3D Printers with Kids – Part 2 (Printrbot Problems)

The travails of our Printrbot assembly continue (see previous post for background).  On about August 20, I’d contacted Printrbot via the support page on their website about the faulty cable to connect the thermistor (heater for the extruder) to the circuit board, and the AC/DC adapter that had a loose piece wiggling around inside it.  We were unable to complete the assembly without replacement parts for both.

A week went by without hearing any response from Printrbot, so I submitted yet another support ticket.  This time I heard back promptly via email from someone named Dave who said he was the new customer support team member, and who assured me that the parts I’d requested were being shipped out right away.  The parts did arrive a few days later, and we were finally able to complete the build.

This, however, has not been the end of our Printrbot issues.  We downloaded their “Getting Started” manual, which detailed the steps to get the printer up and going.  The device driver installed easily, and I was able to download and install the open-source 3d printer software, called “Repetier-Host” with no problem.  The instructions for setting the Repetier parameters were straightforward.  However, when it came time to set up communication between Repetier and the Printrbot, we ran into problems.  We could get the software to send messages to the printer for short periods of time, but the communication would always cease after a few minutes, and on some of these occasions Repetier would simply freeze.

After much debugging, I finally traced the problem to a faulty AC/DC adapter that would, if simply touched, cause the Printrbot circuit board to lose communication with the computer.  I presume the power to the Printrbot drops out briefly when this happens.  Even if left untouched, over a long enough period of time, the connection fails, so I assume that the current through the adapter is prone to fluctuations.  I’m not sure that the adapter is the only problem, but it is certainly faulty.  This is particularly frustrating, as this adapter is a replacement for the previous defective one.

I’m not sure if I’m gong to ask for yet another replacement adapter or simply return the Printrbot and try to find a different 3D printer for my son.  According to their website, Printrbot accepts returns for any reason within 30 days of receipt of the package, however there is a 20% restocking fee, which will come to over $60 for my Printrbot Simple kit.  This isn’t insignificant.  And, after all the time we’ve spent on this machine, I’m not sure I feel like starting all over with yet another build-it yourself kit.  I’ve sent yet another support ticket to Printrbot, and will see what they have to say this time. I’ll update with their response and our decision when it comes.

Update:  Too soon for a response from Printrbot, but there’s an interesting article about the realities of both low- and high-end 3D printers at Arts-Technica here:  http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/08/home-3d-printers-take-us-on-a-maddening-journey-into-another-dimension/

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