Duplicator 4 - 3D Printer Review

Hey Everyone!

Its been a little while since i posted an update...and it was a busy summer indeed.

First, the board is riding great.  Here is the latest video:

Since then, i've been working on a number of new projects, which prompted me to make the jump and buy my own 3D printer.  As anyone in the market would do, i read up on all the reviews i could.  I ended up going with my gut and getting the Duplicator 4 made by Wanhao, and i bought it from makergeeks.com

The only trick was there aren't much for reviews out there at the moment.  But on the bright side, its specs are almost exactly the same as the Replicator 2 from Makerbot....but just about half the price.

The unit arrive 2 weeks after my order date, which was the minimum expected (2-3 weeks).

Unpacking went smoothly.  It was very well packed and shipped.  Assembly was 2 screws for the extruders and some quick twists to mount the filament spools.

The instructions themselves could have used a little help on the grammar side of things, but all-in-all I was able to figure it out pretty easily.

Upon startup, you're instructed to run through a pretty easy leveling process.  4 spring-loaded hand screws under the build plate level each corner.  The program steps through front center, rear center, left and right, then center center.  asking you to adjust the plate in each step to allow only a piece of paper between the nozzle and the plate.

The heated bed has some sort of thin plastic coating on it, which i got a scratch/tear in mine, probably from my alignment being too tight, initially.  but it hasn't been a problem yet.

The printer takes .x3g files over USB or SD.  i've been using the SD exclusively, and generating the files with Replicator G.  Being new to all this, it took a few prints before i fully understood the variations and functions of each setting.  But pretty quickly i caught on with what works and what doesn't.  For now, i have 2 spools of ABS 1.75mm.  Default settings have been best.  220C tip, 110C platform, 30 feed and 30 travel, although i have been successful with 50mm/s too.

The onboard software has a few nice features that i wasn't fully aware of, and might be of some interest.  Today, i did a nozzle alignment, similar to a paper printers, where it prints a bunch of lines from both extruders and you pick which are best aligned.  I ended up updating 1 axis by 1 point.  The utility also includes the startup procedure script and a re-leveling script.  The LED functionality in the menu doesn't seem to work however :/

Overall construction of the printer is excellent, from what i can tell.  All the parts are solid, professionally molded (not printed) parts.  aluminum gears, solid bearings, belt driven XY axis, with belt tensioners.

Not sure what else to say about it.  If anyone has any questions, please comment here.

Heres some pictures of making in action;

Electric Skateboard at Westport Maker Faire + Rev 3


I will be demonstrating my electric skateboard at the Westport Maker Faire, on April, 27th.  This should be a super cool event, and I'm really looking forward to it.


Revision 3 is awesome!

Here is what changed:
  • Updated controller settings
  • New voltage regulator circuit
  • Reconfigured lots of wires
The results:
  1. The board now rides like a dream.  The wireless control takes you from a super slow creep, a foot per second or so, to full speed, in very nice increments -- easy to control, easy to hold a steady speed.  This is what i'm most happy about.  As noted earlier, there was some difficulty in this area, and i'm now fully satisfied with its operation.  Win!
  2. The voltage regulator now allows me to power the wireless receiver with the skateboards main battery pack.  I had always planned on doing this, but in a rush to ride, i skipped this step and slapped a 9V on the Fio.  It also took some work cause i needed a good VR to go from the 40VDC down to 5VDC.  So I got this Recom switching regulator
  3. All the wires are now hidden - with the exception of the leads going to the motors, which are very discreet.  Nice and pretty.
Unfortunately, i didn't get to take a good picture of the board without the wires hanging out yet.  But here is a picture of the voltage regulator circuit.

I went for a few rides around the neighborhood today, after the update.  All was well.  Tomorrow, I'll be heading up to Trumbull to ride with my buddy Tim, and his pedal power.

The next step will be to install my new F4 bindings I got.  I can't tell if i'm going to enjoy them or hate them.  It seems like a bit of a toss-up;  But i am interested in having a little more leverage to use on turns.

Pictures and Video

Hi there!  So its been a few weeks now riding Rev 2. Here is a picture and a fun video cruising the neighborhood!

Onca Onca takes to the street - Rev2

Today, I managed to complete the assembly process and take Onca Onca out for her maiden voyage.  A Total success!!!

Here is what the assembly looked like:

Tight Fit

All went almost exactly as planned.  I had to get a new battery box bolt that was a .5" shorter.  Aside from that, it was just a matter of putting everything where it belonged, filling the tires with air, and going for a ride.

At about the same time i was walking out the front door, my friend and neighbor Dom arrived, along with my neighbor Mark.  We took turns riding down the street and around the block.  They were ecstatic!!!  I new what to expect, and had far higher expectations, but don't get me wrong, i'm super happy with the results.  Everything was flawless.  No chain issues, no wireless interference, excellent acceleration and deceleration....almost too good.  All my new part, designed by myself, performed perfectly, and that is a really good feeling.

Here is a rundown of my mental notes of improvements for Rev 3:

1:  Tune both accel and decel curves to be a little more forgiving on the early part of the curve.  I may do it via code on the Fios or on the Kelly or both, but right now they kick in with some bite, but are still very usable!

2:  Revise the remote to have a snap-together case with some more rigidity.  It works great, but its on my TODO list.

3:  Find a cooler deck.

4:  Paint (or find an artist to paint) the bottom of the battery/control box.

5:  Better integrate the switch(es).

6:  Update it to use only 1 ON switch, and power the receiver via the main battery pack. (this fell of the table for rev 2 for the sake of importance and time.)

For now, Rev 2 is awesome.  i'll likely put a little effort in to #1 and smooth that out a bit, but i'm not very concerned about the rest.  Spring is almost here.  I'm ready to plan a few longer trips, figure out my real range, and just have fun with it!

Rock on.

Ready for assembly

Thing have been moving a little slow around here over the past two months.  Partially because of time, partially because i've been putting off dealing with the final circuit, which joins the wireless receiver to the motor controller.  This weekend, I put that task to rest, and blew through it all this morning.  Thats not to say i hadn't been working on it.  In the weeks previous, I did make some more complex circuits, unsuccessfully.  Blew up a few components, but spared myself and my arduino and controller survived.

So i finally settled on a simpler circuit which does all i need it to do.  The only thing that it doesn't do is power the Arduino from the large battery pack.  I may change this down the road, but it will at least allow me to take the new motor mount for a ride, wirelessly.  

Here is a video testing the breadboard:

Here are a few pictures.

Onca Onca is coming alive!

Its been some time since the last update.  Wow time flies.  But forget the small talk, lets get to the important details:

  1. 3D Printed Hub Design
  2. Mount Assembly
  3. Remote Control
  4. Solidworks 2013 Rant

The Hub

So, in my recent post, you saw a 3D printed hub.  Yea, cool for rapid prototyping, sure.  But I've sent off an updated version to shapeways.com for a black nylon printing.  According to Shapeways, its their strongest material...We will see how it holds up to the torque, but i'm actually not too concerned.  And best yea, the job was $30 each!  I could even sell it through them!  Pretty cool.   It arrives at my door, this Monday!  Here is the new drawing:

Motor Mount Assembly

Not too much to report here, other than the shop is in the process of building it.  I have updated it a bit since I last posted.  Note, i'm now bolting to two points on the truck, and have added support ribs to minimize flex.  Of course, this is mostly theoretical, although my initial rides gave me a lot to work off of.  When riding, and flex in the system will create slack on the chain and can easily lead to the chain coming off the gear.  But with these precision parts, I don't think i'll be having that issue much longer.
Here is that drawing:

The Remote

So, I know i reported that Onca Onca went wireless, but i've worked out all the major kinks, too.  If i do anything further, is just sugar on top (which i probably will).  So now that the wireless and electronics are worked out, i still need a case for the darn thing!  So i got working and here is where i'm at.  I left this in transparency, so you can see the internal details...darn thing is more than just a soap box, for sure.  There are a few parts not shown here, cause i haven't modeled them:  The Joystick, its PCB, connecting wires and external switch.  But in the very base is the Arduino fio with XBee stack and the mini usb port sticking out the bottom.  The block in the middle is the battery, and the posts will hold the joystick.

SolidWorks 2013 Rant

I'm not sure where to start, here.  Many people know of SolidWorks.  If a staple software suite in the 3D community.  There are a few (really bad) free applications out there, but they're pretty much useless for anything beyond a simple sketch.  SolidWorks, as an application is really great.  But my experience with their "Authorized Dealer" CADDEdge was just plain awful.

I'm just going to relay the story, for what it was, with some of my own $.02 mixed in there.

  1. I went on the SolidWorks website, and found my way to a form they have titled: "Request a Trial."  So I filled it out, with a high hope that i'd be directed to a download page.  I wasn't.  I was prompted with a message that said a SW rep would contact me.
  2. Fortunately, i was contacted.  I explained to the guy why he was in fact calling me, cause he didn't know.  He then told me that SolidWorks (Dassault), doesn't fulfill trials, that is done by their Authorized Dealers.  For my territory, the entire North East, that is CADDEdge.  So he gave my info to them, and said they would contact me.
  3. I got an email from CADDEdge, offering me more info on 3D printers.  I emailed the bozo and had to explain to him why he, too, was contacting me.
  4. I got a response that was essentially brushing me off and denied my request, for fear that i was only interested in finishing my project.
  5. I responded with a big WTF.  I'm your next potential customer;  I want to try it on my primary computer's virtual machine, and make sure it runs smoothly.  Regardless of how much potential i had in buying it, i would never buy it without trying it first.  Especially in a virtualized environment.
  6. The first bozo pawned me off to some other bozo who told me he'd give me a 15 day trial, if and only if i gave him my credit card info, and on the condition that if i didn't tell him otherwise, he would charge me for the full license at the end of the 15 days.
  7. I thought about this for about a week.  Then one crisp morning, i wrote my first raging email.  I let them have it, and i copied their support department as well as SolidWorks support - to let them know what was going on with their Authorized Dealer (cause i would never authorized it, if i were them).
  8. Within about 2 or 3 hours, i got a call from the Regional Rep, i think.  I apologized for my hash words, but expressed my frustration.  He almost conceded for the mistreatment from his co-workers, but didn't exactly want to let go of control.  After about a 30 minute phone call, our negotiation led to them giving me a free 15 day trial, under the condition that I would sit with one of THEIR support technicians, for 30min-2 hours, at a location of my choosing, to supervise the install and assist in giving me some quick tips!  I tried to refuse.  I tried really really hard.  I told him i didn't want to be babysat, and i found his demands flat out insulting.  I actually did refuse, but he was gonna back out, which left me with no choice, because they are the ONLY North East Dealer.  So, i said okay.  and we'd email the coordination of the rest.  But I got the DVD in the mail, and the serial.  And never scheduled a meeting.  Friggin bozos.  Bottom line, I would find any possible alternative to doing business with them.  But if it comes down to using SolidWorks or the other crap free software - use SolidWorks.