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3d - Printworx

TronXY X3A 3D Printer - Quick Review and Detailed Auto Level Calibration Guide

Started by nate80, Friday,April 06, 2018, 18:29:17

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nate80

Figured I'd start a new thread about my findings so far with the TronXY X3A.  It's kind of a follow up to the previous thread here: http://www.printing-3d.co.uk/index.php?topic=78.0 and is aimed at anyone interested, and to try and help anyone who might be considering investing in one.  It's no longer on sale at Hobbyking (who had advertised it as the X3 but were actually selling the updated X3A model) but it can be found elsewhere from around £160.

Straight off the bat, would I recommend this build-it-yourself-kit to a new comer to 3D Printing.  No.

Would I recommend it to a seasoned 3D printer builder.  Maybe... Depends...

It's not a bad machine per se and it's improved over the older X3, but it definitely still benefits from a few self printed upgrades and the involvement of an experienced 3d print enthusiast to properly calibrate it and resolve all its quirks.  Compared to the X3 it appears to have an improved bed mechanism that doesn't wobble and it's supplied with a PINDA Probe for self levelling the Z-Axis, which works well:- after struggling to calibrate it correctly due to the incorrect instructions provided by TronXY.  Doh!


So the good stuff:

The printer comes well packaged in protective foam, which should help it arrive undamaged.

The extruded aluminium and the majority of supplied acrylic parts are of quality construction.

When constructed the frame is stiff and taught with no obvious Z wobble.

The build volume (220mm x 220mm x 300mm) is decent, especially for the price.

The printer runs nice and quiet; sometimes I actually forget it's printing, and other times I have to check on it because I can't hear it and wonder if it's finished or malfunctioned.  But no; 6-8 prints in and it hasn't gone wrong yet.

Once it's set up correctly the auto level feature is great and serves its purpose well.  I'm definitely convinced.

After much fettling of the probe position (the extruder/fan cage needs dropping to its lowest position before adjusting the probe) and fiddling with the Z-Offset it prints using the PINDA probe through a 3mm sheet of borosilicate glass, which is a great benefit as it allows for swapping out finished prints with new glass. It makes it easy to remove prints safely and quickly whilst helping to keep the print bed level.

It has an E3D clone style extruder that seems to work pretty well.

It prints nicely once it's set up correctly, especially considering its fairly low price.

It's competitively priced, even at £160 odd.

The Instructions.  The Micro SD card supplied with the printer includes a PDF Parts List, a PDF Assembly Guide that's quite easy to follow, an animated video that shows the machine being constructed and a PINDA probe Self Level/Calibration guide.  Seems good...


And the bad stuff:

The Instructions!  The PDF and Video build guides contradict each other in their order of assembly and literally ignore a few parts.  And the Self Level/Calibration instructions are plan wrong.  This will, and has (if the wealth of posts on the web are anything to go by) led to hours of wasted time, damage to the aluminium heat bed, and a general over use of loaded profanity.   :banghead:

There were a few screws and t-nuts missing from the box and 2 of the bearings were 'crunchy'.

The supplied printed Z Axis fixing platforms (that the lead screw nuts are bolted to) are quite poorly printed and aren't well designed failing to consider the fixing nuts or screws that are tricky to get to and spin frustratingly until clamped with long nose pliers (most spanners won't fit).

The way the Y Axis belt is affixed to the bed carriage is laughable and allows for slop that affects print quality.  I'm going to print a fix for this issue.

The Y and X Axis belt pulleys are a coarse construction of a bearing sandwiched between washers and nuts and fed through an acrylic mount.  The washers and nuts are the wrong sizes so the bearing is really hard to get central when tightening up, and the acrylic piece bows under the strain of the belt, so the belt rubs on the opening to the 2020 aluminium X-beam rather than passing perfectly through the middle of it.  Again, this can be fixed by printing upgraded belt tensioners.

It's a large frame and takes up a lot of desk space.  The filament reel doesn't tuck away anywhere either (it's a Bowden machine and the filament obviously wants to remain behind the extruder stepper motor feed mechanism) so that's further wasted desk space.  The control box is big and yet more wasted desk space, but you can print a set of legs to raise the printer and place the control box underneath.

The cable management wasn't an afterthought, it wasn't a thought at all!   :laugh:  There's plenty of cables to route wherever seems sensible, but it's not always easy to keep the cables out of the way of the print bed track or a model that's being printed.  The heated bed wires are not very well connected and hang precariously out the back threatening to catch on the Y Axis stepper motor and snap, which could cause a failed print or even a fire.  I've printed a fix to help resolve this issue but I'm still not convinced.

It doesn't come with a print cooling fan, but the Melzi board has an empty slot ready to accept a fan should you wish to add one.

The supplied firmware is pretty sucky.  Sometimes the LCD screen goes haywire, the machine can restart itself if a button is held down too long (an intermittent fault), and the menu is not well thought out.

The push buttons on the control box that help you navigate the menu aren't great either.  They work, but not on every push, and they require patience and perseverance.

The printer doesn't come with a useful explanation of how it operates; like, where the home position should be and where on the X and Y Axis you should expect the nozzle to sit and move to when its performing various operations.  This is actually an issue as there's also no mention of exactly where you are meant to install the Y or X Axis stop switches.  My printer came with multiple untitled acrylic plates in various sizes that I guessed were for positioning the Stop Switches, but the numerous sizes, plus the fact you can install the switches pretty much anywhere you like long the X and Y aluminium beams, made for quite a lot of trial and error before I got the home position spot on.

The PINDA Probe works well, as does the Auto Level, but it takes quite a bit of patience and experience to set up successfully without damaging the aluminium heat bed.  As I've mentioned already that's partially because the Auto Home and Self Levelling instructions that come with the printer aren't correct.  And whereas it's normal practice to test the nozzle height with a sheet of paper, that didn't work on my X3A.  After adjusting it so that the nozzle just about grabbed the paper (usually perfect) and thinking it was ready to go, the nozzle was actually still far too low and needed raising quite a bit to stop the nozzle being so close to the bed during the first layer that the filament wouldn't come out properly causing the extruder stepper motor gear to grind the PLA.  I've now raised the nozzle as high as it can go whilst putting down a successful first layer and the extruder gear still skips and grinds on the first and second layer, though not too badly.


But for all the negative things listed when it's set up and printing correctly it appears to produce good quality prints.  I can't say consistently just yet as it's too early days, but so far so good.  I'll share some images of prints when I get a moment.

So would I recommend it?  As a kit it's not really suitable for newcomers to the hobby.  If it's been set up by someone, especially if the upgrades have been added (belt tension adjusters etc.) then I'd probably say go for it.



AND FINALLY: For anyone new to 3D printers who comes across this thread after pulling their hair out trying to calibrate their own X3A (I found there's a lot of requests for help online but little in the way of useful guidance), here's a 'quick' rundown on how the printers 'Auto Home', 'Bed Levelling Test' and 'Auto Bed Level' actually work, and how to calibrate the print height correctly.

Before doing ANY of this be SURE that the printer frame has been built square and that the X-Axis beam is level and equal on both sides with the lower frame AND the print bed.  If the X Axis beam is not level with the top side of the lower frame, with the power off you can rotate the Z-Axis lead screws until the beam sits at an equal height on the left and the right.  After doing this you can move the extruder left and right over the surface of the print bed, and carefully move the print bed back and forth (by pushing the acrylic carriage, not the aluminium bed itself) to visually check the distance of the nozzle from the bed.  If it's out (unequal in distance anywhere across the surface of the print bed) by more than half a mm you should adjust the bed.  You can adjust the 4 screws to make it level, but you may also want to check that the Y Axis wheels are running true in the Y Axis beam, and that the acrylic print bed carriage is level with the floor (which should also be a perfectly level surface).  Also double check that the 2020 aluminium extrusion beam for the Y-Axis carriage is perfectly flat and level (it's easy for it to have been knocked out of square when it was tightened up).

All done?   :cool:  Ok, here we go!


AUTO HOME is the position the extruder has been pre-programmed (or re-programmed by yourself if you have need) to move to when you go into the Menu and Select 'Prepare' and 'Auto Home'.

The extruder ALWAYS moves as far left on the X-Axis (until it hits the stop switch) and as far back on the Y-Axis (until it hits the stop switch) before raising slightly as it moves back into the middle of the bed.  Make sure the nozzle is raised up high enough above the bed before you select 'AUTO HOME' of you'll risk scoring the aluminium heat bed with the nozzle.

As standard the home point is almost perfectly over the middle of the print bed and the height is determined by the position (height) of the PINDA Probe.  When the probe registers that the aluminium bed is beneath it the extruder has discovered its home point.  At this stage it rises just a few mm's before lowering slowly once again (whilst searching for the bed).  The extruder will stop moving when the probe registers the print bed (the red led will illuminate on the top of the probe) and the 'Home Point' is reached.

The AUTO HOME position is NOT the print position.  It's simply a safe starting position from which you can go on to adjust the nozzle print height.


BED LEVELLING TEST shows the distance of the nozzle from the print bed that will be used when you're actually putting down the first layer of a print.  When you select this option in the menu the nozzle will quickly lower to the registered print ready position.  You want to have a sheet of paper under the nozzle when you first attempt this incase the nozzle crashes into the aluminium print bed.  You also really want to start adjusting this distance from a safe height to avoid the nozzle crashing into the print bed!  More on how to do that below.  The distance of the nozzle can be adjusted either by manually loosening and moving the probe closer or further away from the aluminium surface, or by adjusting the Z-Offset in the printers menu.


AUTO BED LEVEL is a function that instructs the PINDA probe to record the height of the aluminium print bed in 9 positions across the surface of the print bed.  The resulting figures prepares the printer with the necessary information to adjust the Z Axis stepper motors ever so slightly during the printing process to ensure that the distance from the nozzle and the bed remain the same even if the print bed is slightly unlevelled.


Ok!  With all that info under your hat, here's how to calibrate the print height.


HOW TO CALIBRATE THE PRINT HEIGHT OF THE TRONXY X3A WITH PINDA PROBE
(This assumes you've ensured your printer is square and level, the print bed is level and you've read and understood all the above)

Loosen the PINDA Probes two screws and lower it (probably as far as it will go) whilst making sure it does not drop below the height of the tip of the extruder nozzle.  If you are printing directly onto the aluminium print bed surface I would suggest the probe sits about 3 mm above the height of the nozzle tip.  Make sure the probe is level and firmly secured.

On the Tronxy X3A control box press the middle of the 5 face button to bring up the Menu.  Select 'Prepare', then 'Auto Home'.  The extruder will move to the pre-registered home position and will stop lowering when the probe reads the aluminium print bed.

At this stage the nozzle should be within approximately 4-5mm of the print bed.  If it's not, record the distance and readjust the PINDA Probe, raising it by the required mm's.  For example, if the distance from the nozzle is 7mm, raise the probe by 2-3mm's.  Then run the 'Auto Home' function again and check the new distance.  Once the height of the nozzle from the print bed is approximately 4-5mm that 'Auto Home' position is set and you're ready to move on.

Enter the menu once more, but this time select 'Control', then 'Motion' followed by 'Z Offset'.  For your information, the minimum offset value here is +000.50 and the figure you are looking at (having just built your printer) will probably be around +000.60  When the Z Offset value is INCREASED the distance from the nozzle to the print bed DECREASES (becomes closer).  So begin by changing the Z Offset value to +000.50 which, as previously mentioned, is the lowest setting (so that we start the calibration with the nozzle as far away from the bed as possible).  Now press the left button to go back, and then press the left button once more.  Go down to the bottom of the menu screen and select 'STORE MEMORY' and then select 'LOAD MEMORY'.  You must do this EVERY TIME you change the Z Offset value!

Now go back to the 'Prepare' menu and 'Auto Home' again.  With a piece of paper placed beneath the nozzle (for safety) go into the 'Prepare' menu and select 'Bed Levelling Test'.  The Nozzle will descend slightly.  Now carefully measure the distance between the nozzle tip and the print bed.  Go back to through the menu (Control>Motion>Z Offset) and adjust the value.  Increase the value to lower the nozzle.  If the distance after performing the Bed Levelling Test is more than 2mm away you can begin the process of increasing the Z Offset value by +000.10 at a time.  Each time you will need to go back twice and select STORE MEMORY, then LOAD MEMORY, then go back to the prepare menu and select AUTO HOME before then performing the BED LEVELLING TEST again and checking the distance.

Continue to do this (it can take some time) until the nozzle is approximately 1mm away from the surface of the print bed.  Now continue the process but reduce the Z Offset adjustments by increasing it by +000.05  When, after running the 'Auto Home' followed by the 'Bed Level Test' the nozzle finally grabs the sheet of A4 paper you are ready to finalise the print height.  You now want to DECREASE the Z Offset by approximately +000.20

Go through all the motions (STORE MEMORY, LOAD MEMORY, AUTO HOME, BED LEVELLING TEST) and check the height a final time.  As long as the paper slips beneath the nozzle you're ready for your first test print!

:bounce:

Make sure to use the Auto Self Level test print file provided by TronXY on the Micro SD card as it's programmed to perform a 9 position auto levelling test before it begins printing.  If the nozzle is too close (the extruder gear skips badly) or it's too far away (the filament doesn't adhere to the bed successfully) go back into the Z Offset menu and adjust it as necessary.

The only other thing to do is enter the G29 command (Self Level command) into your slicer software to instruct the printer to perform a self levelling operation before each and every future print that you slice yourself.  You can find the info showing you how to achieve that on the calibration guide supplied on the Micro SD card.  ~~

nate80

Here's a few photo's I said I'd share of some of the prints that have rolled off the print bed so far.












Hozza

Makibox (sold)
i3 custom build (sold)
Smartcore (sold)
Kossel XL Duet3D based, with Flex3drive (working)
HEVO Hybrid (worlds slowest build)
Kossel Mini Duet3D based, with Flex3drive (working)
Geeetech A10M (Still in Box)

shawdreamer

not bad for the first few.

can see some high frequency z-wobble, looks to be every other layer and so minor you wouldnt have been able to pick it up before building, might be a tiny bend in the lead screws or the slightest bit of play on the z-axis bearings.

if it shows signs of worsening you could always make the y-axis a floating axis with a wobble fix or maybe see if you can squeeze the bearings down a tad, I wouldnt be too concerned though unless it actually does worsen.

~~
Geeetech Prusa i3 pro-B (ABS Workhorse)
Pultur Prusa (my own design)
Poltur XL (my own "MUST BE BIGGER" design)
Poltur XL v.2 (my own "MUST BE BIGGER STILL, MUST USE EXTRUSION" design)
https://www.thingiverse.com/shawdreamer/designs

nate80

Quote from: Hozza on Saturday,April 07, 2018, 12:43:47
Looking good mate


Cheers mate.   :beer2:  I'm actually quite impressed with what the X3A can achieve considering I only paid a ton for it.   ~~


Quote from: shawdreamer on Saturday,April 07, 2018, 13:25:08
not bad for the first few.

can see some high frequency z-wobble, looks to be every other layer and so minor you wouldnt have been able to pick it up before building, might be a tiny bend in the lead screws or the slightest bit of play on the z-axis bearings.

if it shows signs of worsening you could always make the y-axis a floating axis with a wobble fix or maybe see if you can squeeze the bearings down a tad, I wouldnt be too concerned though unless it actually does worsen.

~~


Overall I'm pretty happy with it so far, especially considering the comparably poor prints most owners seem to achieve before installing lots of upgrades.

I think the right Lead Screw collet needs re-positioning slightly as the lead screw is rotating with a slight wobble at the top.  The right hand Z stepper motor is making a clicking noise too, but only ever when it rotates tiny little amounts, like when it's making adjustments for the bed level during a print.  I'm probably best off replacing that motor.  Other than that it's pretty much a-ok.

I'm going to print a Y and X axis belt tensioner (the originals are pretty terrible) and a cooling shroud for the extruder.  I also plan to install a filament cooling fan as there's often elephants foot and sometimes issues with the top corners of model warping.  If I slow the print right down, or print multiple items at one to give more cooling time between layers the results are perfect.

And the Y Axis belt needs a better solution to be properly attached to the carriage.  Right now it uses zip ties and it's not possible to get it perfectly tight.

But in general I'm pretty happy with it considering the price paid.   ::)

Hozza

Love the review if I didn't have 2 printers I'd be tempted just for the fun of masking it work better.


I built a custom i3 about 3 years ago, I got so hacked off with lead screws and there couplings in the first few months I redesigned mine to use M5 studding that I attach to the stepper with a piece of air line, woes solved instantly ~~

Got told by many it wouldn't work and the M5 nuts would wear out all the time, fun that I've never replaced one since doing it :rofl:
Makibox (sold)
i3 custom build (sold)
Smartcore (sold)
Kossel XL Duet3D based, with Flex3drive (working)
HEVO Hybrid (worlds slowest build)
Kossel Mini Duet3D based, with Flex3drive (working)
Geeetech A10M (Still in Box)

shawdreamer

what blurt told you the nuts would be the weak point? :rofl:

Steel is just soooooooooo brittle, there's no way itll be able to cope with the masses of stress a 3d printer can through at it  :rofl: :rofl:

Geeetech Prusa i3 pro-B (ABS Workhorse)
Pultur Prusa (my own design)
Poltur XL (my own "MUST BE BIGGER" design)
Poltur XL v.2 (my own "MUST BE BIGGER STILL, MUST USE EXTRUSION" design)
https://www.thingiverse.com/shawdreamer/designs

nate80

Quick update to this thread with a couple upgrades I designed for the Tronxy X3A:


Legs (so the control box can go underneath).

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2854028


Drag chain cable management (requires legs too).

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2875141