FDM Machine Operation

The steps you need to take, when you want to run a part on the FDM machine.
  1. Place your STL file in a location on the internet where it can be easily reached from within a web browser.
  2. Go to 2111 Etcheverry.
  3. If the machine is not already running, turn on the machine.
  4. If there is a finisched part inside the build cavity, open the door, slide a long knife along the yellow or pink foam substrate and prie it underneath the grey support base of the part; gently twist and lift the knife to pop the part off the substrate.
  5. With the long-hair brush, clean all debries of the stage, and remove most of the filament residues from the bottom of the cavity.
  6. Close the door to keep the cavity temparature near the set point (67 degrees).
  7. Download or FTP your STL file to the PC in the corner behind the machine.
  8. Open the file in QuickSlice (as STL).
  9. Within the menu tab "Orient STL", move the part to the origin, check its size and orientation, and adjust as necessary.
    ==> Perhaps "Save STL" -- overwriting the old STL file.
  10. Calculate the part slices for each fabrication layer.
    View the sliced part with the "All" button in "Iso" mode to get a quick feel that everything worked nicely.
    View some individual slices with the "Current" mode in "Top" view.
  11. Calculate the support structure.
    - - This may take some time for a complicated part (perhaps a few hours for a hundred thousand polygons forming complex geometry).
  12. Calculate the support base.
    - - Takes only seconds.
    ==> "Save SSL"
  13. Build the roads.
    - - A few minutes.
    ==> "Save SML" -- This is the file that will drive the machine.
  14. From Start menu, under the QuickSlice panel, open "FDM Send";
    - - Browse through the open file menu to find your SML file;
    - - Open the file, i.e., send it to the FDM machine.
  15. If the machine has not been used for more than an hour, check that the plastic flow in the nozzles is ready to go:
    Press "load" and wait until the model filament starts to flow smoothly;
    this may take 30 seconds -- then press "load" again to stop the flow.
    Press "model/support" and toggle to activate the support nozzle;
    Press "load" and wait until the support filament starts to flow smoothly;
    this ususlly happens within seconds -- then press "load" again to stop the flow.
    Press "model/support" and toggle again to reset the nozzles back to "model".
    Do one more quick run to make sure that the model filament is still running.
  16. On the FDM machine, press the "Pause" button, and then probably a second time -- until its light stops blinking.
  17. The support table will now reset its height, and the deposition head will do a little dance and eventually come to rest in the front left corner; at this time the "Pause" light turns on again.
  18. Now move the head with the manual x-y-controls to a reasonably flat area of the substrate, keeping in mind that this is the front left corner of your actual build area, and that you need to leave enough room in x and in y to accommodate the footprint of your part. Then adjust the z-position of the table so that the left filament dispensing nozzle just touches the surface of the foam pad. Then press "Pause" again to get the build process started.
  19. Fill out the log-sheet near the keyboard of the computer.
    It is probably a good idea to watch the building of the first layer to make sure that the footprint of the whole part fits on the foam pad, and that the grey beads stick to the foam and don't curl up and get dragged away.
  20. If the process does not start out satisfactorily, push the "Pause" button and wait until the machine has stopped moving. Terminate the "FDM Send" process by typing "ctrl-C". Then lower the FDM stage, clean the foam pad, and start all over.

Page Editor: Carlo H. Séquin