Low Resolution Printing with the e3d Volcano

0.2 vs 0.4mm resolution.

In late December e3d announced a new addon for the v6 that went took one of the main aspects of 3D printing into a new direction. Volcano is essentially an extended heating chamber and nozzle combination that allows a larger amount of plastic to be melted for extrusion. This allows for an increased layer height.

Most people like to print and 0.1 or 0.2mm layer heights. For nice prints you want 0.08. Maybe for a bit of a challenge you’ll try 0.01. But with volcano you can expect to print layer heights from 0.2-0.9mm.

Rigidbot Big with e3d Volcano

Why? Well, increasing layer height greatly increases speed. So if you don’t need lots of detail, or just want a draft, or will be finishing the print anyway it makes a lot of sense. Anecdotal evidence says it also improves strength. I’ve not seen any real mechanical testing to support this, but print a cube a 0.1mm and 0.4mm layer height and the 0.4 is a lot tougher to break.

Trial and error with the e3d volcano.

Trial and error with the e3d volcano.

The volcano offers nozzles from 0.60-1.20mm. The general guideline for maximum layer height is 80% of your nozzle diameter. As for the minimum, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus, but you’ll start to see ooze and other issues if you go too low.

I printed off the Groot bust (www.thingiverse.com/thing:478806) at 0.6mm using the largest 1.2mm nozzle.

0.6mm Groot bust

0.6mm Groot bust – I still need to fine tune the settings, but this rather large print took just 3 hours. It’s very sturdy too.


The only real downside is that I go through filament a lot quicker than I realise. ~500g gone in a matter of hours, not days or weeks!

The Volcano was pretty easy to swap out. It took me 10 minutes and most of that time was spent fiddling with my RUMBA case screws.

Imperfections seem to be pretty common with the volcano. A small spot here and there from under-extrusion is most common. Detail is noticeably being lost. But nothing that harms the functionality of prints. There’s definitely a lot of usefulness to being able to print in nice thick layers.

I do hope the guys at e3d can figure a way to get nozzles from 0.25-1.2mm with a single block (maybe narrowing the internal nozzle diameter?). That would make swapping much easier. And maybe in the future a useful dual extruder setup would be one 0.25mm nozzle, one 1.2mm nozzle so that outer shells can be finely detailed whilst infill and support can be big and fast.



  • Make your layer height at no more than 80% of the nozzle diameter
  • Go slow – start at 50mm/s then work your way up
  • Make your shell thickness 4x your nozzle diameter

Update 18/02/15:

I’ve been using the Volcano full time for a couple of weeks now. I’ve had alright results with a 0.1mm layer height using the 0.6mm nozzle, though it’s not as good as a 0.4 on the original block. Fortunately, Sanjay from e3d replied to my question and says a 0.4mm nozzle for the Volcano is coming soon.

Yup, 0.40mm Volcano nozzles are on the way, we’re just backed up with pre-orders and running the machines hard to fill pending orders from people who have already ordered and paid who deserve priority right now.

0.40mm Nozzles on a Volcano work just fine, but the quality and dryness of the filament does play a somewhat larger factor. Due to the longer transit time in the heated area some low grade pigments, additives, resins, etc can degrade and start to offgass giving slightly messier than ideal prints.

This is only really an issue if you are printing at very low flow rates however, like 0.1mm layers, which kind of defeats the purpose of Volcano anyway.

For 90% of use cases you won’t see much of a difference between a 0.40mm E3D-v6 nozzles, and a 0.40mm Volcano nozzle than a higher maximum print rate if you’re using half decent filament.

I’ve found the volcano very flexible, swapping between 0.6mm and 1.2mm nozzles depending on requirements. Much better than sticking to a 0.4mm all the time.

I’ve got settings pretty well dialed in, here’s a recent print, the popular T-Rex skull, at 140% scale, 0.4mm layers with a 0.6mm nozzle, 10% infill: http://www.thingiverse.com/make:121524.

Large T-Rex skull with e3d volcano

I used 3dfilaprint’s glow-in-the-dark blue PLA. I was having issues with this filament at low resolutions that I just couldn’t fix. I wonder if it’s something to do with the glowing additive. It seems to print fine on the volcano though.

Large T-Rex skull with e3d volcano

e3d Hotend for the Rigidbot

Printing a shepherd's whistle.

Caroline is threatening to get a dog, so I’m preparing by printing a shepherd’s whistle.

I’ve now added an e3d hotend to my rigidbot. It’s been described as a must-have and most valuable upgrade by other users and I’m definitely pleased with it. Especially as I’ve also got the new Volcano mod that provides a larger heating zone for bigger nozzles. My nozzle sizes range from 0.25=1.2mm. Currently I’m using 0.4, and I’m not sure which end of the spectrum to head to first.

Since installing the e3d I’ve noticed that layers are smoother, bumpy corners have disappeared and overhangs are tidier. Definite difference in quality. I also hear printing specialist filament like t-glase and ninjaflex is easier.

Original hot end:
e3d on the rigidbot
e3d on the rigidbot
I’ve also add a parts fan:
e3d on the rigidbot
Also, here’s a 0.22mm PLA print that I painted:

Finishing a PLA print

I think the surface is fantastic and a great way to quickly finish prints. The process is: primer, sand, primer, sand, paint, sand, paint. I used filler primer spray amd blue spray paint for cars, and 600 grit sandpaper.

It’s glossy and smooth and the layers cannot be felt. I’ve got a can of black matt spray paint, so I’ll try something with that soon.

Here are the links to the prints I’ve shown:

Rigidbot e3d mount: https://www.youmagine.com/designs/rigidbot-e3d-v6-mount-v2
Rigidbot parts fan: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:424099
Shepherd’s whistle: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:360499

RUMBA controller for the Rigidbot 3D printer


Rigidbot with RUMBA and mounted LCD, tidied

Edit: I’ve since tidied the wiring on my rigidbot and it’s looking a lot nicer (above).



Rigidbot with RUMBA and mounted LCD

I’ve replaced the stock board on my Rigidbot with a Geeetech RUMBA. I’m documenting the process here. It was all straightforward, though I’ve ended up with a bit of a nest of wires and parts taped together. My configuration is as follows:

  • Rigidbot Big
  • 24V 500W power supply (S-500-24)
  • Single extruder (Rigidbot stock, for now)
  • Extruder fan (stock), parts fan (40mm) and electronics fan (80mm)
  • 16T pulley upgrade on x/y axes
  • Heated bed cable replacement
  • RepRapDiscount Full Graphic Smart Controller
  • Marlin v1.16

The board is quite versatile. With my current configuration, a second extruder can be easily added. A third would require changing the pin for the electronics fan.

RepRapDiscount Full Graphic LCD Case and Rigidbot Mount


The Rigidbot is a Kickstarter funded 3D printer based on the RepRap Prusa design. The Kickstarter project, like many had its faults, mostly to do with communication. In the end, those of us who received their printers are pretty happy. Though there are some issues, particularly with the quality of electronic components.

It frustrated me from the start that IAP decided to go with a proprietary rebuild of the RAMPS controller. An unnecessary and time consuming process that has proven to be unreliable and costly. All boards had to be reworked, and many uses have had DoA issues, or experienced SMD parts fall off during installation.


I was very concerned about the quality control regarding the Rigidboard, so planned to swap it out asap. The day before my RUMBA arrived, one of the stepper controllers on the Rigidboard gave up.

The RUMBA has lots of pin and screw socket connectors, plenty of GPIO pins and can work at 12-35V. RAMPS boards will need a bit of a rework for 24V (which the Rigidboard uses), so this is an easier replacement.


The case I used: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:516447

My custom Rigidbot mounts for the above case:

My firmware:


At the very least, you’ll need some hookup wire. I chose to replace all of the stock wiring, with the exception of the stepper motor cables. The parts I used, mainly chosen by what scraps I could find:

  • 3x 140cm 2-pin dupont F-F leads (for endstops)
  • 3x pin jumpers (for fan control)
  • 2m 18awg silicone insulated wire (hot end, heated bed)
  • 2m 16awg silicone insulated wire (for PSU)
  • 2x screw terminals (for rewired heated bed)
  • 80mm 24v fan (electronics)
  • 40mm 24v fan (parts)
  • 90cm 22awg hookup wire (thermistor)
  • Cable management – I used insulating tape, cable mesh, heatshrink and some printed clips

Then of course the RUMBA itself:

  • Geeetech RUMBA clone
  • RepRapDiscount Full Graphic LCD
  • 5x A4988

Marvin Stuart created the BYEBYE board to make it easier to replace the Rigidboard without replacing the extruder wiring loom. I didn’t use mine in the end.


  • Soldering iron
  • Small flat head screwdriver
  • Hex keys
  • Needle nose pliers (hand for getting wire into screw terminals)
  • Wire cutters
  • Multimeter (continuity tester)



There’s no sensible order I can think of. Just make sure you set the DIP switches for the stepper motors before installing the drivers. I’m breaking down the installation procedure by each part.

X/Y stepper motors

Plug and play. The easiest thing to do is to plug them in on the row of headers between the driver and the screw sockets. The sockets are labelled and the board specifies the colour coding, black on the left.

Be sure the dip switches are set for 1/16 microsteps. With the A4988 that’s 1/1/1 on the DIP switch.

Make sure your DEFAULT_AXIS_STEPS_PER_UNIT match

Z axis stepper motors

A single driver should have no issues with both motors (most printers have it this way, including the original Rigidbot). I chopped the connector off one and inserted it into the screw sockets, then plugged the other into the header.

If you don’t want to cut off the connector, or want to spread the load, then check out Z_DUAL_STEPPER_DRIVERS in Marlin’s config. This shouldn’t be a problem unless you want a triple extruder setup.

Be sure the dip switches are set for 1/16 microsteps. With the A4988 that’s 1/1/1 on the DIP switch.

I had binding issues with my Z axis. It appears to have been entirely mechanical and I’m not sure how it happened. Simply loosening and tightening the Z-rod components resolved it.

Extruder motor

Again, plug and play. The only difference is that this should be set for 1/8 microsteps. With the A4988 that’s 1/1/0 on the DIP switch.

I originally had 1/16 microsteps and this caused the motor to rock back and forth, clicking.

Extruder Fan

My extruder fan is connected to FAN0, or pin 7. Make sure this is set in configuration_adv.h:

Extruder Thermistor

The original thermistor has a tiny cable connector to a 2 pin connector. I chopped this off and soldered longer cables that would go all the way to the mainboard.

I found my extruder behaved differently at first, overheating the plastic causing small brown marks, or being too cool and causing clicking. So it’s worth running a PID autotune with the following gcode instruction:

Then update your Configuration.h appropriately. Though with your LCD you can modify PID values will the printer is running.


PID is an algorithm that’s used by Marlin to maintain steady temperatures, and has a few variables to adjust the behaviour. For a thorough explanation I recommend reading the RepRap wiki – http://reprap.org/wiki/PID_Tuning.

Motor configuration

I have the A4988 drivers, with 16T pulley upgrade. The steps per axis settings that worked for me in Marlin’s Configuration.h:

That’s with 1/16 microstepping on X, Y, Z and 1/8 on E. The Z rod upgrade for the Rigidbot has 2mm pitch.

Parts fan

This fan will run whenever the printer is working. I put it on FAN1 or pin 8. In pins.h:

You can start/stop this fan using gcode M42:

Electronics fan

Since the case I printed had space for a fan, I decided to install one. I’m unsure if it’s essential. I wired it up to HE2 or pin 6, which is supposed to be for a third extruder, so Marlin’s configuration  needs adjusting.

In Configuration_adv.h simply set the value of CONTROLLERFAN_PIN:

You should check pins.h to make sure it doesn’t clash with anything.

HE2 has screw sockets for the wiring, no headers. You will also need a jumper on the two upper pins for the 12v-select headers.

Parts fan

For this I used pin 7, or FAN1. I used dupont connectors and the header pins to connect the fan.

You will also need a jumper on the two upper pins for the 12v-select headers.

Heated Bed

I experienced a common issue earlier on with my Rigidbot – the heater cable melted itself. Not trusting the cable, I removed the header socket on the hot bed, and replaced the cable with 2x 22awg wires for the thermistor, and 2x 18awg wires for the heating element.

The RUMBA has header pins for the thermistor, so you’ll want a 2-pin connector. There are screw terminals for the heating element.

Don’t forget to run PID tuning for the bed as well:

You can also set PID values with gcode M304:

Note that with M304 and M301, you need to denote the seperate P I D values. You also need to use an M500 to write to EEPROM if you’re happy with the settings.

Power Supply

My Rigidbot PSU was DoA, and I immediately replaced it with a 500W alternative. Those who have done the same will know that for some bizarre reason the wire colours on the original PSU cable are reversed. Now’s your chance to fix that.

If you’ve got the original PSU connector for the Rigidboard you can use the 4-core cable to wire the logic and heated bed separately, with a single cable.

My original cable wasn’t long enough given the location of the PSU, so I used some scrap 16awg wire. You can connect the two screw terminals with short lengths of wire.

Re-settable Fuse Modification

A lot of 3D printer folk using any board with re-settable fuses like the RUMBA are replacing the fuses with blade type car fuses.

The argument seems to be that the re-settable fuses are not suitable for 3D printer control and the loads expected. They can get stuck, offer little protection due to slow trip and may suffer total failure if overloaded.

I’m not an electrical engineer, and I don’t have any experience with these fuses, so I don’t know how true that is. What I do know is that those fuses are common on RAMPS and other controllers and anecdotal reports of failure are low.

People seem to be changing the fuses just because other people have changed them. Not because people have consistent issues. It is a simple modification, all you need is 5A and 11A fuses and a PCB mount. So I can see why people choose to do it pre-emptively.

I’ve chosen not to do it for now. I would have thought if they were a real issue, then  the actual folks that know, that design and engineer these boards open-source would have stopped using them long ago.

Edit: With regards to the fuses, here’s a comment (see below for full) from Alexandre suggesting why replacing them is a good idea:

The only thing that concerned me was the use of the PTC resettable fuse.
Since I am an electrical engineer and take security very seriously. I pulled the datasheet of that fuse and discovered that it is rated for a maximum of 16V. Also looking at curves the maximum allowed currect is 10.8A
here is the datasheet if you are curious:
the model is MFR1100

Since the heated bed (for the big) is pulling exactly 10.8A it’s way too close.
When speaking of protection we usually never want to go closer to 80% of the rated value. So because of all these reasons I will remove my polyfuse and replace it by a fuse rated 24V 15A (the car type ones). I saw on digikey that there is plenty of them.



To recap what’s been mentioned where required. I didn’t need to modify the stock Marlin firmware much. The files of interest are Configuration.h, Configuration_adv.h pins.h. I made the following changes:

  • Build size
  • Pin allocations for fans
  • Axis steps
  • Enable SmartController

One thing I noticed different with stock Marlin is that the default baudrate is 250000. Previously, I was using the IAP version of the Marlin firmware, which is at the more common 115200. Cura won’t be bothered, but other, less forgiving tools such as pronterface might need to be adjusted.

Update: Sean mentions a thermistor setting I neglected:

If you start off with the default Marlin Firmware instead of the IAP version** be sure to check your Thermal Settings in configuration.h. In the version I downloaded it was set to -1 (Thermocouple) and not 1 (100k Thermister) and unfortunately I did not realize this until I smelled burning and saw smoke


Test Prints

I found that my Z axis was binding, but loosening and tightening the motor mounts and lead screw holders fixed this. I set to printing the calibration steps found here:

Microstepping issues.

You can see the effect incorrect stepping has.


Other Stuff To Do

There are a couple of things I’d like to do to finish up this installation:

  • DRV8825 drivers for 1/32 microstepping

  • Strain relief for extruder loom
  • Made-to-measure wiring
  • Improve parts fan control

Eventually I’ll extend the RUMBA mount to fit a Raspberry Pi for a web interface and timelapse recording.

End Result

My Rigidbot is working once again! The RUMBA is a great little board and I think I’ll be very happy with it. I need to tidy up some of the messy bits, but I’m happy.

I have more faith in the RUMBA than the Rigidboard. I’ve done a few prints so far, nothing more than six hours or so and I’m happy with the results.

The biggest issues I came across were resolved by fixing axis steps and redoing the PID values.

Happily printing away!

My first successful ABS print.

Storing coins in 2×2″ slide trays

I’ve been using 2×2″ film slide trays to store my coins for a long while. I don’t know of many people doing this but they are suitable for most coins and can be acquired incredibly cheaply either second-hand or new due to the decline in usage over the past few decades.

coins in 35mm 2x2 slide trays

Recently I’ve started using 2×2″ lighthouse brand self-adhesive flips. I was previously using plastic envelopes but became concerned with the materials used and the possibility of corrosion of the coins. These flips are much better to work with and nicely seal the coins, as well as providing a good surface to label. The one downside is that it is hard to view the edge of the coins. Capsules would be nicer but their expense is something I can’t justify for circulation coins.

The slide trays are incredibly versatile, with lots of compatible storage options including drawers and briefcases. It’s a method that’s working well for me.

Alien Puma Space Train

Alien Puma Space Train (APST) is the name given to a community interested in the works of relatively unknown man named Daniel S Christiansen.

The fascination began after a photo gallery named “The Box of Crazy” was published on reddit’s /r/pics. The gallery showed numerous handrawn documents with a variety of technical, arcane, celestial and downright absurd content. The original posters found the documents in a wooden box in a basement. After much investigation by armchair detectives, the creator and original owner, who had passed away some years previously with no local relatives was found.

Daniel Christiansen's box

Although interest in the documents has dwindled, the first Alien Puma Space Train exhibition is now on in London, and I had the great fortune to make it there.

On the way to see the drawings

At the entrance we got a full page handout with background on the drawings, great for the uninitiated:

APST at the Horse Hospital

I won’t bore you with the details of my theories or background information, there’s a wiki where you can find out more: http://apst-wiki.dumbtech.com/

I will say that the documents are far more impressive in person, the scale and attention to detail is quite remarkable. I really enjoyed getting up close with my personal favourite:

Text pages made for display

We arrived at the exhibition at the opening minute and had the place to ourselves. After about half an hour some London tour groups began to visit. APST is a pretty obscure topic, so I lunged at the opportunity to share my knowledge and ended up given an impromptu lecture on Daniel’s life, the discovery of the box and some of the theories regarding the drawings. It was my first chance to discuss the work in person and really enjoyable. I only wish some other /r/alienpumaspacetrain redditors had been able to come for a meet up.

As well as the videos, I’ve got a gallery of my images on imgur.

A Super Kickstarter


I’ve backed a few kickstarter projects now, such as the 3Doodler and Neverending Nightmares. They vary in their success, often with delays, there’s been a couple of complete failures. Recently I got a new set of books from the guys at Unlikely Hero Studios, who created the Super! comic book.

Blitz cosplay

I’ve decided it’s the more modest and artistic kickstarters that deliver best. And Super! has definitely been my favourite project to date. Some pictures from the latest books: http://imgur.com/a/4rnbz.

The guys at UHS have been fantastic and gone above and beyond in working with their backers. Especially international backers, who experienced delays as books were sent in batches to save costs. I got this awesome custom character sketch:

Blitz and Silhouette custom

Automatic Tank Recognition

A recent xkcd comic highlighted the varying complexity of tasks in computer science, and the unrealistic expectations that some might have using object recognition in images as an example:

xkcd 1425

Someone at flickr recognised this as a great opportunity show off some of their research.

I mention it because it reminds me of a great anecdote in the image processing/machine learning communities that I don’t hear often enough, here it goes-

The US government wanted a way to automatically detect tanks, for early warning or automated targeting. So a team of researchers went out and took 200 pictures of a variety of tanks. The next day they took 200 pictures without tanks.

They decided to use a neural network to teach their computer to recognise tanks. So in their training phase they gave it a picture of a tank, and told it there was a tank.

They gave it a picture without a tank and told it there was no tank. They repeated this with a hundred of each type, so the computer could identify tanks in a variety of circumstances – occlusions, colour, etc.

Then they gave it another picture from the remaining (unseen) images, and asked “tank or no tank?”. It got it right. They gave it another, and it got it right. It correctly classified all 200 unseen images.

This was a great achievement after a long period of research and significant funding.

Then to prove the versatility of the neural network, they started working with new images, with and without tanks.

The computer performed miserably, no better than random guessing.

Then someone noticed, in the original training set, the 200 pictures with tanks were taken on a sunny day, then 200 pictures without tanks were taken on a cloudy day.
They weren’t detecting tanks, they were detecting weather.

I’m not sure what the original source is, I was told the story at a BMVA event, but this appears to be the favourite telling: https://neil.fraser.name/writing/tank/.

It’s a great tale about the mysteries of neural nets, but also a tangential reminder that in image processing, computer vs human perceptions can be entirely different. There’s a lot of enthusiasm for replicating human vision systems, but it’s not the only option.

Technocamps Beachlab 2014

Aberystwyth Technocamps Beachlab 3D Printing Minecraft

Photo by Arvid Parry Jones

On Saturday Aberystwyth University held an “Access All Areas” event; opening the university up to the general public. As with last year we worked together to combine it with the Technocamps beachlab.

Aberystwyth Technocamps Beachlab 3D Printing Minecraft

Last year I got to demonstrate our relatively new 3D printing and scanning setup. This year things weren’t as exciting owing to some broken kit, but it was still a good day nonetheless. The recent news regarding 3D printing of gun components has clearly led to a major increase in awareness (some good, some bad). In many ways it was better that the machines weren’t in use as I got to had some in depth discussion with a variety of people.

Beachlab 2014 Dalek Doris

Aberystwyth Technocamps Beachlab 3D Printing Minecraft

Aberystwyth Technocamps Beachlab 3D Printing Minecraft

Photo by Arvid Parry Jones