Portabee assembly: part 2!

After a good night's sleep we are ready to start day 2 of the portabee building procedure. We went to sleep yesterday slightly worrying about the end stops that had to be adapted in some way, because the came soldered the other way round.

So this is how we solved the problem

End stop on the Y axis: we placed it inverted and tried out that it still falls in the right place.
X axis: we added a couple of nylon spacers so it would fall in the right position and slightly filed a piece of one spacer so the led would be free to work.

Z axis: just had to turn it around, works fine anyway luckily.

On with the extruder head, unluckily it wasn't already assembled and we lost a fair amount of time doing it. And it involves some soldering.
As always the instructions (a file apart in this case) are very very good and you just have to read them carefully. So while someone solders…
Some one else eats (again!) (they really were yesterday's leftovers…)
It's starting to look like a real printer!! And as you can see it's fairly useful having 2 iPads at home: one for following the instructions and one for listening to the New Years Concert of Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. We are very traditional here ;)
The print head goes together fairly easily, the plastic pieces are very well designed and the creators have found some nice solutions like embedding the wing nut into the 53 tooth drive gear. Our wing nut needed some filing otherwise the gear would not lie flat.
Nice usage of zip ties
And on to assembling the motors. Here the instructions were somewhat imprecise because they didn't show where the cables had to fall and didn't tell how to distinguish the various motors one from the other. We though they were identical but we found out only afterward that each one had a different cable length… And had to unscrew them 3 times. We switched them so many times from one position to the other that it looked like the 3 card game…
Belts in place (easy and elegant way to put them), motors finally in the right place, it's time for the electronic part. And here the instructions were a bit outdated, explaining that there was the need for some additional motor cables with various connector types while the motors already had their cables inserted. The instructions also talked of a z-motor extension board but also this one was not needed because the motherboard already had double ports.
Some more small soldering on the heated bead
And now everything is in place!
It's time to connect all the cables (and this is when we found out that we had connected the motors all in the wrong positions because each one had a different cable length needed to reach the motherboard. Please unfold the cable before and check…)
It looks a little bit like medusa now with all the cables flying everywhere… And like any woman she likes hair styling, so on with the spiral cable wraps!
And it's finished!!!
So, some tips we found out while assemblying it:
  • The 4 smooth rods have 2 different lengths. They look identical but they are not. And if you make our same mistake and switch them you will end up having to pull one from the shaft coupling. And it's not easy…
  • Check twice the motor's cable length. Please do it or you will regret it later…
  • We lost a lot of time checking that the smooth rods were always parallel while the head was moving, they kept moving a little bit because the distance at the base was not correct.
  • The instructions are really well made and beautifully illustrated. And I love the small jokes here and there
  • The kit is really complete of everything: allen key, spirit level, kapton tape, teflon tape and coffe. Very nice touches :)
  • The printed parts are very good, on some of them there were slight imperfections but nothing crucial. If my prints were that good I would be hopping around! I was afraid they would have been fragile but they resisted almost everything: drilling, filing, screwing (and unscrewing multiple times!!). One turned a little bit white and we had only one piece that actually broke: the lock-clip snapped after playing with it a little bit too much and we used the stl files provided to print a perfect replacement with the other 3d printer. Btw we had blue filament so you barely see the difference. Being able to print the replacements is really cool and I would recommend printing some spare clips because it looks like it's the only piece that might snap when used too much.
So it is now finished, and does it work??
We used mac-repetier-host and it hooked up fine, all the motors going in the right directions and the end stops doing their job (although having to move by hand the z end stop is really a nuisance and you have difficulties doing some fine tuning)
We managed to print the empty cube without major difficulties but when trying something with a flat surface the printer messed it up.
We should try some calibrations now but there are no easily found info on the web or in the instructions. No parameters for the stepper motors to be found, and no hints on how to calibrate it on any forum or website. After some trial and error we managed to print the nut and bolt but they turned out much smaller than the original version…without doing any resizing!
To end my first portabee review (more to come when I will manage to use it!) I have to say that it really is a nice printer, the kit is very complete and the instructions are almost perfect. I read on some review that it just takes a couple to evenings to buid it. Definitely NO, it took us both a full day and an evening to build it, and if you get the unassembled extruder you have to be prepared to do some soldering. But it's all so well described that you have fun doing it. The design is very nice, and the usage of printed parts is elegant and has given the creators the opportunity to plan some really strange looking pieces and some really ingenious solutions.


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