Friday, February 7, 2014

Filastruder assembly - from KickStarter

Some time ago I backed a filament extruder project on KickStarter called Filastruder.  I finally got around to setting it up and was very successful actually extruding from it.  Quite pleased and happy with myself.

This project took way longer than it should have, due to what I consider icky instructions and a "slap me silly" moment or two (actually two).

My "number" is 151, and it's Version 1.1.  Look forward to many many pounds of plastic extrusion through this beast.  I found it actually pretty well engineered, using mostly off the shelf parts and put into a nice little kit.

The Build

First step is actually taking inventory.  Here I just did a quick check to make sure have all the parts that should be included.  In terms of bags of parts didn't inventory those at this stage, just made sure had the bag and fondled the bags to gawk at the parts, looking them over, and making sure nothing was bent, broken, etc.  At this stage everything looked pretty darn good.

Two of the first steps are:
  • Debur nipple cutout with file, dremel, or deburring tool
  • Grind lips of nipples until there is no ridge left on inside of nipple

Nipple before deburring
I have no idea what a nipple is, in this context.  Eventually figured it out after gawking through the bags again.  There was this long pipe with the cutout.  It is somewhat hard to see in the picture, but there is some pieces of metal which needs to be trimmed off.  Took the picture with the handy dandy "dremel" tool from Harbor Freight..  Eewww..

All done, oh so shiny!
Most times, especially with electrical tools, it pays to get the real stuff, the real deal.  The dremel tool was barely adequate, in that it did the job, was able to successfully finish the piece, as shown, but it took me at least twice as long as normal.  Used a cutoff wheel to get rid of the big pieces, then a diamond thing to get everything flat and smooth and oh so nice feeling.

Closeup view - straight on
Close up view of one end of opening
Notice that the inside is a little on the rusty side.  This is the black iron pipe that I've seen used in things such as natural gas piping for homes.  I forget the actual name of it, and am sure there are many other uses for this black pipe.  Will have to run a bunch of filament through here to get rid of the rust, before feeding the filament through my new 3D printer which should be in my hands within couple of months!  Can't wait, hence why am assembling this now, gives me chance to have the plastic smell.

Initial assembly
This is another place where I felt the instructions could've been made quite a bit clearer.  Looking back on it, after have it figured out, it all makes sense.  While assembling though put these parts on in the reverse order.  Had to watch a youtube video by someone who has the same version number before it finally clicked.  While this wasn't cause of my problems later on, am sure it didn't help, though am also sure it would've worked regardless, assuming everything else was done properly.  What had reversed was the shaft collar, thrust bearing, and the bushing.  Again, after the fact I should've picked up on it, such is life.  At least it's fixed now, and it's proper.

Auger inserted into shaft and secured to support
All in all, this part was mostly start forward, with exception of above.  Four bolts, nylon spaces, hopper, and all that happy jazz.  It is surprisingly sturdy and solid.  Most, if not all, of these parts, with exception of the hopper, are off the shelf so easy to replicate or find replacements.

Motor mount
Unbeknownst to me, this gear motor had to  be positioned in a certain manner so this part took one or two times to get right.  It was unclear exactly how this was to be mounted so put it on the wrong way.  Couple steps later, when had to actually mount this whole part, things were not lining up as they should have.  The connector piece was at an odd angle and am pretty sure it was meant to be straight to keep unwanted forces at bay.  Moral of the story is to test fit (which I did) prior to locking everything in place.
YAY Tools!, err, washer too

So, this socket, the wonderful DeWalt Impact Ready socket, is labeled as a motor/auger coupling.  I actually thought it was meant to tighten some of the bolts down.  Oh woe is me.  When putting the socket (end which fits on the ratchet), onto the auger motor shaft, it spins freely which is generally not good.  That is what the washer is for, to provide the extra material to prevent the free spinning.  It was a little wobbly but still sufficient, if everything is assembled properly.  I had issues, but people tell me I always have issues.

Socket, washer, and auger
The business end of the socket fit like a glove onto one end of the auger.  Used the weak "dremel", or rotary, tool to flatten one side.  Had to put washer in a small vice and then grind down one edge until it fit into the square end of the socket..  There really is a joke here about fitting a round thing into a square hole, but exact words escape me.  However, it's all complete and ready for the auger motor!

Heating element
Shaft with coupling/heater
Next step was to attach the coupling onto end of the nipple, and then wrap it in a heating element.  There is a brass plug in here too, which is seen later.  This part is actually fairly straight forward as coupling just screwed on, the heater element fit nicely around the coupling, and used an allen wrench to tighten it down.

The brass plug actually goes into the other end of coupling, as shown.  In the inventory picture I have three plugs, a blank one, one for 1.7mm and 3mm filament.  Am happy got the 3mm filament one as saw a new printer at the 3D world expo in LA that actually uses 3mm, though for the most part new printers use 1.7mm, which think offers more precision for extrusion.

Completed extruder section
Here can see the completed section with brass plug, insulation, hopper, and everything else in place where it should be, in an ideal world.

Motor mount mounted
Now it's time to assemble all these pieces into one fully functioning machine.  A couple quick screws on the bottom secured the motor mount to the board.  A quick note on the board, it's one I grabbed while was on Vashon Island, and it looks to have been part of decking or something.  Unsure what it's old use was, but it's new use is to hold everything together!

Auger and motor joined
Next up was to mount the actual filament extruder and joint it to the auger motor.  The instructions said to make sure it's a tight fit and that there is no movement, i.e. have some pressure between the two so it's not all sloppy when running.  It actually makes sense and was able to pull it off pretty well at this point!  Secured it with couple more screws from the bottom, and two plastic angle brackets.  Pretty nicely done.
Drilling out fan holes

Due to reusing a board that was "almost" long enough, had to figure out some way to mount the cooling fan.  While am sure this way will cause me challenges in the future, especially since am in an RV, only way could do it now.  The original plans called for it to be on the "other side" of the fan mount board, which would keep it protected from the additional risk of being snapped off.  Didn't have the luxury due to length of the mounting board.

Fan mounted
This was the final step, prior to installing the electronics and wires, of the instructions.  Picture on the left shows fan mounted, as well as the completed Filastruder, sans electronics.  Looking back on it, after successfully extruded, it was a fairly simple and straight forward process, assuming understood the instructions.
Lonely left-over

This led me to reinventory and identify if had any parts leftover which didn't have a home, or I forgot.  Found this one piece.  It's a reducer to go from one size pipe to another.  Scanned the instructions thoroughly and didn't see anyplace where this was referenced at all so it goes into box of unknown parts, or I ziptie it to the extruder...

One minor complaint I had was they didn't show pictures of everything wired up.  There are two schematics in the install guide which have to follow in order to wire things up.  These schematics are for different types of controllers (for the heater).  I was following the wrong one, and when got to last step in there was looking for a #2 connection point that didn't exist.  This is when I went, ruh-roh, and saw the other schematic.  Had to rewire at this point a little, not too bad.

After had wired everything up, turned it on of course.  Did a dry run and everything seemed fine..  When put in pellets to start the extrusion process they went backwards.  At this point the solution was simple but for the life of me had a huge brain turd and the solution didn't come to me.  Spent a lot longer than necessary trying to figure out why pellets were going backwards.  The simple solution was the motor, but I refused to believe it was that as had the red wire hooked up to the terminal marked with a red dot.  Right, right?  Turns out, long story short, just reversed the wires and it extruded perfectly.

Things in right order
But, this gave me the opportunity to fix a wrong I had made.  Pointed out above that had put things onto the auger shaft in the wrong order.  To clean up this mess had to take everything apart so watched that youtube video (trying to figure out why auger was going in reverse (duh)), got correct order of these parts, and fixed them.

AAAHH, extrusion
Was very elated to finally get an extrusion.  It was quite dirty at first due to black pipe goodness, but it cleaned up quite well, though still has a little more to go before it's pristine.

When had motor going right way, the extruder tightened itself up which threw off the hopper a little, as shown here.

 It's a little hard to see, but there is a thermistor, which measures temperature, in end of the brass plug.  The instructions called for wrapping it in Kapton tape, which is a resistant to high temperatures.  Didn't have any handy so chose to go through my garbage, grab piece of aluminum foil, wrap that around the brass thing and secure it all in place with a hose clamp.  This seems to work very nice!

Closer view of extrusion
 If get the opportunity to do another one of these, I know which steps to do, and not to do, and which parts to pay more attention to.  This was a little challenging, some names were threatened to be called.  In the end was victorious without having to call in reinforcements, or post a "HELP ME" thread to message boards.


  1. Square peg in a round hole? You could ask for help but not from this guy! I have no idea what you would/can do with these extruders and 3D printers. I can't wait to see you again and learn something. It's snowing in Tacoma and we have a scoot meeting tomorrow. Oh boy, and GO HAWKS!

    1. Can't wait to be back! Lot's of good times!

      Hope ride was nice and toasty, will try and print some sunshine.