3D Printer, Fix Thyself.

fan-adapterI’ve enjoyed using my 3D printer to solve little problems around the house. This project was extra amusing: I wanted to solve a problem I had with my 3D printer that I wanted to solve with the 3D printer.

My Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer is a basic unit built to a low cost, and I’m probably using it a lot more than it was designed for. The first component to show serious wear was the tiny 30mm cooling fan, a simple unit with a cheap sleeve bearing that wore out. As a result the fan started vibrating and making quite a racket.

I could easily buy a direct replacement fan online, but where’s the fun in that? I have a 40mm fan just lying around anyway. Let’s make an adapter!

For a while I was stymied by the fact that the two fans were mounted in opposite and inconvenient directions. The original 30mm fan screws were pointed in the direction of airflow, and the original 40mm fan screws were pointed against the airflow. This meant that when one set of fasteners were mounted on an adapter, holes for the other set would be blocked.

I spent approximately an hour tearing my hair out trying to design something clever, to no avail. Then clumsiness came to the rescue: I held the cooling duct (which the fan would be mounted on) in my hand, trying to think, when I accidentally dropped it. When it hit the floor, it fell apart into two pieces.

The duct was actually two pieces fit snugly against each other. All this time I had thought it was a single piece! With the two pieces apart, the interior of the duct became accessible. This meant I could use the 30mm fan screws opposite of the original direction (pointed against the airflow) where it is no longer blocked by the 40mm fan.

Suddenly the adapter project became trivial.

“Oops” moment for the win!

Entering the World of 3D Printing

153651And now for something completely different… I got a 3D printer! I’ve been keeping an eye on the field for years, and I knew it was only a matter of time before the price point drops to a point where I can no longer resist.

The Monoprice Select Mini 3D Printer (Item #153651) is their entry-level offering at $199. For an entry-level item, it has an impressive array of features. All the basics plus some not-so-basic features like a heated build bed. At the standard price it was already quite tempting. When Monoprice threw a 4th of July sale that cuts 20% off the price of any Monoprice-branded item… I could no longer resist.

As advertised, it came completely built and almost ready to go: the build bed levelling had to be double-checked because that can easily shift in transit, and indeed I had to make a few minor adjustments before it was level. It came with a micro-SD card with a G-code file ready to go, plus a short sample of PLA filament. I was up and printing within half an hour – very impressive!

The only complaint is that their sample filament is too short to actually complete the sample print job on the microSD card. If you look at the picture above (from Monoprice web site) it’s in the middle of printing the same object, and it is stopped at around the same point as the filament running out. I’m not sure if that’s a coincidence or intentional. In any case, I couldn’t complete the print until I got more filament to feed the machine.

Now I’m learning all the basics of tweaking a 3D printer. Temperature, speed, all that good stuff. It also means I need to learn some new tools. A 3D design program (I’m looking at Onshape, but there are many others) and a slicer to turn the 3D design into a G-code file (Monoprice recommended Cura for this printer.)

My Ruby on Rails education has been seriously sidetracked by this adventure, but it’ll be fun!