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  1. #1
    Regular 3D Printer
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    Oct 2018
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    New, grateful, a tad lost and in search of guidance.

    Hello World,

    I would like to start my first post here with some thank you's:

    TommyDee, MegaloDon, bolsoncerrado, Mythandar, (anyone else that I might have missed that would like a thanking),

    Thank you all so much for your efforts in modifying/improving the cube 3 (or in my case ekocycle) and the for all the additional time and work you have invested in sharing your efforts with the world!

    A not so brief history of my, thus far, brief foray into the world of 3D printing:

    I have wanted to try 3D printing for a number of years but justifying the cost of a printer has been the primary hurdle for me. As fate would have it, a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine (who runs the robotics program at a local middle/high school) said I could borrow their 3D printer to play with if I didn't mind getting it up and running again. The printer (a 3DS ekocycle) had been sitting in a box for well over a year because it didn't work any more.

    As it turns out, the issue was that the power socket had fallen apart inside the printer... Thankfully a quick fix. A few screws and some minor exploration/surgery later, she lit up like a christmas tree!

    The printer came with 2 partial cartridges of filament (black and natural). I proceeded to try a test print and then a benchy boat print and then a tiny vase print and then a "tiny cat statue for my daughter" print and then a "cat ear hairband for my daughter" print aaaaaannnnnnd then it dawned on me that I would need to be getting some more filament, quite soon in fact...

    It was at this point that I discovered that the cartridges were $50 a piece (with very limited color choices)... that this printer had been discontinued and that it was basically a Cube 3 (which had also been discontinued) with a different logo and different firmware, and that it printed in PETG. After some more digging, I found that the print nozzle and extruder were part of the filament cartridge and that said cartridge was not intended to be reused (particularly odd since the ekocycle seems to be quite proud of the fact that it uses some recycled material in its filament... most likely less material than would be wasted if one disposed of the empty cartridge...). Anywho, I digress...

    My primary goals became: to get the printer printing bulk filament and to eventually be able to return the printer to my friend in a more useable, user friendly state than what I had received it.

    More searching brought to my attention some of the work that had been done to make the cube 3 able to use bulk filament and thus started the actual journey that has lead me to this point.

    I found Tomuro's blog and whipped out an Arduino Nano from a drawer, wired it up, programmed Tomuro's Recube to it and reset my first cartridge to 100%. Success! It sure felt good to see the printer read the cartridge at 100% even though there was only about 15% of actual filament left on it.

    I purchased some bulk PETG spools from MakeShaper, MatterHackers and 3D Solutech to try (I have not tried the filament from MakeShaper yet but the other two work just dandy). On a side note, I have not printed in anything other than PETG, I didn't even know it was an option before I got this printer, but I do love it!

    My first setup with bulk filament involved the box it came it, a knitting needle and some strategically placed holes in said box with the filament running into the bottom of the extruder and up the stock tube into the stock nozzle end. It did however work quite well and allowed me to print a spool holder.

    Next I ordered some 4mm OD 2mm ID PTFE tubing and a few fittings.

    My first modification involved threading the top of one of the extruder blocks for a fitting and running the tubing into TommyDee's nozzle which I had printed in the interim. I was quite proud of myself for coming up with the idea of threading the extruder block... Turns out the threading of the block was not an original idea at all...

    Next on the print plate was MegaloDon's FTF Extruder Hub, my longest print to date (I combined all the parts in the same print job). The printer managed ok and after some minor cleanup the new extruder hub works swimmingly. I decided to drill and tap one of the stock nozzle holder/head thingies to accept a 4mm tube fitting and that is now attached to Don's hub. I tried to print out Tommy's extruder hub for the other side of the printer however it turns out that the ekocycle does not seem to like print files for the cube 3...

    All that, along with a lot more reading and searching, playing with Fusion 360, some random prints and failed prints, brings us approximately up to date and to the "tad lost and in search of guidance" portion of my post...

    First issue: The print plate

    - I received it with the top surface already slightly pitted with slight bulging and the start of some cracks over the magnets. The cracks have grown to the point where I feel the need for a new surface is becoming necessary. I have not found a lot of information regarding a suitable replacement or method of replacement for the white skin that is adhered to the top of the aluminum plate. Has anyone come up with a relatively simple and hopefully affordable solution to this issue?

    Second issue: Parts

    - Where to get my hands on parts, aside from buying new or very overpriced used on eBay.

    -I would like to acquire at least a couple more nozzles, extruders and chips to put together in usable sets to send home with the printer when the time comes for it to return. (Ideally I would have each set attached to a different roll of filament to make it as easy as possible for the kids to change colors and print stuff before the need to replace filament becomes an issue.) Also a few spares might not be a bad thing just in case something decides to break while I am tinkering with it...

    - In an ideal world I would like to acquire a used Cube 3 or ekocycle that I can experiment on before making any major changes to the one I have so that I don't risk causing irreparable damage to it and so I can be relatively certain that any changes I make are an actual improvement to usability for when I return the printer. Worst case even just a parts printer could come in very handy. It would also not be the worst thing if I could assemble a functional printer in the end to stay with me when I send the schools one on its way...

    Third issue: To do or not to do

    - I would like to be able to use some of the hacks/features specific to the Cube 3 without losing the convenient ability to print in PETG of the ekocycle. The ultimate goal still being to make/keep the printer simple to use for the kids.

    -Is this something worth entertaining? I would have to purchase the "Pro" version of Tomuro's ReCube to change the chip types so I can use ekocycle chips with a Cube 3 and vice versa. Then there is the firmware swaps and software hacks that come along with the transition to use the temperature modifier and toolbox etc. Does the potential added functionality outweigh the potential added complexity of it all?

    Fourth issue: 3D Builder and BFB.

    Came across those this morning for the first time so I am not as informed as I feel I should be but is there a relatively simple step by step description of implementation and use? The little I have gleaned from reading make it seem like it would be fun to play with.

    Fifth issue: Right side printing

    - Thus far I have only been able to print successfully out of the left side nozzle. On the right side I get a T-24 error just before the nozzle is done heating up. I have looked into the Kapton tape on the heater block solution but I do not want to risk any additional problems that might arise from tearing the printer apart that far. Both nozzles I have tried seat fully and are clean as far as I can tell. My wife likes to keep our house at a high of 65*F during the cooler months and she has also relegated the printer to the garage (which is even colder) due to noise while she is trying to sleep at night... This means a comfy warm spot for the printer is quite difficult to achieve.

    Sixth issue: Time

    - How does one acquire a few more hours in a day to allow for actual work and a satisfying amount of 3D printer tinkering?

    Seventh issue: Why is staring at a 17hr print not nearly as boring as watching paint dry?

    If you have reached this point in this post, without having skipped all the text above, thank you for your time. I truly appreciate any and all suggestions/input/information anyone might be able to provide.

    Once again, thank you to all of you for your time and effort invested in making this printer into what seems to be a very capable machine.


    P.S. I attempted to attach a few pictures to distract from the lengthy post... Hopefully they show up.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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  3. #2
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    Nov 2016
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    Welcome to the forum Bob!

    Let's see how I get through your questions...

    - - - - - - - - - -

    issue 1: build plate.

    Best advice is to put LokBuild on a brand new build plate.
    Second best solution is to put LokBuild directly on your used build plate.
    3rd best option is to rip off the surface and replace it with literally anything good and flat. On top of that adhere LokBuild.

    There are some basic tips that might help but for the most part LokBuild has solved nearly everything associated with the Cube 3 build plate.
    the bulges are from air in the magnet pockets. Once the plate warms up, the trapped air expands. This is what stresses the material enough over time to cause it to crack (and breathe). I'm going to suggest a small vent hole on the bottom side of the build plate just for the magnets.
    Be warned however. The goo that holds down the build surface is horrible to remove. If you do go this route, you could permanently epoxy the magnets in place, face the surface (after removing all the glue), and attaching LokBuild directly to the aluminum plate. My current solution on all my printers is to simply attach the LokBuild to the stock surface without any other tricks. I do have one I went through and it is the one with LokBuild added to a nice flat ceramic plate.

    For some prints, I still use the Cube3 glue. Works wonders even on LokBuild. I conserve the glue by re-wetting it from time to time. I have a printed perimeter to help trap the glue between wetting events. This really works wonders with ABS! The Cube3 glue seems to stick better to LokBuild than the white plastic form the stock build plate. Anyway, this is how I roll with the build plate these days.

    As a disclaimer... I have no affiliation with LokBuild. It's just really good stuff for a minimal cost increment.

    - - - - - - - - - -

    Issue #2: Spare parts...

    Yes, we still have limited nozzle availability. Someone on Facebook went so far as to machine one. Haven't heard anything else.

    Nothing wrong with leaving the printer as an Ekocycle. Your resetting tool should be sufficient to keep the printer functional while using 3rd party filament.

    Here's the good thing... the only "wear parts" are the driver and the nozzle. The filament driver will last a good long time when used properly.

    The nozzle too can have a good long long life under certain conditions. 1st of all, don't burn any filament in your nozzle. This will cause it to carbon contaminate and will cause intermittent issues. I keep my ABS and my PLA nozzles separate to minimize this risk. If you only run PETG, then this problem is also minimized.

    I still scour eBay for spare cartridges. Just this morning I found a black PLA Cube3 cart for $30/shipped. Don't need it but it is a good price for more parts.

    - - - - - - - - - -

    ...more to come. Chores first.

    - - - - - - - - - -

    Issue #3: Do... but not do.

    Leaving the printer an Ekocycle is a good idea in that there is less choice to mess things up for the kids.
    However, having a Cube3 arrangement may give you additional options.
    I don't know if there is an encoder/decoder for Ekocycle. I do know that the Cube3 encoder/decoder works nicely for temperature mods or some simply global hacks.
    If this is something that interests you, the firmware may need to be updated to Cube3. If there is an Ekocycle En/De-coder, someone please shime in.

    One vote I will provide for the update to Cube3 is the use of PLA. It is just so much more forgiving when it comes curl avoidance.

    All in all, we've done very little to actually diminish the printer in any way with the mods.
    So far, nothing requires hacking or cutting the printer itself... and the cartridge mods are quite benign.

    - - - - - - - - - -

    Issue #4: Apps...

    3D Builder is a simple build plate app that can tie directly to the printer via it's right side USB port. In all, it is a 3DS slicer rigged to a Microsoft interface.
    Windows 10 will have it loaded and once the printer is connected, it will allow you to print to it.

    BFB is a little different. This is the code that is encoded with the Cube3 encoder. 3DS has their own flavor BFB convention. We can make simple hacks with notepad and re-encode it for printing... but it has to be done via the USB drive since the cube3 app won't read these modified files... which means we cannot send it via WiFi.

    However, the encoding and decoding from issue 3 is where this all comes in. Best reason for the 'coders is temperature change but I've also gone in an manipulated the retraction settings. Things such as feed rate, movement velocities, and material changes are more than I need to mess with at this time. However, a custom routine for loading filament, for instance, is something one could do with enough patience to figure out what the printer is doing.

    - - - - - - - - - -

    Issue #5: You've done the due diligence on the right side to find out it doesn't play nice. And you've already gleaned a possible fix.

    All I know is that cold and 3D printers are not happy bedfellows. You might break out that small heater and a fireproof box to set up a nice little environment in your garage. This printer really does want to be around 70-75*F.

    There could be other reasons you are having this issue not least of which is a thermistor wire problem. This could be a tough one to trace down without some closer scrutiny.

    The only other time I've ever had temperature errors is having a chip in place and no nozzle installed. That cancels a print immediately once the initialization is complete reporting a Txx error.

    - - - - - - - - - -

    Issue #6: timelessness

    The equation is simple: time/money. If you don't have enough time, you probably don't have enough money either.
    So to get more time, you need more money.
    Simple math, right?

    - - - - - - - - - -

    Issue #7: the Stare.

    I find these printers to be absolutely hypnotic!
    ...while paint stinks well past being dry.

    I'm always looking to see if I can see something in the print that I can utilize in the design of things.

    I hate to say it but I do design things for fabrication on this tool. Something I've been taught to never ever do!

    However, once you get confidence in your prints, you will find yourself trusting the machine more often than not.

    - - - - - - - - - -

    Now having said all that, I will say that I have converted everything I have to the B2B (Back to Basics) solution.
    This assures me good contact with the chip and proper alignment to the filament driver mechanism.
    The large flange of the stock cartridge really does help maintain a solid fit.
    The only thing I did do is to open the lower face of the cartridge for external feed.

    The other thing I did since all this work posted on this forum is to get rid of the quick connect fittings. They were my last weak link.
    Today, the only outside source I need to upgrade a Cube3 is to buy tubing with good clearance in the ID (2mm ID minimum!).

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  5. #3
    Regular 3D Printer
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    Oct 2018
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    Wow! Just Wow.

    Thank you for the welcome Tommy and for the very detailed and thorough reply!

    I will be picking up some LokBuild. I can print around the bad spot on the plate until it arrives. I will most likely go the strip off the old surface route and then hate myself for doing it when it is too late to undo...

    I believe I saw that there $30 filament on eBay, along with a pair for $50 and three for $70, all shipped free. At the time I had not decided about the Cube 3 crossover and wasn't sure about the added cost of converting the Cube 3 cartridges to ekocycle. I am leaning towards keeping it ekocycle and staying with PETG for now. PETG is treating me quite well so there is not really much motivation to switch beyond the tinker factor.

    I have some leftover 1" foam sheet from an insulating project that I think I will use to construct a little sauna for the printer. Thank you for the idea.

    Lastly, I would love to hear more about your B2B solution. Particularly attachment of the replacement tubing without the fittings. I do like how secure Don's extruder hub locks in and will most likely stick with that but would like to simplify it to less parts because I don't need the chip changer option. Would you perchance be willing to export the stl files of your hub to a print file specifically for the ekocycle. Try as I might I could not get the little printer to take the Cube 3 version you have posted on Thinigverse...

    Thank you again, I truly appreciate your time and you sharing your experience and expertise so freely.

  6. #4
    Super Moderator
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    Nov 2016
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    That choice makes things simple. I can output files in Ekocycle. Just need to find them again!

    Just go to the universal hub thread for the B2B info. There you'll see why I am advocating keeping the stock cartridge case.

    The entry price is being able to put a groove in your 4mm teflon tube.

  7. #5
    Regular 3D Printer
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    I have always considered myself somewhat groovy (though my wife and daughter would strongly disagree) so that entry price is an easy one to pay. Oh wait you said the tube... Right, that can be done also...

    Thank you for the link to the B2B thread. It is amazing what one can miss when focused on finding something specific and not just casually browsing threads! I made the mistake of starting to browse the Cube 3 parent forum last night... So much more reading and learning ahead.

  8. #6
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    Even I loose threads here on the forum

    That's from late onset CRS however.

    Let me know where you would like me to shime in again.

    - - - - - - - - - -

    ...and Ekocycle and Cube3 files have the same extension .cube3.

    The decoder/encoder works fine on Ekocycle generated files.

    Here is my DIY hub in Ekocycle format:

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  10. #7
    Regular 3D Printer
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    Thank you for the hub reformat!

    Interesting that the decoder and encoder work. I had not even thought to try but will play with it some tomorrow.

    Any guesses as to what the difference in the files are that prevent ekocycle from printing a cube 3 .cube3 file? I wonder if it is something simple that I can edit to make cube 3 files printable...

  11. #8
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    I am certain it is something simple. There is an init header and a fairly common footer. However, there is a huge chunk of binary data remaining that I attribute to the dynamic screen image. This can be deleted as it doesn't re-encode properly and keeps the file from opening in the Cube app.

    I suspect the leading "comment data" is a handshake with the printer.
    This is the Ekocycle header:

    ^MaterialLengthE1: 11667.656
    ^MaterialLengthE2: 0.000
    ^MaterialLengthE3: 0.000
    ^ModelHeight: 34.650
    ^LayerCount: 180
    M227 P375 S375 G400 F800
    M228 P0 S375
    M231 P0 S0
    M232 P5000 S5000
    M233 P1000
    M106 P100
    G4 P60
    M601 P2 S60 F5
    M240 X450
    M240 Y400
    M228 P0 S1
    M227 P1 S1 G1000 F1000
    M601 P8 S60 F5
    M240 S500
    M204 S210 P1
    M104 S210 P1
    G1 X-100.500 Y0.000 Z5.1275 F7000.0
    M104 S265
    G4 P10
    G4 P15
    M551 P700 S35
    G1 X-95.500 Y0.000 Z5.1275 F7000.0
    M204 S210 P1
    M104 S250 P1
    M601 P2 S60 F5
    M240 X400
    M240 Y450

    - - - - - - - - - -

    This is the clamp you want for the hub since you already tapped the filament driver.

    - - - - - - - - - -

    ...and the chip holder with the "P"...
    Attached Files Attached Files

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  13. #9
    Regular 3D Printer
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    My apologies for not replying sooner...

    My parents are in town visiting my wife and me and there was an unreasonable amount of house prep and cleaning that had to happen (according to my wife)... This has really cut into my play time...

    Thank you for them there additional files, much appreciated.

    An interesting and new discovery (at least to me) that I made this morning is that, after decoding, I can replace the header section in the Cube 3 file with the header section from the Ekocycle file, re-encode, and print the Cube 3 file on my Ekocycle. According to Cube Print the nozzle temp is running at around 211*C rather than the usual 245ish but it seems to be printing fine.

    I wonder if I can now play with the temp modifier and print PLA on the Ekocycle...

    Also, I snagged 2 rolls of blue Cube 3 PLA from eBay a few days ago, relisted auction, made a lowish offer that got accepted! Might have to convert to a Cube 3 for those and then back to EkoCycle but at least I will have some spare parts now!

    Anyway, I am going to make the most of the few hours of alone time I have while my parents are out shopping with my wife and daughter!

    - - - - - - - - - -

    I lied, 211*C is not ok... Layer adhesion is just about non-existent...

    - - - - - - - - - -

    Take 2 @ 240*C, also a fail... Better layer adhesion but zero fill structure adhesion...

  14. #10
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    No worries about replies, good buddy. I have a similar household.

    So your info is fantastic! This confirms my "handshake" protocol in the header alone regardless of the following data.

    This all makes sense including the temperature monitoring. The standard PLA temperature is 210/215 (CRS) so the settings within the file are respected.

    BTW: temperature modifier is much easier with notepad. Just replace all the M104 nnn with mmm.
    There are M204 commands that are basically a bias temperature for the heater block.
    Always best to change temperatures relevant to their assigned setting.
    Worst part about notepad is removing the gibberish on the bottom of the file for efficiency. I can live with that.
    I also back up what I am seeing in the file with Excel.
    A quick special paste , format "TEXT", and Data/Filter will give you quick view of what's in the file.

    Onto the chip... have you contacted Tomuro yet on the full version of the chip changer?
    Since you already have the resetter built, seems a simple thing to convert a Cube3 chip to Ekocycle.
    I think I got the both ends of that auction too... 1x black and 2x red.
    Anyway, there is a reason for pushing the resetter.
    I am building a stockpile of Cubex and Cube2 chips that should be able to take on a new program all together.
    Care to pursue that?

    F/W: I'm following the F/W logic on this, and it is a best guess:
    Ekocycle doesn't care about the raw BFB data as to function. This means it could even do a 70 micron print since that is managed by the BFB itself.
    The build data in the header also doesn't matter. It is simply a trigger for what to display on the screen. Therefore several of the header info fields are simply communication and not actually triggers configuring hardware.

    What this brings me to is the management of material in F/W v. the header.
    If you put a valid Cube3 color code in the file, material selected properly, of course, ...would the Ekocycle accept a valid Cube3 cart?
    Here is why it is not as simple as the other fields... there is a F/W trigger to message the color mismatch error and provide an overwrite function.
    So the question as to accepting a Cube3 cartridge is two-fold; can a header with a valid Cube3 PLA cartridge code accept a Cube3 cartridge of any-color-PLA?
    And if not, can it accept one where the color matches also?

    Somehow I'm thinking that the F/W has a lookup table for compatible material codes triggered by the "Ekocycle" or "Cube3" header entry.
    And the F/W cannot be set up for both.

    I know you have a much better hand at what I am grasping at simply from the fact that you're listening to an ME talk about code and hardware.
    Bottom line, and most obvious, is that access to an inline stream editor would be -SOooooo aaaaaAWESOMEeeeee-.
    When you start looking into what 3DS does, you'll see how simple their printing algorithm really is across all cube platforms. ...The slicer is a whole other story.

    Anyway, keep the family company. Remember, this IS just a hobby ... really...

    really... it is...


    - - - - - - - - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by bobskinner View Post
    Take 2 @ 240*C, also a fail... Better layer adhesion but zero fill structure adhesion...
    The Ekocycle doesn't do the minimal infill in the slicer (cross).
    Cube3 cross infill is only there to provide vertical support.
    I run most of my prints with the simple "cross" fill.
    It also prints faster!
    I can usually design strength into the skin of the part.

    However, you can now generate Cube3 files and hack them with the 'coders from within the Cube app by printing to either virtual printers. So there is no need for a F/W change to Cube3 other than chips. Why not hack the chips?

    In the Ekocycle generated file, you will also see and M104 set to 265... I think that is just the first layer. That is specifically for PETG. the Cube3's max temp is 260 throughout an ABS print.

    - - - - - - - - - -

    A quick word on Lokbuild offers on eBay....

    Please note that a flood of "6 inch" Lokbuild hit eBay in droves.
    Our build size is 6" (152.4mm) but our build plate is 170mm square (6.69 inches)
    Unless you are very good at placing the Lokbuild on the build plate, the 6" size is insufficient for maintaining full access to your build plate reliably.
    Last edited by TommyDee; 10-20-2018 at 09:22 PM.



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