Developer's Kit
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Silver Printing Calibration

Getting optimal results with the Voxel8 conductive ink may sometimes involve dialing in pressure settings for best calibration results (see Picture 001).

Picture 001: A near optimal silver print. No under or over extrusion event occurring.

In this article we explain how to troubleshooting silver dispensing, and how to calibrate your printer by adjusting printing pressure.

Silver Troubleshooting

The following top culprits are likely for incorrect silver dispensing are:

  • Incorrect Dashboard configuration selected

    When printing on your Voxel8 Developer's Kit printer, it is important to select the model of printer you are using (see Picture 002). 

    Picture 002: Dashboard configuration selected.

    NOTE: "Gen3D with standard silver", or the "default" will be used for most operators, unless you are running a beta printer (e.g. 3C2) in which case you may have to use a mix-in for your legacy ink.
  • "Spoiled" ink - Improperly stored ink will dry, so it's best to keep syringes capped on both ends while not in use (see Picture 003) in the printer. This can even lead to no extrusion scenarios.

    Picture 003: Proper storage of ink, both ends capped.

  • Temperature - When ambient temperature is warmer, or colder than average conditions, the Voxel8 conductive ink has a tendency to over extrude or under extrude.

    This means manually dialing in the pressure setting to get the correct "magic number" for base line pressure to dispense silver. See "Silver Printing Pressure Adjustment" below.

  • Atmospheric pressure - Ambient atmospheric pressure may lead to inaccurate dispensing pressure. If you are running a machine in such an environment, we'd love to hear your experiences.

No extrusion

Some common scenarios are:

  • No silver - It can happen. Sometimes you forget to load the silver. The instructions for loading silver are here.

  • Empty silver - Silver ink barrel syringe is bone dry. In this event, it's time to dispose of it, and replace with a new one.

    NOTE: If you are out of silver, you can always reorder on the Voxel8 store.
  • Clogged or damaged nozzle - it's best to check your silver dispensing nozzle before printing. A clogged nozzle will prevent silver from extruding (see Picture 004a). Damaged nozzle tips will also cause issues (see Picture 004b and 004c).
    Picture 004a: A clogged nozzle tip.

    Picture 004b: Bent nozzle tip.

    Picture 004c: partially damaged nozzle tip.

  • Improperly loaded Silver - the pressure fit for the silver barrel syringe needs to be pushed all the way down during the loading procedure (see Picture 005)

    Picture 005: Silver print head is improperly seated.

    Picture 006: Silver print head is properly seated.

    The (red) nozzle needs to be fully extended when in the lowered position (see Picture 007). You can check the nozzle by "lowering silver" under Control settings in the touchscreen.

    Picture 007: Silver nozzle is properly lowered.

  • Incorrect alignment - sometimes alignment can fail. Re-running Alignment is the recommended course of action. If issues persist, contact support.

Under extruding

When the Voxel8 Printer is under extruding, some tell-tale signs are "threading" (see Picture 008A) and not enough ink dispensed out (see Picture 008B, 008C and Picture 008D)

Picture 008 - Under extrusion events.

A = threading has occured. Not enough silver dispensed.
B = Missing silver from area of application.
C = More threading. Holes and gaps present.
D = No silver was deposited in the printed wiping tower.

Typically if a machine is under extruding, it could be:

  • Out of ink - when the silver syringe gets low on ink, you may experience under extrusion. It's recommended to always check your silver level before doing significantly large printers.

    NOTE: Each barrel contains about 3cc of material, enough to do about 60 meters of trace under normal circumstances.
  • Trying to expel dried silver - semi-spoiled ink that is partially dried can cause under extrusion events to occur. It's best to store the ink correctly capped when not in use.

  • Colder Ambient Temperature - if operating the machine in these conditions, it may be required to increase the default base pressure.

  • Partially clogged nozzle - It is possible that a nozzle becomes partially clogged. It's best to swap out a new one to eliminate this possibility.

  • Incorrect alignment - sometimes alignment can fail. Re-running alignment, or doing a manual alignment are courses of action.

Over extruding

Picture 009: Over extrusion example.

A = trace is way too thick.
B = trace pitch is dispensed too thickly. End point of trace has "dots".
C = trace has heavy application and peaks and valleys in result.
D = trace pitch is too close together, and trace is thick.

  • Warmer Ambient Temperature - if operating the machine in these conditions, it may be required to decrease the default base pressure. The viscosity of the ink may be too high, and flow rate of material needs to be lowered.

  • Incorrect alignment - sometimes alignment can fail. Re-running alignment, or doing a manual alignment are courses of action.

  • Incorrectly attached nozzle - if you don't screw on a nozzle tight, it is possible that over extrusion event can occur. Usually it is a lot of material, however (e.g. messy conditions). Always check nozzle fit before printing.

Silver Printing Pressure Adjustments

To get optimal results with silver you must sometimes manually adjust pressure for the pneumatics system.

Currently this is handled prior to printing an object and before slicing it in the Voxel8 Dashboard.

How to adjust pressure settings for optimal performance

Rather than print and examine multiple 3D prints with base pressures, it's more convenient to print an array of dispensed silver at various pressures ranging from 11 to 16psi (see Picture 010).

Picture 010: 7 sweep print test for psi adjustments.

The steps below explain how to accomplish this:

  1. Load the silver using the normal operating technique as described in the visual start guide.

  2. Download either the .zip or the .gcode file of the "7 sweep test" in the downloads section.

  3. Run the files through either Control Interface (3a), or Dashboard (3b):

    3a. Octoprint - load the .gcode file into the control interface, and print it (see Picture 011).

    Picture 011: Loading gcode into Octoprint.

    3b. Dashboard

     •  Load the .STL files for plastic and silver into Dashboard (see Picture 012), and set the base piece to plastic and the rest to silver parts.

    Picture 012: Loading .STLs into Dashboard.

     • Click on each silver part (see Picture 013-A) and adjust the base pressure for each silver .STL ranging from 11 psi to 16psi by selecting the advanced part setting (see Picture 013-B).

    Picture 013: Adjusting pressure in advanced settings.

     • Save and slice the parts for printing (see Picture 014).

    Picture 014: Slicing the sweep test files.

     • Send the part to your Printer (see Picture 015).

    Picture 015: Sending the sweep test to the printer.

  4. Print the 7 sweep test (see Picture 016).

    Picture 016: Sweep test output.

  5. Examine the 7 sweep test and look for the best psi number that exhibits the most optimal silver printing. Tell tail signs of over extruding and under extruding (see Picture 0167 are below.

    Picture 017: Sweep test results.

  6. Adjust the base pressure inside of the Voxel8 Dashboard so that you are correctly printing silver to the newly found base pressure (see Picture 018).

    Picture 018: New base pressure setting.

  7. Reprint an object using newly found base pressure settings and examine the result against the sweep test to verify that silver pressure has been calibrated (see Picture 019).

    Picture 019: Re-testing after the correct base pressure setting was found. No under or over extrusion.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Be sure to use your new base pressure in the configuration file for your prints going forward and not the default psi base pressure setting.
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