Frequently asked questions
Do you offer warranty?
Yes! It's 1 year on parts excluding consumables, ACME screw and nut. We don't cover: 1. damage from electrical surges or damage from USB port surges. 2. Damages from lack of cleaning and lubrication. and 3. Damages to the touch screen caused either by excessive force or corruption of the firmware.
Operation notes for version 2.0 and up
After assembly, your first print should be the file on the SD card called "small bottle". Please watch the video about touch screen for operation prior to running the machine.
When manually jogging the axes, do not run them into the end stops. If you do this, they will jam. If the Acme screw jams, simply turn off the power and slowly back the Acme screw away from the stop.
When you initially load the extruder tube, use soft clay. The biggest problem we've had so far with our customers is that they load very hard clay, and it is possible to damage the screw this way. Also, if the clay in the tube is under pressure for too long, it will harden.
It's best to back off the pressure from the screw at the end of the day (GO E-9999 F9999 ) or before storage for a day or two. Depending on the clay you can leave it in the tube that is not under pressure for 1 - 2 weeks.
We recommend Zep Dry Moly NC Solid Film Lubricant on the extruder ACME screw a couple of times a week (2000ml and 925 ml extruders).
How do I create an object?
In order to create an object you must first develop a shape. There are some simple programs like Tinkercad or our favorite is Fusion 360 which is free for students and small businesses. These software programs are capable of just taking simple shapes and turning them into very attractive objects to print on our ceramic printer.
After you've generated your vessel, it's a simple process with Fusion 360 or any other program to turn it into STL file. From the STL file the program needs to be sliced and processed into g-code. This process has become very simple over time with multiple free programs like Repetier Cura and Simplify 3D which is $140 but has some very good features and visualizations.
Once you slice your object and set the parameters for the printer, it automatically generates the G code. This G code can be connected to the printer either with the USB cable or SD card. If you choose the USB cable, you can run directly from the above-mentioned slicer programs with full control of speed and flow of the ceramic material.
Alternatively, you can load the G code from your slicer program directly on SD card and insert it into the 3D PotterBot touch screen (optional on some models). After loading the SD card, it's a simple process of pushing two or three buttons and your print will start. From the touchscreen you have full control over the speed and ceramic flow again so that you're capable of fine tuning the print even while it's in process.
1. Cut purchased clay into smaller sections, put in wet micro fiber towel or felt in the plastic bag. The moisture from the cloth will penetrate to clay in a day or so.
2. Manual wedging with adding extra water until the consistency is right.
3. Use pug mill and add small amounts of water while cycling the clay through the pug mill several times to get the right consistency. Then the tubes can be loaded directly from the pug mill.
These are our favorite clay bodies which are readily available here in the USA from any pottery supply or ceramic craft studio.
- WC‑901 Maccabee Mix 5 Clay - stoneware
- WC-902 Axner Mary's Porcelain Clay - porcelain
- EM‑700 Vince's Low White Clay - earthenware
After all the testing we seem to prefer the Maccabees cone 5 stoneware. It has the best interlayer adhesion and is quite easily extruded in both of our extruders. We do add some water to the stoneware which seems to help with interlayer adhesion and ease of extrusion.
The earthenware performs well also although it does not extrude as easily as the stoneware. The interlayer adhesion is a little bit less than the stoneware also but this doesn't seem to be a problem as long as you do not let the moisture come out of the clay too fast after printing.
This is the only porcelain that we have experimented with. Interlayer adhesion seems to be a problem as the moisture dissipates too quickly on a large print for the layers to adhere. Especially on larger vessels where the nozzle comes around to the overlap point after period of time the moisture doesn't seem to be there. This also depends on your environment temperature and humidity. There's so much to say and so much experimenting to be done in our 3D ceramic studio. We have yet to make up our own clay preparation and this is another way to go.
Loading your polycarbonate Ram Tubes
There are several ways to load the cylinders. The easiest way by far is with the use of a pug mill. It's necessary to machine a small transitional flange from the nozzle of the pug mill to hold the polycarbonate tube in place.
For best results you should use a De-airing pug mill and a double auger will give you better performance than a single auger. Although a single auger is adequate the consistency of the clays is more critical when it comes to loading the tubes. The consistency of the clay should be similar to a standard throwing clay but wetter. This can be accomplished by running the clay through the pug mill and adding small quantity of water. If too much water is added to the clay the pug mill can actually not function sufficiently enough to load the tubes. This happens because the auger has no traction against the side of the pug mill as the clay mixture becomes too loose. It also depends on the pug mill and its ability to forcefully push the clay.
Loading by hand
The simple answer is add 15 ounces of water to standard 25 pound bag of clay.
I cut the square bag of clay into 4 long pieces and I usually put microfiber towel in between the clay pieces before I add the water. Now roll up the bag again and make it airtight. Wait until the water has penetrated the clay, usually one to two days. Now take out the clay that has the proper moisture content, roll it into a cylinder a little bit smaller then the diameter of inside of the tube. Put the nozzle on the tube with tape over the end and gently tap the long piece of clay into the tube. Tap the tube and nozzle on soft piece of carpet so not to damage it. That's it, this is your best method to load your tubes without a pug mill.
This is done with a trowel or a spatula on a flat table. As you force clay you can tap the tube to move the clay further down as you continue to load the tube. If the consistency of the clay is correct, you can eliminate the air at the same time.
2000ml linear Ram with robotic arm
In order to use a 2000ml linear Ram with robotic arm the following items are required.
First please refer to the document below that describes the use of our linear Ram with hose assembly. We highly recommend using your robotic arms by holding the extruder directly in the robotic arm. There are many advantages to the direct nozzle extruding which is explained below.
In order to drive the linear Ram stepper motor you will have to supply engage, step, and direct signals at 3 amps (these are typical stepper motor requirements).
There are several ways to do this. First you can purchase our standalone touch screen assembly which has on board Smoothie driver board.
The standalone touch screen can control flow rate through manual controls or G-code loaded into the board via SD card.
You can also purchase motor driver box, this enables you to control the stepper motor through the driver box from your controller board. The stepper motor we use requires 2.7 amps so plan accordingly if you're going to supply this directly from your equipment.
If you decide to drive your RAM remotely with hose please be advised that we supply a hose adapter kit ($175). This kit comes with 24 inches of flexible high pressure clear hose. Please follow the recommended clay consistency when using the hose assembly. If your clay is too thick you will damage the hose assembly and/or the ram. This is a disadvantage of using a hose assembly or compressed air and auger arrangement. Your clay has to be considerately thin in order for the pressure to remain relatively low. This is again why I recommend direct nozzle extrusion because you're able to extrude a much thicker clay and achieve much larger vessels faster and without the disadvantages of thin clay mixtures.
My Ram is making a bit of a grinding noise
I believe the sound you are experiencing is the stepper motor stalling. There are several reasons this could happen.
1. The piston is jammed in the cylinder (but this is unlikely).
2. The gearbox is jammed (and this is highly unlikely).
3. The stepper motor is receiving insufficient voltage to operate. Here's a link to a video explaining how to adjust the extruder driver. The extruder driver has the larger heat sink.
I'm very careful about adjusting the voltage correctly (1.5 volts only on Delta bot V 1.0) before the units are shipped but this is what I would check first. Also keep the screw clean. The manufacturer of the screw recommends this type of lubricant:
Unable to extrude the last .25 to.5" of clay in the Ram
We also get 10mm or so of harder clay remaining at the end of the clay cartridge. It's not a big problem but I wonder what lies behind the effect. In our case it always happens even if we use all the clay in the cartridge for one print. However, the moisture takes time to show above the plunger. Our experience as potters is that clay shears very easily when deformed slowly, even when just rolling a slab. We speculate that maybe the softer, wetter clay funnels down the centre of the cartridge and leaves harder clay along the walls. Eventually the clay along the walls hits the bottom
I think the platelets in the clay change when they are under pressure and the movement of the RAM as it is discharging. I have only had one case of not being able to empty the RAM and it was with porcelain.
3D PotterBot V1.0 only will not Auto level
If you auto bed level with loose belt or dirty pulleys you will enter incorrect information into the EEPROM. If the Delta radius and diagonal rod info is too far from reality the printer will never auto level. Please reset manually.
Delta radius = 136.75 send this M666 R 136.75
diagonal rod length = 328.0 send this M666 D 328.0
send this to save M500