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  1. #1

    Solidoodle Workbench

    I ordered my Solidoodle Workbench on 11-13-2014 and received it on 2-5-2015... only after a friend in Moscow called the CEO of the company and convinced him to get it shipped. (And from what I understand, many customers are still very frustrated that Solidoodle keeps backdating their original shipping estimates, with no real explanations.) The machine seems to be fairly well-made, especially for the $1,300 price tag... however, Solidoodle remains to be a headache to deal with, at best.

    My machine arrived packed in expanding foam shipping bags, and there were tiny foam particles covering every inch of the printer. I did not receive the colors of ABS filament that I ordered (not even close). The glass bed had obviously been printed on 2 or 3 different times, but I assumed that could be from test prints prior to shipping.

    There are no instructions are documentation with the machine... everything I have has been found online, and mostly from various forums (not the Solidoodle website). SoliPrint still does not support the Workbench, so I downloaded Repetier-Host Solidoodle v0.85b. The Solidoodle website does have information on how to set up various older models of their printers, so I used some of that information (mixed with information from various other resources) to finally get my printer working. But it's still not right. My MakerBot Thing-O-Matic printed better than this machine does... but I'm certain that I'll get the bugs worked out.

    I've tried to contact the company with setting information for Repetier-Host software, but I only received a very simple email that pointed me to the exact same links that I used from their website... NONE of which refer to the Workbench model (only the 6x6 and 8x8 models... not this 12x12 model), and one of the links is actually not available anymore. Again... trying to receive information from this company is EXTREMELY frustrating.

    On the positive side of things, I must say that I was surprised that the Workbench comes with a nice 15-element LED light strip built into the top of the chassis (something I certainly didn't expect, and isn't mentioned in their ad for the machine). It also comes with 3D-printed side handles attached to the top of the frame, which are a nice touch (if not really necessary). The wiring is done very nice and neat, and most of the exposed wiring harnesses are covered in cable wrap.

    Once I got my machine set up, and the drivers and software installed on my computer, I fired it up and jogged the axes around... to find that the Y axis would not move. The stepper motor simply made a grinding noise. I assumed that the drive belts were too tight, so I adjusted the tension and alignment of them. No help. What I eventually did to fix this problem is loosen all 3 drive belts of the Y axis and force the carriage fore and aft on the slide rods. It was very stiff at first, but loosened up after just a few repetitions. I then re-tensioned all 3 drive belts, and all axes now work great.

    There are a lot of 3D-printed parts on this machine, which is something I'm NOT particularly fond of. Some of the printed parts aren't all that great to look at, but I'm mostly concerned about the alignment and proper geometry of the parts, versus machined or off-the-shelf parts (which would increase the cost of the machine, undoubtedly... but make for a much better machine). 3D printed parts that I really don't care for include the carriage that the dual extruders sit on (which includes the X-axis slide-rod bushing holders, the filament cooling fan body, and even the Z-axis limit switch that is part of their "Soli-Touch" technology, and seems very spartan at best)... and both of the Y-axis carriages (which include the Y-axis slide-rod bushing holders).

    The 3D printed parts that I don't mind are the nice little side handles, and a couple of clips that hold the wiring harness onto the back of the printer chassis. And on a very odd note, I will add that the rear-mounted spool holder brackets are actually injection-molded plastic (as is the control board housing). I'm sure that these are off-the-shelf parts, and not something that Solidoodle farmed out to a production company... otherwise, why are the X and Y axis carriages 3D-printed? Probably the most high-tech component of this machine is the 3/4" PVC pipe that is supplied as the spool-holder rod. But it is comforting to know that if you have any plumbing issues in your home or office, you have 9-1/2 inches of pipe available to help with repairs.

    The control board housing is covered with a nice piece of acrylic (or Plexiglas), so you can see everything... and again, the wiring is done quite neatly. The 360-watt/30A power supply has no apparent way to be fastened to the machine, so it's sitting on my desk right behind the machine. I'd much rather it be mounted to the printer... which it will be, eventually.

    During recent print attempts I have noticed that both of the Y-axis belt idler gears (the gears that are not powered, at the front of the machine) move up and down ever-so-slightly in their adjustable-tension brackets during operation. This movement is not something I like. This is something I'll remedy, if for no other reason than to make me feel better.

    I do have quite a few photos of the machine on my Facebook page, which include the entire process of setting the machine up... if anyone is interested in seeing what your own machine will look like. It's in a public album named Workbench 3D Printer, and the link to my Facebook page is in my profile.

    At any rate, I simply wanted to share this information with anyone who is interested in (or still waiting for their) Solidoodle Workbench. If there is anything I can answer for anyone, please just let me know... because the company isn't too keen on answering questions. And hopefully this thread can be a help to Workbench owners from other Workbench owners in the future.

  2. #2
    I have also purchased a Solidoodle Workbench and have found MANY items that need to be corrected before the machine will print. Along with the Y-axis slide being locked up I also noticed the drive shaft along the top back wall (that drive the y-axis belts) has no way of retaining itself. What I mean is the shaft is just straight and can be pushed out of the bearing either way. This was remedied by two locking collars, one on each side inside the frame. Getting the correct software was a whole other ordeal. The XP software wouldn't communicate with the machine so I had to use a newer computer with Windows 7 to finally get that to work. Once the machine would jog I tried a print and found that the x-axis carriage when going to the home position interferes with the bed supports (where the z-axis screw drives the bed up and down). I made a sketch of what I saw and sent to Solidoodle and asked how to fix this without having to grind a notch in the z-axis bed bracket for the x-axis to clear....what a shocker! No reply from Solidoodle yet........I am giving this a few more days and then asking to return it. I guess I am spoiled by the first Makerbot I received that came out of the box and was printing parts a few minutes later. Yes this is cheaper, but with all the time and frustration, I am not sure its really worth it.

  3. #3
    Thanks for sharing your experience, Tonesy.

    I just got home from work and checked my Workbench. You're right, the drive rod for the Y axis is not fixed in place... I can push mine left and right inside the sintered bronze bushings as well (even though I've noticed zero lateral movement during operation). A person could purchase two 8mm split collars to prevent this, if it became an issue... as it sounds like you did.

    My X-axis carriage does not interfere with anything, but I can see why yours might. I have noticed that the Y-axis will only travel far enough to put the nozzles about 1/4" in from the rear edge of the glass build plate. (So I am losing a print area of roughly 3 square inches and a volume of about 36 cubic inches.)



    However, my Y axis will also travel almost 1/4" past the front edge of the bed... so I could modify the bed position forward [whatever that exact distance is] and regain that print area.



    Now, here is why I think your printer's X-axis carriage might be interfering with the Z-axis bed supports. In the picture below, I've drawn a red arrow to show a small raised boss that is located on the back side of my Y-axis carriage. This boss protrudes 0.291 inches, which is ALMOST exactly the distance that I'm losing in print area. My guess is that either my printer is an 'updated' version, or the raised boss on your printer has somehow been broken off.



    I say this because if that boss was not there, the Y-axis would be allowed to travel rearward another 0.291 inches before hitting the limit switch... which would CERTAINLY cause my X-axis carriage to interfere with the build plate support. As you can see in the picture below, my X-axis carriage clears the bed support bracket... but not by much.



    You'll also notice (2 photos above) that I drew a light blue line that indicates the front face of the left Y-axis carriage. It is not flat at all, so I'm assuming this was the bottom side of their 3D print... which obviously curled. The back face of the left Y-axis carriage (or the "top" of their 3D print) is perfectly flat, less the boss. This is why I don't like that Solidoodle included 3D-printed objects to be part of their design. And yes, I'm assuming that the misalignment caused by warping is what causes the Y axis of these printers to 'stick' upon arrival. (At least that's one theory.)

    At any rate, I do plan on keeping my Workbench and working out all of the issues myself. (Which is my only option, since Solidoodle seems to have zero customer support.) I will be demanding a refund of my SoliCare purchase, because I no longer desire to pay for this sort of "service"... if you can call it that, at all.

    But thanks so much for pointing these things out, Tonesy... much appreciated!



    Quote Originally Posted by Tonesy View Post
    I have also purchased a Solidoodle Workbench and have found MANY items that need to be corrected before the machine will print. Along with the Y-axis slide being locked up I also noticed the drive shaft along the top back wall (that drive the y-axis belts) has no way of retaining itself. What I mean is the shaft is just straight and can be pushed out of the bearing either way. This was remedied by two locking collars, one on each side inside the frame. Getting the correct software was a whole other ordeal. The XP software wouldn't communicate with the machine so I had to use a newer computer with Windows 7 to finally get that to work. Once the machine would jog I tried a print and found that the x-axis carriage when going to the home position interferes with the bed supports (where the z-axis screw drives the bed up and down). I made a sketch of what I saw and sent to Solidoodle and asked how to fix this without having to grind a notch in the z-axis bed bracket for the x-axis to clear....what a shocker! No reply from Solidoodle yet........I am giving this a few more days and then asking to return it. I guess I am spoiled by the first Makerbot I received that came out of the box and was printing parts a few minutes later. Yes this is cheaper, but with all the time and frustration, I am not sure its really worth it.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by ClintKC1972 View Post
    Thanks for sharing your experience, Tonesy.

    I just got home from work and checked my Workbench. You're right, the drive rod for the Y axis is not fixed in place... I can push mine left and right inside the sintered bronze bushings as well (even though I've noticed zero lateral movement during operation). A person could purchase two 8mm split collars to prevent this, if it became an issue... as it sounds like you did.

    My X-axis carriage does not interfere with anything, but I can see why yours might. I have noticed that the Y-axis will only travel far enough to put the nozzles about 1/4" in from the rear edge of the glass build plate. (So I am losing a print area of roughly 3 square inches and a volume of about 36 cubic inches.)



    However, my Y axis will also travel almost 1/4" past the front edge of the bed... so I could modify the bed position forward [whatever that exact distance is] and regain that print area.



    Now, here is why I think your printer's X-axis carriage might be interfering with the Z-axis bed supports. In the picture below, I've drawn a red arrow to show a small raised boss that is located on the back side of my Y-axis carriage. This boss protrudes 0.291 inches, which is ALMOST exactly the distance that I'm losing in print area. My guess is that either my printer is an 'updated' version, or the raised boss on your printer has somehow been broken off.



    I say this because if that boss was not there, the Y-axis would be allowed to travel rearward another 0.291 inches before hitting the limit switch... which would CERTAINLY cause my X-axis carriage to interfere with the build plate support. As you can see in the picture below, my X-axis carriage clears the bed support bracket... but not by much.



    You'll also notice (2 photos above) that I drew a light blue line that indicates the front face of the left Y-axis carriage. It is not flat at all, so I'm assuming this was the bottom side of their 3D print... which obviously curled. The back face of the left Y-axis carriage (or the "top" of their 3D print) is perfectly flat, less the boss. This is why I don't like that Solidoodle included 3D-printed objects to be part of their design. And yes, I'm assuming that the misalignment caused by warping is what causes the Y axis of these printers to 'stick' upon arrival. (At least that's one theory.)

    At any rate, I do plan on keeping my Workbench and working out all of the issues myself. (Which is my only option, since Solidoodle seems to have zero customer support.) I will be demanding a refund of my SoliCare purchase, because I no longer desire to pay for this sort of "service"... if you can call it that, at all.

    But thanks so much for pointing these things out, Tonesy... much appreciated!
    OK So I took a picture of my Solidoodle and you can see that once the Y limit switch is depressed the nozzle is right at the edge of the bed. BUT what I do see is you limit switch lever seems to be slightly bent out, which would stop it sooner. Trust me this isnt a bad thing (to avoid hitting the bed support). What I think I will try today is to bend that limit switch lever out slightly so the y-axis doesnt move back as far. I agree printed parts shoudl not be the way to go on this machine. With the quantities they have sold you would think a decent investment of injection molds would be more efficient with regards to speed, quality & manufacturability.

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  5. #5
    I have successfully printed a part! Although not perfectly round (it was supposed to be round) it was a complete printed part. They have a tutorial video on the SD website about tensioning the belts to improve the roundness, but I was unsuccessful in improving the roundness.

    I did bend the y-limit switch out and the x-carriage now clears the bed supports.

    STILL NO SUPPORT FROM SOLIDOODLE!

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Tonesy View Post
    I have successfully printed a part! Although not perfectly round (it was supposed to be round) it was a complete printed part. They have a tutorial video on the SD website about tensioning the belts to improve the roundness, but I was unsuccessful in improving the roundness.

    I did bend the y-limit switch out and the x-carriage now clears the bed supports.

    STILL NO SUPPORT FROM SOLIDOODLE!
    Anyone out there reading this please be advised the Solidoodle customer support SUCKS! I cant say much more for the quality of the machine either. I have put in three requests over a 7 day period and nothing. The Repetier software isnt slicing correctly. The parts look like crap. I have spent days trying to get this Workbench to work right and still no success or support from Solidoodle. I am returning the machine....that is if they even reply to my request to return the machine. Extremely frustrated with this company!!!

  7. #7
    I am keeping my machine, because I see it as a foundation... a semi-completed project by Solidoodle, at best... but still a foundation to work on.

    Yes, their customer support is worthless. SoliCare is worthless, so I've asked for a refund on that service SEVERAL TIMES, still with no answer from them. Good luck trying to return your machine, Tonesy.

    I do hope you understand (from a previous post of yours) that Repetier-Host is simply a host for the machine to connect to. It does not control your print quality in any way. Skeinforge or Slic3r are the programs you need to be tweaking, not Repetier-Host. (Both Skeinforge and Slic3r are included with the installation. (I'll try to post the settings I'm using, soon.)

    Thanks. Hang in there, man... I know it's frustrating.

  8. #8
    I'm an engineer by heart. I design, machine, and assemble tools for a living. I know good tools when I see them, and the Solidoodle Workbench is pretty much what I expected, for $1300... a work in progress. 3D printing has not nearly reached its end in history, but the Solidoodle company perhaps has (after their appalling service and PR during this generation of printers).

    However, I'm a thinker. I love solving problems... and yes, I love helping people.

    So I've started a fully-accurate 3D model of the Solidoodle Workbench... not to reverse-engineer it, in any way (because the design could be much better, by all means)... but to help me create accessories and upgraded parts for the machine. I'm doing this for myself, of course, but am happy to share it with all Workbench owners. I'll not share my 3D files, but I will share my accessory and upgraded parts ideas on this forum, to anyone who is interested.

    It's still a work in progress, but here are some preliminary images:





    I'm using TurboCAD v16 to create this model, instead of Solidworks 2014... as I'm very proficient with TC16, and have no need for parametric parts since this is simply a 3D model of an existing machine (not a design of my own, where parametrics are always nice). At any rate, I hope to complete this 3D model soon, so I can start designing the Lexan enclosure that this machine desperately needs for heat control... minor build surface relocation prints... CNC machined Y-axis carriages... et cetera.
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