BMC, Big MamaCetus now lives up to her promise and expectations.
After being abandoned by Tiertime (Cetus) support, I have been on my own to trouble shoot and fix the problems with the Cetus MK III printer.
What I think led to the issues was my lack of knowledge of how the multiconductor ribbon cable termination sockets mechanically function. Absolutely no instruction was provided by Tiertime on the process to open/close or unlock/lock the connectors.
Looking at these very small connectors, I assumed (incorrectly) they were simply friction fit terminations. This was false. There exists a very tiny lock/unlock bar to clamp and unclamp the termination to properly insert and remove the cable from the connection.
I was able to force fit (with rather moderate effort) the ribbon cable into these sockets without releasing the clamp bar. But something went astray from the high current 20 conductor ribbon cable to the heated build surface. One conductor in the center of the cable vaporized when I first enabled the power. The trace is supposed to be non-connected as an empty buffer between the plus and minus high current leads on both sides of this unused trace.
Somehow it conducted a high amount of current, which made it glowing hot. This short circuit COULD and likely DID lead to all the other failures.
The issue was that the printer could still print but had no temperature control over the build surface. The build plate would power full on and become extremely HOT. Even melting PLA rafts to the build plate. The CPU could not read the temperature sensor attached on-to the build plate.
Having no schematic or description of operation, I had to use my experience of how I thought it SHOULD work. Again, NO HELP was available form Tiertime after the very first contact. That’s another story.
I discovered the micro SD memory card failed on the main board, and the CPU board never, ever produced a WiFi signal. The Build Plate cable was the only visible damage and was obviously bad. The cable is not available as a repair part. Tiertime did send me a new build plate with a new cable. I also bought a second replacement just to have another good spare cable on hand. It is an obvious weak point in the bed heating system.
The new build plate cable didn’t fix the issue of not reading the build plate temperature. There is a signal problem between the build plate and the CPU.
At this point Tiertime stopped responding to my subsequent attempts to communicate. At least six more attempts through website and Facebook.
I bought (paid for) a new intermediate control board and a new CPU unit. Both came with necessary cabling, so all in the signal path was changed. The order department in China is very responsive to paid orders. I received the new parts 3 full days ahead of promised delivery.
After installing all the new parts, Big Mama Cetus was powered up again. Glory Hallelujah! Everything is working as it should. She is in perfect health.
I have now made a half dozen parts and all are perfect, top notch quality and all function of the printer are correct. Cetus MK III is a great tool when wired correctly and all components are in working condition.
I have been constructing electronic components since I was 10 years old. I am presently 73. Sixty three years of experience and a ham radio builder and licensed for over fifty years. I know my way around electronics. I am a career expert in electronic and all other types of environmental and machine control systems. The average Joe is going to have no idea how to solve these types of issues.
Can I recommend Tiertime and Cetus? I think the product is not perfect, but the two I own demonstrate I do like how they work. Currently, I think the support group is in a mess and un-supportive. Published support information is disjointed and randomly arranged. Scattered. Look long and hard, there is good information. But a vast amount of conjecture and guessing from “user forum” type comments.
In my honest opinion, User Forums is NOT a good way to provide customer support. Too much “chaff” for the few grains of valid information.
Tiertime Cetus Mk3 3D printer has been a real test of my trouble solving skills and patience with a non-communitive Cetus support team.The new
The basic printer is as good as my original Cetus. The problem is the addition of a heated build plate. That requires a secondary control board mounted on the Z axis column. It’s fed with a 24-volt power system. The bed is 160 watts.
A very thin, flexible 20 conductor ribbon cable is the connection between the 160-watt heated build plate and the secondary control board. The 24-volt power brick feeds into the Auxiliary board first before feeding the main system board through another power cable.
Two parallel 8 conductor (trace) groups in the very thin ribbon cable carry the 6.7 AMPS of current to and from the heated build plate. Two more conductors (traces) together on one side carry the signal voltage for the temperature sensor on the heated build plate.
No instructions other than to “connect the ribbon cable” face up or face down are provided. There exists a microscopically small clamp-bar that needs to be open/closed to install and remove the ribbon cable from the termination block. It’s a secret I had to learn the hard way.
I fried the first cable when the unused “safety” conductor trace between the 24V, 6.7A plus and minus groups MELTED as it shorted between them. Not sure of the exact cause mechanics. But that single trace had to be carrying a very high current.
I re-fit the cable after discovering the clamp/unclamp feature. The printer seemed undamaged. The melted cable still operated! I did some PLA prints and some new wax filament prints. But I noticed the bed temperature was very erratic and out of control. The build surface was getting far too hot.
The fact is there is NO temperature control of the heated build surface. It simply runs full-bore.
First contact with Cetus/Tiertime support got me a replacement build plate. I also bought (paid) for a second replacement build plate. Apparently the 20-conductor ribbon cable is not available separately. (That’s extremely ignorant!)
The build plate is not the problem, the melted cable is. That’s why I wanted a spare AT ANY COST.
The new bed/cable did not solve the problem. Temperature reading were very unstable and jumping back and forth. I discovered a tiny slice in the edge of the new cable that partially cut the trace carrying the temperature sensor. The flexing of the cable with the print surface movement was like bending a paperclip until it breaks. An ohm/continuity test of that trace shows it finally failed full open.
The third cable was tested, and all 20 leads are fine. However, there is still no reading of the print surface temperature.
At this point Cetus/Tiertime is totally ignoring my in-depth investigation and reporting and my many requests for further assistance. Total lack of customer respect and communication.
I have ordered a replacement intermediate controller board as the signal for the temperature reading seems to be processed on this board. It’s a multi-layer PC board so circuit tracing is mostly a guess.
There are no circuit schematics available of which I am aware.
Two other problems also manifested on the control system. The 8GB micro SD card became unreadable. I replaced it with one I had. This “fixed” the 50C degree low (but tracking) temp readings. Now I only see a fixed 19+C read. Also, the Wi-Fi has never operated from day one. Both of those involve the main processor, so I have ordered (at my own expense) a new CPU board.
I now have an additional $200 invested into the Cetus Mk3. Not acceptable by anyone’s standards. I just want an operational Cetus Mk3 so I can run wax printing. Some (low) controlled heating of the build surface is a requirement.
In my experience, all forms of 3D printing hardware require extreme user trouble shooting fix and repair abilities. Properly operating hardware still requires extreme effect/cause diagnostic skills because of the very high number of inter-reactive variables of hardware and software and also printable design requirements.
There are a great number of fails before success and a huge supply of bogus internet advice. The internet never deletes outdated or erroneous information. Dealing with difference in language and non-standard terms just adds to the confusion.
However, that is no excuse for Tiertime/Cetus ignoring a paid-in-full customer in need.
The 3D printable wax filament arrived. Shipped from MachinableWax.com in Traverse City, Michigan to UPS depot in McKinney, Texas in two days. There it got checked in twice (two stickers on box) and kicked around for another two days before home delivery. But UPS efficiency is another story.
The package was not double boxed. No problem. Just an observation. The box felt quite warm, above 100F when it reached my porch at 7:30 PM. That’s above body temperature. I had some concern about shipping wax filament in the summer. The picture shows a temperature reading (94F) I took about 30 minutes of receiving and opening the package. The roll was in the expected sealed bag with a desiccant packet.
No problem for the filament as far as I can detect. 100F is far below the melting point. Today the material temperature reading is a comfortable 78F
The product is apparently manufactured by Orion Composites and is called “Print2Cast” by both Orion and MachinableWax. The label states it is made in the USA.
I could not find much information on Orion Composites. One source seems to be makers of fiberglass boats in Knoxville, TN. Another is a maker of space flight capsules. I did discover a reference to the Orion Composites filament from (example) marketing materials posted on the Internet by an obscure marketing consultant. Perhaps Orion (whomever they are) decided marketing Print2Cast would be better if presented from a known machinable wax distributor.
In any case, the material has been available for at least 5 years. Many of the user reports I have discovered are NOT from people knowledgeable in Lost Wax Casting. They are 3D printer aficionados trying a new material. Some of them were apparently quite new to 3D printing in general.
The reason may be the "real users" have no interest or need to spend their time publishing their wax printing foibles and results on the web. Or there are no real users.
Basic extruding settings and print “rules” are published by the maker, so there is a starting point. Casting and burnout are the same as any other lost wax process. Good investment material and a 1350-degree kiln. There are no casting shortcuts.
I am dedicating a 3D printer to wax filament.
If it works at all as a method for producing wax casting models, I will find the combination of variables. My expectation with the FDM print process is that the print will not be absolutely perfect, ready to invest for casting. Wax is extremely easy to hand work. All wax models for casting need some hand finishing and detailing. I have those skills and tools. Separate parts can easily be assembled with a hot wax pen.
I follow the same detail process when using CNC machining to produce casting models. The machining (as with printing) is nothing but an intermediate process.
Lost Wax Casting is far more than print and cast. The 3D print is but one step. I believe this can be a good addition to my LWC process.
More to come…
This is a picture of the new filament I ordered from Machinable Wax. I have been a customer there since ~ 2012. I bought their wax for regular machining, well before doing 3D printing. Here is a link to a machining project when I first used machinable wax.
The spool picture shows the two sizes they make, 1.75 mm and 3.0 mm. They are full 1 Kg spools. Old machinable wax on my shelf doesn’t deteriorate (out of sunlight) so I hope this doesn’t. A Kilogram looks like a very long-time supply as wax is only suitable for making casting master models.
I don’t often purchase from Machinable Wax. Mostly buy small quantity wax from Rio Grande for jewelry CNC and hand carving. I remember when they (Machinable Wax) first started making blue wax in filament form, but never gave it much further consideration. I wasn’t doing 3D printing. So, just never give it another thought. They must be a small company and don’t do a lot of general advertising. Wax is a specialty market.
Wax is an excellent material to machine. However, it is not a good material for making anything durable. I have used it as practice material as shown in the link above, for my loco wheels. Also, very good for making master models for creating molds. But, certainly not good for most structural components. I think that is why some of the 3D print folks don’t understand the material.
As I said, I remember when Machinable Wax first offered wax as a filament. One of my first thoughts when I saw it was, “How does the wax hold together in filament form?” I still think that now, and I am about to find out. Reports are that it behaves better than TPU and other present soft filaments. From that information I assume it is useable. However, certainly not without some user finesse and care. Not for the first time 3D print neophyte.
I think it needs nozzles dedicated to wax only. It is a (relative) low melting point (140C - 150C) material. It won’t flush out PLA and other plastic residue in a multi material use nozzle. That may also be the issue many hack-a-way print guys don’t realize. Unpredictable flow due to nozzle contamination. (Only an assumption at this point by me…)
I have chosen the new Tiertime Cetus Mk III for my platform for a number of reason.
- Super accuracy XYZ axis
- Very close-coupled direct drive feeder
- Easily changed nozzles - changes full full path.
- 0.2, 0.4, 0.6 nozzle range (also a steel nozzle)
- Runs S3D gcode (also a fully editable Tiertime slicer called Catfish)
- Heated glass bed
- Very reasonable cost
Having changed and maintained extruder systems on all my other printers, The Cetus is pure pleasure on which to work.
Except for print bed size and some settings limitation with their UPStudio slicer software, the Cetus has always produced outstanding prints in PLA. I just re-affirmed using Simplify3D and it gives me total control of all variables, with excellent results. (Catfish is a standby slicer option)
MachinableWax filament prints at a low (140C - 150C) nozzle temp. Many Marlin OS printers block printing until a preset EXTRUDE_MINTEMP is reached. I expect I may have to override that issue with M104 and M302 commands before executing the GCode. https://marlinfw.org/docs/gcode/M302.html.
I have been able to dry-run test automatic extrude and withdraw filament at 145C (without filament) on Cetus with no complaints from the Cetus OS.
I have become a total Fan-Boy for the Cetus. I may be a bit over-enthusiastic… Ha!
I’ll never do large size prints for metal casting, so the Cetus print area is actually a benefit for me. Small footprint in my office.
I thought of just upgrading original MamaCetus (my Cetus printer name) to the present MK III and adding the heated bed. But the only parts not changed would be the rails, supports and case hardware. MamaCetus works perfectly well for PLA and I would have a box full of good electronics, power supply and machine parts. Better to have a fully functioning spare Cetus than a box of unusable parts. Investment was nearly the same since the factory has a $100 discount on the already reasonably priced Cetus Mk III.
Above is where I am presently located within my latest scheme. Waiting now on hardware and material.
I keep trying to find a real good application (justification) for 3D printing. I enjoy creating my own rules when others on the same path seem to have none. Must be some kind of pioneer spirit, Ha!
More info later, fer sure..