Since my last post, I've been working towards getting the core electronics finished, all axes tested and a getting fully functional toolchain setup.
Having got the Y axes moving, I went on to wire in the X and Z steppers. Then expand my little test sketch to do a couple of back/forth moves on each axes to check everything was running smoothly:
This went fairly smoothly, but the Z axis bearings were sticking. I went for the same "fix" as for the other axes and cleaned the rods with a wet wipe and then smeared some lithium grease. That made a big improvement, but it stills needs a weight on the idler end, otherwise it won't slide down under gravity alone. Not a big issue for now, and I'm vaguely hoping the bearings will wear in after a bit of use.
Next was soldering and fitting the Opto Endstops. The kit/instructions from Traumflug were excellent and went together without issue. Fitting the actual sensor was easy enough, but my current solution for the flags is extremely crude - will definitely improve this at some point, but it will do for now. As I fitted each endstop, I extended my sketch to include a set of homing tests:
At this point I couldn't resist doing some speed tests and discovered that the Z axes feedrate is severely limited due to the very low Pololu drive current. I don't want to turn the current up until I've added heatsinks, so got on and ordered a set of 8 off ebay - a bargain at £1.74, but given they are coming from China I'm only half expecting them to arrive.
Once all the endstops were working, it was time to install some proper firmware. I've settled on the latest version of Sprinter, this was after reading up on peoples comments on the various mature firmwares and also after skimming the source code repositories for each. Overall I was impressed with the apparent performance, feature set and also simplicity of the source for Sprinter.
Because of limited cable length, my X and Z stepper motor pins are swapped vs normal RAMPS config, but I had already created a variant of the pins.h for my test sketch, so it was a simple matter to copy that over and upload the firmware.
To test everything, I thought I'd try out Kliment's Pronterface script from the Python Printrun host software - worked an absolute treat and had axRap dancing to G Codes in minutes.
After a while of playing with hand-coded G Code files, I decided it was time to try a more challenging stress test. Rather than jump straight to Skeinforge, etc - I decided to tape a pen to the carriage and play with drawing some pictures. First up was more hand coded G Code to draw basic shapes, but then I struck on the idea of generating G Code for a basic fractal...
That quickly lead to the infamous Sierpinski Curve, which has a nice little Java applet on the associated wikipedia page. A little hacking and I had the script generating nicely scaled/translated G Code, with a little bit of header/footer code to home axes, set feedrate, etc. Here it is printing the 3rd level of recursion at 150mm/s - you'll need to watch full-screen to see the red ink!:
By this point it was very late Sunday night (hence the poor quality video) and time to call it quits. Mission for this week is to build the extruder, hot-end and mount the heated bed - all the missing parts arrived last week, so just need the time to focus!
I also ordered a reel of PLA last night and picked up some Fire Cement from B&Q, so nothing left to order/buy before my first print - can't wait! :)