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  • Limitations of the 101Hero 3D Printer

    Posted on January 9th, 2017 admin 1 comment

    In one video I watched recently, the presenter (I think it might have been Angus Deveson, Maker's Muse) commented that some 3d printers are toys while others are tools.   The first kind are hobby machines for playing around with, good for making nick-nacks and gizmos and toys, while others are are more work machines, good for creating useful objects, prototypes, and replacement parts.

     101Hero:  Toy or Tool?

    My 101Hero is an improvement over its predecessor, the Makerbot Cupcake.  Still, the 101Hero, like most other inexpensive  definitely falls into the toy category.  Perhaps more than some, the 101Hero suffers limitations that fix it more firmly as toy than tool:
    • structural considerations
    • quality control
    • speed limitations
    • size limitations
    • printing limitations

    Structural Considerations

    Tools are made of metal, toys are made of plastic.   The 101Hero is injection-molded.  The plastic pylons have some triangular reinforcement and are reasonably stiff.  The plastic base and top are not; they flex.   The machine is ok if you don't disturb it at all, but don't move it or even bang the desk or table while it's printing. Doing so will guarantee skipped or offset layers.  Even a heavy tread on the floor can be enough to disrupt a print.

     

    Poor Quality Control

    Beyond the usual late delivery and poor communications characteristic of struggling crowd-funded products, 101Hero seems to suffer an inordinate number of QC issues.  Shipping seems to be slowly catching up, with the colored models finally reaching backers. However, the official web page and official Facebook page contain no news for backers at the time I write this.
    Users report missing parts, incorrect colors, doa controllers, defective stepper motors, broken gears, warped or loose slide rods.  In an "Unofficial" Facebook post dated Dec 8, one user stated "I was just successful in requesting a refund from indiegogo. They canceled my backing since it had not shipped yet. They said in an email they are overwhelmed with a flood of complaints of broken units, wrong units shipped and no customer service to back the product

    The creator has publicly stated that delivery is their main priority, which puts  customer relations a distant second.   While this may be short-sighted, it does show some determination to get the product (whether it works or not) out to backers.  Probably their thinking is that once the headaches of delivery are gone, they may have time and energy to devote to customer service.

    Speed Limitations

    Delta (three-sided) printers are supposed to have advantages of speed.  Where even a mid-level printer will print at 50 mm/s or more,  the Hero has a top speed of 14 mm/s, with reasonably good printing coming at 10-12 mm/s.  Many users have reduced the speed to as low as 5 mm/s in an attempt at better quality.   In consequence, print times of eight hours or more are common.     The 101Hero, if designed to be used by children, will definitely teach them patience.

    352 Elephant, courtesy of 101land.com

    352 Elephant, courtesy of 101land.com

    ; Build Summary for 352 Elephant
    ;   Build time: 8 hours 2 minutes
    ;   Filament length: 9340.8 mm (9.34 m)
    ;   Plastic volume: 22467.20 mm^3 (22.47 cc)
    ;   Plastic weight: 28.08 g (0.06 lb)
    ;   Material cost: 1.29

    Uneven Printing Across the Print Bed: Size Limitations

     

    Wide prints simply do not work, because the printer cannot follow a straight flat line from one side of the print bed to the other:  it arcs or rises over the center.   Hannes Brandstätter-Müller of Austria posted on the 101Hero Unofficial Facebook page:  "I encounter the same lifting in the center when doing wide movements. It's annoying..."

    An adjustment that lays a good first layer in the center 50 mm will drive the nozzle into the print bed at the perimeter.  An adjustment good at the perimeter will not attach in the center.  My first thought on noticing this was that somehow the glass print bed had warped, an unlikely notion quickly dismissed by checking with a steel straightedge.

    This inability to do a wide print appears to be a weakness or flaw of the firmware that effectively limits the print diameter to at most 80 mm (roughly half of the 150 mm build plate).  The only workaround is to modify the print file -- divide it into two smaller parts that can be printed in the center.

    It appears that the creator-supplied models will fit within this small central diameter and provide reasonable results.  It's only user-created parts or wide parts imported from other sources that will be problematic.

     

    Conclusion

    If you want a sturdy machine that will work out of the box, get something else.  The 101Hero is an inexpensive toy for printing toys.  It falls into that class of 3D printers that is to play with, not to work with.   It's a machine for those who are prepared to tinker, fiddle, diddle, and hack.

     

    Further Reading

     

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