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Making, Modding, and Management: An Interview with Chris Pelesky, Co-Founder of East Coast RepRap Festival

Making, Modding, and Management: An Interview with Chris Pelesky, Co-Founder of East Coast RepRap Festival

Chris Pelesky is a 3D printing enthusiast and tinkerer who recently decided to modify his beloved Robo R1+ 3D printer for a project he dubbed #PimpMyRobo. In addition to being handy with tools and electronics, he is also the co-founder of one of the premier 3D printing meetups east of the Rockies, the East Coast RepRap Festival (ERRF). We caught up with him to discuss the many modifications he's made to his R1+ and to find out more about the next installment of ERRF!

How and when did you first become interested in 3D printing?

I guess it was about 10 years ago. I heard something about 3D printing around the time of the first RepRap replication. I thought 3D printing sounded pretty cool and looked promising, even though I was just hearing about it for the first time. Watching videos of 3D printers working mesmerized me. It made me think back to my R/C car racing days, where making replacement parts would have been handy! Then, about 3 years ago I found some YouTube videos by Joel Telling and Angus Deveson, and I knew I needed to get into this new technology. Those two guys, Joel and Angus, get all the credit for starting me on my 3D printing adventure.

What was your first 3D printer?

My first printer was a Robo 3D R1+. I still use the printer today. It’s heavily modded and the inspiration for my current #PimpMyRobo project. I got it on March 9, 2016.

What was the first 3D print you made that really solidified your interest in 3D printing? What about the project really clicked with you?

It was my first practical print that really solidified my interest in 3D printing. Perhaps more importantly, this print won my wife over as a fan of 3D printing as well! The print was several nylon grids I made to go in the bottom of the utensil holder in our dishwasher. The bottom of the utensil holder was dry rotting and falling apart, and the cost to replace it was $130. There were holes in the utensil holder that were so big, forks and spoons could fall through it! After buying my first roll of Taulman nylon filament from Printed Solid, I was off to the races. I was able to fix my first problem with 3D printing and in the process, I realized how cool this technology really was!

What are some other examples of print jobs that you are especially proud of?

I made a fantasy football trophy for some guys in my office. I modified an .STL for the Lombardi Trophy and customized it for them. It took me about a month to design and then a few weeks to print it out and put it all together.

I also made some trophies for people at work; awards for people going above and beyond. I work for AT&T, and we had just started an ad campaign about the power of “&.” I fully designed this trophy, using multiple programs to make the models needed to print it out. I even installed some LED lights in the trophy to light it up to push it over the top! Both of these trophies were printed 100% on my Robo R1+.

You are one of the co-founders of the East Coast RepRap Festival (which we were proud to attend and support!). Tell us a bit about the festival, how you became involved, and what the future holds for the event.

On the trip back from the Maryland RepRap Festival (MRRF) in 2017, a few of us were talking about how great MRRF was, but we weren’t enjoying the long drives to and from MRRF. As the conversation continued we wondered why we shouldn’t just do an East Coast version of the event. After all, there are a lot of folks on the East Coast!

We pulled together a core team that wanted to be a part of the planning process, incorporated ourselves, and started planning our inagural event. It took nearly 16 months to plan and pull off, but we made it happen! June 23 and 24, 2018 was our first East Coast RepRap Festival (ERRF). We feel we had a successful show with over 25 industry sponsors and 700 total visitors/participants at the event. We had visitors from 7 countries and 26 states come to the event!

We have a great team on the ERRF board and I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Lauren Angers, Nick Angers and Vicky Somma for all of their contributions to and support of ERRF! Also, I want to give a huge thanks to all of our sponsors, including Robo, of course! Currently, our team is taking a little break from planning our next event, but we will be reconvening soon to start planning for 2019.

Some things to look forward to for ERRF 2019 could include:

  • More classes for the 3D Printed Derby
  • A new community/crowd sourced build
  • Better in pre- and in-event communications, perhaps utilizing a service like Slack, so people can be better notified about when different events are occurring
  • More sponsors and more 3D printing fun!

In any case, we are looking forward to a great follow up event in 2019, and we hope to see you all there!

You recently made some heavy modifications to your Robo R1+ for a project you called #PimpMyRobo. Tell us a bit about the modifications you made and why you decided to mod your R1+.

 

Some of the mods are pretty simple...

  • I’ve placed an X-axis balancing weight. This better balances the weighting on the X-axis, countering the X-axis stepper motor weight. In short, the X stepper unevenly weighs the gantry, which can sometimes become apparent when running MESH leveling calibration, which I prefer. I feel the more ‘level’ gantry has the biggest impact on first layer print quality which is key to any print.  
  • Dual parts cooling fans. This provides for better looking PLA prints. By having optimal part cooling, PLA prints can better bridge and support themselves by being cooled quickly. The dual cooling fans provide cooling 360 degrees around the part being printed.
  • Added an XXL LCD screen to control printer. The LCD gives me full control of the printer without it having to be hooked up to an external PC or computational device. I can adjust the print from the LCD and see updates on the print in progress from the LCD controls. The LCD is a BIG convenience factor for me.
  • The XXL LCD addition also necessitated the lifter feet on the base of the printer which helps improve airflow under the printer to keep board cool.

 

Some of the mods are a bit more in depth...

  • Upgraded the hot end to an E3D V6 with Capricorn PFTE liner for even better print quality. The all metal hot end from E3D provides better and more consistent melt of filament, which in turn provides better quality prints. The Capricorn PFTE liner tube is an extremely slippery high temp material used to feed filament through the hot ends more smoothly, and a smoother extrusion operation provides better print quality!
  • Upgraded to E3D Titan extruder with a slim pancake motor to reduce weight on the gantry and also improves print quality.
  • Upgraded to an 5052 aluminum heat bed with a Keenovo 110v/200W AC heatpad, ran off an AC relay. This is a biggie! I’m not a fan of borosilicate heat beds. I feel they have a tendency to warp during long or high temp prints. I could not achieve a truly ‘flat bottom’ on two prints to be able to mate together without gaps. The aluminum bed fixes this; no more bed warping! However, to heat this bed up, I had to go with the AC heater, and for safety's sake that had to be run off a relay. An added benefit of this mod is that my bed now heats up lickety split!
  • Upgraded to Marlin 1.1.9 firmware with MESH bed leveling. This updates the Robo's standard pre-print leveling routine and, in my opinion, is one of the best upgrades to make. On top of that, it’s free!
  • Lastly, I like to run my printers off of Octoprint so they all get their own Raspberry Pi3 with the latest instance of Octoprint. I also use the Octoprint plug in Telegram, so I can monitor and even control my printers remotely.

 

What advice do you have for people who are considering modifying their printers? Are there one or two mods you would recommend people do first? Any kits or resources you can recommend for beginners or DIY folks who are looking for a quick project?

 

My best advice is to understand how your printer works and how it effects what you want to do. Besides upgrading the firmware which is free, I think the XXL LCD and Octoprint set ups are the most universal and beneficial mods.

I have found great support in the Robo Community from the Robo Forum to Facebook and Twitter. Robo users are some of the best out there, always willing to listen and lend a hand with advice! I love my Robo community!

 

What do you envision as the next big step forward for desktop 3D printing?

 

I feel one of the things that should change in 3D printing is the slicing software and print controls. These things are not one and the same today. One you use to prep your print (slicing software), and the other allows you to tune and tweak minor print settings while printing (print controls). I want to see total slicing control available during the print; something like Paul Paukstelis' Octoprint plug-in that allows you to cancel a specific object’s print during a multiple object print. I feel it would be extremely helpful and beneficial to be able to adjust ‘slice’-specific settings during an active print. I’m talking full control during the print: perimeters, infill percent/pattern, layer height, temperatures, speed, cancel object, everything. Think of how many times you didn’t get a detail right when you sliced an object to print and it failed. How many of those times could you see the fail coming after you started the print, but couldn’t do anything about it? Well, I think we could save a lot of prints with complete "in flight" print controls.

Other than that, I’d like to see someone, like E3D-Online, come out with a quick swap hot end/nozzle combo, to make changing hot ends super easy!

Finally, do you have any cool new projects you're thinking of doing that you can tell us about?

 

Right now, other than my current #PimpMyRobo build, I’m helping a friend do the same to a used Robo he picked up, so I’m helping to grow the Robo 3D family. Other than that, planning for ERRF2019 is underway!

 

You can follow Chris on Twitter: @MCHRISP1

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