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

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.

3 Responses to “Why I Haven’t Touched the MakerBot CupCake for Four and a Half Years”

  1. J. Peterson says:

    Your blog helped convinced me to avoid purchasing a 3D printer and open a Shapeways account. Seriously, I’m grateful for this.

  2. Keith Neufeld says:

    Ah, that made me actually laugh out loud. I’m glad someone got good value from this! :-)

    I’m extremely impressed with the print quality of modern Prusa machines and what i hear from one of my employees about the reliability and ease of use. I’d be ordering one already but I’d really like to get this CupCake going (which is in the works).

  3. Dillon Nichols says:

    I have a similarly old 3D printer and at least have the time I’ve ever used it has been spent on adjustments to make the print quality at least acceptable. Like you said about the Prusa, I would certainly buy one of those if I would use it more often, but for now I slog through the process of recalibrating it each time I want to print something.

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