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Taming the @#[email protected] Z-Axis Stop...

by LeftAngle, published

Taming the @#[email protected] Z-Axis Stop... by LeftAngle Sep 15, 2012
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A few crashes into the top of the Replicator's Z axis stop started throwing off the build plate's home position. I discovered the Z axis stop switch was held in place by it's mounting lugs in a sheer position. Whenever the carriage missed the switch, the motor continued to drive the stage upward, bending the switch up with it. I needed to repair the stop switch.

Pulling the stop was easy...

Putting it back wasn't. The right-most bolt is located directly behind the Z axis drive screw. My fingers are fat and my eyesight is failing.

2 hours into trying to thread nuts, spacers and circuit boards into place, I gave up short of removing the Z axis motor and took another route to solving my problem.

The trouble is, I didn't make it with my printer (no Z axis stop, remember?).

I'll show you what I did with pictures and throw in a bonus project for the required download:)


For this project I used .080 sheet styrene. The great thing about styrene is it's friendly workability (remember model kits?). It carves like wood, doesn't shatter when drilled and glues beautifully to PLA with slurry.

My new Z axis stop features entrapped nuts and slide-in mounting ease. I hope the photos show the process OK. Maybe someone can produce an stl file for this.

When it's installed, the only thing that's attached to the back of the Replicator's case is the box that holds the switch. The switch is held by the box and simply slides in and out of it when needed. The mounting screws, when tightened down, entrap the switch, preventing it from moving. No more fighting with bolts, nuts or spacers. Simply unscrew the bolts far enough to release the switch, slide it out and unplug it. Putting it back is just as easy.

Hope you enjoy this.

Oh... I almost forgot. An stl file needs to be uploaded before things can be published. Rather than upload a nonsense file, I've given you something for your oriental cuisine... Also nonsense.

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I fixed my limit switch (Dremel 3D20) by pushing a strip of 1layer waste material and two drops of superglue beneath it - no trouble at all and problem solved. Nice idea, the scale for the z-axix top switch. Being metric I had made myself a height gauge from one oft those paper strips you can get in some harware stores, IKEA and thelike.. Helps a lot in determining the height of your print down to 0.25mm, so counting layers is almost accurate. I plan and have already prepared to install an IGaging DRO instead of the paper - reading length is 160mm (6 1/2" for you poor imperial? guys out there) which is enough for my Dremel 3D20. The DRO-display will mount next to the display of the Printer. Why can't they display the layer number in those big displays instead or next to the baulky percentage of print and that logo of theirs?
Another very good idea of yours had already been cruising in my head for months, namely to stiffen up the arms of the plate AND the bottom of the box - both being thermoplastic (PC + ABS) and therefore prone to bend under warm-up situations. Another thing I have already done to my box was to mount some of these 150mm chinese LED-lights (mounted in an aluminum casing) left and right top to better illuminate the build area - the original front lights are a PITA as the tend to drop in brightness from time to time (and don't come back until you start the printer anew) but heat up much more than all the five strips I have over my lathe. All this will need an extra power supply so a rebuild will have to wait until the PSU comes in from China. I put a piece of white paper on the back of the box just behind the home position of the head, so I can better see the condition of the nozzle - if there is some hard material sticking out you will have problems with levelling the beast.

I still use the machine. After replacing every bit of plastic and wood support with aluminum billet, switching out the aluminum bed for glass, enclosing everything inside a ridged support to eliminate all vibration, adding a wifi camera and making adjustible mounts for the belts, the thing is solid, precise and works great. Don't know if it can still be classified as a MakerBot though.

Never thought about led lighting. Thanks for that tip. Evertthing behind the stage on my machine is now reflective aluminum, but sighting the gap between the head and glass is still more difficult than it could be. The light at the rear of the machine is pretty dim. Led lights reflecting off the aluminum back plate should throw enough light forward so I won't need to bob my head around so much to see the tip's distance from the glass. One more project to add to my list.

Oh, be sure to check for ground loops when installing the DRO. It wasn't iGauging, but I attached one to my milling machine and went nuts trying to get it stabilized.

I had this same issue with my Replicator 2x right out of the box. All of the axis limit switches are only held in place by their terminals soldered to the boards. If any of them flex out of position, it can cause serious issues. Only using solder to affix the switch to the board when the switch body comes with mounting holes molded into it is a really bad move on Makerbot's part. Something as important as a travel limit switch needs to be very secure. if you take a look at all the axis switches they all share the same problem. They can flex out of position over time (or right off the bat on my machine). I corrected it by removing each limit switch. Then drilling a hole right through the existing switch body's mounting hole and PC board behind it. Then get a small screw and nut to securely fasten the switch body to the PC board and your done. FYI...you only need one screw even though there are two holes on the switch. One screw works just fine. If you look on the back of the board where two holes would have gone through if drilled, you'll see one that farther away from a soldering path. Use that one and you'll be fine. Make sure that your nut or screw head does not bridge any connections on the back of the board. You'll see what I'm talking about when you look at it. This is really a very easy fix once you have the limit switch boards out.

Couldn't we print that part that goes around the switch?

Yes, of course... I wasn't able to because I couldn't get the stupid switch back in place, so the printer wasn't operational.  The easiest way for me to make it was the old school way... By hand.