The Printer, Inside and Out
I have always been a big fan of mechanical hardware, and I would imagine that building a device that prints at the micron level would leave little room for deviation. You basically need as close to perfection as possible, and that is why these devices cost a lot. The parts are readily available, it's putting them together correctly and with precision that is difficult.
The fact of the matter is that the Da Vinci 1.0 is very well built. Every time I hit calibration over the course of three months, the printer was on target, and I had never calibrated it. The majority of my prints come out excellent if I prep the base correctly, and ensure the extruder nozzle is clean. Everything from the wire lengths to timing belts appear to have been standardized; I was thoroughly impressed by the details of the Da Vinci 1.0's construction. The extruder even has its own cleaning system.
This is the heated print platform, you can see that the heater element is glued to the glass bed; mine looks like it has some problem near the top, but it works fine - it's just a small amount of glue that set like that. The underside of the print bed has three thumb screws like the one shown above. These thumbscrews are used for calibration.
This printer was made so even a child could operate it. There are well written directions on how to do most everything, including changing the cartridge. Using a 3D printer for the first time can be a scary thought, but this printer makes it simple.
This space with contact pads is for the cartridge. There are times when I look at this printer and think it was designed for the dual extruder model (the Da Vinci 2.0). There is room for a second cartridge, and the circuit board has empty pads that appear to be for a second extruder, so I would think that a user could convert it themselves.
I had used this printer before I took these pictures. The reason I mention this is because the extruder nozzle is covered in residue from the many prints I have done, and otherwise, it is a shiny brass color. The extruder, just like many other parts of printer, is built to be disassembled for maintenance or repair.
Loading the filament is very easy, and there is a latch to pull back part of the wheel that feeds it in for easier insertion. The extruder sits above a drip box for filament. The extruder will ooze filament when you install it, and this box catches that oozed filament. There is even a mode to allow you to remove the drip box and clean it out.
The box does have another feature; two little flaps (one metal and one plastic) sit at the top near the nozzle head, and the extruder will move itself (and the nozzle) into the flaps in either direction to clean the head and prepare to print. This is quite a nice feature, and I did not see a similar feature in other printers of this price range.
Removing the extruder hardware and nozzle is very simple; just press down on a huge latch, and unplug a few wires.
A 3D printer needs a total of four motors to function. It needs one for each axis (X, Y, and Z), as well as one to push filament through the nozzle. You can see that system here. The filament is pushed down into the nozzle by the two wheels. After three months of use, the wheels are still very clean.
There is a small fan to cool down the nozzle, which gets to 212C for printing. You can also see how dirty the nozzle is after three months of use. It is better to clean the nozzle with the brass brush and rubbing alcohol (if needed) as you go. After print residue dries, it is very hard to clean; however, the printer offers a cleaning mode where it only heats up the nozzle head for cleaning.
This is the circuit inside the extruder that monitors the filament right before it goes into the nozzle.
These are the specifications of the bi-polar hybrid step motors used in the printer. They are made by Minebea, and are of pretty good quality. They are also widely available in case you need a replacement.
The Z-axis uses the 17PM-K142BN06CN, and the X and Y-axis both use the 17PM-K342BP03CN.
By removing two screws, you can access the circuitry that runs everything. All of the connectors are colored differently, so if you plan on removing them, you should take a picture to remember where everything goes. What is awesome is that the wires are so well measured and placed that you can literally plug them back into the nearest port.
The motherboard only has circuitry on one side. The motor drivers are also modular, and you can see the empty space for a second extruder motor.
The Amtel ATSAM3X8E-AU is the only chip soldered on the board. It is a pretty powerful ARM Coretex-M3 based SoC. This is basically a powerful little chip that does everything, and it is a common microcontroller found on the Arduino Due. It has a lot of features, runs at only 84MHz, has half a gig of flash, and is the brain of this machine.
Then we have the drivers for the motors. Allegro A4988's control the stepping motors. The driver boards are also easy to source in case you need replacements.
The board has a SD card slot, and the SD card holds the secret to unlocking the Da Vinci. There are three demo prints on the SD card, and it's important to note the first demo print model doesn't count against your filament count. What's better is that the SD card demo print file is in g-code format, so you can turn off the heat bed and print PLA. You can just replace the g-code in the sample file with your own, and use whatever filament and program you want. This backdoor allows you to use this printer as if it were open source.
There is a drawback to this method. The SD card is very hard to remove without removing the entire board, which the majority of users won't do. Personally, I like the added convenience of knowing how much more I can print with the counter built into the cartridges, so I haven't attempted this yet.
I just wanted to take a picture to show the bearings, timing belt, and the quality, which is pretty good. You can also see how the wiring is well done throughout the body. The printer is very well lit inside the body, and you can see the LEDs responsible are well hidden. XYZprinting has done a good job of making this printer easy to service, so you probably will never have to ship the printer to them if something breaks, since they could ship you the part and tell you how to install it.
While the feet do need to be slide resistant, they shouldn't marks like they did on two different wooden tables. The mark basically seeps into the surface. In the end, I just took some Gorilla tape and covered the feet, and now the printer works fine, doesn't move, and doesn't make a mark I can't remove.
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