Upgrades and improvements

Well the makergear hot end I installed on the hippie was apparently one I had problems with before, so I just went ahead and got two new J-heads.  One is for the hippie and the other is for the bumblebee.  I did try the chess head ceramic hot end from 2engineers, but after messing around with it and talking with them I realize that it's not really suited to use with ABS/PLA, so I'm just going to keep them for the Nylon and Polycarbonate printing.

There was a recent post and update to Marlin that has me EXTREMELY excited.  Basically it's true auto-leveling for the bed, but it's actually more of a compensation instead of actually leveling the bed.  You install a servo with a microswitch on the end, and it will swing down and measure the bed height at 3 locations.  Then with this measurement and the configuration of the offset of the microswitch to the hot end tip it will automatically adjust z-height dynamically while printing to provide a perfectly aligned print with the bed.  The really nice thing is that it appears to be very straight forward to implement, and it works with silly mis-alignments.  The video on Youtube shows almost an inch of tilt left to right, but the printer compensates not just vertically but actually tilts the object so it's perpendicular to the bed.

I was just going to install this on the bumblebee thinking that the hippie wouldn't have room, but after desiging a holder for the servo and switch I test fitted it and it will be just fine on both my printers.  The only drawback is the hippie is still running a sanguinololu, so I took the RAMPS from the bumblebee since it's already torn down and I'm in the process of upgrading the hippie.

For the bumblebee I decided to go ahead and do the upgrade to the RAMBO board from ultimachine.  This is an all-in-one solution that Made In Space is using for the 3D printers going to the ISS.  The advantage is you don't have seperate boards, a mega, the RAMPS board and the A4988's so there's less chance of an issue with connections.  The drawback I've heard was that if you blow a stepper controller you have to get a new board, but in the 3 years I've been printing I have yet to have a board go bad (knocks on wood).  It has some other really nice features, like seperate power bus for the heated bed, extruders, and motors. digital trim pots for the steppers, screw connectors for hot end, heated bed, fans that make it very easy to install.  The one thing I'd really like to see is screw connectors for the stepper motors.  Almost everything else is a screw connector and I think it's time for the steppers to follow suit :)

My friends Ordbot is coming along well, he has all the mechanical parts and is assembling it now.  I gave him one of my backup extruders with geared stepper motor while I printed his in a color to match his printer.  I expect that in the next two weeks I'll be heading over to help him with the calibration and initial setup.  He also has mentioned that he likes the Ordbot design, very solid and easy to align and assemble.