Perfecting Prints with a Printrbot Simple Metal

The Printrbot Simple Metal can be purchased (assembled) for as little as $599 making it a remarkable unit for even the most timid maker.

I’ve had my PSM for almost a year now and printed 2kg worth of PLA on it in that time, so I’ve got a bit of experience under my belt. This was also my very first 3d printer, and I’ve used it for my business making custom chocolates. In that time I’ve learned that, out-of-the-box, the PSM needs a few additional items to really make great prints.

To that end, I wanted to write this post to help other owners get the most out of their little printer. Alas, currently a faulty wire for the auto-level probe (induction sensor) has also given me a little spare time before dealing with that repair (not uncommon unfortunately). There are 3 categories for this guide: Printed add-ons, temperature and curling, and software settings.

Printed Add-Ons

  • Filament Guides
    Make sure your filament is going into the hotend easily (scale 0.95 for better fit).
  • Filament Spool Holder
    Note my comment: adjust the OpenSCAD setting IWinches to 3.30 for the monoprice filament mentioned below
  • Cable Strain Relief
    This helps keep those cables in good shape and not get caught on the bed or between the bed and the stepper motor.
  • Improved Fan Duct

Also I’ll include a recommendation for PLA 1.75 filament over the Printrbot stuff. I used 1kg of Printrbot red and had so many issues with print quality and clogs. The MonoPrice filament has performed exceptionally.

Temperature and Curling

Got a large print with a flat bottom? I do it all the time, and curling was a real issue. The causes for curling are basically uneven cooling of the plastic and temperatures that are too cold. To resolve this, you could opt for Printrbot’s Heated Bed option, or you could just warm up the bed before the print and then trap that heat inside.

To address warming up the bed, I picked up some reusable hand warmers on Amazon. Place them on the bed for 2 minutes, remove, then start your print. Once the auto-leveling is completed and while the hotend is warming up, put it back on the bed until printer starts. It’s best if it is placed on top of where you are going to print. Once the print begins, then you need to add the enclosure.

I had a spare cardboard box around and built an enclosure for the printer. For mine, the outer walls are 426mm wide (X axis) on the front and 260mm deep (Y axis each side). In the back, each end comes in 165mm so it touches the printer sides. The height of all outer walls is 190mm. Once those are built, I placed cardboard closing the top (165mm x 260mm) on each side of the printer. These leaves the middle (printhead) exposed and moving freely. As an added bonus, I added flaps (taping them to the top pieces only with 5-10mm space between them) so that low prints would trap more heat, but as the Z axis rose, the flaps would part like a drawbridge. It’s all about stopping drafts and trapping heat.

Another possible problem is the print is not sticking to the tape. I tried a LOT of tape. Finally, I went to an ACE Hardware and picked up their 2″ blue tape and it’s finally the perfect tape. I had to readjust my calibration settings a little to compensate for its extra thickness, but it’s fantastic and I haven’t had a print come up since.

Software Settings

Finding the right settings is hard, and sometimes you want speed over quality. Well, I can’t say may settings are perfect, but I’ve provided them here. These are for Repetier-Host v1.06 and are for Slic3r and Cura, both great slicing programs (though Cura is winning more of my prints lately).

I almost exclusively print at 200 microns or 0.2mm layer thickness (this is labeled as 2mm in the configs). It’s the perfect balance of smoothness and speed. Please note that for Cura, I set the Speed to Slow and the Infill Density to 20%.

I hope this helps someone else enjoy their printer and get better prints.

One thought on “Perfecting Prints with a Printrbot Simple Metal

  1. Bryan

    Thanks for sharing. Curious about the config files. The dont match the .ini files the cura exports or import’s now (version 15.04). Can we port it to the new version or would you share the ini that can be loaded directly into cura?


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