose belt or dirty pulleys you will enter incorrect information into the EEPROM. If the Delta radius and diagonal rod info is too far from reality the printer will never auto level. Please reset manually.
Delta radius = 136.75 send this M666 R 136.75
diagonal rod length = 328.0 send this M666 D 328.0
send this to save M500
Operation notes for version 2.0 and up
Remember, you can run the machine without the touch screen via USB cable from your slicing program. We recommend Simplify 3D.
After assembly, your first print should be the file on the SD card called "small bottle". Please watch the video about touch screen for operation prior to running the machine.
When manually jogging the axes, do not run them into the end stops. If you do this, they will jam. If the Acme screw jams, simply turn off the power and slowly back the Acme screw away from the stop.
If you generate the G code with the speed mm/s too fast, the stepper motors will lock and missteps. Simply decrease the speed until the printer prints properly.
When you initially load the extruder tube, use soft clay. The biggest problem we've had so far with our customers is that they load very hard clay, and it is possible to damage the screw this way. Also, if the clay in the tube is under pressure for too long, it will harden.
It's best to back off the pressure from the screw at the end of the day (GO E-9999 F9999 ) or before storage for a day or two. Depending on the clay you can leave it in the tube that is not under pressure for 1 - 2 weeks.
We recommend Lube on the extruder ACME screw a couple of times a month
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