Going to the dark side

Lester Caine • 01 Jan 2013 (00:00 UTC)

Having relied on removing material from the target object using the mill or lathe, I've finally bitten the bullet and have a 3D printer on order. The one I've gone for is essential an XY plotter with a glue gun, but they have come on a long way since they first appeared, with much finer extruders and more intelligent software. The choice of machine has been something of a marathon. Having decided that if I was going down this path it needed to be capable of something like the size I can currently handle on the Taig mill, a 30cm axis was top of the list. While the mill is only 30x15, most printers seem to go for square beds, so a 30x30 was the smallest footprint. Given the larger size, the type of mechanics was also almost a given. The 'delta' type arrangement where the print head flies around on the end of three arms results in a circular footprint and get large when looking for even the 30x15 area. The layout where the table shifts back and forth through a fix gantry looks tidy, but suggestions are that to get any speed, thrashing the warm print back and forth is not ideal. So we reach the third type of mechanics where the table simply moves up and down with an old style XY plotter over the top to move the head. Many of the expensive machines use this format, but finding a cheap enough option was fun. I wanted something that would be a kit that could be enhanced as required, as at the very least changing print heads and improving drives is not something that is possible with a fully engineered machine. The TronXY X5S kept coming to the fore once all the other selection rules had been eliminated. It's a relatively crude design, and off the shelf it has a number of well documented problems, but it also has easy to implement fixes for those problems. So it should be something of a no-brainer to buy one and also the extra parts to enhance it? If only it was so simple. Well actually it probably is if you just pay the price asked, but looking for the best deal was a nightmare. Being of Chinese origin, it is readily available from the usual sources with 'lots of competition' on price, except there seems to be a price cartel on much of this sort of kit? There ARE actually two improved versions of the X5S, the X5ST which has we think the improved controller, and the X5SA which has that plus a number of the mechanical improvements. The problem is neither of those is stocked in the UK, just leaving the old product available from a large number of sellers on ebay ALL at £213.99 and none responding to offers to take them at a lower price. As usual Amazon has it's usual number of chancers but £711+shipping is just a joke?

Long story short. I have an X5ST on it's way from China on a 7 day service costing just under £220. I don't actually need the newer chinese controller but I'm assuming there will be a market to sell it here. I've got the BeagelBone Black and Pi3 configured for a 3D printer as an alternate upgrade but we will go into that side later. Now the problem is picking up a few extras ready for the build, and it looks like that shopping list will have to be filled in China as well. Even with the 7day carrier charges it's substantially cheaper than using UK sellers. That is also fraught with the problem that you PAY UK prices for parts for them to come direct from China some time later! Honesty is not something that is prevalent on eBay and Amazon :( It may be time to add a 3D printer section to MEDW, but then like many parts they will just sit on the shelf for years doing nothing.

Details of the various investigations can be found on the Motion Control and this will link to other areas as they develop.