This is intended to be a general step-by-step guide for using the GigaBot 3d printer at The Construct, so always remember to seek out help from a lab manager if you are unsure or have questions.
Read ALL parts of this tutorial before starting your print job!
Step 0: Should I print this?
Take a look at these considerations to answer this. If you’re confident that 3D printing is the way to go, then carry on!
Some considerations specific to the Gigabot:
- Gigabot is not very accurate and uses large diameter nozzles, this means that parts will not be very precise and may have some visual artifacts that will need to be cleaned post-print
- Does your part have fine details? Text, textures, and other small features may not show up or may not come out as expected, due to the large Diameter nozzle on GigaBot.
Step 1: Model your parts
How you go about doing this will vary depending on what type of part you are making. Any software will do as long as it can export to the .STL format.
See our Designing for 3D printing page to determine what sort of software is the best type to use, and how to design your part to print well.
Alternatively, use an online model sharing site like Thingiverse to locate and download a model.
Step 2: Printing preparation
In order to get your files into a printable form, they must be exported from the modelling software in .STL or .obj. STL files do not encode units, so in order to make the part print at correct scale, export from your CAD software in millimeters (mm).
Gigabot does not use Cura! It runs off of a dedicated PC, using software called Repetier Host. This software does the slicing and the printing, all in one.
Bring your .stl or .obj file to the GigaBot computer, located on the actual printer. If Repetier is not running, the connection button in the top left corner is not green , talk to a lab manager as the printer may have been shut off for some reason.
In the Object Placement tab, click on either of the Load buttons , and open your model. use left click to orbit around the model, and right click to move the object on the build plate. Use the rotate to orient your part, remember that the widest part of the model should be the base. Use the scale tool to change the size of your part, if necessary. However, if you exported your part correctly, you shouldn’t have to do this! repeat this for all parts you plan to add to the print.
Once this is done, go the Slicer tab. You should see something like this:
make sure that the print configuration matches the nozzle size currently in use (look at the keyboard tray above the mouse). If your part has a small base, or if your material requires it (check <here> to see if it does), enable Rafts in the Adhesion Type menu. Select the layer quality based on the nozzle as well. Your print speed and infill density will be adjusted depending on how strong your part needs to be, and how precise. A dense part will cost more than a less dense part, but will be stronger. A slow part will take longer, but may be more precise.
Keep cooling enabled, as this is handled by the material. Under Filament Settings, select the profile for the filament you plan to use. Do not forget this step! Selecting the wrong material profile could make a big mess, or damage the extruder.
There are currently two choices of print material available in the Construct: ABS and PLA. Take a look at our Material Comparison page to decide what material to use for your print.
Once the parameters are set, hit the slice button , and wait for that to complete. on the Print Preview Tab, you may view the generated Gcode, and look through the print layer-by-layer. Check this to confirm the print will run as you expect. At this point, you must get a lab manager to approve your model. Some models may take several days due to their size, and while there is no time limit for GigaBot, it is up to the discretion of the manager to allow long prints to run. The Construct can be very busy at certain times of the year, so it booking the printer for 24 hours or more may not be fair to other lab users. The lab manager may also suggest alternative methods of making your part, which could save you time and money.
Once your model is approved, Fill out the Gigabot Print Form.
Like the form for the Flashforge printers, this form keeps track of the material used for each print job. It also keeps track of how long each print will take, and if necessary, will assign you a time slot for your print to occur. We run a print queue for GigaBot, so that we can schedule times for everyone to use the machine.
Check the Gigabot Print Calendar to see when the net available time is, or when your time to print has been assigned.
If it is available now, go ahead and print. if not, you’ll have to come back at your assigned print time.
Step 3: Printing
Go to the Manual Control tab of Repetier. it should look like this:
If any of the following steps goes wrong, or you hear horrible sounds, immediately hit the Emergency Stop Button in the Top Right of the window!
First start by Homing the axes of GigaBot, by hitting the Home All button , and wait for the printer to home its axes. Check the filament spool visually to make sure there is enough filament for your print. If you are installing your own filament or changing colors, ask a lab manager to help swap it out for you.
hit the start button to start the print. This may take some time, as the heated bed and extruder have to get to temperature first. watch their values in the manual control tab to make sure they are changing as expected. The heated bed turns on first, that is expected.
Once your print starts, watch it for the first few layers to ensure it is sticking. Once you feel confident that nothing will go wrong, you may carry on with your day, and come back to pick up your finished part!
To remove the part, carefully insert the round-edged scraper underneath the part and slide in. This should NOT rip the tape. If it does, you were not gentle enough! Be very careful not to dig into the bed with the scraper. If a part is stuck or you are not comfortable with using the scraper, ask the lab manager or someone familiar with printing for help. Larger parts can typically be pulled off without the scraper. gently apply force to one side of the part until it separates.
Step 4: Finishing
Carefully peel the raft off the part, and chip / pull out any support material that you do not want in the final part. Feel free to use any of the tools on the Post Processing bench, located to the right of the 3d printers. Be very careful when using chisels / scrapers, and NEVER CUT TOWARDS YOURSELF! If you are having trouble separating the raft, ask for help.
Cut towards your chum, not your thumb.
There are many ways to improve the surface finish of your prints, which require various levels or time and effort. Take a look at our guide for more information on this.
As always, if anything is unclear or you have further questions, ask someone experienced with 3D printing in the lab.