Archive for July, 2018

Booting the MakerBot CupCake after Five Years Part 3: Heated Build Platform and First Print

Monday, July 9th, 2018

Friday evening I left off with the extruder working again. Saturday I focused on the heated build platform.

I’ve always had astoundingly good luck with kapton tape since nophead’s serendipitous discovery, probably because I (still) prefer to print in ABS. When the build platform is warm, my prints stick to it absolutely with no raft or mouse ears and once it has cooled, they release easily. That’s a pretty compelling combination.

kapton tape for MakerBot CupCake heated build platform

So my first step was replacing the scraped-up kapton that I gouged the last time the printer was on. I bought a 4″ roll way back when and I keep a strip of unsticky tucked under the end so I don’t have to peel it up with fingernails and get fingerprints on the stickum.

In the past I’ve always replaced the tape by sticking down the end and using a credit card to “squeegee” it onto the surface, and it can be tough to avoid getting bubbles. Yesterday I unrolled enough tape to cover the platform and when I had it stretched out, it was easy to align the front edge of the tape with the front edge of the platform, at which point I squeegeed it down with my thumb with no bubbles at all. Huh, well, I guess I’ll remember that.

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Booting the MakerBot CupCake after Five Years Part 2: Installing Software

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

The next step in running the CupCake 3D printer is reinstalling the software and connecting to the machine.

ReplicatorG 0026 main screen

It went surprisingly well, with the only real snag being my misremembering the installation process, leaving me stuck in NotConnectedLand for a while.

What Software

A lot has happened in the world of hobbyist 3D printing since the last time I had the CupCake powered up and both new firmware and new driver software are available. I’m interested in upgrading both as I have time; but for a first boot, I want to change as few variables as possible. That means leaving the firmware that’s on the CupCake and matching a legacy version of ReplicatorG to what’s on it. And I had no idea what was on it.

Fortunately I have a blog and on that blog I write some things.

I went to my own blog’s MakerBot CupCake blog category and quickly found the January 2012 post on rebuilding the heater in which I had written:

… I upgraded ReplicatorG from 0024 to 0029r2, and let it upgrade my firmware from v2.4 (I think) to v3.0, and lo! lost communication between ReplicatorG and the CupCake…

This is apparently a known problem …

Anyway, downgrading ReplicatorG to 0026 restored my connectivity …

So there you have it: I need ReplicatorG version 0026 to connect to the 3.0 firmware currently on my CupCake.

Happily, the ReplicatorG web site is still online in spite of MakerBot’s acquisition by Stratasys (though I note there have been no code updates since the acquisition). The download page has dowload links for only the last version (0040) but also has links to the Google Code archive, which on p3 has that 0026 for the Mac that I’m looking for.

Running ReplicatorG

I downloaded ReplicatorG 0026 and tried running it from the disk image before actually installing it on my laptop. I got the standard security warning:

OS X security warning about ReplicatorG

and had to look up to right-click and Open rather than double-click and change security preferences. After much playing around yesterday, I see that OS X Sierra does not remember approval I’ve given to run software on a disk image but does remember approval I’ve given to run software once it’s installed.

Once I got past that, I got a Java version error:

ReplicatorG 0026 needs Java SE6

Shockingly, clicking More Info... in that dialog does something useful — it takes me to Apple’s JRE download page for that version. After regaining consciousness, I installed that software and ReplicatorG starts up like a champ.

Can’t Connect to the CupCake (Because I Installed ReplicatorG Wrong)

It doesn’t appear to see the CupCake, though,

ReplicatorG no machineNode found

giving the error:

Could not load machine 'null' no machineNode found
could not load machine 'null' please check Driver-> <Machine Name>

It does see my FTDI USB-serial cable under Machine / Serial Port. It does not have anything listed under Machine / Driver and it does not bring up anything when I select Machine / Machine Information…

I don’t find much online about this. A Thingiverse Sailfish firmware comment sounds as though I simply have the wrong machine type selected, but I can’t even select a machine type. The tail end of a ReplicatorG comment thread sounds as though it can’t see USB-serial ports on current OS X versions, but it does see it. A much older MakerBot forum post mentions success after reseating the FTDI cable; but I don’t even know whether that’s the same issue and reseating mine didn’t help.

Installing ReplicatorG Correctly

It seemed obviously wrong that I couldn’t bring up the Machine Information… dialog, and I hunched that something was wrong there. Researching about the machine type, I saw that the ReplicatorG machine configuration page mentions a machines.xml file, which I didn’t have. But that sparked a memory — the ReplicatorG disk image had a machines folder in it and … oh, yeah.

The ReplicatorG Mac installation page clearly says to create a ReplicatorG folder under Applications and drag the entire contents of the ReplicatorG disk image into it. Which I hadn’t. I’d just dragged the app because in spite of remembering and knowing better, I’d just dragged the app.

I deleted the app from Applications, created the folder, dragged the contents, started ReplicatorG by right-clicking and choosing Open, and boom. Connected to the CupCake.

First Extrusion

I went back to my same blog post and found the nozzle temperature that works well for my CupCake, then set that and ran the extruder:

ReplicatorG 0026 extruder control panel

I don’t have any of my CupCake’s calibration settings loaded in yet, in particular my thermistor coefficients, so this temperature is only an estimate; but it worked well enough.

MakerBot CupCake test extrusion

First squeeze! Software installed; connected to and controlling the machine.

A Brief Aside About the FTDI USB-Serial Driver

When first I ran the ReplicatorG software, I wondered whether I had the FTDI USB-Serial driver already loaded on my MacBook from working with Arduino or whether the driver was missing and was the cause of the problem. ReplicatorG did find a USB-Serial under the Serial Port list, but I still questioned.

A bit of research shows that the driver’s presence or absence can be seen by running System Information and looking under Software / Installations. I didn’t see it there and I found that it can also be checked by running pkgutil --pkgs | grep -i ftdi . Didn’t see it there either.

The FTDI driver version supplied with ReplicatorG was of course quite old and I didn’t know how well it’d work on a newer OS X release. I went to FTDI’s Virtual Com Port (VCP) driver page, downloaded and installed version 2.4.2, and found that it made no changes to what I was experiencing. I’m wondering whether the FTDI driver is by now supplied as part of OS X or whether it silently installed when I installed the Arduino software on this MacBook.

Booting the MakerBot CupCake after Five Years Part 1: Powering Up

Friday, July 6th, 2018

I devoted Wednesday, my Independence Day holiday, to getting my CupCake 3D printer running again.

MakerBot CupCake

Foreshadowing: It turned out as a pessimist might suspect rather than as an optimist might plan.

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Why I Haven’t Touched the MakerBot CupCake for Four and a Half Years

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

After making the filament de-duster five years ago about which I posted recently, I was finally getting consistent, reliable, beautiful 3D prints for the first time ever. For a month.

Then I was trying to print a draft of a pocket holder for a tube of moustache wax and comb and when I came back, I found that something had gone wrong after about 40 minutes of printing. I forget the order in which these occurred, but through the original attempt and two retries it:

  • kept running the filament while printing so the model snagged and the X-Y build platform skipped steps and lost its place; then when the print finished, kept the extruder on forever, creating a thumb-sized fungal growth of plastic
  • kept moving the X-Y build platform but stopped extruding
  • kept moving the X-Y build platform but shut off the nozzle heater, chewing a divot through the filament

failed MakerBot CupCake 3D print

The second try, I ran another print of the same model; the third try, I made a tiny dimensional change to the model or Skeinforge settings in case the extruder controller was glitching on some particular G code; but that doesn’t seem to have been the case. I got different bad behaviors and it seemed as though the extruder controller stopped taking instructions and kept doing exactly what it was doing at that moment.

I don’t know whether it’s a firmware bug, a power supply problem, a wiring problem, an extruder board problem, or something I haven’t thought of yet. I have (recently) found reference to a few of the DC extruder motor windings shorting, reducing the coil resistance and increasing the load, to the point that the extruder controller FETs burn out. But these weren’t burned out — they worked again immediately (for another 40 minutes).

And then before I could muster the motivation to troubleshoot it, both my laptop SSD and my workstation motherboard crashed, leaving me no working computer with 3D-printing software installed and no working computer with my CupCake’s calibration settings on it. And then time passed; OSes were upgraded; ReplicatorG versions increased; the barrier to reentry increased substantially; and I simply have not touched it since early 2014.

This shall change.