Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Remote Printing

Recently I've had a number of questions about my build setup, so I thought I'd blog it so the rest of you could see it.

I'm at the point now where my Darwin runs more or less unattended at night. I still don't trust it completely though. It's not that I'm worried its going to take over the lab; I'm worried it's going to break something and make a big mess as it extrudes plastic all over the place.

So, I set up a web cam to keep an eye on it. Pretty obvious, actually. The neat part is though, what with the fancy cellphones available these days, I can keep an eye on my Darwin from anywhere I've got cell access, via the magic of VNC. I can start and stop ReplicatorG from anywhere, and even cycle the Arduino power by rebooting my computer remotely. Even more importantly, it makes a great conversation starter at parties. :) Once I've sorted out the intricacies of gphoto2 and gtkam on Linux, I'll post a link where the rest of you can check it out online.

I'm also a little concerned about the JB weld giving out soon and causing the heater to go overboard while I'm away, so I incorporated Nophead's idea of a thermocouple sanity check in the firmware. If the heater has been on full blast for 10 s and the temperature hasn't increased, I shut everything down and throw an error message. So far so good; it responds nicely to random pulling of thermocouple wires. There's a special case of an intermittent but mostly off failure that it would miss, but I'm not going to worry about that yet.

Finally, I got tired of having to untwist or unkink the filament feed, so borrowing Andy's idea, I bolted a coffee can (I bought the Illy brand specifically because I wanted the nice cans it comes in!) to some plexiglass (it was handy), and hung it from the ceiling with some damaged kite lines (the Cabarete locals are infamous for tangling kites) and a jury rigged swivel (it was handy). Works perfectly – I haven't touched it since I set it up, and no more twisting or kinking.

Now I just have to stop by the lab every once in a while to collect the parts, clean the bed, and start the next batch. Life is good!



Very cool.

BTW, my full list of extruder sanity checks is here.

I must confess I haven't implemented them yet but I should do as I preach.
Dude, you're printing nicely! Wow... I must admit I'm a bit jealous. Then again, I just feel like working more on my own RepRap now!

Damn all those other things that have to be done :)
Nice CSI-style illuminated table.
This is really good, Wade. :-)
Hm, another tricky problem would be the heater PWM shorting on - the only way to save that would be to kill the main power. Should be possible... But it's not something I'm expecting to happen, whereas I am expecting the JB weld to fail at some point.

Erik; my girlfriends says I should be more realistic - this doesn't really reduce my time spent in the lab, it just lets me work on more stuff. :)

And yeah, the table is cool - it's an extra light table (only a little bent) from the print shop whose basement my lab inhabits. It's been great working down here - there's all sorts of broken or discarded equipment that I can re-use. Tables, chairs, discarded CRT monitors, printer parts, you name it. Not much for light though. :)

It's kind of ironic, building a reprap in the corner of the basement of an old print shop. There's an old mechanical Platen printing press mounted as a display on the sidewalk down the street; it's the sort of thing my grandfather ran. Maybe someone will put up a Reprap next to it in the distant future. :) Or not.
wade, we were having a disciussion about this in cabarete two days ago and now i find you must live there.

can we come check out your darwin next time we are in town...i'll bring tangled kite lines :)
Heh, lived there actually. I spent last winter there, but I'm in Toronto now. I started work on the Reprap in Cabarete, but did most of the physical work in Toronto. The snow is starting to fly now; I'm missing those big days out on the reef! And steak burgers at Onno's.
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