The Cetus 3D Printer was my second 3D printer and the first to arrive from a Kickstarter - although it doesn't bode well when it arrives looking like this...
Still, I was hopeful that when it was held up in Shanghai (or Shanghaied in Hong Kong?) and had to spend the Chinese New Year in a warehouse that the celebrating workers weren't using it to work out their frustrations on. My money is on DHL being the heavy-handed ones but fingers crossed it's just the outer packaging that took a beating. You'd almost think those arrows were stuck on there to give hints at where to wallop it...
I'll have to unpack it and assemble it on the dining table because my craft area is currently buried under laser-cut MDF sheets and partially glued paint racks. I intend to try and shuffle backwards and forwards between the two projects while I'm waiting for the glue to dry and I'm not in a major hurry because, yet again, until I finish assembling the paint station I won't actually have anywhere for the printer to live.
So, opening up the box and removing the top sheet of polyfoam packaging I see this.
My initial thoughts were that I was lucky that the impact was only where there was an empty space and that hopefully, nothing was damaged/missing once I got it out of the box.
Removing a handful of well shaped/cut pieces of packaging allowed me to pop the contents onto the table.
From what I can initially see things are looking remarkably good:
This is what's inside the Cetus Kickstarter package (Mark 1, extended gantry version).
However, its once I remove the plastic bag and bottom packaging that I spot what I'm left with courtesy of that punctured hole in the outer packaging...
What you're looking at is a close-up shot of the rail that holds the print head (or hotend) of the printer. It runs side to side along a linear rail, courtesy of a toothed belt driven by the stepper motor (the square block thing on the end). The problem is, that's all supposed to be square and flush, not bent out of alignment.
You can see the amount of displacement it's suffered. Both the belt and the rail should be running straight with the stepper motor sat flush up against the end of the rail. There definitely shouldn't be a bend in the belt at the stepper motor end.
There's no way that's going to run smoothly (if at all) so for now it's time to put a halt to things and go email these pictures to Tiertime in China and see what they say.
OK so while I wait for the guys at Team Tiertime over in Beijing to get back to me, I thought I'd go back and review what you get in the small inner box (as laid out on the table photo above) and see just what was inside...
Turns out, quite a lot actually!
Left to right:
(Top left) 3x 50g spools of their own PLA filament (cream, white and green) - whilst handy to do a set of small test prints in each, I have some 1kg spools waiting to be used to help clear down the insane model backlog I have but still it's nice to have something to print with straight away.
(Next top left) A small ziplock bag containing some tools (allen/ball-socket key, nozzle wrench and an acupuncture needle for clearing any nozzle clogs) that you'll need during the printers lifetime, along with various grub screws, nuts and shaped metal joints for the spool holder as well as a couple of plastic end caps (also for the spool holder). The Cetus comes with 0.2mm, 0.4mm and 0.6mm nozzles (which is cool because you normally just get a single 0.4mm nozzle with a printer) and having learned some frustrating lessons with my first 3D printer I bought a spare one of each as part of my pledge.
(Centre) Some aluminium rods for making a (by all accounts terribad) spool holder - I have a couple of spool holders that I printed out on the Wanhao i3 ready to use, but it's free so what the heck, I'll give it a go.
(Next top left) The hotend assembly - this contains a stepper motor for feeding the filament into the nozzle (the 0.4mm nozzle comes pre-fitted) and the filament cooling fan.
(Top & bottom right) A power brick complete with UK plug. No drama, all set, ready to go. Well done.
(Next bottom right) A USB lead for linking the printer to a computer. It can be used for firmware updates as well as tethering (staying permanently attached to the printer while it prints).
(Centre left) A scraper for removing your print from the print bed (these buggers can be razor sharp so be careful) and a set of side-cutters for trimming away any printed support material as well as any stray filament 'wisps'. While scrapers are standard accessories to come with a printer, the side-cutters were a nice surprise.
(Bottom left) Two aluminium print beds (I bought a spare as part of my pledge because I'd like to try using either a removable glass plate or a specialist buildplate material. You can buy the Cetus with Tiertime's own specially coated print plate but initially it wasn't a smooth surface (it had a crackle-glaze texture) and I like my prints without any undue marking on the bottom. However, the Cetus' one is apparently very grippy, so if you're not obsessive then save money and take theirs.
What's NOT in the box:
An SD card or flash drive/memory stick. Usually you'll use one of these to load the file you want to print onto it and then insert it into the printer. The Cetus doesn't use them - you can either send the file via the USB lead (gah! /Angry) or use the printers built-in WiFi (yay! /Big Grin )
Any form of instruction assembly instructions, manual or quickstart guide. These are all found online in the Cetus FAQ but a heads up would have been nice - I found the link by reading through the comments on the Kickstarter page.
Any slicer software. A slicer is a program that allows you to create the files that your printer will print. Although you can go to places like Thingiverse and just download a file to print, you still have to 'slice' it (i.e convert/configure it) so that it will work on your particular printer. I already have several slicer programs but the Cetus is (initially at least) designed to work with their own - which again can be found online at cetus3d.com - Cetus 3D Make It Happen (or via the FAQ).
The extended gantry that I ordered as part of my pledge. That's because I'm a doofus and Team Tiertime are nice guys - they already fitted it for me... (doh! /Exclamation)
Sadly real life has kept me away from my ongoing battle with the MDF monster that is the Paint Station but in between all of the running around I've had to do, I did hear back from Team Tiertime - a Jason Wu to be precise. He emailed me back with suggestions on how to fix the bent/misaligned Y-axis and apologised for any inconvenience it may have caused me. He promised that if the suggested fix didn't work, he could send me some replacement parts but obviously that would mean more of a delay and also that I'd have to carry out the repair myself. What exactly was the advice you ask?
"Bend it back again".
As an ex-computer engineer I was actually quite looking forward to taking the thing apart but bugger me if his suggested 'fix' didn't just do the job!
All square again. Yay!
Then it was time to assemble it - which to be honest, purely consisted of moving rooms and setting it up on a different bench, installing the hotend assembly (unscrewing 2 screws, attaching it, then screwing the screws back in place), plugging the umbilical cable into the hotend (which has a shaped plug and so can only go in one way), plumbing in the thin bowden tube that runs through the umbilical chord at both ends (one end into the holder at the top rear of the upright and the other into the hotend assembly), attaching the build plate (by screwing in 3 screws), downloading and installing the Cetus software, configuring it to work on my wi-fi and then finally doing a manual levelling of the build plate - it's supposed to be levelled at the factory and not need levelling but that wallop in transit was sure to have wonked it... (it had). All of which took me around 20 minutes.
My advice would be to look at the Quick Start Guide from the FAQ section of the Cetus3D website and just go carefully - don't try to force anything (if it needs too much force it's either not seated properly or in the wrong place) and if in doubt, stop and take a second look/rethink things. A set-square won't go amiss either if you are at all worried about anything being out of alignment.
Which was less time than it took to work out how to assemble the cacking spool holder! There aren't any instructions on the site for the holder but a quick search of their user forum gave me a picture of it assembled and some idea of how to screw the bits together (they use the small shaped metal brackets and grub screws, all of which are in the little ziplock bag). Once I had the holder built I saw what folks were complaining about...
Think of a spool of filament like a big-ass bobbin of thread. It has a hole in the middle that's meant to have a spindle running through it so that the spool can freely rotate as the printer draws the filament off it and into the extruder in the hotend. The spool has a round hole and the spindle on the spool holder is square (/Huh?). Now admittedly the spindle is small enough to easily fit within the roll, but rotating a round object on an angled surface won't go smoothly (that is why we have round wheels, not blocks) and any jarring or jerking from the filament can be transferred into 'motion lines' or unwanted layer effects on the printed object.
Again, the Cetus community had the answer. Someone had created a mod that was designed to be printed out and snapped over the top of the square spindle, fattening it up and turning it into a nice smooth, rounded one complete with lipped edges to prevent the spool from falling off as it rotated. They had put the file up for free download on Thingiverse and 2hrs 7mins later (along with 34g used up from the free 50g of white filament that was supplied with the printer) - voilà!
One freshly printed part. The rough-looking web bit at the base of it is called a 'raft' and you can add them to a file before you send it to print to give some extra surface area so that the object sticks to the printbed while it's printing. It's designed to be easily removed and thankfully the Cetus came up trumps again, it peeled away with very little effort and left hardly any marking.
The picture doesn't really do justice to the finish on the item - it really is smooth and solid. And the really amazing thing is that it was printed with just default settings, right out of the box and using the regular nozzle, not the super fine one!
ll that was left was to see if it fitted...
Holy crap! It snapped right on and sits snugly in place. Job done!
I have to say that I am absolutely gob-smacked by the performance of the Cetus. Aside from the damage in transit (which was thankfully fixed within hours courtesy of the Tiertime support staff) this bad boy has blown me away with not only its build quality but also its easy of use and end results. I'll run the rest of the free PLA filament through it to see what it does with some more detailed work but I don't think I'm going to be disappointed.
A saltbeard Grognard who's glad he never grew up enough to lose his imagination.