Failure is a Learning Option

When I was shopping around for my 3D printer, I made sure to do a little research. There is lots of excellent advice to be found in blogs and forums. I felt confident that if I followed a checklist that I would be up and printing in no time, worry and hassle-free.

  1. Do you want to print right out of the box?
    • Why yes I do! But ready to go printers are expensive …
  2. If you are getting a DIY kit, do you have experience with building and construction of mechanical parts?
    • No, but I did build an IKEA bookshelf once …
  3. If you are getting a DIY kit, do you have experience with programming an Arduino?
    • Oh! I can get the LED on my Arduino to blink with the supplied test code! So … that counts.
  4. Should you get an XY printer or a delta printer? Delta printers are harder to calibrate, so it is suggested that if it is your first printer and if you have little experience with 3D printing to start with an XY printer. You also lose build space on a delta printer.
    • Hmm… yeah, but the deltas look so much cooler.

In the end, I ignored all the advice and bought myself the FLSun Delta printer with heat bed and auto calibration. Only one of these has proven to be useful, the other led to … well, I won’t say frustration instead, I’ll say failures. Lots and lots of failures, but they began well before I  needed to calibrate my printer.

My 3D printer once I finally got it all put together.

I had done some research on the FLSun delta specifically and ran across a post that boasted that reviewer had their dad assemble the printer. As a gentleman who had not assembled a printer before it took him a few hours. Me? A couple of days. It was a comedy of errors as I put pieces in the wrong way, used the wrong screws and constantly fought with the little hex keys they supplied at weird angles. On the upside, I giggled joyfully every time I read, “install the other tow in the same way,” or, “fix screws firmly.”

With every setback, I began to understand the framework and geometry of my printer better. I also discovered that you can by hex keys with a rounded end, designed specifically for getting into those odd angles and corners that a “comes with the kit” key cannot do. Bonus, I’ve expanded my knowledge of tools. I couldn’t wait to impress my brothers at the next family dinner (turns out they knew of their existence, sigh).

After I built my printer I followed the instructions on installing the software and calibration. Once done, I made a print. It didn’t work out so I did another calibration. Things still weren’t printing right. So calibrated again … and then again. I started throwing in some random manual calibrations to see if that helped. In the end, I made so many changes that the printer could no longer even perform an attempt at an auto calibration.

My first series of prints. There were supposed to be cubes, they ended up as rectangular prisms.

I was back doing more research and learned how to calibrate my printer by hand. When I finished the calibration, which took a while given how out of whack I had adjusted my printer, I ran an auto calibrate just to see. It agreed with my adjustments and had no corrections to offer. I felt pretty darn proud.

At any of the failures I faced along the way, I could have given up and walked away. Instead, I sighed, took a sip of tea, or maybe I took a break, but I always tried to apply my what I learned in math to the situation – This answer is wrong. That’s okay. What Can I learn from this mistake? Where might I have missed a step? What variables can I change? Are things defined correctly? Can I redefine them? Is there a tool in my math kit that can help me here?

It sure has come in handy and will continue to come help as I know try to figure out how to print with ABS, let’s just say it’s off to a rocky start!

I was hoping to print some vibration absorption supports, I ended up with a mess.