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Making a Makerbot (part 3) – heated build platform

I got around to assembling the heated build platform for my Makerbot. The heated platform is super-useful, as it prevents printed pieces from warping as they cool, and removes (sometimes) the need for a “raft” to help pieces adhere to the platform.

Heated build platform in action, printing an Escher cookie cutter

Heated build platform in action, printing an Escher cookie cutter

I’d been put off by the large number of surface mount components involved, but it turned out to be much easier than expected. The 20+ resistors and LEDs are cosmetic, they light up with a red glow when the platform is heated, but I figured I might as well assemble them too. I was able to put the whole thing together in less than an hour, with no special surface mount materials or techniques. Just put solder on a row of pads, pushed the pieces in to place, melted the solder, then went back and soldered the other side of the piece with a tiny drop.

I ended up making a few mods to the platform (this seems to be a recurring theme…)

  • First, I inserted a six-pin Molex type connector to make it easy to unplug and remove the platform.
  • Second, I encountered the common issue where the MOSFET on the extruder controller shuts down due to excess current, so I set it up such that the heated platform is controlled via a 12V relay (only $7 from Radio Shack). Took about 10 minutes to do, and now the thing works very reliably. The instructions for doing this are on the Makerbot wiki (look for “alternate wiring – relay”) – highly recommended.
  • Finally, I used a countersink bit and some M3 countersunk screws to make the surface of the build platform completely level. Gives a bit more usable print area, and avoids problems with the nozzle hitting the bolts.

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