Close



Results 1 to 8 of 8
  1. #1
    Technician
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Posts
    67

    The CTC "How To" Mini Guide -- Or, How I Turned My CTC Into a Printing Beast.

    I'm really happy there is such a following for the CTC brand line of 3D printers; and these style of cartesian printers in general (FlashForge, et al). I think they are great little machines and definitely a contender for best "cheap" 3D printer out there on the market today. In my opinion, these CTC printers straddle the line between "Ready made" and "DIY" perfectly.

    Now, considering this CTC was my first ever foray into 3D printing and printers in general, it has helped me learn a great deal about the process of 3d printing and troubleshooting these printers immensely. So I wanted to share my experiences and results with the community which has in the past helped me out with some of said issues before. I hope this "mini guide" can help those who may already own a CTC printer or are looking to buy a 3D printer, and perhaps even help with troubleshooting their CTC and getting the best possible results from it. Let's begin!

    Author's Note: This mini guide is based on the composite wood frame CTC 3D Printer.


    1. Necessary Upgrades

    I put this one first because out of the box, the CTC, while a good, decent printer, may have a lot of weak points where prints could go (catastrophically) wrong. Although I jumped the gun and went out and upgraded as much as I could with my CTC, I do recommend the first timer try printing first on their CTC and then upgrading afterward (to get a better picture of their before/after prints).

    -Z-Axis Guide Rods
    In my opinion, this should be the first and primary upgrade for all CTCs. This current iteration of the printer utilizes 8mm Z-axis guide rods alongside the ACME threaded rod, all of which can be wobbly and unstable. I have these two upgrades on my printer: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:496298, and http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:497923. Unfortunately I didn't realize the bottom pieces could also be replaced, and I ended up gluing the bottoms of the rods to the base permanently (Oops! More on the glue later).

    -X-Axis Carriage/Cable Guide
    Another "must have" in my opinion, is the carriage and cable guide upgrade for the X-Axis. I read somewhere a while back that the CTC's tend to have issues with the constant movement on this axis, causing strain on the cables which leads to failure. To combat this, I printed and installed this: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:119814

    2016-03-23 16.27.32.jpg

    -Extruder Nozzle Upgrades
    This is not necessarily an issue relating to only CTC printers, but 3D printers in general. I'm a firm believer that to get consistent, quality prints, you need to have quality extruder parts installed on your printer. That is why I upgraded my extruder nozzles to stronger, wear resistant nozzles, which let's me print with any materials, such as Carbon Fiber. (http://www.amazon.com/High-Lubricity.../dp/B00ZMVCYUG).

    Also, I upgraded the nozzle tubes/barrels with these, and they have PTFE tubes inside for better friction control: http://www.amazon.com/Barrel-Nozzle-.../dp/B00LPAT3DE
    Note on the barrels: If you change your extruder style from the default direct drive blocks, make sure you do both sides, otherwise you may end up with one extruder nozzle higher/lower than the other.

    Thirdly, I installed PTFE tubing all the way from my enclosed filament box into the extruder itself with this upgrade: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:340031
    This is a critical mod that will help get your filament into the extruder and reduce/eliminate damaging humidity issues.

    2016-03-23 16.27.05.jpg2016-03-23 16.26.37.jpg

    -Heated Bed Upgrades
    Another necessity I feel is, throwing away the kapton/blue tape crap on the aluminum heat bed and installing a borosilicate glass plate (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00NY8F172) (shown below). You will also need a shim for the back of the Z-Axis. The one I am using is here (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:836670). Additionally, a way to secure the glass bed: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1296854. For keeping the prints stuck to the bed, I use Elmer's Glue (Non-Toxic Purple kind) found here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001PV3MNA.

    2016-03-12 22.43.40.jpg

    -Enclosure Upgrade
    I bought an Acrylic Enclosure Kit from http://criticalmods.weebly.com/ctc-style.html
    Now for some reason the acrylic panels I received seemed a bit off in their size... and I had to use double sided sticky tape to adhere it to my printer, but I managed to make them work

    With these essential upgrades to your CTC 3D Printer, they should eliminate most, if not all, of any problems you have or may have regarding different Axis issues, printing issues, wobbling, ABS issues, et al. Now we move on to the less critical, but still important modifications.

    2016-03-23 16.10.37.jpg
    Last edited by cjalas; 03-23-2016 at 10:06 PM.

  2. #2
    Technician
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Posts
    67
    2. Non-critical (but important) Mods/Upgrades


    -Software/Firmware upgrade(s)
    The first thing I did to my CTC's software is upgrade its stock factory firmware with a much better alternative operating system in the form of Sailfish 7.7 Firmware. This upgrade changes the core of the printer's abilities, adding key features and abilities found originally in the Makerbot line of printers (The Replicator 1 Dual, of which this is CTC is a clone). Theoretically, upgrading at the firmware level helps the printer's capabilities with speed/acceleration issues during printing, and supposedly provides a more consistent printing experience overall. It may not be necessary, but I rather liked the new control infterface of Sailfish over the Chinese knockoff Firmware system.

    Secondly, I purchased Simplify3D Slicing software (http://simplify3d.com). If you don't know what S3D is, it is comparable to other slicing software such as Slic3r, etc. It helps you configure the optimum settings for your 3D files to be sent to the printer. Simplify3D has many, many amazing features, but what I find the most useful is the visual aspect of laying out and planning my 3D pieces onto the heat bed platform visually, and being able to tweak the printer's printing speed, layer height, etc straight in the software. It really does make a huge difference in how the prints come out. Some people have even commented saying that S3D's prints come out cleaner and better than the same print ran through Slic3r.

    -Remote control/monitoring via OctoPrint (http://octoprint.org)
    This is more of an upgrade which is entirely up to you; but in my opinion it is one of the best things to happen to 3D Printers in general. OctoPrint lets you connect a Raspberry Pi or similarly compatible SBC (Single Board Computer) to the USB input of the 3D Printer's host hardware, (almost) completely bypassing the need for a tethered computer to run the 3D Printer. OctoPrint, one of a few of the ways in which to accomplish this Wireless printing, in my opinion, is the best of the bunch. I won't go into too much detail here, but needless to say, it provides live video monitoring and remote capabilities to your printer and has plugins to extend those functionalities.

    2016-03-23 16.11.24.jpg

    -Structural Support and Sealing
    Something I have not seen too many people (so far) do to their CTC 3D Printer frame, is to solidify and reinforce the structure of their composite wood frame. Now, there are a few mods available on Thingiverse which help the rigidity of the printer, such as these corner frame brackets found here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:338829 and these hot bed aluminum arm stiffeners (https://www.p3-d.com/products/aluminum-arm-stiffeners), both of which I have installed; but I haven't seen anyone reinforce the actual structure of the printer itself. I found myself tightening (and in some cases over-tightening) the screws holding the frame together, and a lot of them were very loose upon the arrival of the printer when I first purchased. I noticed that this looseness caused my prints to become wobbly and overall just made more noise and added shakiness to the printer over time. So with this in mind, I recently used some high performance all purpose glue (clear dry) and ran the glue along the edges of where the wood frames meet, as well as filling in the (tightened) frame screws. You can see in the photos below all the areas I filled and lined with the glue. This mod in and of itself has, has drastically increased rigidity and stability of the printer frame as well as helped remove all wobbling and shaking from the printer during prints.

    I'm really happy with this modification, and since I don't foresee myself taking apart my printer frame any time soon (ever), it is a permanent solution to make your wood frame extremely durable and solid, without the necessity of re-tightening or worrying about loose screws.

    2016-03-23 16.09.44.jpg2016-03-23 16.08.42.jpg



    Well there you have it! All the things I've done over time to my CTC 3D Printer to turn it from a decent, albeit flawed "cheap" 3D printer, into a printing powerhouse which makes consistent, amazing prints -- as good as I've seen come out of any printer from, say for example, someone over at http://3DHubs.com. I'm currently in the process of putting together a Kossel Mini DIY Kit printer, and using my CTC to print parts all day long for the Kossel.

    I may come back to this post over time and revise/update or add new information and content as necessary. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to post and ask away.
    Last edited by cjalas; 03-23-2016 at 10:11 PM.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator Geoff's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    NSW, Australia
    Posts
    1,826
    Add Geoff on Thingiverse
    Nice, thanks for this - I am going through all of this now with this steaming pile I bought off Ebay - I should add none of this needed to be done to the flashforge.. thousands of hours printing, not one single modification - everything I added, I took off because it worked better without. Glass bed? well that's great but you lose 3-5mm of print height - and when your max is 15cm, which is really 14.5 realistically, then that .5 takes you down to 14cm.. I found believe it or not, I needed that .5 alot.

    One thing I have added to the CTC is the spring loaded extruders. Now you can print these yourself, but the ones on thingiverse (sorry Mjolinor ) just didn't fit properly, the filament didn't grab tight enough. So I bought some cheap ones off ebay, as i've bought some before and they are really really good compared to the CTC stock ones.

    The Flashforge original came with the same extruders as CTC, but when my dual head died, and I bought a replacement from FF, they gave me the new creator pro spring loaded ones, I never ever will go back to standard UNLESS its flex filament or wood I'm printing.

    I got these for $10, essential CTC upgrade.

    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/131622631...%3AMEBIDX%3AIT
    Hex3D - 3D Printing and Design http://www.hex3d.com

  4. #4
    Technician
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Posts
    67
    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff View Post
    Nice, thanks for this - I am going through all of this now with this steaming pile I bought off Ebay - I should add none of this needed to be done to the flashforge.. thousands of hours printing, not one single modification - everything I added, I took off because it worked better without. Glass bed? well that's great but you lose 3-5mm of print height - and when your max is 15cm, which is really 14.5 realistically, then that .5 takes you down to 14cm.. I found believe it or not, I needed that .5 alot.

    One thing I have added to the CTC is the spring loaded extruders. Now you can print these yourself, but the ones on thingiverse (sorry Mjolinor ) just didn't fit properly, the filament didn't grab tight enough. So I bought some cheap ones off ebay, as i've bought some before and they are really really good compared to the CTC stock ones.

    The Flashforge original came with the same extruders as CTC, but when my dual head died, and I bought a replacement from FF, they gave me the new creator pro spring loaded ones, I never ever will go back to standard UNLESS its flex filament or wood I'm printing.

    I got these for $10, essential CTC upgrade.

    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/131622631...%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

    Yea I understand some may need that extra space on the print bed... me, I never had it to begin with so it's not that big of a deal. I find that with a 5-6mm glass bed, and longer extruder tubes, the bed springs are more compressed which helps keep the bed level and less "bounce" or less prone to losing position.

    I have a spring load extruder on the left side, but as I mentioned in the post, unfortunately it has slightly tighter tolerances in the space between the nozzle and the extruder block.. slightly moreso than the default extruder block on the right-hand side, so I have uneven extruder tubes (I have to slide the right one down further to make up for this).

    I'm contemplating going back to both original extruder blocks on mine, since I think I have some filament leak during printing out the back-end of my nozzle.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator Geoff's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    NSW, Australia
    Posts
    1,826
    Add Geoff on Thingiverse
    Quote Originally Posted by cjalas View Post
    Yea I understand some may need that extra space on the print bed... me, I never had it to begin with so it's not that big of a deal. I find that with a 5-6mm glass bed, and longer extruder tubes, the bed springs are more compressed which helps keep the bed level and less "bounce" or less prone to losing position.

    I have a spring load extruder on the left side, but as I mentioned in the post, unfortunately it has slightly tighter tolerances in the space between the nozzle and the extruder block.. slightly moreso than the default extruder block on the right-hand side, so I have uneven extruder tubes (I have to slide the right one down further to make up for this).

    I'm contemplating going back to both original extruder blocks on mine, since I think I have some filament leak during printing out the back-end of my nozzle.
    I read some time back to use thermal paste (like you use for your CPU) and thread the nozzle on with that, as you don't want to use thread lock, but I found it actually worked, obviously the thermal paste likes the high temperature, and it eventually cakes itself and seals any seams so you don't get that dribble back up around the nozzle neck.

    Glass beds do have the flat advantage I'll give them that, I'm yet to get a perfectly flat aluminum bed on any printer.
    Hex3D - 3D Printing and Design http://www.hex3d.com

  6. #6
    Senior Engineer
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Burnley, UK
    Posts
    1,664
    I use copper grease on my nozzles.

  7. #7
    Super Moderator Geoff's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    NSW, Australia
    Posts
    1,826
    Add Geoff on Thingiverse
    Quote Originally Posted by Mjolinor View Post
    I use copper grease on my nozzles.
    Please, there's children here!
    Hex3D - 3D Printing and Design http://www.hex3d.com

  8. #8
    A bit late to the party here but just a thank you for the information about the CTC printer.
    My maker space has just aquired one of these printers and my job tonight is to get it sorted.
    A Raspberry Pi with Octoprint and (probably) a firmware upgrade.

    Regards
    Geoff

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •