Assembling the MakerBot Replicator 2
Once the MakerBot is out of the box, you’ll be anxious to start printing. But first, there are some basic things you’ll have to do to setup the printer. While this is straightforward, we recommend working step by step through the Replicator 2 user manual to complete setup. This will save you frustration and introduce you to your new 3D printer.
We started with installing the build plate, filament guide tube, filament holder and power cords. These peripheral pieces went together easily and as described in the instructions. In the box, you’ll notice some blue tape sheets for the build plate. The manual doesn’t address what these are for. After some research, we learned you can use these sheets if the filament is having trouble sticking to the build plate, or you’re having a hard time removing your projects from the build plate. Thus far, we’ve printed about 10 objects and haven’t used the tape sheets.
Once the MakerBot is completely assembled, you’ll be ready to turn it on and level the build plate. With the flip of a switch, the 3D printer came to life. The LCD screen read, “Welcome, I’m Replicator 2. Press the red M to get started.” We were getting excited at this point and it was the first time we noticed the strip of LED lighting across the inside of the top frame of the 3D printer. It lit up the inside of the printer and definitely added to the experience. We later learned the LEDs change color depending on the status of the printer. You can also blink the LEDs, if you like that effect, by selecting Blink LEDs in the Utilities menu.
The keypad has a familiar feel with a layout similar to that of a iPod Classic, with the selector button in the middle and arrows around the outside. It’s self-explanatory.
Leveling the Build Plate
As part of the setup, you will have to level the build plate which is essential to printing clean, accurate builds and not damaging the MakerBot. This process is outlined in the manual and the LCD screen will walk you through the steps. If each step is followed and completed, you shouldn’t run into any problems. We followed the manual and at each point slipped the support card (any business card or similar material will work) between the nozzle and build plate with just a bit of friction. If you encounter problems or at some point the build plate becomes unlevel, you can repeat this process by selecting Utilities>Level Build Plate from the menu.
After the initial leveling of the interior points on the build plate, the nozzle then moved to the far corners of the build plate and we went through the same process of slipping the card between the nozzle and the plate. Leveling the far corners of the plate was a little more tricky because the leveling screws are much more sensitive--you barely have to turn the leveling screws to make an adjustment.
After leveling, the Makerbot Replicator 2 will ask you, “Does my nozzle height check out?” You have 2 options: “My height is good,” or “Let’s try again.” Our nozzle height checked out so we were ready to load the filament and get started printing. If the nozzle height doesn’t check out, simply repeat the leveling process.
Please note: we’ve read in forums that the build plate leveling process is very important in getting good results with the Makerbot Replicator 2. Ensure you complete this process accurately. If you run into problems with the filament not sticking to the build plate, or other build plate issues, this is one of the first things we’d look into to troubleshoot.
Loading the filament into the MakerBot Replicator 2
After leveling the build plate, you will need to load the filament into the extruder. Again, the LCD screen and manual will walk you through this process.
This was the first time we noticed that as the nozzle heats up the LED lights turn a redish color. Once the right temperature is reached, the LED lights switch back to the blue-white color. This was a nice effect. As the nozzle heated up the first time, some filament extruded from the nozzle. This was before we loaded the filament so there must have been some filament in the nozzle from factory testing.
The first time we tried to load the filament, we didn’t push hard enough--you have to push quite hard. But it’s better to not push hard enough than to push too hard and break something. The 3D printer asked if the plastic toner was coming out of the nozzle. We selected “No.” The MakerBot said to try again and push a little harder. When we did this, we immediately felt the motor grab the filament and pull it through the extruder. It’s obvious when the filament loads. The filament began to coil like a rope on the build platform. Click the “M” to stop the motor and stop the filament from extruding. The MakerBot asked again if the filament was extruding from the nozzle. This time we clicked “Yes.”
The MakerBot Replicator 2 will ask if you’re ready to make something. At this point you’ve completed the setup and you’re ready to try your first print with the 3D printer. This is where the fun starts.